It turns out that the two best tools for weight loss aren’t diet pills and a scale, but rather a pen and paper, according to a study released earlier this month.
Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle studied the eating and exercise habits of 123 overweight women. The researchers found out that women who kept a food journal were the most likely to lose weight. They lost an average of six pounds more than the women who didn’t keep a food log.
Many nutritionists recommend that people who want to lose weight write down everything they eat and drink every day. These food logs help people keep track of what they eat and highlight areas where they can improve.
Nutritionists say food journals are effective for many reasons:
• They keep you honest: People who write down what they eat are less likely to cheat or eat poorly because of the guilt. It’s one thing to eat cookies you know you shouldn’t eat. It’s another thing to have to write it down and stare guiltily at your transgression.
• They help you keep accurate records: People notoriously underestimate how much they eat. By keeping a detailed food log, there is no room for error.
• It helps you plan: Seeing what you ate the previous day can help you plan what to eat the following day.
How to keep a journal
Here are a few tips provided by the research center for keeping a food journal:
• Write down what you're eating throughout the day, rather than saving it up to log at the end of the day. Also, jot down how you are feeling when you eat, and how you feel after each meal.
• Record your level of hunger along with the foods you eat.
• Be honest. Measure portions, read food labels, and write down both your slipups as well as your more virtuous meals.
Other keys to success
According to the research center, there are other keys to success besides food journals.
Women in the study who reported skipping meals lost almost five fewer pounds than women who did not, and those who ate out for lunch at least weekly lost on average five fewer pounds than those who packed their lunch.
Researcher Anne McTiernan and her team wrote in the study, "Eating in restaurants usually means less individual control over ingredients and cooking methods, as well as larger portion sizes."
And those who skipped meals often overate they next time they sat down for a meal. Breakfast is the worst meal to skip, according to the study.
Frank Shelton is a certified fitness trainer and owner of The Village Gym. He can be reached at (302) 376-3060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.