Keeping a food diary isn’t just an effective way to keep track of the number of calories that you eat everyday, it’s a proven weight loss tool. Study after study has shown those who log what they eat and drink lose more weight than those who don’t.
You don’t have to do this by hand. There are plenty of apps and online tools – including MyFitnessPal and SparkPeople – to help you do this. For the next week, record everything you eat and drink, including the oil you cook with and the creamer you add to your coffee. Pay close attention to portion sizes to get an accurate calorie count. Now that you know how many calories you should be eating, you’ll know if you’re undereating or overeating and by how much.
What are you really eating?
Even if you think you know what foods you eat every day and how many calories they contain, you could be miscalculating portions or conveniently forgetting snacks and beverages. You might be surprised to discover that even some of the healthy foods you enjoy could be causing you to gain (or not lose) weight because of the amount of them you’re enjoying. For instance, nuts are great for you, but 1/4 cup of them is about 160 calories.
Identify bad habits
Getting a complete picture of the foods you eat can help you be healthier in other ways. A food diary can help identify habits and patterns that are keeping you from reaching your goals. Do you spread your calories throughout the day, or do you tend to skip breakfast and have a late-night refrigerator raid? It can help you spot excesses and encourage you to add more nutritiously dense foods. It will also point out if you’re skipping meals or avoiding green vegetables.
Accountability is key
Simply knowing that you’ll be recording every indulgence might encourage you to make better choices. Knowing that you have to write down that you scarfed three brownies is a fantastic deterrent to taking the first bite.
Does the food you eat make you feel good?
Your food diary isn’t all about the numbers. It’s important to also pay attention to how the foods we eat make us feel. Notice how a hearty bowl of oatmeal with walnuts and raisins can fuel you for hours, whereas a scone from your coffee shop causes you to scavenge for a mid-morning snack? If you choose to keep track of your moods before and after mealtimes, you may notice patterns that can be improved. Do you tend to eat more when yore stressed? Do you choose different foods when you’re feeling blue? Knowing this information can help you make positive changes.
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