Why should I keep a food diary if I want to lose weight?

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You should keep a food diary if you want to lose weight for a number of reasons. Keeping a food diary will help you keep track of how many calories you are taking in. A food diary can alert you to things that you might not have been aware of that you were doing. In the food diary, you can account for how you are feeling when you are eating. Do you eat when you are upset? Do you find yourself eating large amounts when you are alone? Keeping a food diary can help you see where changes in your diet can be made. Once you make those changes, the food diary helps you stay on track, by planning and seeing the follow through.
Caroline M. Apovian, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

It's simple to do, cheap and surprisingly effective. In this video, nutrition and weight management specialist Dr. Caroline Apovian discusses explains why keeping a food diary is so important if you're trying to lose weight.

Rose Reisman
Nutrition & Dietetics
Everyone hates the thought of writing down what they eat in a day. The excuses are many. "I can't remember." "I don't have time." "I can't run around my home or office with paper and pen in hand." And so on. I agree. It's a royal pain. But those who manage to lose weight and keep it off for the long term (I refer to the long term as at least one year) usually got started by keeping a journal.

It should include the time you eat, the type of food you eat and the approximate portion size. You should also write a summary at the end of each day that includes the approximate number of calories, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, dairy, protein and sweets. Once you start writing you'll be surprised at how often you put something in your mouth and how much of certain foods you eat. It's probably more than you ever imagined.

The journal allows you to make informed choices. If you really want that chocolate bar, then have it. (Half is better!) But write it down so that you'll consider it when you're selecting your food for the rest of the day. If you haven't had enough fruits and vegetables for the day, have a big plate of salad with dinner and fruit for dessert or as a snack before going to bed. A journal gives you the complete picture. Your journal is just for you. You don't have to show it to anyone if you don't want to.

It also helps you learn about your weight loss or gain patterns. A journal allows you to see patterns over the weeks. If you lost or gained two pounds in one week, take a look in your daily journal for the reasons. For me, late-night eating and not eating enough during the day are the most likely reasons for weight changes.

Once you feel that you're in control of your eating habits and you're reaching your weight goal, then you can drop the daily journal. Keep writing two days a week just to keep yourself honest. Keep a mental diary of what you're doing on the days you don't write until you feel in total control. If you slip, then go back to the written word!
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Keeping track of the foods you eat will clue you in to what kinds of foods you should be choosing for the remainder of the day or the week, and which ones you should probably skip for now. Just having this knowledge will motivate you to stay on the right track to losing weight.

Your attitude toward record keeping is very important to your success. It shouldn't be seen as a chore or a painful thing to do. Taking the time to do the record keeping is time for you. It's an investment in your weight loss. If there is a magic answer to weight loss, this is it. It's very straightforward. You do the record keeping, you lose weight. If you do half-assed record keeping, you will have half-assed weight loss. If you do it, you'll lose it. It's really that simple.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.