The Single Best Way to Lose Weight
Customize your diary so it reflects the info that's most useful to you. For
example, if you're someone who eats whenever food is in front of you, create
columns in your journal to rate how hungry you were before and afterward. If
you snack your way through hard days, add a column to describe how you were
feeling when you ate. Trying to figure out when you're most drawn to junk food?
Record where you were when you indulged and what was going on at the time.
Also, if you're trying to break a specific habit, like scarfing down ice cream
at night, create a column for that, so you can give yourself a star for each
day you resist the urge.
Include every single bite, lick, and taste (anything larger than a crumb
counts). And don't forget to keep track of your sips. Even the most diligent
diarists often forget to include the glass of white wine they had at dinner
(120 calories) and their 3 p.m. can of Coke (155 calories).
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Counting calories is easier for creatures of habit: If you have a bowl of
cereal for breakfast almost every morning or a turkey sandwich three times a
week, you won't have to look up the number each time.
Keep Your Diary Close
"I'm forgetful, so I always need to put the journal where I can see it —
on my kitchen table, on my desk at work. I carry it a lot in my hand, too, as a
reminder," says Melissa Smith, 32, of Omaha, who lost 25 pounds keeping a
You can also try this trick from Maryellen Mealey, 42, of Chicago, who lost
big (188 pounds) keeping a journal: "I made a deal with myself that I
wouldn't eat anything unless I wrote it down first. It's obsessive, but I'm a
mindless snacker and putting everything in the book really helped me be more
conscious," she says.
Examine the Evidence
No matter how diligent you are, a food log won't help in the
behavior-changing department if you don't analyze it. At night, sit down and
calculate how many calories you consumed. Tally up what food groups you're
eating, and make adjustments. (A big plus of online tools is that they do a lot
of the analysis for you, totaling everything with a click of a button and often
giving you charts to show what you can improve.)
You may also want to consult a registered dietitian. A professional may see
things in your diary that you don't (cost: usually $50 to $300 for an initial
consultation). A two-year study from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in
Seattle showed that participants who consulted a dietitian had better success
keeping off weight than those who followed their usual diet.