I'm officially to my maintenance weight and 14% body fat. Good for me, except there is still a layer of stubborn belly fat that I'd like to lose. Call it a tax for many years of being overweight. So I'd like to lose about 5 more pounds. For a couple of months, I've been stuck at the same weight even though I've been exercising and eating well. But over the past two weeks I've been able to get the scale to budget again. How?
Keep a food journal
Research finds that keeping a food journal can dramatically help with losing weight.
Several studies have shown that people who keep food journals are more likely to be successful in losing weight and keeping it off. In fact, a researcher from one recent study says that people keeping a food diary six days a week lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less. For the six-month study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, dieters kept food diaries, attended weekly group support meetings, and were encouraged to eat a healthy diet and be active.
How does writing down what you eat and drink in a food journal work this kind of magic?
For one thing, keeping a food diary instantly increases your awareness of what, how much, and why you are eating. This helps you cut down on mindless munching, says Megrette Fletcher, MEd, RD, executive director of The Center for Mindful Eating.
Food diaries also help people identify areas where they can make changes that will help them lose weight, says Victoria Catenacci, MD, assistant professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. For example, she says, "people don’t realize how many calories they are obtaining from caloric beverages and snacks, and these can be easy interventions … that can help reduce calories."
How to do it
I'm not going to lie, food journaling is a bit of a pain. The hardest method would be to write everything down and then use some sort of calorie book to look up every food, calculate quantities and total calories. I happen to use MyFitnessPal, and find it pretty easy to use for a tedious task (and it's free!). For any given day, it probably takes me about 10 minutes total to log my food. The nice thing is, all I have to do is type in what I ate (like peanut butter), and a huge list of choices is presented - it has a really large food database. So if I typed in "Kirkland Peanut Butter" it would limit it to the few kinds of peanut butter Costco sells. I do have to guess sometimes at quantities, but I figure as long as I'm within 10 or 20% I'm good. And it keeps track of ALL of the nutrition information, including carbs, protein and fat (fiber, sodium, etc.). So I use it as a tool to not just track calories, but my macro-nutrient goals as well. There are others you can search for on the Internet, Apple or Android app stores.
Like the study showed, I found that since I knew I was going to write down everything, the "mindless munching" was kept to a minimum and I was able to stick to my goals. I don't do it every day, but when I have a weight loss goal, I try to do it at least once or twice a week to remind myself the types and quantities of foods I should be eating.