It might seem a bit over the top, writing down every calorie you consume. It might frustrate you, or seem unnecessary, having to reach for your notebook each time you nibble. Believe me, this could be your best weight loss move yet. Numerous studies have shown that those who keep a daily food diary are more successful in their weight loss than those who note their food intake once a week, if at all.
I am a massive fan of keeping a food diary. I am not talking about a narrative on what you ate — "I had pizza for dinner, yummy but the base could have been crisper". What I am talking about is keeping a record of anything that passes your lips each day, be it part of a main meal, a snack, or your perk-me-up coffee or wind-down wine. Write as you go, noting portion size, and all the trimmings like dressings, gravies, sides, etc.
You don't have to do this forever. I find that keeping a diary for at least a month can really show you where the calories are sneaking in, and giving you a realistic idea of what exactly you are eating. Remember, EVERYONE underestimates their daily calorie intake, and it's easy to have a good week, so doing this for at least a month provides you with a far more accurate picture.
However, it is so important to be honest with yourself. Don't dismiss something because you think it won't make a difference — finishing the kids' dinner does add up, as do little things like picking at a bag of sweets throughout the day. Yes, you are eating them one at a time at intervals, and they might only be 10 calories a go, but a whole bag can add up to hundreds of calories and skew your weight loss.
Why do this? The reasons (and benefits) are manifold.
First, everyone eats a lot more than they think. Ever had diet frustration, where you thought you were doing everything right, and the pounds weren't melting off? Yes, you were eating healthy salads, and no, there was no chocolate involved. However, were you piling dressing on those salads? Were there croutons involved or cheese? Was the salad meant for three people, but you were polishing it off as a starter??
Believe me, you will be quite surprised after one week where extra calories in your diet might be appearing from. Another common scenario is the individual who eats a wonderful, balanced, healthy diet, but 'forgets' that cappuccinos, beer, wine, soda, etc. are all weight loss minefields, and consumes these indiscriminately. Writing down what you eat AND drink can pinpoint why you are not being as successful at losing weight as you would think.
A further reason is we all think that a cookie here or there, or the odd Mars bar, won't hurt us. True words indeed, but look at how many of these you consumed over the period of a week, and you might begin to understand that the 'odd' one has now become a little more regular than you thought.
Additionally, you will make smarter choices. You have to face your food diary, so instead of a 400 calorie ice cream, chances are if you have to write it down you have to think about it, so you will probably plump for the skinnier sorbet.
Food diaries also help you to see where your diet falls down nutritionally. You might think you eat plenty of fruit, but in reality it might be the same thing every day. By varying your fruit intake, you expose yourself to a greater array of vitamins and minerals, all necessary for good health.
Lastly, and most importantly, we all cram food into our mouth without much thought. Time has become our enemy, and is in scarce supply, so sometime its "the quicker the better" when it comes to food. We don't stop to think about what we are fueling our bodies with. We comfort eat when we are depressed, and eat well to celebrate success. Writing down what you eat really makes you think about how you are treating yourself. Seeing line after line of food that you know is not benefiting you can make you take a step back and assess your diet as a whole. It makes you aware of the empty calories that provide no nutritional value, and helps you to refocus and rethink how to improve your diet.
All of which can only mean positive progress for you and your diet.