One of the first things I suggest that people do if they want to lose weight is to start keeping a food log. It’s at that point that their eyes glaze over and I can almost see them stop listening.
Keeping a food log can seem tedious and boring and just one more thing to put on the to-do list, but there are a lot good reasons to keep track of what you eat. It’s proven that people who do so are more successful at losing weight and keeping it off. A food log helps that process in several ways:
1. It makes you think about what you’re putting in your mouth. Some of us operate on auto pilot and don’t give much thought to what we’re eating. Writing it down can make us a bit more mindful and may automatically prompt you to cut back.
2. It helps you learn about calories. The only scientifically proven way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than your body uses each day. By writing down the foods you eat and finding out how many calories they contain you learn which high calorie foods to avoid and what portion sizes are appropriate.
3. It can help improve your nutrition. Everyone knows they should eat less sugar and sodium, more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, etc., and you might think you are doing a great job. But, by writing down what you eat every day and looking back at several days worth of meals, you might be surprised at how much or little of those nutrients you consume.
4. It can help to pinpoint food sensitivities and allergies. If you include a daily note in your food log about how you feel after meals, it can help you figure out whether there are certain foods that affect your health.
There are several ways to keep a food log. One of the simplest is just to write it down on paper, whether that’s a notepad, calendar, or a diary designed specifically for logging food. With paper and pencil logging you might also want to purchase a booklet that helps you to figure out how many calories are in certain foods. Calorie King is one well-known option.
I prefer an electronic food diary and several are available that can help you to determine your calorie needs, log your food, and look up calories. Many of them also have other features such as fitness tracking, calorie calculations for recipes, educational articles, etc. Some that I have used include: MyFitnessPal, Fooducate, and LoseIt.
Whether you keep a food log for a week, a few months, or for the rest of your life I encourage you to at least give it a try. Even writing down one meal a day or a few meals every week has been shown to be beneficial.