By Kim Duke, NETA & AAFA Certified Trainer
For years, both male and female clients have turned to me to help them lose weight and tone up their bodies. I can provide them with the exercise portion of this request, but I always tell them that the food factor is what will truly help them lean up.
I always find it interesting when I ask them to describe a typical day of meals, snacks and forms of hydration, because if they were really eating as well as they reported, they would not be struggling with their weight at all. So, I commonly ask them to keep a food diary for a minimum of three days, and what is discovered is truly eye opening.
Typically, my clients do not realize how much they are eating and snacking until they start their food diary. In a recent study at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, OR, senior investigator Dr. Victor Stevens reported that those who kept food records six days a week — jotting down everything they ate and drank on those days — lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less. “I think the most powerful part is accountability and the next most powerful part is increasing awareness of where those extra calories are coming from,” says Stevens.
Showing your food diary to someone else is even better, in terms of accountability; that’s what participants in Stevens’ study did. “You’re accountable to yourself when you’re writing it down and you’re accountable to other people who are looking at your food record,” says Stevens.
Food diaries can also help target areas for improvement. For instance, Stevens says a food diary might make someone realize that he or she is eating 1,000 calories at lunch and set a goal to trim lunches.
Here are some tips I tell my clients when they are starting to keep a food diary:
Write as you go. Don’t wait until the end of the day to record what you ate and drank. I recommend they write it down as soon as they can after they eat.
Don’t skip your indulgent days. I encourage people to record exactly what they are eating and drinking. It is so important to be honest when keeping a food diary. This way, we can work together to make comfortable changes and help curb your cravings.
Cook at home. You’ll have more control over what you consume, and you know what that food contains, and how much of it you’re eating. That makes for a more detailed entry in your food diary.
Many of my clients that have enjoyed weight loss success by keeping a food diary no longer keep them because their healthy lifestyle has now become their habitual lifestyle. These clients also realize that if they have a day that they “fall off the wagon,” the next day, they just jump back on.