Imagine a free weight loss tool that doubles your chances of taking off pounds and gives you insight into how your body operates. That’s how powerful a food journal can be. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente studied participants in a weight-loss program, and found that those who kept daily food journals lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t.
Of course, keeping a journal does require some time and work. See how these tips can help you stay on track.
Benefits of Keeping a Food Journal:
1. Increase your awareness. A food journal puts an end to mindless snacking. You become more aware of how much you really eat.
2. Resist temptation. Knowing that you’ll need to jot down that extra slice of birthday cake may be all you need to stop you in your tracks. Making nutritious food choices becomes automatic.
3. Increase your knowledge. Your journal is educational too. You’ll learn about macronutrient counts, sugar intake, portion sizes, and new recipes. In fact, MyFitness Pal, a popular weight loss app, claims that their users who log recipes lose 40% more weight.
4. Target your efforts. Once you spot your triggers, you can change them. You’ll notice the times of day when you crave something sweet or your tendency to eat the whole donut when you meant to take just a bite.
5. Eat healthy. Remember that your food journal can help you do more than take off pounds. You can identify allergies, monitor your blood sugar, or do just about anything that involves food and your overall well being.
How to Keep a Food Journal:
1. Act quickly. Writing your meals and snacks down immediately is ideal. You’re less likely to forget important details.
2. Aim for consistency. Make entries each day if possible. If you slip once in a while, get back on track as soon as possible. The more weeks and months of data you collect, the more valuable your journal becomes. If the time commitment seems daunting, remember that you’ll probably get faster as you go along.
3. Tell the truth. Be honest even if your lunch consisted entirely of French fries. Remember your journal is only for you. Skewing the truth only hurts you in the long run.
4. Be specific. Details matter. Mention each ingredient in your sandwich. Notice how much cream or sugar you’re adding to your coffee. Pay attention to the calories you drink whether you indulge in pumpkin lattes or margaritas.
5. Look at the big picture. Your diary can encompass more than food and beverages. Write about your emotions and how they affect your eating. Make notes if you are feeling lethargic, bloated, or energized. Include information about other relevant factors such as exercise, sleep, and health conditions.
6. Choose your format. Buy a pretty blank book or use an online template. Maybe you want something that’s easy to tote around or perhaps you prefer to keep it on your nightstand. Just pick a format you will be more likely to stick with.
7. Take pictures. Photos make your journal more fun and productive. Include before and after shots of your shrinking waistline. You can often see changes earlier than the scale may indicate. Use images to help you remember and recreate your favorite slimmed-down dishes.
8. Review frequently. Rereading your diary will help you evaluate your progress and make healthy changes. Looking back gives you a chance to reflect and gather any information you want to share with your doctor or other professionals. You can also use your diary to chart your future as you think about the next milestone you want to reach.
Keeping track of what you eat is an effective way to lose weight. As long as you’re consistent and accurate about food journaling, an occasional slip won’t stand in the way of your eating healthier and looking slimmer. It’s about progress, not perfection.