Good Habits: Keeping a food diary

by Ali on January 19, 2009

Study after study has found that dieters who keep a food diary are much more likely to lose weight successfully than those who don’t. From personal experience, I can say that food diaries work – I lost 50lbs by keeping one!

Last year, I posted some food diary templates – and that post has turned out to be one of the top ten most popular ones on The Office Diet.

But, let’s face it, recording everything you eat is a bit of a hassle – and most of us are busy people with plenty of better things to do! So if you need a bit of convincing, here are some reasons why food diaries really do work:

  • You’re more likely to resist that slab of cake or second cookie if you know you’ll be writing it down in black-and-white.
  • If you’re kidding yourself that you’re getting your five-a-day, or that you “usually” have wholegrain bread, your food diary might reveal a different story … encouraging you to really make those healthy changes to your eating habits.
  • After a couple of weeks, you’ll be able to spot patterns in your food diary, and make simple changes. If you realise that you always grab a sugary snack around 4pm, you might think about taking extra lunch, or making sure you have something a bit healthier on hand.

Keeping a paper diary

If you’re someone who prefers pen-and-paper to a computer screen, you might want to buy a small diary with enough space to write down what you’ve eaten during each day. Another good option is to keep a sheet of paper, ruled into days of the week and meals, stuck to your fridge or kitchen noticeboard at home (you can print out one of the food diary templates to use in this way.)

Keeping an online diary

For those of you who, like me, are rarely separated from a computer, you might find that an online diary suits you better. I’ve uploaded my food diary template into Google Docs so that I can access it from anywhere – you might prefer to keep yours on your work computer’s hard drive, or on a USB pen.

Whether you keep your food diary online or on paper, get into the habit of filling it in every single day. It’s hard to remember everything you ate after more than 24 hours has gone by – and “little snacks” that slip your mind can really add up.

If you do end up missing a couple of days, get back to keeping your diary as quickly as possible.

Most people will lose weight just by keeping track of their eating, but if you’ve not got much weight to lose, you might want to pay closer attention to the fat and/or calorie content of your food. If so, check out my post on the recommended daily calorie allowance for men and women.

For lots of tips on food diaries, calorie counting and more, check out my Dieting Basics ebook – just $4 until the end of January!

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