Keeping a Food Diary Doubles Weight Loss

a hand writing in a notebook, coffee and a croissant on the background

Keeping a Food Diary Doubles Weight Loss

As of 2016, obesity has affected nearly 100 million American citizens. About 40% of the country is considered to be obese, resulting in billions of dollars in medical expenses.

But on the more individual level, obesity is a killer. Statistics have linked obesity to cancer, heart disease, and stroke, each of which are directly linked to premature death.

It’s pretty safe to say that, for the most part, everyone understands that it is important to lose weight. 

The general rules of eating healthy and exercising often are applied to this epidemic – if you can reduce the amount of ‘junk’ food you eat (processed foods, sugary foods, soda, etc. etc.), and if you can exercise for about twenty minutes a day (in a mix of cardio and weights) your excess weight should melt right off.

The problem that so compounds this issue is that often, it is not that easy. 

Sure, the process sounds simple enough. But to implement it is an entirely different story – losing weight involves a complete lifestyle shift. This is never an easy change to make, because it is drastic and all-encompassing.

You have to break habits and addictions, purchase different foods, maybe even learn to cook. You have to get a gym membership, learn how to work out, find routines.

And then you have to balance your energy output and input. If you’re working out hard, but you’re trying to eat less, you might suffer from fatigue.

You have to fuel yourself when working out – the answer is in food quality. In other words, it’s not easy to set yourself on the path of weight loss. 

The Solution

notebook, coffee and sunglasses on the table

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And sure, for a lot of people, the traditional methods of better eating and more exercise work well. But there is another method, one that is designed to work in tandem with your fitness and food goals: keeping a diary.

I know, I know, it sounds a bit childish. Diaries are for teenagers, right? In reality, this kind of diary can be for anyone. It’s not your average diary, it’s a Food Diary.

And the effects of keeping a food diary are tremendously surprising. According to a well-reputed study conducted in 2008, keeping a food diary can double your weight loss. 

The Study

coffee cup and a person's hand opening a notebook

The study, which was conducted by the Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health and Research, involved 1,700 participants. Nearly half of this group was African American, making this study one of the rare ones that included a sizeable portion of the black population.

This is important because, statistically, black people are at a much higher risk of both obesity and the lethal conditions that could follow, like heart disease.

Participants were asked to follow a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fat. They were also asked to exercise at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes a day, in addition to attending weekly group sessions.

But the interesting part of this study is that participants were also required to keep a food diary, which was turned in at each weekly group session. 

The Results

measuring tape, alarm clock and healthy food

The results truly speak for themselves. After only 6 months, the average weight loss among the participants was 13 pounds. A further 69% of participants lost at least 9 pounds.

These numbers are staggering. They are further proof that the weight loss process is a highly involved, highly patient process. You can’t go for one run and expect to be saved. It’s a long-term goal, and it involves several lifestyle aspects, including diet, diet-journaling, and exercise. 

How to Keep Your Own Journal

laptop, notebook and post-its

You might have this image in your head of a leather-bound diary and a calligraphy pen. You might think that every time you eat something, you have to get out your pen and your notebook and carefully record everything.

The reality is much more appeasing. Keeping a food diary doesn’t have to be a big or formal affair. The main point of recording what you ate is that, the process of writing it down forces you to reflect on your eating habits, which invites the motivation to change.

Your journal can be a crinkled post-it note, or a quick text. As long as you’re putting it down somewhere, you’re forcing yourself to face your habits, which betters your chances of breaking them. 

The Social Media Warning

empty blue plate with a detox sign

Regardless of if you are looking to lose weight, chances are you’ve seen advertisements all across social media for ‘fit-teas’ and the like. They certainly seem attractive – they market instant fat loss, sometimes of over twenty pounds in under six weeks.

While this does seem alluring, stay well away from any of these weight-loss products. Best case scenario, they’re a waste of money. Worst case, they’re dangerous.

Regardless of if they work (which they don’t) the kind of weight loss they promote is unhealthy. Weight loss isn’t supposed to be quick and easy. It’s supposed to be a longer journey.

If you want to take the weight off, and then keep it off, you’re going to be facing the long haul. Just know that it’s worth it in the end. 

If losing weight seems like a struggle, you’re not alone. But you can do it. Start slow at first – cut out soda, start buying more unprocessed foods, start eating out less, start hitting the gym a few times a week.

You don’t have to go from 0 – 100 in a day. Take your time, be patient, keep a diary, and the results will come. 

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Article by:

Daniel DeMoss

I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.