A new study from the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, found that women who keep food journals, skip fewer meals and eat out for lunch less frequently lose more weight than women who don’t.
To conduct the year-long study, researchers tracked the eating habits of 123 overweight or obese post-menopausal women who were following a weight loss regimen. At the end of the study, the women had lost an average of 19 pounds, or roughly 11 percent of their starting weight.
The majority of the women were advised to follow a 1,200 to 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, depending on their needs, and record everything they ate in a food journal.
Researchers speculate that the women successfully lost weight because writing down what you eat forces you to become more accountable and stick closely to your weight loss program.
Lead researcher Anne McTiernan, director at the Hutchinson Prevention Center, believes food journaling is key to successful weight loss. “A food journal is one of the easiest ways to keep track of what you are eating. If you write it down,” she says, “it seems more real. If you don’t, it’s so easy to pretend to yourself that you didn’t eat that much.”
New York Dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix agrees, and suggests keeping a food diary any way you can be it on a computer, smart phone app, note pad, paper towel or toilet paper. “If you write it down what you eat,” she says, “you will eat differently.”
I’ve seen personal benefits from the practice of keeping a food journal. When I was trying to shed a few pounds after a summer I’d spent away at a camp in 2006, I wrote down everything I was going to eat for the day once I’d returned – meal planning the day out in a sense. And if something wasn’t on the list, I didn’t eat it – it was simple as that. Doing so helped me get back down to my healthy weight in a matter of months.
However, food journals can be a less beneficial tool for some people, and in some cases even dangerous. In a recent guest article from PR expert and blogger Melissa Henriquez, the writer opened up about how diligent journaling actually led her to disordered eating.
“Although journaling was an asset when I was losing weight, as I tried to keep my weight in check, I became unhealthily obsessed,” she wrote. “Food became all I thought about. What I’d eat, when I’d eat it, how much I could have, the trade-offs I’d have to make if I ate this vs. that, how much time I’d have to spend at the gym if I wanted ‘X’. But there’s a fine line between “dieting” and a food journal dictating your life. I crossed that line.”
I, and I’m sure many other women, can relate to this. While food journaling can be an important and useful tool for some, becoming obsessive about it can actually be harmful. Keeping a balance and using it as a healthy tool for weight loss should be the focus. But if it becomes something that dictates your eating, exercise and overall life decisions, it’s doing more harm than good.
Source: USA Today
July 13th, 2012