We all know that to lose weight we have to eat fewer calories. But despite this, sticking to a lower calorie diet to reach your goal can be difficult. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center recently confirmed there is a secret weapon that can dramatically improve your chances of successful weight loss.

They found that participants who used a food diary to monitor their intake lost an average of 19 pounds or 11% of their initial weight, an average of six pounds more than those who didn’t.

Your Best Weapon for Successful Weight Loss

Several previous studies have suggested that using a food journal is one of the keys to successful weight loss. In 2008, researchers found that dieters who tracked what they ate for six days a week lost twice as much weight as those who kept food records for one day a week or less.

Top five reasons to keep a food journal

A food journal can

  • keep you accountable by making you aware of how much, why and when you eat
  • make you aware of what you are not eating enough of
  • help deter overeating and mindless snacking
  • make you think twice about going for seconds or stopping at the vending machine after work
  • help you make small changes to ensure your diet is as healthy as possible, even if you are not trying to lose weight

Five tips for making a food journal work for you

  • Keep track of basics. Start with when, what and how much of each food you ate. Remember to include beverages, condiments, salad dressings, sauces, gravies and added sugar or sweeteners.
  • Record your feelings. Were you stressed, bored, happy, angry or sad when you ate? Knowing this will help you identify if an emotion is triggering your eating.
  • Be as accurate as possible. Measure your portion sizes regularly at first. Use measuring cups, and, if possible, a kitchen scale to ensure accuracy. Remember that portion sizes tend to creep up over time, so it’s a good idea to measure intermittently to refresh your memory.
  • Carry your food diary with you. Record every meal and snack immediately, or as soon as possible, after you eat it. Don’t wait until the end of the day when you are tired and may forget exactly what you ate.
  • Cook and prepare meals at home. This gives you more control over what and how much you eat.

It doesn’t matter how you journal, but it’s important that you do it consistently. There are many online programs and apps such as eaTracker from Dietitians of Canada.

If you are a paper and pen type of person, order the new Food and Activity Journal: What does your day look like? from Nourish Move Thrive. It has been developed for, and reviewed by, AFLCA members and fitness class participants.

These journals are free of charge for AFLCA members. Order a set for your class participants today.

Lee Finell

Registered Dietitian

Lee (MHSA, RD) is a registered dietitian and nutrition educator at Alberta Milk. She writes articles and develops programs and resources that help Albertans translate the science of nutrition into healthy food choices.

Article posted on February 19, 2013

The Expert Says

“Keeping a food journal is one of the easiest ways to keep track of what you are eating. When you write it down, it makes it real and keeps you accountable. This increased accountability helps you stay on track.”
Lee Finell, MHSA, RD

Related Links

eaTracker: Using the “My Food” tool to track your food choices
Weight Control Strategies that Work – EatRight Ontario