What We’re Reading: The Benefits of Keeping a (Food) Diary

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For many, the term “diary” conjures up an image of a closely guarded book filled with ruminations about school, siblings, and adolescent crushes. But diaries are not just places to gush about the newest pop star—as data published in the August edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows. When they are used to keep track of food intake, diaries can be effective tools for helping people lose weight.

The information comes from the first six months of a weight-loss study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and conducted at four centers around the United States. Participants were overweight or obese, at least 25 years old, and taking medicine for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or both. According to senior investigator Victor J. Stevens, Ph.D., as recorded on David Mendosa’s blog, the participants were asked to try to improve their dietary choices, get regular physical activity, and, additionally, write down everything they ate or drank that contained calories. These food diaries were shown to the researchers and discussed at regular meetings.

After 20 weeks, those who had been keeping at least six written records of their food and beverage intake per week had lost an average of approximately 18 pounds, roughly double the weight of those who had not been keeping any records. According to this piece on MedPage Today, “weight dropped modestly but significantly as the number of daily food records kept per week went up.” Dr. Stevens states, “If we all lost as much weight as the people in this study did, our nation would see vast decreases in diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, and stroke.”

To start your own daily food diary, check out this page on the Web site of the NHLBI.

This blog entry was written by Assistant Editor Diane Fennell.

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