You’ve tried it all before – counted calories, joined a weight-loss group, and exercised until you could hardly walk. And even if you succeed in dropping a couple of inches, the pounds seem to come back faster than they left.
Does anything really work? According to study results from Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, keeping a food diary is the best predictor of actual weight loss. A food diary is a written log of all the food that you intake each day. The diary can give you insight into your eating patterns. But, it only works if you stick to a few specific guidelines.
Judi Sheppard Missett, founder and CEO of Jazzercise, Inc., offers these suggestions for keeping a food diary.
Log everything. That’s right. Record everything that you eat – from the handful of peanut M&Ms off your co-workers desk to the three bites of macaroni & cheese you eat from your kids’ plates. If you don’t have paper handy, then scratch it out on a napkin. When you actually see every morsel that you’ve eaten recorded on a page, you may be surprised at the volume of food you’ve ingested in a given day.
Keep track of the details. Write down the time you ate, the food that you consumed, the location where you ate (i.e. – your car, your desk at work), and your feelings. Logging your feelings can be a helpful tool. You may find that you reach for crunchy snacks when you’re stressed or creamy treats when you’re sad. Then, you can determine some alternate ways to cope with these emotions that don’t involve food.
Stick with it. Keep your food journal for a minimum of three consecutive days. Include at least one weekend day in your food journal, as your weekend habits may be vastly different from workdays. After these few days, you may begin to notice patterns. From there, you may wish to continue your food journal until you’ve reached your goal weight.
Be proactive. Once you’ve noticed patterns in your food diary, take some proactive steps. If you find that you constantly celebrate with food, then choose another way to reward yourself for your next success, such as a manicure or massage. If you notice that you eat from the vending machine between 2 – 4 p.m., then toss some nuts and dried fruits into a desk drawer for your mid-afternoon slump.
Write it down first. Once you’ve had some success with keeping your food diary, you may want to step-up your tactics to another level. The next time you’re tempted to reach for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, grab your notebook and pen instead. Commit to five minutes of writing down your feelings. During the course of writing, you may be able to identify some emotions – anxiety, guilt, sadness, or even hunger. After the five minutes is up, if you’re still craving Chunky Monkey, then go ahead and have a reasonable portion. But, in many cases, you may just save yourself from mindlessly ingesting 500-plus calories.
This post is compliments of Jazzercise, Inc.