Along with not skipping meals or eating lunch out, women who kept a food diary lost more than those who didn't./USA TODAY
By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY
Dieters take note: Women who keep a food journal, don't skip meals and don't eat out lunch at restaurants very often lose more weight than dieters who don't follow these practices, a new study shows.
Researchers with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center tracked the dieting habits of 123 overweight or obese post-menopausal women who followed a weight-loss program for a year.
At the end, they lost an average of 19 pounds or about 11% of their starting weight. Most followed diets of about 1,200 to 2,000 calories a day. They were advised to keep a food journal of everything they ate.
"The more accountable you are, the better you are going to do at weight loss," says lead researcher Anne McTiernan, director of the Hutchinson Center's Prevention Center.
"A food journal is one of the easiest ways to keep track of what you are eating. If you write it down, it seems more real. If you don't, it's so easy to pretend to yourself that you didn't eat that much," she says.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietitian in New York City, agrees that food diaries promote weight loss. "It doesn't matter where you write it: a computer, a smart phone, a note pad, paper towels or toilet paper. If you write down what you eat, you will eat differently."
Keys to weight loss
Researchers with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that:
Women who consistently kept a food diary lost about six pounds more than those who didn't.
Dieters who skipped meals lost about eight pounds less than women who didn't.
The women who dined out more, lost less. Those who ate lunch out once a week or more lost about five pounds less than those who ate out less frequently. Results were similar for eating dinner out.
There was no difference in the weight loss among those who weighed themselves daily or once a week.
When people are asked to recall what they have eaten, "Many of my patients will say things like, 'I never eat snacks,' or 'I only had chicken for dinner,' " Taub-Dix says.
But if they are honest with themselves, when they keep a journal they notice that they snack more than they realize and there was more on that plate than just chicken, she says.
McTiernan says people who skip meals may be more likely to grab high-calorie snacks and meals.
If you have to eat out a lot, then you have to get comfortable asking that food be prepared so it has fewer calories, she says.
Men could also try these behaviors to lose more weight, she says.
The study appears online in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.