If you’re looking to lose weight or think you may have a food intolerance, the first thing any dietician or nutritionist will tell you to do is start a food diary. While this sounds like a giant pain, there are in fact many benefits to keeping track of what you eat.
A recent study by American health care organisation Kaiser Permanente found that out of a group of over 1400 dieting participants, those who kept a food diary lost, on average, twice as much as those who didn’t. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
- Accountability: the primary reason for the higher success rate of food diarists is that you are forced to take responsibility for everything you eat…including that delicious bread sample at Borough Market or the sneaky chips you swiped off your friend’s plate.
- Portion Control/ Self Control: I’m not a fan of diets because the success of the diet industry relies on the fact that they fail (that’s right, you and your “lack of self control” don’t fail the diet, the diet fails you). I am, however, a huge advocate of really thinking about what we eat. Not wanting to write down that extra biscuit is incentive enough to listen to whether or not your body is actually hungry for it, thus helping you to keep excessive portions in check.
- “The highest result of education is…intolerance.” Okay, so I may have slightly misquoted Helen Keller here, but the intolerance I’m referring to is more of the gluten and dairy variety. A food diary isn’t about the teachings of a diet expert you’ve never heard of, but rather a tool to help teach you about yourself. Writing down what you eat can help you learn how foods make you feel both physically and emotionally and so teach you what foods are best and those that should be avoided.
- There’s an app for that: Of course you can write down your daily food intake in a diary, but it’s harder to keep a record of calorie intake and all too easy to “forget” yours at home or in the office when you’re indulging in a meal out. I love the app FatSecret because it gives you extensive nutritional information and allows you to add any exercise you’ve managed to squeeze in too. And best of all, it’s free! There are many more out there, so it’s just a case of finding which one you prefer.
Keeping a food diary isn’t for everyone, but I’ve found it really helpful, particularly whilst training for the half-marathon I recently completed. If you’re trying to lose a couple of pounds, or just feeling like you’re stuck in a bit of a food rut, a food diary is an excellent way to improve your relationship with food.