Keeping a Food Diary

idea.jpgGuess what!?

I have the secret to weight loss!!!!!

AND . . . I'm going to share it with you!!!!!!!!! Woohoo!!!!!!




The secret is . . .

IFF (calories out) > (calories in), THEN future weight < current weight

(In other words: When you burn more calories than you take in, you lose weight!)

Anticlimactic, no? But it would appear that most dieters don't realize this simple fact. Otherwise, why would there be such a booming trade in diet aids?

Books claiming to trick your body into dropping pounds are a dime a dozen. Plenty of companies will take your money in exchange for their pills, potions, and plans to whittle down your waist.

But in the end, what works? Any system that involves you eating less (possibly alongside moving more, in the most effective ones) leads to weight loss. Counting Points? Counting carbs? In a roundabout way, you're doing nothing more than counting calories.

You don't need a fancy plan or special food to achieve the same results. However, one simple tool can help you on your path to taking in fewer calories: a food diary.

A food diary (or journal, if you prefer) can be as simple as a notebook in which you write down everything you eat throughout the day, or it could be as complex as a web site or software program with a database for matching up your eats with their calorie content.

Whichever way you go, whether you make lists and estimates on paper or stringently count every calorie in a program, you'll immediately notice a benefit to keeping a record of what you eat. Being confronted with the evidence of what's crossed your lips will lead you to think twice before stuffing them with unsavory goods.

A food diary helps you realize just how much you are eating. With a long record to look back on, you can pick out the poor eating patterns and see where your food pitfalls are. Once you know what's holding you back -- once you have information -- you will find it easier to walk the path toward healthier eating.

But you don't have to take my word for it. A study run by Kaiser Permanente showing that using a food diary can double your weight loss made a big splash in the news not so long ago. Even better, the study found that even the most casual tracking has a strong effect on your ability to change your eating habits because writing down what you eat naturally makes you more reflective about it.

Give food journaling a try. Stick with something simple at first to get the ball rolling, and then you can scale upward if you feel like it. In the coming weeks, I'll provide some tools and examples to help you move beyond simple lists if you need more structure.

And it won't even cost you $19.95 a month.

Graphic: Colleen Fischer

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