Meet Your Weight Loss BFF : The Food Diary Featured

Authors: Registered Dietitians

Food diary

( Diaries, journaling, tracking- whatever you call it, it’s a weight loss workhorse. Food diaries can be crucial for finding out how your body responds to food, where your usual calorie burn is and fast tracking your weigh t loss efforts. Read on to find out why you should try it, how to get the most out of it and a few great resources to get you going.

An oldie but a goodie: How a food diary can help you

To learn how your body responds to food. By tracking weight and food and fluid intake you’ll get an idea of how many calories you go through per day, this is a waaay better option than relying on guess-timates from height and weight. Metabolism can vary hugely based on age, size, fat vs fat free mass, activity level and plain old genetics so estimates are very rough. A food diary will help you learn over time how much you can eat while still gradually moving torwards your weight goal.

To motivate you to make healthy choices and keep portions reasonable. It’s a natural response to be more thoughtful of what and how much you’re eating when you have to record it. You’ll also see just how much that processed food or entire “cheat day” costs you. I personally find that going back to a food diary every once in a while helps remind me to stay on track and how to moderate my indulgences so they fit my goals. It can also be a huge source of positive reinforcement when used properly- look back at each week and give yourself a pat on the back for each goal you’re meeting. Half your dinner plate was fruits or veggies every night last week? Awesome! Protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner 5 out of 7 days? Way to go! Sometimes we forget to congratulate ourselves but that’s what keeps us in it for the long haul.

To learn what is in your food. What foods are high and low in calories, good sources of protein and fibre and all that other good stuff. Its much easier to stay on track of healthy choices when you can see their health benefits add up in grams of fibre, protein etc each day.

To learn what triggers “problematic” eating. Do you eat for reasons other than hunger? Maybe boredom, sadness, lonliness or to hide from stress? Tracking both when these overeating episodes happen as well as what emotions or situations triggered them can help you figure out what you need to do to cope with life in a way that doesn’t hurt your health or your waist.

So how do I track?

Find something easy- whether its pen and paper, a smartphone app or a website.

Track amounts of foods and fluids.

Include often forgotten items such as dressings, oil in cooking, and bits and bites here and there.

If you have emotional eating or digestive issues to address, record any incidents and how you felt. Look back each week and try to identify trends.

When you shouldn't use a food diary

If it becomes negative or punitive. Having guilty thoughts or beating yourself up for that weekend bellini or extra 200 calories? Stop recording for a little while and reset to a positive thought process. Success is built on goals and positive reinforcement, starting with the conversations you have with yourself.

If you have any history of an eating disorder or tend to get obsessive about numbers when it  comes to food.  Always work with a dietitian and/or therapist if you need to lose weight with that kind of background. Its important to have support to keep your thought process around food positive and healthy.


Some great apps include My Net Diary, My Fitness Pal  and Eatracker.

A great post by Yoni Freedhoff on food diaries and calories – great read!

"Counting Calories is Flawed But Here's Why I Still Do It"

Do you use a food diary? What style do you find best- pen and paper, app? Share your thoughts in the comments box below!


Image by Elaine Vigneault

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