The journey to eating healthier and losing weight is different for everyone. Pills, powders, books, diets, supplements and shakes all offer promises of better health and pounds lost. But what if one simple tool could add up to big changes? Many experts say that simply writing down what you eat each day can result in fewer calories consumed. It isn’t magic, but in one study participants who kept food diaries six days a week lost twice the weight of those that kept it one day a week or not at all. Why do they work and why don’t more people who are trying to lose weight use this tool?
The pros. We make more than 200 choices regarding food each day. That is a multitude of options and loads to remember. Keeping a food diary immediately boosts your awareness of what, how much and why you are eating. A food diary keeps you mindful all through the day. It can deter mindless munching because it offers accountability and that can lead to positive habit changes. At the day’s end, when the food diary is complete, eating patterns or triggers that lead to overeating can be unveiled. Extra calories can be reduced by identifying problem areas.
The cons. Being honest about what and why you ate is imperative and that kind of confession is difficult at times. But a food log is only helpful if it is accurate. Some people think it takes too much time and others think it makes them more obsessive about food. While each person finds their own unique weight loss techniques, the food diary is one of the few that research has actually proven can work. The true expert for what works for you is you.
The options. While many of us still depend on old-fashioned pen and paper to document, the food diary apps available for smartphones are a plenty. You could choose an app like My Fitness Pal or Lose It! to track your munchies as well as your exercise. They usually include other bells and whistles like food databases, calorie tracking and customized nutrient goals, and then the option to share your secrets with the world through social networking. There is also the option of simply keeping track of it in a note-taking app like Evernote. It is even as easy as having a conversation with your phone, one sided as it may be, with a dictation feature.
The food diary is a tool to help you learn more about yourself and better understand the reasons you eat or don’t eat. It is not meant to bring on guilt. If better eating habits and weight loss are goals then try this simple awareness and accountability tool.
Pick up a pen or smart phone and start logging. What do you have to lose?
Crumpacker is a registered dietitian and owner of Go Nutritious. Visit Barbra at gonutritious.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org