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Food Journals: The Examined Plate
One tactic your nutrition consultant may recommend is keeping a food journal. Read on to learn how effective this simple tool can be.
There are few one-size-fits-all solutions for weight loss, but one of the most widely applicable tools is also one of the simplest: keeping a food journal. When used rigorously, a food journal gives you an accurate picture of what you’re actually consuming each day, potentially cutting down on mindless snacking and inspiring you to add more healthy foods such as fruits and veggies. A 2011 meta-review of 15 studies in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported that all “found significant associations between self-monitoring and weight loss.” A smaller 2012 study in the same journal found that women who added food journaling to their diet and exercise regimens typically lost an extra 6 pounds and improved their penmanship by 50 percent.
Beyond Calorie Counting
If a doctor or nutritionist hands you a food-diary form for the first time, you may be surprised by its complexity. In addition to noting what, when, and how much you’ve eaten, you may also be asked to jot down details such as your mood, your location, who you were eating with, and whether you were doing something else at the time. Tracking your meals in context can help illuminate patterns that contribute to weight gain: patients might realize that they tend to reach for low-nutrition options when they’re pressed for time, or accidentally eat too much ice cream when they’re hanging out in the walk-in freezer. This level of detail also makes food journaling useful for health goals besides weight loss. For example, if you suspect you have a food sensitivity, a journal can help you pinpoint just when symptoms such as stomachaches crop up.