Our diets, our selves

Every night before I go to sleep, I brush my teeth, read a book, and write in my journal.  My food journal.

Sounds a little odd right?  But let me let you in on a little secret — food journaling helped me lose  almost 40 pounds and is probably one of the most effective and least expensive weight loss tools that I know.  In fact, a weight loss study conducted by the Kaiser Permanent Center for Health Research found that “participants who kept a food journal lost almost double the weight of their nonjournaling counterparts”.  Food journaling was the single best predictor of whether participants in this study would lose weight, trumping exercise habits, age, and body mass index!

If you’re looking to lose 40, 20, or even 5 pounds, food diaries can be incredibly powerful because not only do you get a sense of what you’re eating during the day and can make more balanced choices, it provides a sense of accountability.  So if you eat that chocolate chip cookie at lunch, it counts!  The trick to food diaries is that you be as HONEST as possible.  Eating with a purpose — that you’re hungry, becomes more of a focus, rather than mindlessly munching throughout the day.  Food diaries are also great if you have any digestive problems or energy issues because they can give you a great sense of what foods upset your stomach, how satisfying things were, and how much energy you gained from having eaten them.

So how do you start keeping a food diary?  Keith Bachman, MD, describes the process quite well, “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.”

The simple act of becoming more aware of what you’re eating can help you reevaluate your diet and make healthier choices.  Furthermore, food journaling can help you understand the circumstances which may cause you to pig out or eat unhealthily (stress, sitting close to a vending machine at work, etc..) and help you to combat those circumstances.

While I don’t write in a food journal regularly anymore, from time to time when I feel like I’ve been making unhealthy choices I’ll scribble my meals down for a couple days to get back on track.  Food journaling isn’t about obsessively detailing every morsel you put in your mouth, it’s about getting a general sense of your diet and finding constructive ways to improve it.  It’s about recognizing your pitfalls and celebrating your strengths and taking control of your food choices, one day at a time.

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