Write down what you eat

by Ali on November 14, 2008

As regular readers of The Office Diet will know, I’m a big advocate of food diaries – keeping a record of what you eat.

Something I’ve been thinking about over the past week is this post from You On A Diet: Lose Weight By Logging. Whenever I’ve successfully dieted, I’ve done it by writing down what I eat, and the calories. However, as I’m sure many of you will have found, weighing foods and working out calories can be a pain – especially when you’re busy.

Plus, if your goal is to eat more healthily – not necessarily to lose weight – then tracking calories is often unnecessary, and can lead you to concentrate too much on a number than on getting a balanced diet.

Just log what you eat … and lose weight?

You On A Diet explained that:

It started with a group of researchers who were going to conduct a study on a new diet plan. The first instruction they gave the participants was to keep a detailed food journal. The point was to gather information in order to have a good idea of what people were eating on their usual routine, then see what was going to have to change. But the subjects came back in two weeks and surprised the team: they had already lost weight!

I can definitely echo this in my own experience: writing things down invariably makes me think twice about having a second cookie or an unnecessary snack. I don’t need to make any efforts to deliberately restrict my food intake, and I certainly don’t go hungry – but I do find myself making more sensible choices.

For the past week, I’ve been logging everything I eat, with some vague health goals in mind (“eating at least five fruit and veg a day” , “drinking less alcohol” and “cutting down on sugar”). I found that:

  • I ate about the same amount, but made healthier choices. Rather than having a small sandwich and some chocolate at lunch time, I’d have a larger sandwich and skip the chocolate!
  • On days when I was out or busy, I made the effort to eat enough fruit and veg.
  • My chocoholic tendencies were noticeably diminished!

I’ve lost about half a pound, too, which is pretty good for me (I’m five foot two, and well within my “healthy” weight range, so I don’t tend to lose weight easily.)

Do try this at home

If you’ve been avoiding keeping a food diary because you can’t cope with all the faff of weighing things, counting calories and guesstimating restaurant meals – just keep a very simple log. Write down everything you eat, with portion sizes like “2 thick slices of bread” or “a small side salad”, rather than getting obsessive about grams and calories. You’ll almost certainly find that keeping the log vastly reduces your snacking urges, and helps you to concentrate on healthy choices.

It might also help to set specific goals or targets. Some great ones are:

  • Five fruit and veg each day
  • Six glasses of water per day
  • Reducing caffeine intake
  • Reducing alcohol intake
  • Cutting down on sugary snacks
  • Only having certain foods (for me, chocolate!) on certain days

Check out one of my early posts on The Office Diet where you can download several different types of food diary template – the “Food and mood” one is particularly useful if you’re an emotional eater, as you can jot down notes on how you were feeling during the day.

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