American Journal of Preventive Medicine study of nearly 1,700 participants shows that keeping a food journal can double a person’s weight loss. The study found that the best predictors of weight loss were how frequently food diaries were kept and how many support sessions the participants attended. Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records.
Funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, the study is one of the few studies to recruit a large percentage of African Americans as study participants (44%). African Americans have a higher risk of conditions that are aggravated by being overweight, including diabetes and heart disease. In this study, the majority of African American participants lost at least nine pounds of weight, which is higher than in previous studies.
“The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost,” said lead author Jack Hollis Ph.D., a researcher at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore. “Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories.”
In addition to keeping food diaries participants were asked to:
- Follow a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low-fat or non-fat dairy,
- Attend weekly group sessions
- Exercise at moderate intensity levels for at least 30 minutes a day.
After six months, the average weight loss among the nearly 1,700 participants was approximately 13 pounds. More than two-thirds of the participants (69%) lost at least nine pounds, enough to reduce their health risks and qualify for the second phase of the study, which lasted 30 months and tested strategies for maintaining the weight loss
How to Keep a Food Journal
Keeping a food journal doesn’t have to be a burden. The act of scribbling down what you eat will create a habit, reflecting on what you eat and having the right tools like a food journal to meet health goals.
- Record everything you eat and drink immediately.
- Note what you’re doing while you’re eating―driving, watching TV, etc.
- Describe how you felt while you ate: angry, sad, happy, nervous, starving, bored?
- Be honest. It’s a journal, not a newsletter, and no one has to see it but you.
- At the end of each day, examine how your emotions affected your eating.