Spending just 15 minutes per day keeping a food diary predicts the most weight loss, new research finds.
People who simply noted down what they ate while dieting lost an average of 10 percent of their body weight.
Other studies have shown that food diaries can double weight loss.
The key to more weight loss — on any diet — is monitoring food intake quickly and consistently, day after day.
While people think a food diary will be time-consuming, this study shows it is not.
Professor Jean Harvey study co-author, said:
“People hate it; they think it’s onerous and awful, but the question we had was: How much time does dietary self-monitoring really take?
The answer is, not very much.”
The study included 142 people who were followed over 24 weeks.
They took part in an online weight management program led by a dietician.
Participants logged their food intake online and how much activity they did.
They noted down all the calories and fat for the food they at, as well as the portion size and preparation method.
The results showed that those who logged in more often to record their food intake lost the most weight.
Professor Harvey said:
“Those who self-monitored three or more time per day, and were consistent day after day, were the most successful.
It seems to be the act of self-monitoring itself that makes the difference — not the time spent or the details included.”
Having the right expectations helps people stick to their task, said Professor Harvey:
“We know people do better when they have the right expectations.
We’ve been able to tell them that they should exercise 200 minutes per week.
But when we asked them to write down all their foods, we could never say how long it would take.
Now we can.
It’s highly effective, and it’s not as hard as people think.”
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 journal Obesity (Harvey et al., 2019).