Journaling Increases Weight Loss Success

journal, salad, and tape measure

If I asked you to tell me everything you ate today, you’d probably share with me what was on your plate at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But is that really all that you ate?

What about the mint you grabbed while paying your bill at the hair salon? Or the granola bar and soda you bought at the convenience store while filling up on gas? Or the spoonful of mac-and-cheese you “taste tested” before serving it to your kids?

In reality, you probably have no idea how much food you truly consume on a daily basis. All of these little indulgences and seemingly insignificant bites and tastes can really add up to some serious weight gain over time.

But there’s a simple solution to making sure your snacking and grazing habits don’t derail your otherwise healthy lifestyle: Keeping a food journal.

Why Journaling Works

Maintaining a food journal is the ultimate reality check. It not only holds you accountable, but increases your awareness. After all, you tend not to think much about your caloric intake until you actually look at a detailed list of everything you’ve put into your mouth over a span of 24 hours. It can be quite shocking!

Additionally, journaling shows you where your diet falls short and helps you target areas for improvement. For instance, you may discover that you eat vegetables only once or twice a week, which should encourage you to add more greens to your meals. Or you may think that you don’t drink much soda, only to find that you guzzle two cans a day. This is all valuable information that can help you make changes to your diet.

Finally, keeping track of not only what, but why, you eat can help you break bad habits. If you’re an emotional eater, it’s important to write down what circumstances caused you to eat that pint of ice cream or bag of chips. Knowing this can urge you to find ways to prevent it in the future.

Or perhaps you’ll realize that your drive to work takes you past the coffee shop, where you buy a 300-calorie flavored latte three times a week…so it might be time to find a new route to your office. You may even learn something as simple as you mistake thirst for hunger and should be drinking more water rather than snacking.

Our unconscious minds can destroy our lives in critical areas, including our health. The unconscious parts of our brains, the lower reptilian and the mid limbic system portions, are constantly telling us to eat as much as we can as fast as we can because, up until a 100 years ago, feast was almost always followed by famine. So you are persistently getting signals from your brain that are inaccessible to you that say, “Eat now!” To uncover what your brain is secretly telling you, write down your feelings and where you sense you have food addictions. The first step to addressing these habits and addictions is to bring them to light, and journaling allows you to do that. At that point, you can move toward intentional eating.

I can tell you from personal experience that food diaries work. But don’t just take my word for it. Have a look at the compelling research.

Scientifically Proven Results

One study published in 2008 followed 1,685 overweight or obese participants for six months. Over that time, they kept food diaries and were encouraged to exercise and follow a healthy diet. After the intervention period, they lost an average of 13 pounds—and the most powerful predictor of their success was how faithfully they maintained their food diaries. Those who kept records at least six days a week lost about twice as much weight as those who wrote in their journals less frequently.1

A later study evaluated the effectiveness of self-monitoring (food journaling and self-weighing) on eating patterns in postmenopausal overweight and obese women over a 12-month period. The researchers found that “completing more food journals was associated with a greater percent weight loss…”2

Yet another study—a systematic review that focused on postpartum women—found that trials with self-monitoring resulted in bigger weight loss than those without. These researchers concluded that, “lifestyle interventions that use self-monitoring and take a combined diet-and-exercise approach have significantly greater weight loss in postpartum women.”3

And finally, another systematic review of 22 studies, 15 of which focused on food journaling, established that “a significant association between self-monitoring and weight loss was consistently found.”4

Tips for Successful Journaling

Keep these tips in mind to make food journaling as productive as possible:

  • Record your food during or immediately after eating. Don’t wait until the end of the day; you’ll likely forget a lot of what you consumed.
  • Find a type of diary that works best for you. There are many ways you can keep a food journal. Some people like to write on their computers or record in an app downloaded on their phone or tablet. Others like good old-fashioned paper notebooks. It doesn’t matter what you choose; just make sure it’s something that you can stick with consistently and refer to past entries easily.
  • Eat at home as often as possible. Unless you only order salads, it’s hard—or impossible—to truly know what goes into preparing and cooking restaurant meals. If you eat most of the time at home, you know exactly what you’re putting into your body, so your notes will be much more detailed.
  • Note your feelings, as well as what you were doing, while you ate.
  • Be honest. You won’t get nearly the benefit out of this activity by leaving out or underreporting portion sizes or other details. Remember, no one has to see this but you.

My promise to you is that I will always provide you with accurate information, based on the latest science. I look forward to helping you live your best life.

About Author

Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews is the President of Gene Smart and the leader of our Gene Smart team. His mission is to provide supplements to help you control your inflammation, your weight, and your life, based on the latest scientific information.

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