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Categories > Diet and Nutrition > Weight management

Dear (diet) diary,

Are you trying to lose weight but haven’t had much luck? Have you been advised by your healthcare provider that you need to drop a few? There’s a proven tool that experts say can actually help you double your weight loss—a food diary.

It doesn’t matter if you record on paper or online. It’s the process of thinking about what you eat that helps you to focus on and figure out your eating patterns. Start with a basic chart listing the seven days of the week and leave space to write down what you ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Download a free sample food diary at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/lose_wt/diary.htm.) Then jot down:

  • what you ate
  • what time you ate
  • where you were
  • if you were alone or with others
  • if you were doing anything while you ate (working, watching TV, talking on the phone)
  • how you were feeling (sad, happy, depressed)

After a week, review your diary. Is there a link between your activities and your eating? Did you eat less at home than you did at a friend’s house? Identifying your eating triggers will help you be more aware of them.

A few helpful hints while keeping your food diary:

  • Be truthful. Don’t leave out that bite of birthday cake or the spoonful of mayo on your sandwich. The goal is to find out how many calories you’re actually eating—including those extra nibbles.
  • Write as you go. Trying to remember everything at the end of the day may cause you to leave things out.
  • Choose the right stuff. Be sure to include a full day’s worth of healthy, filling food options, such as fruits, veggies, whole grains and plenty of water.