The secret of a successful food journal

Keeping a food journal can help you lose weight.

Have you tried just about every weight loss method in the book and still aren't seeing the results you desire? Still struggling to find that secret formula to lower cholesterol and stay fit? Sure, everyone knows that exercising and healthy eating habits are the backbone of any good diet plan. But perhaps simply writing down everything you eat in a day can help you monitor your calorie intake.

Studies conducted at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research have found healthy dietary routines and maintaining a food diary to be a successful combination for losing weight. In one study, nearly 1,700 participants were instructed to turn in weekly food journals, get a moderate amount of exercise and eat more fruits and vegetables. After six months of this routine, the participants lost an average of 13 pounds, with two-thirds reporting they lost at least 9 pounds in the process.

Lead author Jack Hollis asserted that food journals can motivate people to lose weight:

"The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost," Hollis said. "Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories."

By simply monitoring what we eat on a daily basis, we can recognize flaws in our dietary habits. Here are five tips to help you keep a successful food journal and get on the right track for weight loss.

Be organized
It's easy to scrawl out a bunch of meals you had in a notebook, but making sure everything is in order will help ensure an easy way to catalog your dietary intake. Create proper columns that indicate the date, time, place, food consumed and overall quantity of food during the meal. When referring to quantity, try to be as specific as you can, like using proper measurements such as teaspoons or grams. It's important to include every single item of food you eat and beverage you drink to help detect destructive eating patterns.

Record your feelings
This also includes mentioning how hungry you felt prior to eating. Writing down simple feelings you experience during your meals, such as happy, tired or angry can help distinguish why you eat certain foods. If you're consuming foods because of feelings other than hunger, this might be what's setting you back on your weight loss goal.

Write down the place you're eating
Monitoring the location you eat at is another important step in understanding your dietary habits. If you notice you've been eating in bed or in your car frequently, you might be able to find more active environments to dine and help stimulate metabolism.

Record your weekly physical activity
This can serve as a blatant reminder of how active you're staying throughout the week. If you start noticing vacant spaces where your daily exercises should be scribbled down, it's time to pencil in an appointment to the gym.

Analyze your journal
At the end of the week, sit down and look over everything you've recorded. Calculate your portions of meat and dairy compared to those of fruit and vegetables. Observe any frequent or occasional drive-thru stops at fast food restaurants. The more you can understand your dietary flaws, the quicker you can correct them and maintain a healthy living.

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