Use a food journal – it works!

July 15, 2008 at 6:44 am 2 comments

As you know, I write in my food journal every single day.  I track my weight, my calories, my fiber, and my exercise each day of the week, no exceptions.  The writing habit started when I joined Weight Watchers back in September of 2002, although back then I used their POINTS tracker, and I only weighed myself once a week.  I cannot overstate the importance of keeping a regular record of what you eat if you want to drop weight and keep it off.

Research backs me up on this.  According to Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, the food journal is “…that one single tool has the most powerful impact on long-term dietary change.”  She cites a new Kaiser Permanente study that involved over 1600 people.  The results were dramatic: those that kept food journals lost twice as much weight over a 6-month timeframe as those who didn’t regularly note their consumption.

“Food diaries are like a nutritional checkbook. Without balancing your checkbook, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of your finances, and the same is true for food. Most Americans overestimate how much they have to “spend” calorie wise, underestimate how much they eat and underestimate the number of calories in lots of foods. Most also overestimate the number of calories they burn when exercising (can you imagine accidentally spending more than you make month after month because you were off in your calculations – yikes!).”

The key with a food journal is not berate yourself for what you’ve eaten.  It’s to stay mindful and aware.  Record your consumption honestly, but be kind to yourself when you do it.

And don’t think you have to buy some fancy, pre-printed food journal or subscribe to an expensive service.  A small notebook in which you break your day into meal segments will work just fine.  Of course, if a pre-printed book or online service works for you, that’s cool, too.  Whatever works is what you want to go with.  It’s important to remember, though, that the journal doesn’t have to be time or labor intensive.  As with any lasting lifestyle change, the tool must fit easily within your life.

If you’re stumped by trying to lose weight, give a food journal a try for a week or so.  I bet you’ll be amazed at how well it works for you.


Entry filed under: about me, coping strategies, science, tips & techniques.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mike  |  July 15, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Some of the online food journals are really easy to use and also free. My favorite is

  • 2. John Reed  |  August 9, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks! Really interesting. I wish i could spend my time on writing articles…just have no time for it.


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