The Power of a Food Diary

You can lose weight without a food diary, but according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), you’re more likely to be successful if you keep one that tracks what, why, when, and where you eat. A food diary can provide insight into your hunger patterns and highlight emotional eating binges. In addition, the person becomes much more aware when eating for hunger or boredom.

Diary details

The easiest way to keep a food diary is to use a small notebook. This is what your diary should include:

  • Time of day.

  • Place. If eating at home, record where you are: dining room, couch in front of the TV, kitchen counter. If not at home, note if you were in a restaurant or a car.

  • Food or beverage item. Include how it was prepared, primary ingredients, and any condiments.

  • Amount. Use common measurements such as tablespoons, slices, or cups.

  • Mood. Did you feel stressed, bored, or neutral?

  • Hunger rating. Note if you were hungry or not.

Diary do’s

  • Include everything—snacks, finger foods, candy, and all beverages. Have the journal always handy so you document your eating episode when it occurs. If you wait till the end of the day, you are likely to forget something.

  • Tell it like it is. Be sure to keep a complete and accurate journal. This makes you much more accountable for the foods you eat and the amount eaten.

Take a look

After keeping the diary for a week or so, take a look at your record with an eye toward identifying patterns. For example, are you snacking late at night, eating huge portions, or eating when you’re bored? A dietitian can provide additional insight and suggestions for success.

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