You can lose weight without a food diary, but according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you’re more likely to be successful if you keep one that tracks what, why, when, and where you eat. A food diary can provide insight into your hunger patterns and highlight emotional eating binges. In addition, you become much more aware when eating because of hunger or boredom.
The easiest way to keep a food diary is to use a small notebook. This is what your diary should include:
Time of day
Place. If eating at home, record where you are: dining room, couch in front of the TV, or kitchen counter. If not at home, note if you were in a restaurant or a car.
Food or beverage item. Include how it was prepared, primary ingredients, and any condiments.
Amount. Use common measurements, such as tablespoons, slices, or cups.
Mood. Did you feel stressed, bored, or neutral?
Hunger rating. Note if you were hungry or not.
Include everything. Snacks, finger foods, candy, and all beverages should be included. Always have the journal handy so you can document your eating episode when it occurs. If you wait till the end of the day, you are likely to forget something.
Tell it like it is. Be sure to keep a complete and accurate journal. This makes you much more accountable for the foods you eat and the amount eaten.
After keeping the diary for a week or so, take a look at your record with an eye toward identifying patterns. For example, are you snacking late at night, eating huge portions, or eating when you’re bored? A dietitian can provide additional insight and suggestions for success.