Wanna Lose Weight? Keep a Food Journal

A study also suggests not skipping meals but cutting back on eating out for lunch.  

Posted: 07/18/2012 05:36 PM EDT

Here’s some real talk: Losing weight isn't easy, especially when it comes to watching what and how much you're eating. A recent study conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center cut through some of the confusion and suggests that shedding those extra pounds can be as easy as having a pen and paper on deck.

The team of researchers looked at 123 older obese and overweight women and found that women who kept consistent food journals for six months lost on average six more pounds than women who didn't keep journals; women who frequently ate out for lunch lost five fewer pounds than women who rarely ate out for lunch; and women who skipped meals lost eight fewer pounds than women who didn't.

So why choose a food journal?

Science Daily reported that Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Prevention Center and a member of the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division, stated that journals help people stay organized and accountable. "For individuals who are trying to lose weight, the No. 1 piece of advice based on these study results would be to keep a food journal to help meet daily calorie goals. It is difficult to make changes to your diet when you are not paying close attention to what you are eating."

And the good thing is that journals don't cost a lot and they don't need to be fancy or complicated either. McTiernan added, "Any notebook or pad of paper that is easily carried or an online program that can be accessed any time through a smart phone or tablet should work fine."

ABC News reported that the researchers suggested these following tips on making food journals work for you:

—Be honest — record everything you eat
—Be accurate — measure portions, read labels
—Be complete — include details such as how the food was prepared, and the addition of any toppings or condiments
—Be consistent — always carry your food diary with you or use a diet-tracking application on your smartphone

Food journals are not a new concept, and past studies have shown they are effective in helping African-Americans lose weight, too. A 2008 study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institutes of Health found that Black participants who kept a food journal lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t.

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(Photo: PhotoAlto/Laurence Mouton/Getty Images)