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New Study Confirms Keeping a Food Journal Helps You Lose Weight!

It’s been core to the CalorieKing Program since its inception – keeping a food journal. By recording what you eat you are accountable for the calories you eat and over time you gain CalorieKing Blog Food Journalsinsight into your cravings, triggers and general habits. It’s so important we’ve built the diet and exercise recording feature directly into our online program. Now a new study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center validates the concept of keeping some record of your food intake does help you lose weight.

Allan Borushek, dietitian and founder of the CalorieKing Program notes:

“We were pleased to see new studies from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center providing the same advice that’s always been core to our program – keeping those food diaries is a powerful tool towards meeting your weight loss goals! We’ve known for a long time that self-monitoring or keeping any kind of diary is the number one predictor of success with weight control.”

Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D. is a director of the Hutchinson Center’s Prevention Center and a member of the Public Health Services Division. She and her team carried out the study and had some specific goals at the onset:

“When it comes to weight loss, evidence from randomized, controlled trials comparing different diets finds that restricting total calories is more important than diet composition such as low-fat versus low-carbohydrate. Therefore, the specific aim of our study was to identify behaviors that supported the global goal of calorie reduction.”

That information alone should make CalorieKing members feel great – you are on the right track! It’s not about fancy fad diets or banning bread and the like. It’s about setting a calorie target and sticking to it, within the context of sensible, nutritious food choices, of course.

But what about that sticking to it part? How did the survey find out that keeping journal helped?

The Study: How It Worked

McTiernan and her team wanted to identify what behaviors helped the test subjects the most when trying to lose weight – especially in post-menopausal women when weight loss can be especially challenging.

They surveyed 123 overweight to obese, sedentary women ages 50-75 who were randomly assigned two arms of a controlled randomized year-long dietary weight-loss prevention study – diet only and diet plus exercise. Participants filled out questionnaires to assess dietary intake, eating-related weight-control strategies, self-monitoring behavior and meal patterns. At the end of the study they were asked to complete a 120-item food-frequency questionnaire to assess changes from the beginning to the end of the study.

You will love hearing the results – at the end of the study all the participants lost an average of 10 percent of their starting weight, which was the goal of McTiernan’s study. Plus, they found that women who kept food journals consistently as part of their behavior lost an incredible six pounds more than those who didn’t!

As reported in ScienceDaily, McTiernan observed:

“For individuals who are trying to lose weight, the number one piece of advice based on these study results would be to keep a food journal to help meet daily calorie goals. It is difficult to make changes to your diet when you are not paying close attention to what you are eating.”

Changing habits is hard – we all know that.  Sometimes we focus on the idea that it is willpower that will get us to change and of course having willpower or the desire to change is important. But what this study shows is that it is also just as powerful as paying attention in order to help make a change. That’s a small step that can be easier to achieve than simply relying on willpower to go “cold turkey” and change.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center provided the following tips for keeping a food journal:

  • Be honest – record everything you eat
  • Be accurate – measure portions and read labels
  • Be complete – include information on how the food was prepared, and the addition of any toppings or condiments
  • Be consistent – always carry your food diary with you or use a diet tracking application on your phone

It’s helpful to get a reminder – and validation – that the hard work you are doing with the CalorieKing program is going to help you. We work hard to keep our Food Database up-to-date so you can count your calories with confidence, and we are looking forward to releasing tools for your smartphones that will help you keep track of your food wherever you are.

The Hutchinson Center study also found other interesting and important tips when it came to keeping the weight off – things like not skipping meals and avoiding eating out. If you’d like to read more about the study we encourage you to read the full article in Science Daily.

We salute the Hutchinson Center for their work in reminding all of us that weight loss is about lifestyle change – not just whatever diet is in all the magazines.

Let’s get journaling everyone!