Dream of a world… a world where you can change just one habit… yes, just one, and you could double your weight-loss! Sounds like a line from a poster on your streetlamp doesn’t it? But it’s absolutely true! Many experts say that the simple act of keeping a FOOD DIARY can encourage you to eat fewer calories, and thus lose weight. How does it work and should I be doing this?
5 REASONS TO USE A FOOD DIARY
- Your food diary will show you what you’re REALLY eating. Many of us are sometimes in denial about our eating habits. A diary may show you that you skip meals, don’t drink enough water or that you grab way too many handfuls of unhealthy snacks throughout the day.
- It may help you plan your eating better. Even if you are only accountable to yourself, you are more likely to make good choices when you know that it has to be recorded. If you share your food diary (such as on an app), then you will want to do well in front of your shared friends. Often, knowing one will have to record what they eat deters them from eating altogether, and although this is not always ideal it does create an awareness of what’s passing through your lips.
- It can help you identify problem times. You might realize that you are good all day but tend to make poor choices when the kids get home or late at night. If you are aware of this, you can make a plan to make better choices in the future.
- A food diary can help you to find food intolerances. For those who want to see if they are gluten or dairy intolerant for example you can see how you feel after eating as well as eliminating those foods.
- A food diary can show you why you eat. For instance, you may realize how much you eat when you aren’t hungry and instead choose to eat because you are bored, stressed, celebrating, etc. You can then identify what triggers you to eat in these situations and then find another release, other than eating.
7 STEPS FOR FOOD DIARY SUCCESS
1. Know Your Reasons
If you know what you hope to gain from your food diary, you can make sure you’re recording the type of information that will help you in that area. Megrette Fletcher, MEd, RD, executive director of The Center for Mindful Eating advises people to be clear about their intent, whether it’s to become aware of hidden food triggers, notice problematic eating patterns, or just make sure they’re eating a healthy diet.
2. Choose Your Format
Include: time, food, amount/portion size, degree of hunger and location of the meal. If possible, keeping track of carbs, fat, and fibre grams will be helpful for people with diabetes and other medical conditions.
If you’re trying to understand how your emotions relate to your food choices, you might also want to include questions in your diary such as, “How hungry am I?” or “What were my emotions before, during and after the eating episode?”. Write down other items you think are important, such as how you felt (physically and emotionally) when you finished eating- this could indicate a specific food intolerance, what and how much exercise you got that day, any medication you took, and your blood sugar results, if you have diabetes.
3. Decide How Often to Update
The more frequently updated, the better. 5-7 days a week is recommended. You can fill out your food diary as you go throughout the day, or set some time aside at the end of the day to update it. But experts say your record will be more accurate if you do it right after eating. They also say it’s important to record everything – even if that seems painful.
4. Decide How Detailed You Want to Be
If you just can’t bring yourself to fill out a detailed food diary form each day, that’s OK. Just writing a minimum amount of information in your food diary will help you self-monitor.
5. Be Accurate About Portion Sizes
If you’re just trying to get a general idea of what, when, and why you are eating, this tip may not apply to you. But if you want to get a precise picture of your intake, make sure the amounts you record in your diary are as accurate as possible.
6. Include the ‘Extras’ that Add Up
The more thorough you are when recording what you eat — that handful of M&Ms at the office, the mayo on your sandwich, the salad dressing, the more ways you’ll eventually find to cut those extra calories. When you look back over your food diary records, look for those nibbles and bites that can really add up. Did you know that 150 extra calories in a day (that could be one alcoholic drink or a slather of spread on your bread) could result in a 15- to 18-pound (7-8kg) weight gain in one year?
7. Review What You Wrote
Food diaries are most helpful when you look back and review what you wrote. You can do this on your own or with a dietician who can help point out patterns that are keeping you from losing and suggest alternatives to try. A reward system may also work, like going to a movie or buying those jeans you wanted to fit into. Just remember that food should not be used as a reward.
Here’s an example to get you started:
If you are trying to lose weight or trying to identify what foods you don’t tolerate very well, a food diary will come in handy. If you’re not sure what your goals are as of yet, try jotting down your meals to see areas where you could improve and take it from there, you’ll be amazed at what you find! Good luck and get diarising!