One simple practice that many therapists and nutritionists recommend to make your weight loss journey a little easier is keeping a food diary. If their advice isn't evidence enough, one study found that participants who kept a food diary were able to lose twice as much weight as those who did not!

One way that food diaries work is by increasing your awareness of what you are eating. This may initially be unpleasant if you've been blissfully in the dark about how unhealthy your diet is, but the results of cutting problematic foods out of your diet will be worth the temporary pain of confronting your negligence.

Some food diarists even find that they begin making healthier choices simply because they don't want to have to write an unhealthy choice down! However, since a food diary will only work if it's accurate, you shouldn't leave out food decisions you don't feel good about.

It might be unpleasant to record an episode of overeating or binge eating, but that's exactly the reason you should do it. While writing about a food choice you feel unhappy with, you'll be forced to reflect on that unhappiness, which may strengthen your conviction to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

Keeping a food diary could also open your eyes to surprising sources of extra calories hidden throughout your day. You might not usually think twice about adding ketchup to your fries or milk to your coffee, but these little extras could add up to hundreds of calories over the course of a day. Since consuming only 150 extra calories per day could result in a 15-18 pound weight gain over a year, a little vigilance could go a long way!

This is why it's important to be precise: try to log close to your meal to avoid any mis-recollections, include all condiments and extras, and, if possible, measure your food. We tend to underestimate our food's calorie content when we're just eyeballing it, but it's hard to argue with the reading on a food scale!

Though you should make an effort to be as specific as possible, if you're in a situation where measuring is unrealistic, just estimate to the closest degree you can. Writing something is better than writing nothing, so don't let your desire for ultimate accuracy stop you from keeping a food diary at all!

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Along with just what they ate, many food loggers find it helpful to also log when they ate, where they ate, who they ate with, and how they were feeling at the time, to help weed out emotional or mindless eating. Once you have a better idea of what your "trigger" foods or situations are, you can make plans in advance to help you avoid falling into the same trap in the future.

If you find that you always end up ordering a brownie when you visit your favorite coffee shop, it might be time to find a new workspace, or to pack your own healthy snack. Or, if you notice that you always end up talking over burgers and french fries with a certain friend, it might be time to talk to her about your new healthy lifestyle!

While there's nothing wrong with using good old pen and paper for your food diary, if you're of the generation that never goes anywhere without an Iphone, there are plenty of apps that can make logging your food even more convenient. This option also will spare you having to explain to anyone what you're doing if you're self conscious.

Many food-logging apps also help you determine how many calories in your food, though if you'd prefer to keep the focus off calories, there are options for that too. Some apps can also help you determine how balanced your diet is and whether you're getting the right amount of macro and micro-nutrients or enough daily servings of fruits and veggies.

You can also program your smartphone to remind you to record your food in the first place, and some fitness trackers also come with a food-logging feature. Incorporating your water intake into your food diary is a great idea as well.

If you wish, you can use your food diary to track your exercise. If you do, you'll be able to identify trends in when you were motivated to work out and when your plans fell through, as well as to track improvements in your performance and how your workouts are affecting your weight.

While you may not need a food diary while you're sticking precisely to a program as structured as the apps, keeping a food diary can also be a helpful tool for your weight maintenance. For example, if you've been maintaining your weight consistently but all of a sudden experience a gain, you could look back through your handy dandy food diary to see what you've been doing differently that might have led to it!

So it's a good idea not to become more relaxed as time goes on, or once you've achieved your weight loss goals. Another study that associated the frequency of food logging with weight loss success found that once you're used to it, you may only need to log for 15 minutes a day to increase your chances of successfully losing or maintaining your weight.

There are also non-weight loss related reasons to keep a food diary; for example, it might help you find hidden food intolerances. If you notice that you always feel tired and bloated after recording a certain food, it may be time to try cutting that food out of your diet. You might also notice things like that late-afternoon coffee interfering with your sleep, or the headache you get whenever you drink diet soda.

Finally, once you've started to lose weight, you can look back fondly on your food diary as a record of your progress and a tangible reminder of how far you've come! Getting through a whole notebook is a great non-scale weight loss victory to look forward to!

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