September 25, 2023   8:53pm

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The first time I ever heard of a food diary was when our “Food” expert Stefanie recommended I keep one as a way to find out what was causing my GERD (for the uninitiated that’s gastro reflux); then she analyzed the diary and told me which foods to avoid (or at least be aware of how I’d feel after eating them). And this worked! Now I’m suddenly seeing articles about Food Diaries as a tried and true methodology for losing weightx

Here’s why food diaries are suddenly “hot” …

In Time Magazine, Sanjay Gupta, M.D. informs us that: “Participants who kept a food journal six or seven days a week lost an average of 18 lb., compared with an average of 9 lb. lost by non-diary keepers.” He started his own food diary because he “wanted to test the striking new results of a paper published in the August issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Scientists at several clinical-research centers in the U.S. found that dieters who kept a food diary lost twice as much as those who didn’t.”

Of course, “It’s not just about writing it down that counts,” according to senior investigator Victor Stevens of Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon. “It is also about using that record to identify eating habits that need to be modified. While most people think they know what to eat, they really have only a general idea and tend to have selective memory, especially when it comes to the foods that aren’t good for us. With a detailed food diary, you can see where those extra calories are coming from.”

Gupta says: “I’m showing everything in my diet diary — down to the last morsel — to my wife. Stevens says it’s all about accountability. You may have been thinking about eating that extra cookie, but you didn’t want it to show up on the diary at the end of the day.” Gupta also recommends a website called the Daily Plate at, which “not only lets you accurately count calories but also help you find people with eating habits similar to your own. A virtual cheerleading squad could help motivate you …”

In another story on, Katherine Hobson reports on 4 Ways a Food Diary Can Help You Lose Weight and says “Writing down what you eat makes it tough to fool yourself.” She reports on the same study as Time (above) and says: “The case for food diaries (or food records or journals) got a little stronger today, when weight-loss researchers reported…that tracking what goes in your mouth can double the amount of weight lost…After analyzing the data on weight loss to see which factors made a difference, researchers concluded that the more days a person kept a careful record, the more weight he or she lost.” (Attending more weekly support group sessions also helped.)

“Here’s why keeping a diary is so powerful:

“It’s simple. No fancy machines required; just record what you eat on paper or using an online record. “The trick is to write down everything you eat or drink that has calories,” says Victor Stevens, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research and coauthor of the study released today, which appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. That’s easy enough with labeled foods but gets harder when you’re dining out or are eating an unfamiliar food. Try online calorie databases like and watch the serving sizes…

“It’s eye opening. In fact, some people will be so shocked at how many calories are in their thrice-daily Coke that the “aha” moment will make going on an actual diet unnecessary…

“It helps you track your progress…

“You’re accountable to someone. Supervised weight-loss programs often require participants to turn in their food diaries to nutritionists or doctors, which may make you think twice before giving in to temptation…If you’re not part of a program, you can team up with a friend and swap food diaries once a week to keep each other in line. And many people find it’s enough to be accountable to themselves…

“After the extra poundage is gone, many people continue to use a diary to keep themselves honest. About 50 percent of participants in the National Weight Control Registry (which tracks the habits and practices of weight-loss maintainers) report they use some kind of self-monitoring, such as a food diary, says Wyatt. Some people may keep a diary on the weekend only, when they tend to eat more; others just record dinner, which usually varies more than breakfast and lunch, says Wadden. It’s a habit you can benefit from for a lifetime.”


Time Magazine, Fit Nation, “Dear (Food) Diary” by Sanjay Gupta, M.D., August 4, 2008, pg 70

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