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Food diary: the secret weapon of weight loss

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Food diary: the secret weapon of weight loss

“Keeping a food diary doubles diet weight loss”. This was the suggestion made by a scientific study carried out on 1700 overweight participants in the US. Myth or reality? Is logging your food a good tool to achieve weight loss?

Tracking/ logging your food is the equivalent of having a food journal. Plenty of smartphone applications allow you to write down everything you eat and give you at the end of the day your calorie intake as well as your detailed macronutrients count. But how does it help for weight loss?

It helps you matching up reality and perceptions. A tiny bit of butter on your morning toast, plenty of fruits, a nibble of cheese when you were cooking, a handful of vegetables, one cookie – actually 3 or 4, okay it was 5! This might be your thought process when mentally adding on all the foods you ate during the day. However, it could be possible that you are blowing up the good stuff and downsizing the “less good” ones, but also, if you were busy talking or working on your computer while eating, you might be forgetting a few (or a lot of) things. That’s the reason why recording your intake helps you get a more accurate picture of what you actually eat and gives you a reality check!

It connects food and feelings. How do you feel before/ during/ after eating? Are you eating because you are hungry, bored, sad or just out of habit? Do you feel bloated after eating certain type of foods? Do you have a tendency to binge eat during the weekend after being very strict throughout the week. Writing down your feelings when eating will help you understand the factors that impact your diet and identify the changes you can make to adopt healthier habits.

It increases awareness and leads to better food choices. Writing down everything you eat can help you make better food decisions. It puts under the spotlights the things that you are overeating or missing. For instance, does the analysis of one week of your diary highlighted the fact that your diet tends to be rich in carbs and low in protein, full of juices/soda and poor in water, with little to no healthy fat sources? Well, the following week you could initiate small changes such as drinking 2 more glasses of water per day, having at least one portion of protein-rich food per day and adding to your grocery list a few nuts and fish for next week’s snacks/meals.

And hence it leads to weight loss. As just seen, keeping a food diary allows to have an accurate picture of your daily diet, identify the factors/habits that impact it, increase awareness and ultimately lead to behavior changes. The process here described is the starting point of a healthy weight loss. The study mentioned in introduction, carried out on participants following a healthy and balanced diet associated to regular physical activity, states that “the people who kept daily food records lost more weight than those who kept no records”. Another study carried out on people who just received broad advice on nutrition, without any specific diet to follow, showed that “consistent tracking is an essential element of successful weight loss”.

Therefore, keeping a food diary or logging your food is a great tool to jump start your weight loss process. It can be used at the beginning of your journey to pinpoint the habits you have to tackle and ultimately lead to healthy behavior changes. On the long term, these changes will become your new habits and will help you build, step by step, your new lifestyle.

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Sources:

Kaiser Permanente. "Keeping A Food Diary Doubles Diet Weight Loss, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 July 2008. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080708080738.htm

Duke University. "Tracking food leads to losing pounds: Those who tracked food and weight lost pounds in new study." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2019.  www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190228154839.htm

Patel ML, Hopkins CM, Brooks TL, Bennett GG “Comparing Self-Monitoring Strategies for Weight Loss in a Smartphone App: Randomized Controlled Trial” JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2019;7(2):e12209.  https://mhealth.jmir.org/2019/2/e12209

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