Posted on Feb 12, 2019, 6 p.m.
At the beginning of each new year many people start off with the resolve to improve their health, lose weight, and eat better. These attempts unfortunately most often fail and never last long.
Keeping a food diary may be a useful tool in this process, and help you to understand your eating habit and patterns to identify the foods you eat on a regular basis that may or may not be so good for you, as well as provide a record of measurable results to keep you inspired.
Studies show that for those truly interested in losing weight keeping a journal was a very effective tool to help change their behaviors. One study involving nearly 1,7000 participants showed that those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who did not keep records.
The secret to successful food journaling is consistency and accuracy. A basic food diary should include what you are eating, how it is prepared, and any sauces it has. It should also list how much you are eating in household measurements, if not eating at home do your best to estimate portion size if it is not listed. You should also note the times that you are eating, to help identify any potentially problematic times.
Simply jotting down where you are eating, what else you are doing while eating, and how you are feeling while you are eating can also help you to understand some of your eating habits and offer additional insight.
Try to list where you are eating whether it be in the kitchen, walking, at a restaurant, or in the bedroom. Also list what you are doing such as reading, using the computer, or chatting with a friend. Record who you are eating with whether you are alone, with family, friends, or colleagues. Most experts agree it is important to record how you feel as you are eating, note whether you are bored, anxious, lonely, stressed, sad, tired, happy, or overwhelmed.
Try to write down whatever it is as soon as you consume it rather than at the end of the day when your recollection may be less accurate. Be as specific as you can about the food or beverage, and be sure to include any alcoholic beverages. Smartphone apps are available that may also support your efforts that offer information on calories, portion sizes, and nutrients.
At the end of each week flip back and review what you have drank and ate to search for patterns, trends, or habits that you should consider modifying. Consider how healthy your diet is, if you are eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are you consuming food stuffs with added sugars, if your moods affect your eating habits, and how often you eat on the run.
Once you have identified areas that need improvement try to set one or two healthy eating goals for yourself before moving on to others if needed. Using the SMART goal format may help which means: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time based goals. For example an observation of only eating vegetables once a day can have the goal of eating more vegetables, with the SMART goal of eating 3 servings of veggies a day. Observation of ordering takeout 5 nights a week can have the goal of cooking at home more, and the SMART goal of ordering takeout no more than once or twice a week. Observation of hitting the vending machine at work at 3pm for a snack can have the goal of eating healthier snacks, and the SMART goal of bringing healthier snacks with you to work from home such as nuts, fruits, or veggies every day.
Food diary journaling can be informative and help you to move towards improving your health and weight loss goals. Using the information you provide in the diary to make SMART changes, and continuing to track your progress is a great way to show results and help make your journey to becoming a healthier person a successful reality.
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