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8 Steps for Food Diary Success continued...

Food Diary Tip No. 3: Decide How Often to Update

You should write in your food diary at least 5 days a week -- but filling it out every day is best, says Catenacci.

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.

"It can be tempting to avoid recording an unplanned indulgent dessert or binge episode, but this is the most important time to record," Puhl says.

Something to watch out for: As time goes on, dieters tend to become more lax about how often they update their food diaries and go longer after eating or drinking before logging the information.

Food Diary Tip No. 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. Hawkins says many of her patients believe that if they do not keep a "perfect" food log with every detail, they have failed. She tells them that every attempt they make at recording gets them a step closer to paying attention to their food choices and habits.

Food Diary Tip No. 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, Catenacci says. Measuring out your portions can help give you a picture of what a normal serving size looks like. Kim Gorman, MS, RD, director of the Weight Management Program at the University of Colorado, Denver, advises her clients to measure portions regularly at first, and then on occasion after that.

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