The Lay of the Table
It’s not easy combating obesity. With one in three American adults considered obese, however, those that face this condition are far from alone. It’s a complicated issue, but it’s something that needs to be dealt with head-on. Obesity can lead to numerous other health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke, among others. It, therefore, becomes important to figure out what means one can achieve sustainable weight loss. One approach that’s been gaining traction and becoming more popular is monitoring diet by keeping accurate food diaries.
Alongside lifestyle and diet changes, a food diary can help a person can keep a close eye on what they eat by logging and tracking their daily food intake. Food journaling takes a little discipline and getting used to, but it can be an accurate way for someone to get a real understanding of what their eating patterns really look like. And the evidence suggests that, when combined with modifications to diet, exercise, and other approaches, food journaling can lead to much better weight loss outcomes. Writing down what you eat, it seems, can help you shed those excess pounds.
Knowing is Half the Battle
In 2008, a team of researchers sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, conducted an extensive analysis of the efficacy of food diaries for weight loss. Looking at data from approximately 1,700 participants, lead scientist Dr. William H. Vollmer and his team assessed reduction in weight after six months and then 30 months. People that took part in the study not only had to log the food they were eating, but also participate in 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, attend weekly diet counseling sessions, and were educated about heart-healthy diets featuring education on low or nonfat dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables, and other healthy means of eating.
After six months, participants in the study lost an average of 13 pounds, with over two-thirds losing at least nine. What’s interesting is that the act of logging and tracking food consumption was shown to nearly double the amount of weight lost. This outcome was a promising gain in results from previous studies. One such prior study had shown reductions of even five pounds for overweight or obese people significantly reduce associated health risks. In fact, according to one of the study’s co-authors, Dr. Victor Stevens, “If we all lost just nine pounds, like the majority of people in this study did, our nation would see vast decreases in hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.”
The study, published in the Journal of the American Diet Association, gained broad support for the importance of food logging. Looking at 22 studies of self-monitoring with relation to weight loss, the authors’ noted a distinct effect was present for those who track what they eat as opposed to those who didn’t. The biggest factor for success, though, was the extent to which people were able to consistently keep up with the job of recording. The researchers pointed out more work needs to be done to look at how adherence to accuracy influences overall outcomes.
Food Journaling Apps
Why does food journaling work? Is there a specific way it should be done? For the more tech-minded, there are a number of food logging apps out there. Smartphone users have the option to use apps Calorific, Rise Up, and My Diet Coach to quickly and effectively track what they eat (check out reference # 4 for a comprehensive list). But even something as simple as writing down your meals in a diary, an email to yourself, or even just post-it notes, can work. What’s important, though, is that you both take a moment to reflect on what you’re eating, and on exactly what you ate, and then later take a look at the actual “data.” This will give you a better picture of what changes you may need to make.
Part of a Process
Food logging is only part of the story, however. It only works along with other weight loss approaches. One must then take the information and take action through a healthier diet, and physical activity. For others, though, other measures such as bariatric surgery may be the best and most effective means of managing weight. This is true especially for those the Body Mass Index calculator (BMI), deem morbidly obese, or on the advice of your doctor.
In the end, you have to figure out what is realistic and works for you. Don’t lose hope. Managing weight is not easy. In order to lose weight safely, it takes time and adjustment. And with evidence on the efficacy of food journalling, you have another tool to help you. With the stroke of a pen, the swipe of a finger, and a little diligent effort, outcomes for those struggling with obesity are improving. For the sake of your health, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.
If you’re concerned about your weight or are obese, the team at Evolve is ready to help. Staffed with experts in the field, and employing the latest technologies, we’ve helped countless people achieve their health goals. Give one of our Patient Care Managers a call at (888) 575-4526 anytime.
- National Institute of Health. ‘Overweight and Obesity Statistics’. July 27, 2016. Accessed February 6, 2017. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx.
- Kaiser Permanente. “Keeping A Food Diary Doubles Diet Weight Loss, Study Suggests.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080708080738.htm (accessed February 5, 2017).
- Burke, Lora E., Jing Wang, and Mary Ann Sevick. ‘Self-Monitoring in Weight Loss: A Systematic Review of the Literature’. Journal of the American Diet Association 111, no. 1 (November 10, 2011). Accessed February 6, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3268700/.
- Redbook. ‘The Best Apps for Food Journaling’. November 23, 2016. Accessed February 6, 2017. http://www.redbookmag.com/body/healthy-eating/advice/g614/lose-weight-apps-tools/?