When it comes to weight loss, any diet that results in caloric reduction will do the job. But if you're looking for the best results, keeping a food journal can make the difference. That, along with not skipping meals or eating lunch at restaurants too often.
Those are some of the findings from new research done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The aim of the study was to identify behaviors that support caloric reduction in a population of sedentary, obese and overweight postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 75.
The researchers monitored 123 women for one year who were randomly assigned to either the 'diet only' arm of the study or the 'exercise plus diet' option. They looked at the impact of a wide range of self-monitoring strategies, diet-related behaviors and meal patterns on weight change in the subjects.
At the end of the study participants in both groups lost an average of 10 percent of their starting weight. But those who kept food records lost the most —- approximately 6 pounds more than women who did not keep records.
Skipping meals also affected results. Women who skipped the most meals lost about 8 pounds less than those who did not skip. Going out for lunch was another behavior that impacted weight loss. Those who ate lunch out in a restaurant at least once a week lost about 5 pounds less than those who went out for lunch less often. Eating out regularly for breakfast or supper were also linked to less weight loss, but lunch had the biggest difference on weight.
This research reinforces something I have seen work over and over again in my clinical practice. Throughout the 25 years I was seeing clients, those who keep the best food records lost the most weight and kept it off the longest - women and men, young and old alike. I've included this advice in my blogs, too.
Where you keep your record does not matter. It can be done in a simple blank note pad or detailed food journal template, in a computer tracking program or voice activated phone app. What matters is what you report.
Tips for Keeping a Food Journal
- Honesty: Record everything you put into your mouth and swallow. Don't leave out anything whether it was just a nibble or had no calories, like a diet drink. Make it your goal to record everything you eat and drink, period.
- Accuracy: Get quantifiable information about the amount you are eating or drinking whenever you can by measuring or weighing the portion you take, counting the items, or reading the label to determine what is the serving size. The more you do this, the better you will be at estimating when you have to.
- Thoroughness: Include descriptive information about how the food was prepared, what condiments were used, any sauces or gravy added, and any special features such as low fat, reduced sodium, sugar free, etc. Ask questions when eating out if you're not sure how something was made.
- Consistency: Continue your record-keeping when you are away from home so you can enter information as soon as you eat or drink something, even if you must use the back of a receipt until you can transfer it to your permanent record. Don't rely on your memory.
I have been keeping a food journal every day since I was in college studying to become a dietitian and my weight has not changed other than when I was pregnant. Has anyone else been keeping a food journal that long?