Salt Lake City, Utah — A new study shows that spending only 15 minutes per day food journaling can double the results of people trying to lose weight.
A 2008 study found tracking food intake yielded promising weight loss results, but people often stray away from this method because they view it as time-consuming.
Keeping a journal of everything you eat sounds like a big job, but the more recent study, published last month in the journal of obesity, shows keeping it simple and spending less time per day than your lunch break has the same benefits.
Another promising conclusion the study shows is that simply checking in, even if you are not meticulously describing everything you ingest, carries the same benefits.
Participants in the study kept track of everything they ate using an online system. Weight loss was evaluated after 6 months. At the end of the six months, participants were spending about 14.6 minutes total tracking their food. The researchers found that as participants got more practice with food journaling, they got quicker.
Participants who described and weighed everything they ate in intense detail did not have better results than those who simply wrote down what and when they ate.
The most successful participants were the ones who were consistent and kept the journal every day with frequent, simple entries throughout the day.
A Dietician’s Takeaway
Really Healthy Podcast co-host Melanie Douglass gives her takeaways from the study.
“It doesn’t even have to take 15 minutes,” said Douglass. “All you need is an awareness of what you put in your body on a daily basis.
She has been a registered dietician for over 20 years and admits she used to be a big advocate of weighing, measuring and tracking every calorie her clients ingested.
“I’m over that. Zoom out and look at the details and the big picture,” said Douglass.
Just write it down and when you go back to review check for a colorful, fruit and vegetable filled day, she advised on the podcast. Another tip she gave is to write down your water intake to ensure you are staying hydrated.
Food Journaling Options
Douglass also provided a few different options for food journaling. Some for the tech-savvy and other for the not-so-tech-savvy.
If you are into technology there are lots of great apps like MyFitnessPal and the Fitbit app that allow you to scan barcodes or enter foods and keep a running total throughout the day. If you are someone to keep it simple just buy a notebook or grab a stack of sticky notes. Just simply writing it down will help you reflect at the end of the day or week.
Douglass did share a word of caution with food tracker apps. The foods they have pre-programmed are not always the size or portion you end up eating. It is normal for people to underestimate their portions and overestimate their activity level so it can be discouraging for some if they aren’t seeing changes.
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Watch the full episode below.
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