The most important tool I can recommend to help you gain a better understanding of your eating patterns and the calories you consume on a daily basis is a food diary. Writing down what and when you eat will be the most important tool you use to consume fewer calories for two reasons.
First, the food diary creates awareness. It’s there in black and white, exactly what you consumed in one day. In addition to writing down the foods, you will also estimate, to the best of your ability, the caloric value of each food. You’ll also automatically increase your knowledge of calorie counts, once you get into the habit of keeping this record. By listing the food, the portion, the caloric value, and the time when it was consumed, you will have the necessary data to determine if you are eating for emotional reasons, if you are eating during stressful times, or if you are not planning your day and subsequently getting stuck in situations where good food choices aren’t available. Or you may learn for the first time that you are just overeating. You may also discover that you are leaving too much time in between meals and therefore bingeing out of pure starvation at the next meal. By doing this you are creating awareness and knowledge. Both of these are crucial to your weight-loss success and, if you think about it, apply to most aspects of your life as well.
Second, the food diary enables you to self-police. Since you know that you have to write down what you eat, frequently you will think twice about finishing off your child’s fries, popping in a free sample of cheese at the grocery store, or polishing off the bowl of nuts during drinks at the bar. The diary causes you to think about what you are doing (managing behavior).
Don’t think you have to keep this food diary for the rest of your life. That’s not realistic. I recommend to my clients that they keep a diary for the first few weeks they are flipping. Then we review it together, and I am able to give recommendations and suggestions that lead them to make healthier, “smart” calorie choices. Making better choices is a process. It’s not something that happens overnight. As long as you are losing weight and feel that the diary is a positive force in your weight-loss program, then continue to keep it. If it starts to get tedious, then stop. Please understand, tedious or not, if you stop keeping the diary and your weight begins to creep up, then by all means start using it once again. Remember, a food diary is a positive tool to help you achieve your weight-loss goals.

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