Saturday, September 25, 2010

Food Logs are a Diet Imperative

Article first published as Food Logs are a Diet Imperative on Technorati.

When I start a new weight loss class, I tell my students that they need to keep food logs of everything they eat.  Some people immediately get their hackles up, claiming that they “don’t want to be held hostage” to their food log and calorie counting.

I explain that for most of us Americans, because we have become such capable multi-taskers, we are eating more often and in larger quantities than we know.  We eat in front of the computer or TV at home.  We eat at our desks at work.  We eat in the car.  Because we are eating while we are doing other things, we do not realize and sometimes cannot even remember what and how much we eat.

The food log wakes us up to what we are putting in our mouths.  I suggest that my clients keep a small notebook or a post-it pad with them at all times and when they eat something, to immediately write it down.  That way the clients are less likely to forget about the half of a bagel they picked up in the break room or the slice of cake they enjoyed in the office to celebrate someone’s birthday.  If they are using computers to track their calories, given that there are so many free on line services now, they have their list of what they ate for later when they actually load it into the computer.

Even food logging for just a couple of weeks before starting a diet is a great way to get a handle on what foods a person is reaching for in what situations.  Once you can see that everything you ate for the last three days was a carbohydrate, you can begin to figure out why you have the sugar highs and carb crashes.  My clients balance out their diet, identify their “go-to” foods when they are stressed out or upset, and start to take control of what, when and how they eat.

After six weeks in my programs, I ask the participants to complete an evaluation of what they have learned, what they have changed and what they still need help with.  Overwhelmingly, participants list among what they have learned is that food logging helps, but they also say that staying consistent with their logging is where they need help.  Clinical studies show that the people who log their food lose more weight and keep it off longer than people did not keep track. 

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