Keeping a food diary: Is it worth it?

If you've ever tried to lose weight, you've probably heard that keeping a food diary is a must.

But is that true? 

When it comes to diaries, people tend to fall into one of two camps. Some believe that keeping tabs on what they eat is absolutely critical. Others argue that tracking is excruciatingly tedious and boring.

As a weight loss expert with hundreds of success stories, I've found that keeping a diary is one of the most effective strategies you can use.

Why is tracking your food important?

Before you can change your eating habits, you must first understand why they exist. Tracking your meals allows you to see what, when, and why you eat, which will help you identify the patterns you want to change.

Keeping track of what you eat is also a proven way to help you lose weight. In a study of nearly 1,700 participants, those who kept a daily food diary lost twice as much weight as those who didn't. (1)

I understand that keeping a food diary can be tedious, but instead of waiting for the next trendy diet to save you, you can get on the right track by better understanding your eating habits.

Now, I'm not claiming that you won't lose weight if you don't record every bite of food. In fact, I'd argue that there are dozens of factors more important than keeping a diary.

For starters, finding an eating plan that 1.) works for you, 2.) that you enjoy, and 3.) is something you can stick to in the long run is far more important. So is learning to recognize emotional hunger and having daily accountability and support.

But with that said, if you're not keeping a diary, you're missing out on one of the most effective weight-loss tools.

Many people say they'll just "remember" what and why they ate, but who can remember what they ate yesterday, much less two weeks ago? In my opinion, it's pretty clear that if you're not recording what you eat, you're missing one of the most powerful ways to maintain a healthy weight.

So we talked about why keeping a diary is important, but this brings up the question:

What's the best way to keep a food diary?

The most important thing to remember is to use your diary in the way that is most helpful for you. You can stick to the basics and record what and how you ate, but you should consider adding a few more vital details to get the most out of your diary.

TIP #1. Pay attention to your hunger and fullness levels.

We eat when we're preoccupied and distracted. We're either sitting in front of the TV, scrolling on our phones, or standing with an open bag of chips mulling over what's bothering us...

Let's face it, the vast majority of meals fall into the mindless eating category. It's what I call going into a "food trance." And when you're in this trance, it's far too easy to overeat.

That's why in our 1-on-1 coaching program, we teach you how to pay attention to your hunger and fullness, recognize when you're satisfied, and how to turn mind-less eating into mind-ful eating

When you eat with intention and awareness, you'll learn to eat until you're satisfied and gain a greater sense of control over food. And the best part is that you'll learn to actually enjoy your meals. (2

TIP #2. Recognize whether you're eating for physical or emotional reasons.

Does it feel like you lose control around food? Do you ever feel guilty or regretful after you've finished? You're not the only one who feels this way.

Guilt, shame, and regret are directly associated with emotional eating. And to end those feelings, you have to change why you eat. But before you can do that, you must first determine whether you're physically hungry or because you're stressed, bored, or anxious.

In your food diary, note what your emotional state was at the time you ate. Then, you can look for patterns to see the triggers that lead to emotional eating. The truth is if you don't know why you're hungry, changing what you eat will feel like an impossible task.

TIP #3. Be completely honest. 

You tell yourself you're eating well, but that's simply not the case. You missed a bite here, a snack there, or even an entire meal. This should go without saying, but you don't see the whole picture if you're not honest with your diary.

If you find that you're ignoring and not recording what you ate, it's time to take a step back and consider why. Many people are embarrassed to write down everything they ate. Others are ashamed their cravings got the best of them. And for the perfectionists among us, it's hard to track everything because it means admitting you weren't perfect. 

Now, I don't want to minimize just how difficult it is to admit we didn't live up to our own standards. But we can't ignore and hide from those emotions either. Ultimately, if you want to change your relationship with food, you must confront those emotions. (3)


If you enjoyed these tips, be sure to join our free weight loss mini-course, where I'll show you why diets fail and how to change your relationship with food, and you'll discover what every diet you tried before was missing.

As a bonus for signing up, you'll also get my "10 Best Weight Loss Tips" eBook. I've been a weight loss and accountability coach for over a decade, and the tips I share are what actually works.

If you know *what* to do but just can't make yourself do it… 

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