Keeping a food diary is linked to the most weight loss by new research.
Just fifteen minutes per day making a note of each meal or snack boosts people’s awareness of what they are eating.
People in the study who did this each day lost an average of 10 percent of their body weight.
Those who monitor their food intake consistently and quickly lose the most weight.
In fact, other studies have shown that food diaries can double weight loss.
Although people imagine keeping a food diary will be tiring, it is not that bad.
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.”
For the study, 142 people followed an online weight management program.
They visited a website to record how much they had eaten and what exercise they had done.
It was clear from the results that people who logged their intake more often 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.”
A food diary does not have to be formal — it could be something as simple as sending yourself an email or text message.
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).