As the winter months linger on, in order to get through these last weeks without totally zeroing out on my weight loss accomplishment, I decided it's time to employ some tools to keep me on track. Exercise has been far and few between during these winter months and I've regained four of the 15 pounds I had lost --- something I worried would happen when I couldn't get outside to exercise. So now, I am turning to food journaling in an attempt to keep me in check with what I am putting into my mouth and help me be more aware of what is causing me to gain weight.
A 2008 study conducted by Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research, shows that keeping a food journal can double a person's weight loss. According to the lead author of this study, researcher Jack Hollis, Ph.D., which was one of the "largest and longest running weight loss maintenance trials ever conducted" and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, "The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost." He said, "Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories." After six months, the average weight loss among the nearly 1,700 participants of this study was approximately 13 pounds.
However, though this study credits keeping food diaries as being very influential in helping people lose weight, to me this study seems a bit misleading in that the participants were not only asked to keep a food journal, they were also instructed to eat a low fat diet, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, exercise 30 minutes everyday and attend a support group every week. If I did all that I would think that I would lose weight too and I wouldn't need to keep a food journal!
However, I do think keeping a food journal will be helpful to me in several ways. First, I can use it to keep track of what I eat and the total calories that I am consuming each day. It will help keep me accountable for weight loss or gain as I will be able to track what I am eating and make adjustments as needed.
Second, it will help me recognize my eating patterns and identify what is leading to my downfall. For example, if I write down everything I eat, while I may think I am having a healthy snack by snacking on almonds, I may realize that by grabbing a fist full several times a day I may be eating enough almonds to add up to meal. I may also notice that while I am cooking dinner, I am actually having a "taste" of this and a "taste" of that, but that too can add up in the end. Or I may be eating too late at night, or skipping my morning meal.
And third, I think by monitoring what I eat so closely on a day to day basis I'll be able to relate the food I eat and the amount I eat to the result I am getting, whether I am gaining or losing weight. This will also help me recognize when I need to make adjustments in order to get closer to the result that I want.