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A Better You
by Jo Ann Fore

Inside a Food Diary

Have you failed at losing weight, and can’t quite put your finger on why? You’re serious about your weight loss – you’re trying to eat correctly, watch your portion sizes and do your exercises – but the weight just isn’t coming off!

You may be leaving out one important step: A food diary. One of the most effective tools for losing weight is to keep a diary. The American Academy of Family Physicians feels, “This (a food diary) is the most important things you can do to make your eating habits better.” (Am Fam Physician. 2004 Jan 15;69(2):323-4.).

What is a food diary? In the simplest terms, a food diary helps you assess what you are eating, and what effect the foods have on your body. It can be as basic, or as detailed as you desire. The key is to use it to track your eating habits. Consistent use reveals any problem areas you may need to concentrate on. Once you understand your eating habits, you can use that information to make positive changes.

It’s not as hard as you think. Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Keep it simple.
Use something as simple as three-hole punched paper, or a theme book, to create your own diary.

2. Keep it handy.
Don’t make it difficult to complete your diary. Keep one that’s convenient enough to have handy when you need it, or you won’t always make the effort to use it.

3. Do it right away.
When you eat, stop and write it down. Don’t wait until the end of the day and try to mentally review everything to catch up on your diary. I guarantee you will forget some of those chips you grabbed as a snack.

4. Be honest.
Don’t cheat yourself. To get a true nutritional assessment, you have to write everything down – everything you ate, and how much of it you ate. This includes drinks and snacks.

5. Stick with it.
Take it one day at a time. If you overeat one day, or don’t reach your goals, don’t consider yourself a failure and quit. We all have bad days. Make a fresh start the next day.

As a former owner of a weight loss center, I confess this was one tool that was most effective at spotting problem areas. Faithful clients would come to a standstill in their weight loss efforts. They would come to me frustrated. But almost 100% of the time, when we worked together and created a food diary that allowed clients to journal what and when they were eating, we spotted the problem.

Here are some questions you may want to consider as you compose your food diary.

1. What are you eating? Be specific.

2. When are you eating? Record what time of the day it is.

3. How much are you eating? Either list your calories or estimate your portion sizes.

4. What mood were you in when you ate? Record whether you were genuinely hungry, just stressed, or maybe celebrating.

5. How did you feel after you ate? List whether your food gave you energy, or made you feel sluggish.

6. Do you take supplements? Use your diary to record the intake of any nutritional supplements.

7. Do you exercise? Log your physical activity – it affects your weight loss.

When you are trying to lose weight, the information gleaned from a food dairy is invaluable. Use it to determine what changes need to be made to your eating habits.

Here are a couple links to printable food diaries, to help you get started:

If you’d rather track it online, here’s a link to a free online food journal:

Remember, you can fool yourself if you try hard enough. But if you’re serious about losing those extra pounds, no fudging on your food diary. Start one today and I’ll bet you can track how to finally lose that extra weight.

Jo Ann Fore welcomes your comments about this article or suggestions for material you would like to see in future articles. Email her at: A Better You is published every Saturday.


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