Can a Food Diary Help You Lose Weight?
For many people, maintaining a healthy weight is a lifelong struggle. For others, having to lose weight is a relatively new thing – perhaps as a result of overeating due to the stress and anxiety of COVID-19, an illness, or even a pregnancy. Whatever the reason, we can all agree on one thing: losing weight is hard.
Keeping a food diary is a tried and true method for successful weight loss. It may not be exciting – in fact, it is often tedious – but it IS effective. The simple act of writing down what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat can be a great way to stay mindful about what you are consuming (and why).
At Ideal You, we offer a different approach to weight loss. With our program, you won’t go on a fad diet, exercise for hours, or be asked to eat gross diet food. Instead, you’ll be given a structured food list (with real food!), all natural, food-based supplements, access to a team of weight loss coaches – and a weight loss journal. Through Ideal You, you will be able to lose a life-changing amount of weight quickly and sustainably.
Why Should I Keep a Food Diary?
Weight loss is complicated, and involves a number of factors, from proper hydration to getting enough sleep to eating at the right times. Yet one of the most important factors in dropping unwanted pounds lies in what you eat. If you are trying to lose weight, keeping a food diary can help you succeed on your weight loss journey.
A food diary is a tool that can be used to identify your eating patterns and habits. By keeping track of what you eat and when you eat it, you can get a better understanding of exactly how much you are consuming. It can also allow you to change certain behaviors that are stalling your weight loss.
For example, many people eat for reasons other than hunger – such as being bored, tired, or stressed. Keeping a food diary can help you
Scientific research shows that food journals are effective. In one study of nearly 1,700 participants, a number of weight loss tactics were examined – including keeping a food diary, engaging in moderate exercise, following the DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet, and going to weekly group sessions. The study participants who kept a food diary lost twice as much weight compared to those who did not track their food.
These findings have been confirmed by other researchers. A 2019 study published in Obesity followed 142 people for 6 months as they attempted to lose weight. As part of the study, participants were asked to log their food daily.
The most successful participants lost 10% of their body weight – and they spent the most time keeping track of their food. On average, these participants spent approximately 15 minutes per day recording their food intake. According to the study’s authors, self-monitoring is a critical way to understand exactly how much you are consuming.
There are a number of reasons why keeping a food diary works for weight loss. First, writing down what you eat (or logging it electronically) is a form of positive reinforcement. When you make healthy choices, you’ll get to see it right there on paper (or on your screen).
At the same time, writing down what you eat can help to rein in tendencies to indulge in high calorie, low nutrition food (like sugary snacks). Grabbing some candy from a bowl on a co-worker’s desk may lose its appeal if you know that you will need to write it down in your food diary afterwards. If you do “cheat,” a food diary can also help you stay on track – letting you course correct instead of deciding that you might as well give up and eat whatever you want.
What Should I Include in My Food Diary?
Knowing that you should keep a food diary is just the first step. Understanding what exactly you should be logging is key to your success.
At a minimum, your food diary should keep track of what you are eating, how much you are eating, and when you are eating. Be sure to write down the specific food, how it is prepared, and the quantity (weighing and measuring if possible). Writing down the times that you eat is also important to suss out times when you tend to eat more (such as late-night snacking).
If you want to get more in-depth, you can add more details, such as:
- Where are you eating?
- Who are you eating with?
- How are you feeling when you are eating?
- What else (if anything) are you doing while you eat?
These items can help you determine why you are eating. In turn, this information can help you eliminate or reduce problematic eating habits – like snacking while watching TV or overeating when you’re out with your best friend.
The most important aspect of keeping a food diary is being accurate and consistent. Try to log your food and drinks as soon as you consume them, and be as specific as possible. You can do this using a paper journal, or an app on your phone – like Lose It or My Fitness Pal.
Once you have logged a week or more, you can then review your eating patterns. Analyze the times that you eat, the variety of the food that you’re eating, and even whether you are choosing healthy foods. With this information in mind, you can set goals for yourself – like eating more fruits and vegetables or always eating at the table – and focus on them over the coming weeks. Over time, this practice can help you maintain a better diet – and lose weight.
Kickstart Your Weight Loss with Ideal You
For most people, weight loss isn’t easy. Keeping a food diary is just one way to help you shed unwanted pounds – along with choosing real foods, reducing sugar intake, and incorporating healthy fats into your diet.
At Ideal You Health Center, our goal is to take the guesswork out of weight loss. With our help, you can lose a life-changing amount of weight quickly and sustainably. When you sign up for our program, you get to eat real food, work with a team of weight loss coaches, and track your progress with a weight loss journal. We know that losing weight is hard – and we are here to help.