THE BLOG
01/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Keep and Use a Food Journal

Did you catch the recent study that was just published on the benefits of keeping a food journal? If you missed it, they had a large sample of 1,700 people and they found that those who kept a log of everything they ate lost twice as much weight as those who didn't.

I have been touting the value of food records for years, and if you are someone who would like to lose weight, I highly recommend trying it. It is tedious and it can be hard to write down high calorie days, but it is so worth it.

How to keep these records is very much up to you. Some people carry around a little steno pad and write it on that. If you have an I-phone, or a Blackberry, you can keep your records that way. If you are at your computer a lot, you can keep them on your computer. There are several online options for keeping food records as well, and most of them are free.

The information your records should contain are: your daily weight, the foods and amounts of calories for each entry (drinks too if they have calories), and any calories burned in exercise. Add the calories at the end of each day to see how you're doing. Some people will subtotal throughout the day so they know where they stand as they head into the evening.

The best way to utilize the information is to take it week by week and average out your calories, weight and exercise for the week. You can gauge your progress fairly accurately by looking at your average weekly weight, average weekly calories in and average weekly calories burned in exercise. Compare your numbers week by week instead of day by day. It is what we do on average, and not each day, that determines our weight.

To be the weight you want to be, women take that weight and multiply it by 10, men use 12. This will give you your average daily calorie allotment, without exercise, to maintain that weight. So, if I want to weigh 130 lbs., I need to balance my calories around 1,300. I can eat 1,500 if I add in 200 calories of exercise.

If you are taking in more calories than you'd like, and your weight is higher than you want it to be, keeping track will allow you to not only see what you are doing, but will also give you insight into how to change it. One trick to try is to look back over your records and circle any food(s) you could have lived without. By taking in just 100 to 200 calories less per day, you will begin to see results. You must deficit 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat.

That's it for now. Good luck and let me know how you're doing.

If you'd like to participate in the research for Irene's new book about the process of weight loss, please visit http://www.eatingdisordertherapist.com/and take the survey.