Can you tell me what you ate last Tuesday night for dinner? Or what you had for Sunday Brunch this past weekend? Or even what you ate for breakfast this morning? Chances are, if you’re not keeping a food diary, you’re not as aware of what you’re eating (not to mention as aware of the types of portions, calories and nutrients) as you might think.
But hey, don’t take my word for it.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports that keeping a food diary may be a key component of losing extra weight. The study found that food diaries incorporate accountability and awareness, which can help immensely with successful weight reduction.
This particular study includes findings from 1,685 overweight or obese adults, ages 25 years and older. The participants were encouraged to keep and use food diaries for a period of six months (while making healthy food choices and making an effort to be physically active). These participants also met in weekly groups to share their food diaries and to learn more about proper food portions.
According to Victor Stevens, PhD, senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, the most important predictor over the course of the study in regard to how successful participants would be corresponded directly to how many days a week they kept a detailed food diary.
Participants who recorded all meals and snacks at least six days a week (including beverages) lost almost twice as much as those who made food diary entries one day a week or less, Stevens reported to WebMD.
Said Stevens, “I think the most powerful part is accountability and the next most powerful part is increasing awareness of where those extra calories are coming from.”
Further findings showed that sharing food diaries with someone else brought about even more success. This is because sharing food diaries creates accountability not only to yourself, but also to someone who cares about you and your health. Food diaries can also identify areas for improvement. For example, you might notice you’re eating too many late night snacks or adding too many calories to a certain meal.
Even keeping track of an accidental binge or overeating on one day of the week can help. When you weigh yourself, you will be reminded of where you might have gone off course. Although initially a bummer, this will show you why the scale didn’t necessarily go in the direction you wanted and can help you realign your efforts for more success the next time you weigh yourself.
Keeping a food diary is easy – and something we all should do. And there aren’t any rules about what the actual diary has to look like. You can choose from a number of published food diaries that are for sale or even just pick up a journal that inspires you and use a page a day to log what you eat and drink. You can also find a PDF of the food diary offered in my book by clicking here. (Feel free to download and print – and to share!) Another free food diary can be found by clicking here. For another variety of free, downloadable food diaries (including specific diaries that help track emotional eating or salt, sugar and fat intake), click here.
Do you already keep a food diary? Do you find it helpful? Or a chore? Or a little of both? Do tell via the comments section below. And, if you’d like, share what you had for breakfast today – assuming those of you who don’t keep a food diary have had enough time to remember.