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Write it Down, and You’ll Lose Twice as Much Weight

Posted Sep 07 2008 8:37pm

The simple act of keeping a food diary doubles the weight loss you can expect. It works by providing a snapshot of the types and amounts of foods you consume on a given day. Tried and true, the benefits of using a food diary have been documented with astonishing results. People who keep a food record can expect to loose twice as much as those who do not write down what they eat, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The need for regular physical activity is also rated high on the list of must-dos for successful weight control.

The simple act of seeing everything that you put into your mouth offers insights into your eating habits.You’ll begin to recognize patterns—skipped breakfast, too little fruit, drinking too much soda, dessert 3 nights in a row—and gaining a self-awareness can be both informing and empowering. The food diary and a similar recall of daily physical activity represent the basics from which a healthy lifestyle is achieved.

To see how it works, medical reporter and neurosurgeon, Sanja Gupta, MD, turned himself into a test subject to satisfy his curiosity about the study results. He kept a food record and shared his experience in a humorous Time magazine column.

It’s not about just about keeping track that matters; it’s what you learn about your food choices that makes a difference. You’ll see where the calories come from, and then, you can begin to adjust according to your health goals. This accountability is quite useful, for example, when faced with a choice of, say, chicken Parmesan with pasta (the white kind) @ 720 calories, 20 grams of fat and no fiber or the grilled Salmon with wild rice @ 400 calories, 17 grams of (omega 3) fat and 3 grams of fiber. Depending upon the amount of fat and fiber you had at breakfast and lunch, you’re in a better position to negotiate which choice will look better around your waist tomorrow.

While there are many options for keeping a food diary, including a simple pad of paper, here’s a sample of a written format that provides some helpful information such as basic portion sizes to improve the accuracy of your estimates or an electronic version for those of you who live by the computer:

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