Keep Food Record What You Eat for Better Weight Loss
There's a reason so many doctors and nutritionists recommend keeping a food diary when you're trying to lose weight: It actually appears to work. The case for food diaries (or food records or journals) got a little stronger today, when weight-loss researchers reported that a large, multicenter study suggests that tracking what goes in your mouth can double the amount of weight lost. The findings were part of a weight-loss maintenance trial whose initial results were reported in March. After analyzing the data on weight loss to see which factors made a difference, researchers concluded that the more days a person kept a careful record, the more weight he or she lost. (Attending more weekly support group sessions also helped).
It is very important to keep a food diary if you are on a diet. It is much more successful with your diet when you did because it would force you to look at what you ate and how much you ate. Here's why keeping a diary is so powerful:
It's simple. No fancy machines required; just record what you eat on paper or using an online record. "The trick is to write down everything you eat or drink that has calories," says Victor Stevens, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research and coauthor of the study released today, which appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. That's easy enough with labeled foods but gets harder when you're dining out or are eating an unfamiliar food. Try online calorie databases like CalorieKing.com, and watch the serving sizes—here's a good source of info on estimating what, say, an ounce of bread looks like. You'll probably still underestimate your daily intake, says Thomas Wadden, director of the Center for Weight Loss and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, but you'll very likely come closer than someone who isn't keeping a food record.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute proclaims that "record keeping is one of the most successful behavioral techniques for weight loss and maintenance." The Harvard School of Public Health says, "It's easy to eat more than you plan to. A daily food intake journal makes you more aware of exactly how much you are eating."
The Food And Exercise Diary calculates, logs, reports, graphs, and analyzes your daily food consumption and exercise to help with your weight loss. It produces reports and graphs essential for weight loss troubleshooting--allowing for considerable insight into your weight loss progress to make correct, intelligent, and informed adjustments of what you eat and how much you exercise to successfully reach your weight loss goals.
It's eye opening. In fact, some people will be so shocked at how many calories are in their thrice-daily Coke that the "aha" moment will make going on an actual diet unnecessary. Being forced to be aware of what you're eating can often be enough to help people drop weight, says Wadden.
It helps you track your progress. Use the diary as a way to make adjustments throughout the day and to gauge how much exercise you need to hit a certain calorie count, advises Holly Wyatt, a physician and researcher at the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. "If I eat three cups of fries, I know that I ate a lot and can cut back at the next meal," says Francis Tacotaco, a 38-year-old skilled nursing assistant from Richmond, Calif., who used a food diary as part of a weight-loss program at Kaiser. He's lost 21 pounds so far and wants to drop more.
You're accountable to someone. Supervised weight-loss programs often require participants to turn in their food diaries to nutritionists or doctors, which may make you think twice before giving in to temptation. "I've seen it all," says Stevens. "One gallon of vanilla ice cream, three pizzas, and a gallon of milk. My experience is that the people who have the courage to write it down tend to do pretty well," even if what they're writing down amounts to a lot of food, he says. If you're not part of a program, you can team up with a friend and swap food diaries once a week to keep each other in line. And many people find it's enough to be accountable to themselves. "You won't put that second cookie in your mouth because you don't want to see it in your food record," says Stevens.
To calculate food calories you first need to keep a running list of everything that you consume, include beverages, sauces where the sauce contains a significant levels of calories, and of course, the actual foods you eat. At the end of each day, plug in the number of calories contained in each food to calculate your total calories for the day.
But in order to accurately calculate food calories and reap the benefits of calorie budgeting, requires you to know the number of calories in each food.
After the extra poundage is gone, many people continue to use a diary to keep themselves honest. About 50 percent of participants in the National Weight Control Registry (which tracks the habits and practices of weight-loss maintainers) report they use some kind of self-monitoring, such as a food diary, says Wyatt. Some people may keep a diary on the weekend only, when they tend to eat more; others just record dinner, which usually varies more than breakfast and lunch, says Wadden. It's a habit you can benefit from for a lifetime.
Use a well calibrated scales preferably weighing once a week, same day, same time. Be more aware of how you are feeling, you can even document why you may be feeling this way.