How Keeping Track of Eating Can Help Participants with Weight Loss

feature_20150727Benefits of self-monitoring and advice for coaches in using this strategy to promote weight loss.

By Anna Zilinskas, BS, DPP-GLB Lifestyle Coach, M. Kaye Kramer, DrPH, RN, and Linda Semler, MS, RD, LDN

In the previous post, we introduced several ways that small changes in eating habits can lead to big results in overall health. Today we will discuss how keeping track of eating will help participants reach their healthy weight goals.

Supporting Evidence

The research behind keeping a food diary strongly supports self-monitoring as an important tool for facilitating weight loss. Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research published a study of nearly 1700 participants, in which it was found that individuals who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. In fact, the more food records kept by participants in this study, the more weight they lost. This important message may encourage and motivate participants to “keep track” of what they are eating and drinking.

Three Benefits of Keeping Track

1. Provides a “Snapshot” of Current Food Choices and Eating BehaviorsKeeping track of eating can help participants become aware of their food choices and eating behaviors. By assessing the overall quality of the diet, and their eating behaviors, participants can celebrate their successes and make a plan to change any problem areas.

2. Offers Accountability
Keeping track of eating inherently creates a sense of accountability whether or not a coach or other health professional is reviewing the diary. When reflecting on daily food consumption, individuals develop a sense of personal accountability and increase awareness of their eating behavior. For individuals participating in a program such as Group Lifestyle Balance, a sense of accountability to the lifestyle coach may also develop. The food diary provides the coach an opportunity to praise and encourage the participant during the lifestyle change process. It also guides the coach in providing helpful feedback to the individual.

3. Helps Participants with Discovery and Adjustment
Self-monitoring of eating allows participants to discover the sources of calories they are consuming. Based on this information, they can make adjustments as needed. By analyzing the food diary, participants may discover ways to cut back on calories by eating less fat, smaller portions, or fewer sugar-sweetened beverages. A clear understanding of participants’ eating behaviors will help the Lifestyle Coach offer praise, encouragement, and helpful suggestions to help them reach and maintain their weight and health goals.

Best Advice Lifestyle Coaches Offer for Keeping Track

Be Honest, Accurate, and Complete

Encourage participants to be honest, accurate, and complete so they are aware of their eating behaviors. This allows the participant to clearly see what is going well and to identify areas for improvement.

Keep Track In Real Time
Waiting until the end of the day to complete a food diary provides a lot of room for error, so it is important to encourage participants to “write as you go”. This allows them to be aware of how many calories they have consumed at any given time during the day, assists participants in staying on track with their calorie goals, and helps prevent overeating.

Choose a Method That Works For You
There are many different methods for self-monitoring. Some might prefer to keep track using a mobile app or website, but paper and pen works just as well. It is important to encourage participants to keep track using a method that works best for them!

In conclusion, self-monitoring will help your participants reach and maintain their weight and healthy eating goals. Encourage your participants to use this important tool to help them be successful in the lifestyle change process!

Group Lifestyle Balance Lifestyle coaches are trained to deliver a healthy lifestyle change curriculum and to provide support for their patients/participants as they make these healthy lifestyle changes – including keeping a food diary. Interested in becoming a GLB-DPP coach? Register here.

Have you had experience with keeping track that has been successful? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!