People who keep a food diary lose twice as much weight, research finds.
Making a little note of what you are eating helps increase self-awareness of food intake.
The more notes you make, the more weight you lose.
A food diary does not have to be formal — it could be something as simple as sending yourself an email or text message.
People in the study lost an average of 13 pounds in six months as part of a standard diet and exercise programme.
Those that kept food diaries, though, lost twice as much.
Dr Jack Hollis, the study’s first author, said:
“The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost.
Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records.
It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories.”
The study included 1,685 people who followed a heart-healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables.
They also attended weekly group sessions and did 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each day.
After six months, more than two-thirds had lost at least 9 pounds and the average weight loss was 13 pounds.
People who kept food diaries, though, lost twice as much weight.
Keith Bachman, a weight management expert, said:
“Keeping a food diary doesn’t have to be a formal thing.
Just the act of scribbling down what you eat on a Post-It note, sending yourself e-mails tallying each meal, or sending yourself a text message will suffice.
It’s the process of reflecting on what you eat that helps us become aware of our habits, and hopefully change our behavior.
Every day I hear patients say they can’t lose weight.
This study shows that most people can lose weight if they have the right tools and support.
And food journaling in conjunction with a weight management program or class is the ideal combination of tools and support.”
Dr Victor Stevens, study co-author, said:
“More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.
If we all lost just nine pounds, like the majority of people in this study did, our nation would see vast decreases in hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (Hollis et al., 2008).