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Why Food Journaling Is Your Weight Loss Secret Weapon

Have you ever wondered in keeping a food journal really helps you lose weight?

Do you keep a food and exercise journal? If you’re not already doing so, grab a pen and some paper right now (or, a food-logging app on your smartphone, since it is 2016 after all). Studies have shown that individuals who use a food journal lose more weight than those who don’t use one. More specifically, the more often you log your food, the more weight you tend to lose.

The Studies

One study of over 1,685 participants who were overweight or obese (age 25 and up) found that the highest predictor of the amount of weight they lost was the number of days they kept a food diary. In other words, the more often they logged their food intake, the more weight they lost. According to the researchers, study participants who logged their food and beverage intake for six days per week lost approximately two times as much weight as participants who only kept a food journal for one day per week.

Another study, which included 123 overweight or obese postmenopausal women, found that when the participants filled out more food logs per week, they experienced greater weight loss (3.7% more).

Why It Works

Food journaling works for several reasons and the more consistent you are with logging your meals, snacks, and beverages, the more successful you will be.

Helps You Understand Proper Portion Sizes — Most people vastly underestimate how much food they actually consume. Learn how to recognize and serve yourself proper portions by breaking out those measuring cups and measuring spoons (they can do more than just help you bake). After several weeks of using these items at home to measure out your food, you’ll be able to more accurately estimate proper portion sizes when dining away from home.

Helps You Recognize Behaviors — Food journaling helps bring to the forefront behaviors that influence your eating habits. It helps you recognize behavioral patterns, which then allows you to modify your actions through cognitive behavioral change. Do you consume a large number of calories after dinner? Is your lunch meal too high in calories? Do you snack too often throughout the day? Do you notice that you are taking in excess calories from sugary beverages? Are you overeating after having a stressful day? Oftentimes these behaviors that are barriers to weight loss aren’t recognizable until you write it all down and assess your food log.

Accountability — Once you start writing down your food intake, you will become accountable to yourself, which will motivate to stay the course. Additionally, if a dietitian or other healthcare professional is analyzing your food journal to provide detailed, specific recommendations for change and encouragement along the way, you become accountable to that person as well.

Make It Work for You

Write. Down. Everything. This includes not only all of the food you eat but the beverages you drink. Those venti frappuccinos you pick up for your morning jolt can jack up your calorie count for the day, but many people don’t consider liquids when they are thinking about the calories they take in. Also, remember to log small items you “sample” or snack on throughout the day. A few M&Ms at the office here, half of a granola bar there, taking bites while making dinner — they all add up.

For items that have a nutrition facts panel, finding nutrition information, such as calories or grams of fat, is simple. For dining out, it is still relatively easy because you can look up the different foods online because most restaurants provide nutrition information for their foods on their websites. And within the next few years, all food establishments that have twenty or more locations will have to provide calorie counts.

[Image via Getty]

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