The Single Best Way to Lose Weight
4. You'll learn why you pig out.
Experts suggest that, to help break bad habits, you record not only what you
eat, but the circumstances that prompt you to eat. For example, maybe you
indulge in more sweets at work because you sit close to the vending machine.
Maybe you have a milkshake several times a week because you pass Wendy's on the
way home. Or maybe every time you worry about money, you retreat into the
kitchen for chips.
When you begin to notice these patterns, you can figure out ways to change
them. If the vending machine is a constant temptation, stock your desk drawers
with fruit and granola bars. If you can't resist a fast-food sign, MapQuest a
new route to work. If you eat when you're under pressure, steer clear of snacks
and take a short walk instead (it's a scientifically proven stress buster).
Another bonus: "When you increase awareness of what's going into your
mouth," says Thayer, "you'll feel fuller sooner than if you were just
5. You'll see real results — quickly.
Your food diary can be as revealing as the one you kept in fifth grade. For
example, to get a glimpse into how much you've improved your diet, compare the
entries in week one (Twinkie-filled) to week four or five (ideally,
veggie-filled). You can also discover which decisions translated into pounds
lost — for instance, that week you had fish for dinner twice might've helped
you lose weight.
Food journals also let you give yourself credit where credit is due
(personally, I reward myself with a gold star each day I resist eating candy).
And that positive reinforcement is essential for shedding pounds.
How to Write Off Pounds: A Cheat Sheet to Get Your Food Diary Started
Choose Your Medium
If you're using pen and paper, buy a regular spiral notebook. Or go for a
pre-organized book like the DietMinder. Computer addicts should check out
online journals, such as myfooddiary.com ($9 per month) and nutrihand.com (free
for a basic plan; $10 per month for extras). If you can't live without your
PDA, visit weightbydate.com and download the software (starting at $19).
The crucial info to write down: the time you ate, what you ate, and how much
you ate. Make a habit of jotting notes right after you eat. "If you wait
until the end of the day, it's too easy to leave things out," warns Suzanne
Farrell, R.D. Tracking your diet online? Remember to take paper with you to
restaurants, so you can write down every ingredient and calculate its
nutritional content afterward.
You may also want to invest in measuring cups — they'll help you learn what
a one-and-a-half-cup portion looks like (it's a lot less than you think) — as
well as a calorie-counter book and a calculator. Armed with these tools, you
can track your calories like a nutritionist would.