Are you eating more than you think you are? It’s easy to take in more calories than you think, especially if you’re a mindless snacker or eat between meals. That’s why dieticians often recommend that you write down what you eat for a few weeks as a sort of “reality check.” If you’re trying to lose weight and aren’t having as much success as you expected, writing down what you eat by keeping a food journal can be helpful. Here’s why.
Write Down What You Eat: It’ll Help You Lose More Weight
Not convinced that keeping a food journal works? A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine should convince you. It showed that among almost 1,700 overweight or obese adults those who wrote down what they ate and drank had the most success. In fact, participants who kept a food journal lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t. That’s a pretty good incentive to keep a journal!
Write Down What You Eat: It Reduces Mindless Snacking
Forcing yourself to write down what you eat and drink makes you aware of when and what you’re eating. How many times throughout the day do you nibble something here and there? When you write everything down, you become aware of how often you’re doing that. It might be happening more often than you think! It’s a good way to build awareness of just how often you’re snacking. To make it effective, you have to write down EVERYTHING – even the sample you nibbled on at the grocery store. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s free of calories.
Write Down What You Eat: You Can See Whether You’re Eating a Balanced Diet
Putting what you eat and drink down on paper will help you identify dietary imbalances. Are you not getting enough protein or eating too many carbs? It’s easier to identify problems and make adjustments when you keep a journal. You may find you’re not getting enough vegetables and need to substitute a veggie for a potato by consulting your food journal or you may discover you need more protein. It’s also helpful to write down how satiated you felt after each meal or snack so you’ll have a better idea of which foods are most satisfying.
Write Down What You Eat: It Makes You More Aware of the Calorie Content of Foods
Most people underestimate the number of calories a food has. When you write down what you eat, including the calorie count will make you more aware of how many calories different foods have. Plus, you can add up the total at the end of the day and see where you stand. Likewise, you can include the carb content, protein content, sugar content and the amount of fiber in each item so you can see if you’re striking a good balance.
Write Down What You Eat: It Makes You Think Before You Eat
It’s easy to mindless nosh when you don’t have to hold yourself accountable. It’s a different story if you know you have to document it. Knowing you have to write down everything that goes in your mouth makes you think twice. One trick is to write down your degree of hunger before eating or drinking something and record that in your journal. This will help you identify when you’re eating out of boredom and when you aren’t really hungry.
Write Down What You Eat: It’s a Good Way to See the Positive Changes You Make Over Time
It’s motivating to look back through your food journal and see the changes you’ve made over time and how you “used to eat.” Be sure to record your weight so you can see how each dietary change affected your bodyweight.
The Bottom Line?
Whether you use an app, a computer program or a “low-tech” method like a notebook to keep a food journal, you’re sure to gain insights into what you eat, when you eat it and where you need to make changes. It’s well worth the time and effort.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, August 2008; vol 35.
WebMD. “Keeping Food Diary Helps Lose Weight”