Losing weight is intimidating. For most, it requires a lifestyle change that includes hard work in both exercise and nutrition. If this is you – ready to take the next step towards a healthier, leaner you, but intimidated by the thought of the effort you’ll need to put in, food diaries might be for you.
Now when I say food diaries, I’m not talking about counting calories or macros, although those processes do work for many people. I’m talking about literally taking a piece of paper or writing a note in your phone to track what and how much you’re eating. Every cracker, soda, or candy gets written down.
The idea is simple: writing down what you eat forces you to think about that decision. Portion sizes and second helpings are now a conscious thought, not just an involuntary reaction. It’s easy to start snacking and overeating without thinking, so food diaries help you be more thoughtful about it. Research shows that those who just write down their food choices lost twice as much weight as those who did not (Kaiser Permanente).
Writing down your food consumption also makes it very clear where you have strengths and weaknesses in your diet. Do you tend to get a sugary coffee in the morning or give in to an afternoon pick-me-up candy? Or do you love your green veggies but struggle to get enough protein in daily? Tracking everything shows you what you’re good at and what you can work on.
Accuracy in Food Diaries
Food diaries are super easy to complete. You’re not worrying about tracking your calories or exactly what brand of snack you’ve eaten like when you’re calorie counting. Simply write down everything you eat and your portion sizes. You can estimate your portions to start – a deck of cards worth of fish, a cup of broccoli, etc. Make sure you’re including your drinks – those count too!
Make sure you’re writing down what you actually are eating after you’ve eaten it – not just what you think you’re going to eat. Include late night snacks, dressings, toppings, condiments, and drinks – including alcohol. You can do this on a phone, in an app, or in a notebook.
Tracking just what you eat and how much you eat is certainly a great start that can make a difference, but there are additional things that you can track and analyze. For example, track what time you eat at. You might notice that when you eat dinner early, you tend to eat less than when you do later. You can also track who you’re eating with and how that affects your diet. The people we surround ourselves definitely make a difference in our diets – whether you’re talking about brunch with the girls or boys’ night out.
You can also track where you’re eating, what you’re doing, and how you feel during it. These can be important if you think you’re stress or emotional eating or if you think you’re eating out of boredom at work or in front of a tv.
Tracking your diet can help to promote weight and fat loss by helping you to understand how much, when, and why you’re eating. Write everything down throughout the day – not before you eat, and not at the end of the day. Be specific – “chicken” is not the same as “fried chicken.” Be accurate. If you want to learn anything from this exercise, you need to be honest with yourself in what you’re eating. Start with one day. Try it for a week. If you find it works for you, keep going!
Kaiser Permanente. (2008, July 8). Keeping A Food Diary Doubles Diet Weight Loss, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily.