You’ve undoubtedly heard the advice about writing down the foods you eat when trying to lose weight. Journaling has long been considered by many weight loss experts as an effective, yet strangely often underutilized strategy for lifestyle and behavioral change. It appears there may be something to this as confirmed through research. A research study by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research showed that individuals who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records.
The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and included over 1,685 participants. Similarly, the National Weight Control Registry which tracks over 5,000 individuals who have lost large amounts of weight and maintained that weight loss, found that an overwhelming majority of successful study participants tracked what they ate.
The research seems pretty clear that writing down what you eat improves results. It may seem like boring and tedious work, but journaling may just make the difference between weight loss success and failure.
This is purely correlative, but I’ve seen this connection time and time again in the personal training industry. The individuals who achieve the best body transformations (losing 20, 30, 40 pounds or more) all seem to have a very clear understanding of their nutrition along with what they eat and how much. Regardless of whether they kept a journal, this was a clear consistency.
This makes sense to me because if you don’t have an idea on even a ballpark amount of calories you’re eating on average each day, your guessing. It’s like throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded.
Keeping a detailed food journal helps you become consciously aware of the foods and amounts you’re eating. I believe the mental awareness component of journaling is what really makes this practice effective. Yes, you’ll be able to take your information and enter into a food diary app like Myfitnesspal, but the real leverage here is not in knowing exactly how many calories you’re eating, but rather becoming mindful of portion sizes, nutrient quality, etc. This is what makes the difference in the long run as after all, you won’t be tracking calories forever. Think about it as using a strategy to develop the habits you want, instead of attempting to micro-analyze your diet.
A quick summary on why I think the practice of journaling what you eat (and what you plan to eat) can be an effective strategy.
The process of journaling doesn’t have to be extremely time consuming, it just needs to be a conscious effort to accurately record your nutrition and emotions. The initial commitment to keep a food journal should be for around 4 weeks. It takes that long for new habits to take hold from the programming of your subconscious thoughts. I’m sure you’ve heard about the “21 days to form a new habit.” That’s why I recommend 4 weeks for someone who is going to use journaling as a strategy.
Here’s what I’ve seen produce the best results regarding food journaling as a weight loss strategy.
But I will say this, it’s worth experimenting with and giving it a try if you’re stuck with not seeing the weight loss you desire. After all, success leaves clues. If a majority of the most successful people with weight loss used a food journal, wouldn’t it make sense to go and do likewise? It’s easy to make excuses and come up with any number of reasons for why you don’t want to or need to, but it certainly seems like a good idea to try it.
At the end of the day, you’ll have to answer to yourself.
So how’s your weight loss plan working out for you?
If it’s not as good as you’d like, you may want to reconsider journaling and employing some of the other success habits of people who’ve already “been there and done that” with achieving a body transformation.
I’ll be sharing more of these strategies in upcoming blog posts.
If you’d like to have assistance with a weight loss or fitness program, we can help. Shaping Concepts provides personal training and remote coaching with customization around individual wants and needs. Schedule your free no-obligations consultation today to learn more.
Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a fitness professional and expert on exercise and body transformation for middle age and mature adults. He seeks to make a difference in the lives of others by providing instruction and coaching with a servant-based attitude. Since 2004 his Charleston personal training programs have helped over 3,000 Lowcountry residents.