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60-Second Health

Food Diary Helps Cut Pounds

Dieting women who kept a diligent food diary lost more weight than other women in a cohort. Skipping meals and eating out slowed weight loss. Katherine Harmon reports

“Dear diary, for breakfast today I had a strawberry-banana smoothie, I snacked on cherries and almonds, and I ate a chicken-avocado wrap for lunch.”  

I was just working on my food journal for the day. It might not be the most salacious diary, but new research suggests that keeping one of these is an important way to drop pounds—and keep them away. 

Researchers followed 123 overweight or obese postmenopausal women for a year as they attempted to lose weight and keep it off. The women used a low-calorie diet combined with exercise. And the subjects who most diligently tracked their eating in food journals lost the most weight. The findings are in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. [Angela Kong et al., "Self-Monitoring and Eating-Related Behaviors Are Associated with 12-Month Weight Loss in Postmenopausal Overweight-to-Obese Women"]

Skipping meals led to losing less weight on average—possibly because extreme hunger can lead to binging. And eating out for lunch at least once a week also meant less success losing weight. So to lose pounds and keep them off: pack a lunch, don't skip meals and write it down—or use an app to track your eating.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]     

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