Can Keeping a Food Journal Really Help Me Lose Weight?

If you were asked to recall every single thing that you ate or drank 2 days ago, would you be able to remember it with 100% accuracy? If your answer is no, then you are similar to most individuals! It’s easy to forget about a sample at the grocery store, an extra nibble while you were preparing dinner, the piece of candy from the dish on your coworker’s desk, the 3 snack crackers that your toddler left on her plate, etc.

Food journaling is not always glamorous and exciting to implement, but it has proven to have many benefits for those seeking to lose weight and improve health. In 2008, a study published in the August edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that participants that kept a daily food journal over the six-month study period lost twice as much weight as those that recorded one day a week or less.

At Dr. Simonds Weight Loss, we will often suggest keeping a food journal, even for a short period of time. It helps improve accountability and can help us play “detective” to discover choices that could benefit from a healthier substitution, chronic under-eating, reasons for a weight plateau, etc. Journaling can also identify situations and triggers for emotional or boredom eating.

Quick Tips for Keeping a Food Diary:

  • Write as you go: record every single thing that goes in your mouth as it happens. If we wait until later in the day the accuracy is diminished and the information is not as useful.
  • Record your “cheat” foods/meals: human nature is to say “I ate so horribly that I did not want to write it down.” This is the most important time to write it down! When we are accountable for it, we are better at changing the habit.
  • Find a simple format: use the method that works best for you. Pencil and paper, a small notebook, using an app on your phone (such as My Fitness Pal). . . one method is not necessarily better than the other.
  • Use the internet: when eating out, use the internet to source the nutritional information of your choice. This eliminates the guess work and can increase your awareness of what is in the items you are eating and drinking.
  • Pay attention to portions: when eating/cooking at home, pull out the measuring cups and actually measure what you are consuming. Tip: most individuals underestimate the quantity consumed, so using measuring cups can improve your accuracy and results.

If you feel your healthy eating habits have slipped or you are lacking motivation, try journaling for the next 7-10 days and let us know the benefits you discover!

Hannah Harvey, MS, RD, LDN