The importance of tracking your food*

Wednesday, 16 May 2018, By Jack Smith

It's a proven fact that when people log their food and drink they lose weight 50 % more than when they don't. A recent study of 1800 men and women over a 6 month period showed that those that kept a diary lost 50% more than those that didn't.

So, what's the secret?

Here are few perspectives on why food diaries are important:

Accountability: Writing everything down and seeing your daily intake increases your perception of how much you actually eat.

Makes you stop before you chomp: The extra helping of ranch dressing in your salad, the chocolate bar you picked up when you got fuel for your car, even the second drink you had at dinner. They could all add up to another 150-650 extra calories throughout the day, yet we tend to forget about these little food extras and instead focus on our main meals. When it comes to food, even a little adds up.

Helps to truly portion out your foods: When individuals are asked to keep a food diary, they often must measure all their food for the most accurate assessment. Trainers find that many people measure food based on the bowl or plate the food is eaten on. For example, someone may say they have a "medium bowl of cereal" in the morning when in fact, after measurement, it is determined they actually have a very large serving. Once individuals use more accurate methods of measurement, they have a better understanding of their overall portion distortion.

Ties in the connections to stress, emotion, timing and location: If you write down not only your food choices and amounts but also the time of day, location and emotional level during your meal or snack. This can help you assess how stress may be controlling their food choices. For example, a person realized that they consume large amounts of chocolate and fried foods after interactions with one of their family members. The family member was clearly a trigger to unhealthy eating but only after seeing the connection on paper did they realize this. Another person realized he was going six or seven hours in between meals and would gorge because he was so hungry.

Food Logs 101:
You don't need a personal dietician to start a food diary, all you need is the time and commitment to track everything you put in your mouth. Be specific and track everything. Carry a pen and paper at all times to record consumption of food. Do not rely on memory because at the end of the day, chances are high that you'll forget something "minor." You'll forget about that sample at a grocery store or your conversation with your co-worker when you grabbed a handful of goodies from her desk - those calories count.

Remember to accurately assess portion sizes. That means you'll have to measure out all your food choices at least for a few days. You may quickly realize that your portion sizes are much larger than you need and this may force you to assess your goals to consume only appropriate portions of food. Make sure to record the time of day and emotions surrounding your food choices. This will help you better assess how far apart your snacks and meals are. The further out your meals are from one another, the greater the fluctuations in your blood sugar will be and the more likely you will overeat at your next meal. Aim for five smaller meals a day rather than the usual three squares. Second, assess any connection between your emotions and your food choices. Knowing your triggers will help you avoid the stress eating pitfalls.

Finally, record where you consumed food and assess how often you are eating in appropriate settings. Food should be consumed in an enjoyable environment free of distractions and disturbances.

Be Honest
 Remember that honesty is truly the best policy when you are doing a food diary simply for yourself or at the request of your Trainer.

Keeping your records may mean further motivation to reach your goals. It provides a tool that can be used to keep your motivation up to make further changes and may also increase your self-esteem as well! Getting back on track with healthy eating is difficult enough. Arming yourself with all the tools you'll need to get on track and stay on track is crucial. Keeping a food diary has been shown to have a dramatic effect on this!

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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