Keeping a Food Diary can be a great tool for achieving lasting weight loss. Countless studies have shown that a food diary encourages you to eat fewer calories and make healthier choices because it increases your awareness of what, how much, and why you’re eating. Food diaries also help identify the areas where you can seamlessly make changes to lose weight. For example, individuals don’t always realize how many extra calories they’re consuming from their daily snacks, beverages or simply grabbing for the office candy dish or a child’s left-over grilled cheese sandwich. In addition, a food diary helps identify your triggers, such as: not eating enough throughout the day and then bingeing at night; overeating when drinking alcohol; eating for emotional comfort or daily life stresses. Here are a few ideas on how to make a food diary work for you:
- Download a dietary app. The best way to ensure you’re accurately tracking your day is to record everything you eat and drink immediately. Dietary apps, such as Lose It, MyFitnessPal or SparkPeople, allow you to record your food intake on the go in real time. You can even invite your friends to join and hold each other accountable.
- Include the “extras.” The handful of M&Ms, the couple forkfuls of your kid’s mac-and-cheese, extra glass of wine, mayo on your sandwich, etc. all add up. By identifying and eliminating the “extras” in your diet, you can easily reduce your overall caloric intake and a few unwanted pounds.
- Identify your emotional “cravings.” If you’re struggling with your cravings expand on your cataloging. Record what you’re doing while you’re eating: driving, watching TV, etc. Also, describe how you felt while you ate: angry, sad, happy, nervous, starving or bored? Subsequently, reflect at the end of each day on how your emotions affected your eating.
- Be honest with yourself. It’s a journal, not a Facebook post. No one else sees it but you (or your wellness professional like me). I know it can be tempting to avoid recording an unplanned Lou’s deep dish pizza or ice cream binge episode. When one of my clients doesn’t record for a period of days I know something is up. But this is truly the key to getting to the bottom of what is holding you back from achieving your weight loss goals.
- And above all remember, the goal is progress, not perfection!!!