Talk about the power of the pen: People who keep a food diary lose twice as much weight as those who don’t, according to a 2008 study published by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. But not all food journals are created equal. Here, Yvonne Q. Syto, R.D., points out some common mistakes that could be holding you back from greater weight loss.
Limiting Yourself to Pen and Paper
Many dieters take the term "journal" literally and assume they need to have a physical document of what they're eating. "I can't tell you how many people come to my office with an empty notebook claiming they always leave it at home or they never have a pen with them so they can't fill it out," says Syto. If you know you won't use a notebook but always have your smartphone with you, use an app to keep track of what you eat. By the same token, if you know you'll be more diligent with pen and paper, then go with that.
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Neglecting to List Portion Sizes
You've documented everything that goes into your mouth but haven't lost a pound. It might be because you failed to mention you ate three handfuls of peanuts—not one—right before lunch. The problem isn't always eating too much, either. When you record the quantities of food you consume, you're more likely to notice if having a small breakfast leads to overdoing it at dinnertime (or what have you).
MORE: 19 Ways to Measure Perfect and Healthy Portion Sizes
Only Writing Down Your Food
There's a reason they call it emotional eating—but most people don't think to include that fight they had with their partner right before dinner. Did you eat an entire pint of ice cream last week because you were anxious about paying your student loans this month? Recording how you feel when you eat certain things can help you spot your emotional eating triggers.
Leaving Out How You Felt After You Ate
Refraining from picking up that last piece of fried chicken might be easier if you had written down how you felt the last time you ate too much of it. It's important to keep track of your body's response to certain foods so you know which to avoid—or eat less of—to feel your best.
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