Keeping track of the food you eat using some sort of food logging system can help you better understand your current eating habits and patterns such as what and how much you eat, when you eat, and how you are feeling before, during and after you eat. Using a food log can also help you identify what foods you tend to eat on a regular basis so that you can congratulate yourself on the good food choices you are making and so you can make changes to what you are eating when you are consuming too much fat or not enough fiber or protein. For some people, consistently recording everything they eat helps them make better decisions about what foods to eat and how much food to eat.
Several research studies have shown that keeping track of food as people are trying to lose weight can be a very effective tool to help with behavior change. One weight loss study with close to 1,700 participants showed that the people who kept food records 6 days a week lost about twice as much weight as those who did kept food records one day a week or less. These participants were supposed to keep daily food diaries, attended weekly group support meetings and were encouraged to eat a healthy diet and be active.
Another study looked at 142 participants who used a Web-based dietary analysis program to log their food intake for 6 months. The participants who lost the most weight (at least 10% of their body weight) were the ones who logged into the dietary analysis program more times per day. These participants spent an average of 23.2 minutes each day logging their food during the first month of the study; however, by the end of the 6 month study, their average time was 14.6 minutes. Taking 15 minutes each day to help increase your weight loss success surely is worth it!
How you keep track of the food you eat isn’t as important as actually doing the food logging regularly. The Health Plus app is a great tool for logging your meals and snacks, and it has the advantage of allowing David and Mary to view your food logs. We can help you identify trends and patterns and also see your weekly averages for fat, fiber and protein. Some of you may have another app you have been using for a long time, and you would like to continue using that particular app. Some of you may find it easier to write down the food you eat in a notebook. The bottom line is that you can choose a way to track your food that works well for you and that fits into your schedule. In addition, accuracy and consistency in tracking your food are also very important. You may find that logging your food every day is not realistic for you; however, logging ALL of the food you consume at least a few days each week would likely help you to be more successful with your weight loss. Decide what works best for you and then make a commitment to do the food logging whether it be 2-3 days each week or 7 days a week. Do the best you can to log everything you eat and drink, realizing that you don’t have to do it perfectly to still benefit from the process. If you don’t follow through with your commitment, try to focus on the benefits of using a food logging system to help increase your motivation and help you get back to logging.
The information you should include in your food log:
After you have logged at least a few days of food and beverage intake, take a look at the food log (app and/or notebook) to look for trends, patterns or habits.
Some things to look at:
You will likely notice several areas that could use some improvement. Pick one or perhaps two things to work on. For example, if you notice you only tend to eat vegetables with dinner, start packing some vegetables to take to work to eat with lunch or for a snack. Or you realize that by late afternoon you tend to be very hungry which is affecting your food choices and amount of food you eat for dinner. You could plan to eat a snack that contains some protein in the afternoons. Or you can see that you are going over your fat allowance on the days you are eating a certain food. Perhaps you can find a lower fat substitute for that food. This act of reflecting is probably the most important part of the food tracking process since you will be focusing on making changes that can potentially enhance your overall health and well-being.