Why You Should Write What You Eat for Weight Loss

Daily Food Diary
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Can keeping a food journal really help you lose weight? The answer is YES! Writing down everything you eat is one of the best things you can do for weight loss. 

Benefits of Food Journals

There’s evidence behind the power of food journals. Researchers have found a significant relationship between keeping food diaries and losing weight. A 2008 study of about 1,700 overweight people found that those who kept food records lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t.

Why Food Journals Help With Weight

  • Recording every single bite holds you accountable to yourself. You’ll probably resist reaching for a handful of cookies if you know you’re gonna have to write it down. Plus, when you’re not keeping a food diary, it’s too easy to ignore those sneaky extra calories that pop up throughout the day. Keeping a journal will help you keep track of absolutely everything — the milk in your coffee, that 11 a.m. handful of trail mix, the two spoonfuls of ice cream you had after dinner, etc. It’ll also help you figure out which foods are adding a surprising number of calories to your diet.
    After a while, you’ll be able to see exactly where all your calories are coming from and decide what’s worth it and what’s not. You will also be able to identify how you feel after eating certain foods and what triggers are promoting your eating habits. It's a good idea to not only add the time to your food log, but how you felt after eating. By identifying your food feelings you will be able to enjoy eating more and get rid of feelings of guilt, or extreme fullness or discomfort.
  • Having a written record of your food choices will help you identify eating patterns that might be sabotaging your weight loss. Review your food journal at the end of each week. That’ll help you spot “trigger” foods — foods that set you off on an eating frenzy — and any other unhelpful eating habits. For instance, maybe you consume more calories after you’ve had a cocktail or maybe you always eat dessert when you go out to dinner. Once you see your habits clearly, you’ll be able to start breaking the bad ones.
  • Food journals are great for goals. If you’re setting out to lose a lot of weight, it’s helpful to set several mini-goals along the way. Your goals should be time-bound, realistic and tangible. A written record is a way to see your progress. Say you want to cut soda from your diet. Looking back at your food journal will show you that you’ve succeeded! It’s encouraging to have a written record of your success.

How to Keep a Food Journal

  • You can’t keep a food journal without a journal. First, decide if you want to use a smartphone app or a paper and pen to record your food intake. I recommend a food-tracking app, like Lose It! or MyFitnessPal because they have built-in calorie counts. If you go the paper and pen route, look for something small and portable — it needs to go with you absolutely everywhere! There are some great ready-made physical food journals out there, like the DietMinder Personal Food & Fitness Journal and Fitbook. But even a regular notepad will do.
  • Whatever method you use, make sure you write down every single thing you eat. Remember your ABC’s — All Bites Count! Writing down exact portion sizes and types of foods will help you to achieve the most accurate results. For example, instead of logging blueberries with yogurt, you would write, "6 oz of plain greek yogurt with 3/4 cup of blueberries." And once you’ve journaled your way to weight loss, take the necessary steps to ensure you maintain your new weight!

By Lisa Lillien
Lisa Lillien is a New York Times bestselling author and the creator of Hungry Girl, where she shares healthy recipes and realistic tips and tricks.