Additionally, when clinicians such as physicians or dietitians review a diary, they can often point out problematic cues, triggers and habits that may be contributing to weight gain. The increased awareness and knowledge allows for targeted problem-solving to improve these troublesome situations. As O'Neil says, "Sometimes a little Monday-morning quarterbacking makes for a better score the next weekend."
Madelyn Fernstrom of the University of Pittsburgh Weight Management Center agrees, adding that food diaries help in "transferring that written record into a permanent mental database."
Study author Dr. Victor Stevens says that the power of food diaries lies in their flexibility, allowing them to be tailored for accountability for different goals -- from calorie counting to diet quality to overall assessment of eating habits.
But when it comes to a comprehensive weight management strategy, they may not be enough. Stevens suggests that in addition to using a food diary, some dieters may benefit further from joining an organized weight-loss program that provides social commitment and accountability.
If no formal programs are available, he says, "get organized with some friends and make a commitment to help each other."