Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Why Food Diaries Are A Girl's Best Friend

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It’s 10pm so I quickly glance over the stats to check what my most popular page is.  You love the diets, but you also absolutely love the entries in my food journal.

So let’s talk food diaries.  Are you just nosy or are you contemplating starting one?  I enjoy recording my food intake as a diary never lies.  The journals quickly tell me if I’ve over eaten; that is, if my belly doesn’t do that first of course!

If you are goal oriented, then you’ll love scrutinising your daily intake and documenting your progress with exercise and weight change over the next few months using a food diary. 

A study in Eating Behaviour concluded that someone who consistently records their food intake is more likely to lose weight.  This makes perfect sense.  Witnessing how much you actually eat may be the only concrete fact that will inspire and kick start you into making the necessary and much needed changes to your diet.

A more recent study in Obesity compared paper diary and electronic food diaries with feedback facility in 210 healthy adults.  I was not surprised to discover that the group who used the electronic diaries displayed the greatest devotion and therefore the greatest weight change.

I’ve given you the evidence and I’ve also provided you with the tool to start your food diary (go to http://www.myfitnesspal.com/).  So what are you waiting for?

Before you begin, always formulate your long-term goals as well as your day to day goals.  In the short-term you may be working on increasing your fruit intake or reducing frequency of foods rich in salt.  

Your long-term goal should not be isolated to weight loss alone.  Instead focus on strategies to keep that shed weight, off!  Consider what methods you will adopt to ensure that you will keep eating fruit daily.  Perhaps you will visit a farmers market every Saturday morning with a friend or your neighbour to achieve this.


When starting your food diary, aim to be as accurate as possible when selecting foods in the drop down boxes.  If you eat a muffin for mid-morning break and you cannot find the apple and cinnamon flavour, instead of selecting ‘chocolate muffin’, choose the apple and cinnamon cake if this option is available.

Read labels

If you have not read my article Be Shopping savvy-nutrition.html then please read this now!  It’s essential that you understand and appreciate the principles of label reading. 

When you purchase the apple and cinnamon muffin, retain the wrapping so that you can accurately recall the calories per serving size (1 muffin) and the weight per serving size.   Unless the muffin weighed 100g, the value for the serving size will differ and be usually displayed in the front of the packaging or under the ‘serving size’ column.  Enter this amount in weight (grams) by choosing the 1g option in the ‘how much’ column in myfitnesspal.  For the number of servings, enter weight of the product.

For example if the muffin weighed 150g, select ‘apple and cinnamon cake’, then for ‘how much’ select ‘1g’ for amount and finally enter 150 servings. 

Portion sizes

This might sound pedantic, but if you usually eat the same breakfast during the week like I do, then I suggest you weigh your cereal at least once.  Or measure it once in a measuring cup so that you know precisely the amount of cereal you eat.  The manufacturer’s guidelines for serving sizes are often unrealistic and misleading. 

When you weigh your usual portion of breakfast cereal, you will notice that you naturally eat more than the manufacturer’s specified portion size (in grams).  Don’t worry if this is the case, this is completely normal. 

The advantage of weighing your cereal or any other food item that you regularly eat is that you will know exactly how much you eat in grams.  Luckily, once you create a food entry, most online journals often ‘remember’ and list your selected food items with your selected portion sizes for quick and efficient food journal entry on your subsequent visit.


I regularly walk to work.  I therefore jumped onto http://www.walkjogrun.net/ to calculate distance and speed to allow for additional accuracy when recording the exercise aspect of the food journal.  I also mapped out my regular runs for the same reason.


Remember, weight is only a number.  Instead of focusing on this number, observe the change in weight.  If the trend is a decrease then you are probably losing body weight.  However, changes in fluid status can also cause your weight to fluctuate.  It is best to weigh yourself at the same time each week.  Better still, record your body measurements as this will be a more powerful tool for judging weight loss. 

Did you know that muscle weighs almost three times as much as body fat?  If you exercise regularly and your weight does not change, this could be because you are gaining muscle and shedding fat.  Fat also occupies a lot of space, whereby muscle is lean. 

The most effective way to judge progress is therefore your measurements and your clothing size.

Finally, complete your food diary at the end of each day to avoid overlooking snacks which can be easily forgotten.  The more accurate your food diaries, the quicker you’ll identify areas of weakness and opportunities for change.

Please comment below, I love, read and really look forward to all of your comments!