Losing weight isn’t easy for many people. One reason is most people aren’t aware of how much they’re eating. A little nibble here and there can add up to significant calories at the end of the day. Plus, mindless snacking is a problem for many. One way to stay accountable is to keep a food diary or food journal.
What is a food diary? It’s a record of what you eat, and drink and it has multiple benefits. Keeping track of your food intake can help you make better choices about what you eat. It can also help you lose weight if that’s your goal.
A food diary can be as simple as a notebook where you write down what you eat each day, or it may be “techier” and involve a computer program or iPhone app to track calories and nutrients.
Can Keeping a Food Journal Help with Weight Loss?
There’s science to support keeping a food journal. A study published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that people who wrote down what they ate six days out of seven lost double the weight over six months compared to those who documented their food intake one day per week. Let’s look at some ways keeping a food diary can aid your weight loss efforts.
Keeping a Food Diary Helps You Stay Accountable
One of the biggest benefits of keeping a food diary is it forces you to be accountable. It’s all too easy to forget what you drank or nibbled on, especially if you eat on the go and grab meals out at restaurants or cafes.
When you keep track of everything that goes into your mouth, you have a better idea of how many calories you consume each day, which can help you achieve your weight loss goals. Plus, if you know you must write it down, you’ll think twice about munching on that piece of chocolate cake or chocolate chip cookie.
Documenting meals and snacks is also a way to measure weight loss progress. If you notice one week was better than another, it will help motivate and inspire you to continue down the path toward a healthier body weight.
It Helps You Make Informed Decisions
One of the best ways to lose weight is by making more informed dietary choices. A food diary can help you do that by raising awareness of what foods are putting weight on you and which are keeping it off.
For example, you ate a big breakfast every day for a week and found your weight loss slowed significantly. Then you might think twice about eating an oversized morning meal. You could also analyze what you’re eating with each meal and snack.
Keeping a Food Diary Helps You Identify Patterns
A food diary can help you identify patterns between your lifestyle habits, energy level, mood, and weight. For example, if you eat a lot of sugar at one meal, this can cause an increase in blood glucose that will then make you feel tired or cranky during the day.
A food diary can also help reveal when “special occasion” foods are causing problems for you. If a slice of cake makes either immediately lethargic or full of energy, then it’s time to find another way to celebrate!
It’s a Long-Term Success Tool
A food diary is a long-term tool for success. It will help you learn more about yourself and your eating habits. It can also tell you what works for your body and what doesn’t. This is especially important for weight control because so many variables that affect body weight. By keeping a food diary for at least two months, you can better understand how different foods affect your physique.
A food diary is also helpful for determining the cause of unexpected changes in how you feel. For example, if you’re experiencing bloating after meals or having trouble sleeping, you can see if your food choices play a role.
A food diary can help you discover diet patterns that hold you back from reaching your weight-loss goals. If you notice you’re eating more on weekends than during the weekdays, it might be time to change how you eat. Or you might also discover how much chocolate ice cream or potato chips you’re eating while watching television late at night and rethink that habit!
You may also find that stress or fatigue seems to trigger specific types of food cravings or overeating episodes. By noting these things in your diary, they become easier to manage.
How to Keep a Food Diary
Keeping a food diary isn’t hard. Here’s how:
Step 1: Buy a notebook or journal and decorate it with stickers or other fun things that make you happy. This is going to be your food diary, so make sure it’s something you’ll enjoy looking at every day.
Step 2: Write down what you ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’ll want to document everything from your coffee order at Starbucks on the way to work to the turkey sandwich you ate at lunch – and the handful of chocolate-covered raisins you nibbled on afterward.
Step 3: If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t forget to write down snacks! Record snacks in your food diary (all of them) since they can be a significant source of your total calories.
Step 4: Write down what you drink as well—you don’t want surprises when it comes time to tally up your daily calorie count! Coffee counts as a drink too—especially if it’s sweetened with sugar or topped off with whipped cream.
You can also use an app like MyFitnessPal where you enter everything you eat and drink into a database, so it tracks calories and nutrients for you.
The Bottom Line?
Keep the information you need at your fingertips by documenting what you eat in a food Diary. Doing so will help you make smarter food choices. At the end of the day, though, it only works if you’re consistent and take the time to review your food journal regularly.
- American Journal of Preventive Medicine, August 2008; vol 35.
- “Why keep a food diary? – Harvard Health.” 31 Jan. 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-keep-a-food-diary-2019013115855.
- “The Benefits of Food Journaling – American Society for Nutrition.” 23 Oct. 2019, https://nutrition.org/the-benefits-of-food-journaling/.