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Keeping Food Diary Doubles Weight Loss

Dieters Who Keep Track of What They Eat Lose Weight Twice as Fast

July 8, 2008

Dieters may be able to take solace in the fact that during these tough economic times one of the most powerful weight-loss tools available may be as close and as cheap as a pen and paper. 

In a recent study participants who kept food journals lost almost double the weight of their non-journaling counterparts.  And at a time when Americans spend $35 billion a year on weight-loss products -- a figure larger than the gross domestic product of most developing countries -- the finding could be good news for those searching for an inexpensive route to a healthier weight. 

The study focused on the efficacy of various behavioral weight-loss interventions in more than 1,500 overweight and obese adults. Participants were schooled on lifestyle interventions, which included weekly group sessions, regular exercise, a heart-healthy diet, reduced alcohol consumption and the use of food diaries. 

After five months, participants lost an average of almost 13 pounds -- a significant amount, according to physicians. However, those who used a food diary more than five days a week lost almost twice as much weight as those who didn't. And perhaps more impressively, they kept the weight off.

Frank Bitzer, a 64-year-old retired project manager and study subject, lost 26 pounds during the study, and his cholesterol dropped to healthy levels. Today, four years after the end of the study, he has kept off 20 pounds and continues to feel the positive health effects. Asked about his experiences with keeping a food diary, he described it as "enlightening." He attributed much of his success to the ability to gain immediate information and "see the error of your ways."

Why the Pen Is Mightier Than the Pounds

But why do the diaries work? Experts agree that the ultimate value lies in the formation of a "foundation of personal accountability." Almost everyone agrees that accountability is the most important ingredient behind any successful lifestyle change, including weight loss.

Dr. Patrick O'Neil agrees. In short, he explains, food diaries force an increased awareness of habits and eating patterns. By allowing patients to follow their eating patterns throughout the day, the visual diary can highlight pitfalls that may have previously gone unnoticed by a dieter.

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.

Source: By KENDALL KRAUSE, M.D.ABC News Medical Unit, July 8, 2008

Dr. Iverson's Comment
Wow! The power of human accountability and awareness! Amazing what can happen when we are just AWARE of what we are doing. It is one of the most important steps to any health awakening. We often go through life not even knowing we are on “auto-pilot” as we eat while we think, or eat while we work, or eat while we drive or talk on the phone. Little did we know that our lack of presence caused us to eat “not just one” as the famous Doritos commercial indicates.
We use this as a common guideline in our clinic. It allows the practitioner to see what may be common food allergens and also those foods that could be contributing to weight gain.  I have heard it said more than a couple dozen times, “Wow, I didn’t even realize I was eating that way!”  
Try it out! It is simple, effective, and CHEAP! Who could ask for a better alternative to weight loss programs at a time like this, right? 
Happy food-tracking!
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