Keep a Food Diary
Many nutritionists and weight loss experts have observed that keeping a food diary can be an effective strategy when you want to drop pounds. It makes you accountable to yourself for what you’re actually eating, and popcorn at the movies does count!
Dr. Luiza Petre, cardiologist and medical director for three Medi-Weight Loss Clinics, provides guidelines to increase your chances of success with a food diary:
- Don’t kid yourself. Be specific, and record everything you eat and drink. Don’t forget to include condiments, chewing gum, beverages, snacks—and even water!
- Include portion size. Did you have a quarter-pound burger or a half-pounder? Twelve peanuts or a cupful? A full-size Snickers bar or a mini?
- Record the time and place you ate, and what you were doing. Whether you’re eating in front of the TV, nibbling along as you pack your kids’ lunches or grabbing a soda between clients, identifying your eating patterns can help you spot your hunger cues, prevent mindless eating and eliminate snacking triggers.
- Take photos. Food selfies are another way to keep track and get honest about what you are truly consuming. A Pinterest food diary could work for a very visual hairdresser.
- Note your mood and social activity. Do you eat alone, or do you eat with one person often? Are you feeling sad or bored while eating, or does eating make you feel happy? Sometimes we eat because of how we feel or who’s eating with us. Make note of your emotions before, during and after eating.
- Write as you go. Try to jot down your notes as soon after eating as possible. If you wait too long, you’ll forget, and your entries won't be accurate.
If you don’t want to carry around a journal, here are five popular apps that Lifehacker suggests to help you record your food:
- My Fitness Pal has a community of users who will trade recipes, offer helpful tips, share meal plans and provide motivation.
- Lose It includes a barcode to help you focus on portion size, daily calorie goals and intake.
- SparkPeople tracks meals and lets you search for restaurant items, breaking down the nutrition information into carbs, sugar, vitamins and minerals.
- CRON-O-Meter is simple to use and also breaks down your food’s nutritional content.
- FatSecret lets you record a personal diary of moods and thoughts as you also monitor your eating habits.