Come Clean About Your Diet

So, your diet isn’t working? It may be time to come clean about what you are actually doing versus what you think you are doing!

So, your diet isn’t working? It may be time to come clean about what you are actually doing versus what you think you are doing!

Keeping a very accurate food and exercise diary - every snack, little nibble, broken cracker, stolen one or five French fries from a friend’s plate, bread and dips with the dinner, cheese and crackers (or just the cheese when you walk in the door after work) the extra one or two glasses of wine, each time you cut down a walk by 5 minutes, skip the gym, or took the car when could have walked; they all add up.

There are many diets promoting weight loss – and most promise fast results. Sadly, research shows that sooner or later (usually sooner) the weight comes back. Keeping a food diary (or food journal) and writing down absolutely everything, each bite and the serving size (one level teaspoon or one heaped), is a major step in the right direction. Writing food down can lead to better behaviour and to resisting temptation more often.

One study reported that people who wrote down what they ate realised they underestimated the daily intake by about 4.2MJ (1000 kcal). Other reports suggested we generally underestimate what we eat by 20-50% - with fat and sugar inspiring the major memory lapses! Another study showed that the more accurate and diligent diaries kept by overweight people resulted in greater weight loss. Keeping food diaries over special occasions – birthdays, Easter, Christmas, New Year, holidays and weddings- kept eating on track for weight loss. Those who did not keep diaries showed a 500% increase in weight gain during these times!

Key steps:

Fill in the diary after every meal, every day – don’t wait until the weekend, as snacks and nibbles or even complete meals will be forgotten! Eating amnesia will strike!

Be honest - brutally honest. The only person to benefit is you. An honest food diary makes the advice and support provided by a dietitian or registered nutritionist more specific and targets those difficult times more quickly.

Record serving sizes – was that muffin one or three servings? Giant biscuits are often four or more servings. Exactly how many rice crackers did you eat? Eight, 10, the row, the packet?

Detail the times you eat – missing meals, or going for a long time without food can trigger hunger, oversized snacking and binging.

Specify alcohol clearly – the size of the glass, number of glasses or bottles. No cheating.

Buy a set of measuring cups and spoons (kitchen and homeware stores stock these items). Measuring common foods that you eat will help you to see exactly how much is ½ cup of ice cream, 1 cup breakfast cereal, one teaspoon of oil, 100mls of wine or 1 tablespoon of dressing. You only need to do this for a few days. Many people overestimate serving sizes.

Using the food diary:

Review the whole day’s eating pattern and food choices – look at meal timing, serving sizes and when you did well.

Review the whole week – examine the overall pattern, number of meals missed, which meals and days of the week that may regularly be a problem (meetings, schedules, dinners). For many people this may be the weekend or Friday nights.

Keep a food diary when travelling or away from home.

Fill out a food diary during times of stress (exams, study)

Colour your diary - At the end of the week go through the diary with a range of coloured highlighting pens. Green for vegetables, yellow for milk and dairy (soy), pink for protein (meats, eggs, fish, chicken, baked beans), blue for fruit, and orange for bread and cereals. Examine the rainbow of colours that is your diet and see where improvements can be made. The non-highlighted foods will be the treats foods, high fat items and beverages.

Take food diaries to your nutrition appointments, highlight areas for improvement, as this assist you to get more benefit out of the appointment. Only a very small amount of effort is required to fill in a food diary. What have you to lose except perhaps a few kilos!

© Jeni Pearce 2006

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