Weight loss apps made for Smartphones and other devices, and on-line food diaries have been shown to improve the chances of successful weight loss. Why? These apps and websites make tracking what you eat, ie keeping a food diary, much more convenient and are chocked full of great nutritional information. Before this technology people often kept a handwritten journal and would have to research the nutritional information if they wanted to count calories and other nutrients. Now it is so easy. Some apps even allow you to scan the nutritional bar code right into your phone or device.
But why are food diaries so important. A 2008 study of 1,685 people through Kaiser Permanente found that the people who kept a food diary six days a week were twice as likely to lose weight as those who kept a diary one day a week or less. For years we have known that keeping a food diary is one of the most important things you can do to have effective, long-term weight loss. Yet, many people have never done it or found it too cumbersome. Keeping a diary enlightens you on what you eat, when you eat, why you eat and how you eat. Comments I have heard include; “I had no idea how much I was snacking”, or “No wonder I am starving by dinner, I don’t eat enough early in the day”, or “I never realized how many calories were in that whoopee pie”, or “I didn’t realize how few vegetables I am eating”, or “I didn’t realize my typical lunch was 1000 calories”. Food diaries also create accountability. If you know you have to write it down, type or log it in, you will often think twice before going for that whoopee pie.
Here are five tips to keeping a food diary:
- Write as you go. Don’t wait until the end of the day to record what you ate and drank. Have access to you food diary to log your food as you go.
- Focus on portion size. Practice at home with measuring cups, measuring spoons, or food scales. And be aware that people tend to underestimate how much food they are eating. Some of the apps have handy measurement tricks, such as… your average size thumb tip (to the joint) is a teaspoon, the palm of your hand is 3oz, or one fist is about one cup.
- Use whatever type of food diary works for you. It doesn’t matter whether you use scrap paper, notebook, a Smartphone, iPad, or personal computer. Whatever is easiest and you will use.
- Don’t skip your indulgent days. It is tempting to not record those indulgent days. However, recording them is enlightening and will teach you how to manage the next challenging day that comes along. Don’t look at it as punishment. Look at it as a learning curve.
- Cook at home. You’ll have more control over what you consume, by knowing what is in it and having control over your portions. Plus it is easier to log homemade food than food from a restaurant.
Choosing an app or website can be overwhelming. There are many free ones that are very good so don’t get roped into buying a subscription unless you really like what they offer. Two websites that I have used are MyFitnessPal.com and Loseit.com. There are apps for them too. Both are free and track exercise as well. Go online and take a look around at what might work best for you.