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Can a Food Diary Help You Lose Weight?

Wondering how to keep a food journal? Here are 8 tips for making a food diary work for you.

8 Steps for Food Diary Success continued...

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.

Food Diary Tip No. 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 sauce on your entree -- 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 weight gain in one year?

Food Diary Tip No. 7: Beware of Common Obstacles

Are you embarrassed or ashamed about your eating? Do you have a sense of hopelessness, feeling that it won’t help to fill out a food diary or that weight loss is impossible for you? Does it seem too inconvenient to write down what you eat/drink? Do you feel bad when you "slip up"? These are the four most common obstacles to keeping a food diary, Delinsky says. What's the cure? "All of these obstacles can be overcome by remembering the usefulness of the diaries, not trying to be perfect, acknowledging that slips will happen, and staying motivated to use tools that promote health and well-being," Delinsky says. 

Food Diary Tip No. 8: 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 therapist or dietitian who can help point out patterns that are keeping you from losing and suggest alternatives to try. "The act of acknowledgment and reflections is the most important piece," says Hawkins.

Reviewed on September 26, 2008

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