Could you imagine a free weight loss tool that greatly increases your chances of losing the pounds you have been wanting to lose for a while? That’s the impact a food journal can have on your wellness plan. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente studied participants in a weight-loss program and found that the subjects who kept a daily food journal and documenting all they ate lost twice as much weight as those who chose not to keep track.

Now keeping a journal does require some extra effort. See how these suggestions can help you stay focused and on track.

Benefits of Keeping a Food Journal

By documenting what you eat throughout the day your awareness of what you are eating will increase significantly. A food journal puts an end to random snacking.

Your journal will help you resist temptation. By knowing that you’ll need to write down those croutons on your salad or that extra slice of pie after dinner may be all you need to put the brakes on eating that second or third piece. Making sensible food choices that are nutritious becomes automatic.

Your journal will help you increase your nutrition knowledge. Your journal is a great educational tool. You’ll learn about the macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fats in all your favorite foods so you will easily be able to calculate your dietary needs by memory and be able to jot them down quickly. This will also help with calorie counts, fiber intake, portion sizes, and even new recipes. In fact, MyFitness Pal, a popular weight loss app, claims that their users who log recipes lose 40% more weight.

Focus on your efforts. Once you spot your triggers, you can make the changes necessary. You’ll notice that certain times of day is when you crave something sweet or your tendency to overeat will be easily recognized.

Your journal will help you to eat a healthy diet. Remember that your food journal can help you do more than take off those unwanted pounds. You can pinpoint allergies, keep track of your blood sugar, or do just about anything that involves your diet, the food you eat and your overall well being.

How to Keep a Food Journal

The easiest way to keep your journal is by documenting your meals immediately. Writing your meals and snacks down as you are preparing them, or shortly after eating is ideal. You’re less likely to forget important details.

Just try to be consistent with your journal. It is important to make your journal entries daily if possible. If you do slip up at times, get back on track as soon as you can. The more dietary data you collect, the more valuable your journal will be to your weight loss efforts. If the time commitment seems unmanageable, remember that you’ll get used to it and it will become like second nature.

Tell the truth

Be honest with yourself, even if your lunch consisted entirely of French fries. Keeping the entries for your eyes only will at least allow you to be honest with yourself, and allow you to make the necessary changes.

Be very specific. Details matter. Notate each ingredient in your sandwich. Notice how much cream or sugar you’re adding to your coffee. Pay attention to the calories you drink whether you indulge in pumpkin lattes or margaritas.

Look at the big picture. Your diary can encompass more than food and beverages. Write about your emotions and how they affect your eating. Include information about other relevant factors such as exercise, sleep, and health conditions.

Choose your format. Buy a pretty blank book or use an online template. Maybe you want something that’s easy to tote around or perhaps you prefer to keep it on your nightstand.

Take pictures. Photos make your journal more fun and productive. Include before and after shots of your shrinking waistline. Use images to help you remember and recreate your favorite slimmed-down dishes.

Be sure to review your journal frequently. Reviewing your diary will help you evaluate your progress and make healthy changes. Looking back gives you a chance to reflect and gather any information you want to share with your doctor or other professionals. You can also use your diary to chart your future as you think about the next milestone you want to reach.

Keeping track of what you eat is a very effective way to lose weight and keep track of your dietary habits. Just try to be consistent and accurate about food journaling, and don’t allow an occasional slip to stand in the way of your eating healthier and looking slimmer.