When you’re calculating your financial budget, you’ll need to keep track of income and expenditures to be able to get a good idea of your financial situation. The same is true of weight loss plans: it’s important to understand your nutritional needs and your current food intake before you can make adjustments that will promote weight loss. For this reason, keeping a food and nutrition journal is a great idea for those looking to ensure the effectiveness of their weight loss plans. A food and nutrition journal helps you understand exactly what you eat every day so that you can make adjustments and also offers extra motivation to achieve your weight loss goals.
Research on Keeping a Food and Nutrition Journal
Several studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of keeping a food and nutrition journal and the ways that they benefit individuals on weight loss programs. In a study published in “American Journal of Preventive Medicine,” over 1,600 overweight and obese adults over the age of 25 were placed on weight loss programs that encouraged healthy eating, increased exercise, and keeping a food and nutrition journal. Six months into the study, the participants had lost an average of 13 pounds. Additionally, it appeared that the greatest predictor of weight loss was the frequency with which they kept their food journals: study participants who utilized the journals six days a week lost twice as much weight as those who used the journals less frequently.
According to Victor Stevens, Ph.D., who headed the study, keeping a food diary helped the participants understand exactly how many calories they were consuming every day. We tend to underestimate that number due to a variety of factors, from hidden calories in beverages to between-meal snacks. The diary gave participants a more accurate picture of their caloric intake, which motivated them to reduce calories and ultimately lose more weight.
How to Keep a Food and Nutrition Journal
Whether you decide to use a website or an old-fashioned paper and pen to keep your food and nutrition journal, the important thing is that you stick to it. Examine the portions of each type of food that you eat with each meal, using the Nutrition Facts label as a reference to determine how much you’re eating. Important measurements that you’ll want to consider include total calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, sugars, sodium, and cholesterol. If you can’t find nutrition facts for a particular food or it’s difficult to estimate a food’s contents, try looking up the nutrition facts online. Don’t forget to include beverages in your food journal; they can often contain more calories than you might expect.
At the end of each day, total up your numbers to determine exactly how many calories you ate, and compare that to the amount of energy that your body requires—there are a number of websites online that help you determine your metabolic rate for this purpose. When you compare the two numbers, you’ll get a good idea of the number of calories that you need to cut out of your diet (or burn through exercise) before you can start seeing weight gain.
Keeping a food and nutrition journal is all about accountability. Seeing the numbers stack up as the day progresses will give you an idea of how easy it is to overeat, and will help you establish a more accurate dietary budget that will aid in weight loss.