Keeping Food Diary Doubles Weight Loss

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."

When Diaries Alone Are Not Enough

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."

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