Forget Calorie Amnesia
... Use a Food and Exercise Diary!
Research has shown time and time
again that dieters who keep track of their calories
are many more times likely to lose weight and keep
it off than those who don’t. Read on to find
out why keeping a food and exercise diary works so
Did you know there are several electronic and online
diaries available now? Get more information here. Also
read our top tips for optimising results when using your
food and exercise diary.
Take a bag of M&Ms...
A food and exercise diary is
one of the most powerful proven aids for dieting and
weight control. If you really want to lose weight and
keep it off, writing down your calorie ins and outs
is essential. Research shows that dieters who maintain
a food and exercise diary not only lose more weight – they
keep it off too.
Take a bag of M&Ms, for example. If you put it in
your desk drawer at work, or on the kitchen bench at
home, and snack on a handful now and then throughout
the day, you hardly notice you’re eating them,
do you? But if you take that bag, read the nutritional
information (a small 55g bag has about 275 calories and
11.5g fat), write down the calorie and fat content, and
then sit in front of the mirror and eat the whole thing
without stopping, it feels a bit different, doesn’t
A look in the mirror
Think of your diary as a kind
of mirror. A mirror gives you a way in which to see
yourself that you could otherwise only guess at. Of
course, you probably don’t always
like what you see in the mirror (and most of us would
be much happier without one) but it is a useful tool.
A food and exercise diary works in the same way as a
mirror, providing you with a visual portrayal of what
you’ve eaten. Instead of "guesstimating" how
many calories you’ve packed in and burned off during
the day (and let’s face it, when you do that it’s
never a very accurate guess) you get to see the real
calorie cost. That bag of M&Ms becomes 275 calories,
instead of just an “insignificant” snack.
Recording your food and exercise
habits jolts you into realising how much you actually
eat and drink each day and whether you are exercising
enough. If you’re
keeping to your recommended daily calories, seeing proof
of that in your diary is encouraging. Most diaries will
also provide you with a place to record body measurements,
and it’s great to see these changing for the better
as you follow your meal plans and exercise goals. If
you’re slipping into old habits that are certain
to pack the kilos on, seeing it in writing really hits
home and should motivate you to get back on track. The
diary also helps you develop greater self-discipline.
You think twice about over-indulging when you have to
record it – especially if you arrange for someone
to check your diary regularly.
Keeping a food and exercise diary can also help you
to spot patterns of behaviour or habits that lead to
excessive eating, and to identify the moods, situations,
events, and people that trigger overeating. For some,
this awareness is enough to encourage habit changes that
lead to weight loss.
And finally, using a food and exercise diary not only
helps you, it helps those who are helping you. Your doctor,
dietitian or counsellor can use what you have recorded
to assess your progress and make recommendations.
"But I hate writing things
If you are one of those people
who just doesn’t
click with a paper and pen then you should try an electronic
food and exercise diary. These are available for PCs
and handheld computers, as well as online. There are
plenty of advantages to having an electronic version
of a diary, including a food database with food counts
ready listed, personal profiling, regular check-ins,
and diary printing. Electronic food and exercise diaries
also display visual graphs and charts that track your
daily, weekly and monthly progress in terms of weight,
exercise, and nutritional targets. Check out the CalorieKing.com
Food & Exercise Diary for Palm, Pocket PC and Windows.
(See online diary and electronic diary links below).
However, a paper diary can be
just as effective, particularly if you are already
in the habit of writing things down in notebooks and
calendars. A diary provides a way to organise it all
in one place. Look for a diary that has a “start anytime” format with columns for
fats, calories, carbs and exercise calories, as well
as weekly summary pages and a place to record weight
and waist changes. Allan Borushek’s ten week Pocket
Food and Exercise Diary is highly recommended by many
dietitians and doctors. (Click on the link below).
Top tips for optimising results
food and exercise diary works by recording all calories
in (food) and all calories out (exercise) and then
subtracting the outs from the ins. This gives you your
daily total calories, or net calorie intake. But you
can also record other nutritional targets such as fat,
carbs, fibre, protein and water intake, as well as
type and duration of exercise. Recording things in
detail will help you see which areas of your diet and
exercise routines need more attention.
Other helpful pointers for using the diary:
- Try recording what you eat
before you eat it. This helps you stick to your meal
plans and not overeat. If it’s
written down, consider it done!
- Be sure to take into account the quantity of food
you are eating and to factor this into your calorie
count. This is easy when you use an electronic diary,
but if you are using a paper version, keep a careful
eye out for foods that list nutritional information
for two (or more) servings in one package; if you have
eaten the whole thing, remember to double the calorie
- One way to ensure accurate quantity records is to
weigh your food before you eat it. After you have done
this for a while, you can start to estimate weights
with reasonable accuracy.
- Don’t forget to record all drinks and snacks!
They add up, so don’t ignore them.
- Try arranging for somebody to read your diary on
a regular basis. Being accountable to someone else
helps you to stick to your food and exercise goals.
Choose someone who will encourage you.
- Use your diary to observe connections between high
calorie and high fat foods and certain times of the
day, week and month. Notice similar connections with
exercise patterns, and prepare yourself in advance
for those times.
Reproduced with permission from CalorieKing.com.au. All material copyright CalorieKing.com.au