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  • We Eat Project

Food diaries: The simple secret to losing weight and keeping it off

We know that watching what you eat is one of the biggest keys to good weight management, but that's easier said than done.

If, like many of us, you've tried and failed miserably with your weight-loss goals, don't be too disheartened – there is evidence that says simply writing down what you eat can help you reach certain health goals faster, including weight loss.

According to Jack Hollis Ph.D., researcher at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research and lead author of one of the largest and longest running weight loss maintenance trials ever conducted, “The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost[1] ”.

So the simple act of keeping a food diary will go far in helping us not only become more aware of our eating habits and behaviours but, over time, it will actually help us consciously make better food and dietary choices. This will then naturally lead to positive health outcomes, like losing any unhealthy excess weight.

So how do you get started? Here are three practical tips on how best to keep and maintain a food diary:

  • Remember to date stamp your food notes. Especially if you are not good at keeping a single diary or journal and are prone to scribbling on old receipts, business cards and other scraps of paper, this comes in handy when you need to review everything at the end of your journal period.

  • Record your meals and snacks in fixed time blocks For instance, tracking your food in the blocks of 9am – 12pm, 12pm – 3pm, 3pm – 6pm and so on will simplify the tracking process. The less hassle it is, the more likely you will maintain this new habit. Also, applying a structured process to how you track your food entries will make it much easier for you to identify patterns and trends at a later date.

  • Aim to save all your notes in the same location at the end of the day. While these little food notes can be written on any piece of paper you find throughout the day, make sure you collect and keep them in a single spot (e.g. in a marked envelope, file, etc.) so that when it comes time to evaluate all your entries collectively, you’ll be able to quickly piece it all together and make sense of it all.

Ultimately, the key to success with any food diary is consistency. If your food tracking is sporadic and sparse with detail, it’s not going to be useful or meaningful when you need to refer to it later. By employing these three strategies, you will not only create a more systemised approach to your food diary, it will also make it easier to stick to the new habit.

Good luck!



"Kaiser Permanente Study Finds Keeping a Food Diary Doubles Diet Weight Loss." Kaiser Permanente. July 8, 2008. Accessed September 23, 2018.

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