How to Keep a Successful Food Diary

Study says a diary can double weight loss; find out how to get started on one.

ByABC News via logo
July 21, 2008, 7:33 PM

July 22, 2008 — -- Randy Stanberry says he was so obese for most of his life that there weren't enough numbers on the scale to read his true weight.

"I was a prime target for a heart attack," Stanberry said. "Emotionally, I felt like an oddity. I was out of place. My self-esteem was very low because you know people stare and they snicker and they point."

On Stanberry's 50th birthday, he and his wife Suzy embarked on a weight-loss journey together.

In just a year and a half, Randy went from an estimated 405 pounds to 230 -- a loss of 175 pounds. Suzy dropped from a size 20 to a size 6.

Their secret? Forget about quick-fix diet pills or surgery. Instead they each picked up a tiny journal and started writing down everything they ate in a food diary.

"I thought it was just the easiest thing in the world and that's the key; if it's easy we'll do it," Suzy said. "It's more than just a book. It's a way of life. This is almost like our little miracle book."

The Stanberrys were on to something. A new study by Kaiser Permanente found that keeping a food diary can double a person's weight loss.

In the study, 1,700 participants followed a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. After six months, those who kept a diary lost an average of 13 pounds; those who didn't lost only 6 pounds.

Doctors who were involved in the study said that food diaries promote increased awareness and accountability about how much dieters are actually eating and drinking.

After the food diary story aired on "GMA" earlier this month, hundreds of viewers wrote in wanting to know how to start a diary the right way.

Lisa from Hutchinson, Kan., wrote: "I know food diaries work well with weight loss but after a few days, I stop keeping one. Please help!"

Tammy from Austin, Texas, told us: "If I learn to eat better and be more aware of what I am eating maybe I can get a hold of my weight."

And viewer Shanon Koenen of Port Orchard, Wash., said her desk job and lack of exercise led to an unwanted extra 40 pounds.