Keeping a Food Journal for Weight Loss

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Hi Hungry Girl,

I'm trying to lose weight, and I see you recommend food journaling. It seems like a lot of work. Does it really make a big difference?

Curious in Cincinnati

Food Journal for Weight Loss

Hi Curious, 

Keeping a food journal is one of the best things you can do when following a weight-loss plan. And once you get into a groove, it's not as much work as you might think. Here's the 411...

Food journaling keeps you accountable. If you don't journal, it's easy to overlook the occasional extras in your day: Things like creamer in your coffee, the roll you had at dinner while waiting for your meal, etc. But it's really important to stay on top of your total calorie intake if you wanna lose weight. Writing down every single thing you eat makes it easier to monitor your calorie intake and avoid going overboard. Plus, you may be less likely to eat something questionable (like half a donut during your morning meeting) if you know you need to write it down...

It can also help you identify patterns that stand in the way of weight loss. When you review your food journal at the end of the week, you'll probably notice how certain foods and habits affect your calorie intake. For example, you might notice that on days you go out to lunch, you go over your calorie limit. Or maybe every time you have a carb-based breakfast, you snack more later in the day. Once you identify problems like these, you'll be one step closer to solving them.

Still not convinced that a food journal can help you lose weight? You don't need to take my word for it -- several studies have found correlations between keeping food journals and weight loss. This 2008 study of nearly 1,700 overweight people found that those who kept a food diary lost twice as much weight as those who didn't record their food intake.

So, where to start? First, decide if you want to go the pen-and-paper route or use your smartphone. If you like a physical journal, check out the DietMinder Personal Food & Fitness Journal or Fitbook. Or just DIY with a basic notebook. The key is to find something small enough that you can take it with you everywhere. If you want to use your phone to track your food, check out the Lose It! or MyFitnessPal apps. Or just use the notes section of your phone to keep a tally. Go with whichever option you're more likely to keep up with...

Give it a shot, and let me know how it goes!

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