No matter how we much or how little we think we are eating, it’s almost impossible to figure out exactly how much food you are putting into your body on a daily basis. That’s why researchers at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research began tracking two thousand people who recorded in a food diary what they ate every day. What they found was that for every day that participants recorded what they ate, they lost weight. The process of writing down what you eat far surpasses exercise, age, or BMI as an indicator of weight gain or loss; the success of the Weight Watchers program can be partially attributed to food tracking.
Because many of us have no idea how much we are eating, it’s not surprising that studies show that we underestimate by about 25 percent. We also tend to cut back on munching if we have to write down every Snickers bar we eat, every breath mint we put in our mouth, or every mocha latte we drink. By recording what we ingest, we also are forced to face the number of calories each swallow holds. It’s a reality check that works like no other.
If you decide to keep a food diary, here are some tips on how to do it properly:
Choose how you’re going to record your food: pen and paper, pre-organized book, online journal, or PDA.
» Record what you ate, how much, and when, and use measuring cups to monitor quantities.
» Tailor your chart to your own eating habits. Write down your personal hunger points, your cravings, when you ate, and how you were feeling.
» Be honest. Don’t leave out anything, even a lick.
» Keep your diary close so you don’t have to look for it whenever you need to write something down.
» At the end of the day, analyze what you ate and make healthy adjustments.
» Reward yourself! Treat yourself with a shopping trip or movie. Enjoy what you are doing for yourself.
If you decided to go on a trip, you would never leave home without an idea of where you were going, so in the same vein, use your food diary as your road map on your journey to good health. Keeping a food diary may be the single most important thing you can do to stay on track.
Most importantly, it is crucial to change the way you think. For some reason, many of us feel the need to deprive ourselves because we don’t think we deserve the best. But you deserve the best that good food has to offer. You have to believe that you can have a prime cut of meat, a fine glass of champagne, or a crystal bowl of berries. As the L’Oreal commercial tells us, “You’re worth it.”