Knowing the Numbers
Do you really know how much you’re eating? Probably not, say most experts. The reality is that most people eat 20 percent more than they think they eat, according to The Oz Blog. For overweight people, meanwhile, these numbers skyrocket as high as 50 percent. That may not seem like a big deal when you’re eating a 55-calorie apple, but what about when you’re indulging in a 290-calorie serving of Phish Food? Or when your recommended calorie intake of 1800 turns to 3200 over the course of an entire day?
Over the course of a week, meanwhile, the number of excess calories caused by underestimating compounds to 12,600. Over the course of a year? A staggering 657,000. We don’t need a calorie calculator to know what this amounts to in terms of extra pounds: A lot.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. People who record their food intake not only benefit from a more accurate picture of what they’re eating, but they also eat less in general. In fact, according to a study from the Center for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente and published in The American Journal of Preventative Medicine, keeping a food diary has the potential to double weight loss.
As researcher Jack Hollis, Ph.D., told Science Daily, “The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost. Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories.”
How’s that for simple and effective?
4 Tips for Food Diary Success
The prospect of starting a food diary can be an intimidating one, especially if you think this means carrying around some kind of complicated journal in order to meticulously record every bite you eat. Who has the time, energy, or enthusiasm for that?
The good news is that keeping a food diary does not have to be all that difficult. Keith Bachman, MD, a member of the Kaiser Permanente Care Management Institute’s Weight Management Initiative, told Science Daily, “Keeping a food diary doesn’t have to be a formal thing. Just the act of scribbling down what you eat on a Post-It note, sending yourself emails tallying each meal, or sending yourself a text message will suffice. It’s the process of reflecting on what you eat that helps us become aware of our habits, and hopefully change our behavior.”
Some tips aimed at making the process go smoothly? Here you go:
1. Don’t dally or delay.
Don’t wait until day’s end to write down everything you eat and drink because it’s easy to forget or overlook things you consume as you go about your daily routine. Instead, commit to recording as you go as a matter of habit. Doing so can serve as a deterrent against overeating throughout your day.
2. Choose the diary method that works best for you.
Some people prefer the old school practice of using paper and pen, while others choose to record their food intake electronically. “Smart” technology makes it easier than ever to keep a food diary thanks to a breadth and depth of food journaling apps that do everything from logging food to displaying healthy to unhealthy ratios in your food choices.
3. Understand portion sizes.
A major part of the problem for people who underestimate what they’re eating is failure to understand portion sizes. After all, how can you know how many calories are in your morning bowl of cereal if you don’t know how much you’re pouring into the bowl? You have measuring cups. Use them. Then, record the correct portions in your food diary.
4. Keep at it.
Everyone has a bad food day now and again. While the temptation is strong to avoid food journaling when you fall off the wagon, forcing yourself to keep going “no matter what” is the best way to get back on track instead of sliding further off course.
“Every day I hear patients say they can’t lose weight,” continued Bachman. “This study shows that most people can lose weight if they have the right tools and support. And food journaling in conjunction with a weight management program or class is the ideal combination of tools and support.”
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