Keep a Food Diary and Double Your Weight-Loss Efforts

August 22, 2008 Updated: August 22, 2008

Food diaries can keep one clear about one's food intake.  (Photos.com)
Food diaries can keep one clear about one's food intake. (Photos.com)
I have been trying to lose the same 15 lbs. for years. It is stubborn and old! When I get really frustrated with this stubborn and aging weight, I read up on all the ways I can to get rid of it. Of course, I am a health and fitness writer and must research my topic.
I rarely write anything about weight loss because all the suggestions seem to contradict each other. One area of agreement is the suggestion of keeping a food diary. This is something I often turn to when those stubborn pounds begin to creep up. Doing this enables me to maintain my weight. When I feel my clothes getting just a bit more snug, I try not to blame it on the dryer, but rather resolve once again to lose those last 10 or 15 pounds.

Riding this wave of my fear induces motivation, and I lose those couple of pounds that began creeping back.

The tracking thought process often begins like this: “I can’t believe I have already eaten 1300 calories and its only noontime. Perhaps I shouldn’t have eaten those cookies for dessert!”

And then, upon seeing just how high my daily caloric intake is, I resolve to cut down on the high calorie culprits like chocolate and muffins. A few weeks go by and I am feeling like a pro at this dieting thing. My motivation begins to wane as I think about how I don’t have time for all this tracking. “I can do this diet without writing and counting,” I think to myself. “Its easy.”

And it is, except for one problem, I stop losing weight and eventually even gain a few pounds back only to start this cycle once again!

Apparently I am not alone.

“Keeping a food diary is not easy,” says lead author of “Weight Loss … Maintenance,” Jack Hollis Ph.D., a researcher at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon. “People often tell me, ‘I just hate it, but it is the most effective tool I have for managing my weight.’”

Why? Dr. Hollis says it helps keep you honest. It is, a self-management tool to help you see what you are doing and how you can change to help you meet your goals. Once you make those changes you’ll be able to look back and see how you’ll need to change your physical and social structure to support your goals. If your weight is beginning to creep back up, you can begin writing down your food intake and exercise routine to help you stay on track.

Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research recently completed a 36-month study on Weight Loss Maintenance. During phase 1 of the study, they found that their participants who kept a food journal lost, on average, double the amount of weight then those who did not.

Upon hearing about this recent discovery, I have been inspired to track my daily intake once again. This time, however, I resolve to track my daily intake over the course of 6 months because losing track has taken a toll on my finishing this weight-loss journey!
Upon reading about this simple act of food journaling being a scientifically supported way to improve a person’s weight loss efforts, I am now motivated again! This time, however, my diary is very simple, because simplicity is what helps me stay on track. I write down the meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack) along with its measurement and the food. Then I write down the caloric equivalent.

I keep track of all this in a spiral notebook small enough to carry in my purse. I also carry a calorie counter. I have tried to keep track of my calories on free Web sites as well as on my BlackBerry, but the good old-fashioned notebook and pen seems to work best. It’s quick, convenient, and easy.

However, for those you inclined to download templates or use computer programs to help assist you in your journaling, Kaiser Permanente offers a free Food Journal template as do a number of other websites such as www.sparkpeople.com and www.fitday.com.