Post by Angie Perrou. Angie is a Registered Dietitian with Rex Hospital. She also teaches Healthy Way at Rex Wellness Centers and speaks in the community. She graduated from Meredith College with a Master’s in Nutrition in 2004 and enjoys working in the areas of cardiovascular medicine, GI surgical, and wellness/fitness.
There is no question that what you eat is crucial to weight loss. You may not want, or even need, to count calories. But even if you take a diet pill, you can’t lose weight without paying attention to what you eat. Dietitians are fond of pointing out that losing weight is a simple matter of using up more calories than you take in. “Simple” it may be, but it isn’t easy, as too many of us know! For best results, of course, you need to work on both sides of the equation.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine (August ’08), keeping a food journal can double a person’s weight loss. So if you do nothing else in your weight loss efforts, keep a food journal. Get yourself a portable notebook. It can be as nice as you like, or as inexpensive as index cards. But it needs to be small, because you should take it with you everywhere you go and write down everything you eat. This includes every tidbit, every nut, every chocolate chip that you eat between meals.
And don’t forget to write down what you drink as well. Some of us get a lot of calories from sweetened beverages like soft drinks, fruit drinks, or sweet tea. If fact, this makes up 21 percent of our national calorie consumption. Switching to water most of the time could make a substantial difference in energy intake for some.
The simple act of writing down what you eat/drink can help you become more aware of what you are eating. In fact, you may be so shocked at how many calories are in your twice-daily Coke that the “aha” moment will make going on an actual diet unnecessary. You learn to ask yourself, “Do I really want this?”
In addition, you can analyze the information in your food journal to see what circumstances conspire against your sticking to your plan. Try to figure out other ways to deal with problems like having to rush from appointment to appointment and therefore missing lunch, then discovering that you are starving before dinner and gobbling down a bag of tortilla chips with nacho cheese sauce. Use your journal as a way to make adjustments throughout the day and to gauge how much exercise you need to hit a certain calorie count.
Finally, being accountable to yourself or others is enough to make you think twice before giving in to temptation. You won’t put the second cookie in your mouth because you don’t want to see it in your food journal.