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Writing down every morsel doubles weight loss
Dieters who kept daily food diaries were more successful, new study says

By Steve Mitchell
MSNBC contributor
updated 8:23 a.m. ET July 8, 2008

In the struggle to lose weight, picking up a pen might be just as useful as putting down the fork.

That’s according to a new study that found that people who kept daily food diaries lost twice as much weight or more as those who didn’t keep a tally of their meals.

Nearly 1,700 Kaiser Permanente study participants agreed to exercise and adopt a healthy diet, but those who took the extra step of keeping track of what they consumed got something of a booster charge in their weight loss.

“There’s a myth in this country now that weight loss is almost impossible and very few can lose weight,” said Victor Stevens, a researcher at Kaiser’s Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., and co-author of the study, which appears in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“But we showed that with a simple, straightforward approach, nearly 70 percent of participants were able to lose enough weight to make significant improvements in their health.”

Overall, two-thirds of the study subjects lost nine pounds or more during the six-month study. But those who kept a food diary every day of the week dropped up to 20 pounds, more than twice as much as those who didn't record their every bite.

That held true for Julie Satterwhite, 46, a yo-yo dieter in Portland, Ore., who previously struggled to lose weight. She credits the food diary with helping her shed 30 pounds during the study and in turn being able to reduce the dosage of her high-cholesterol medication by half.

After the study ended, she continued to lose weight over an additional eight months by using the food diary on her own. All told, she lost 55 pounds, dropping from 205 pounds to her target goal of 150.

The weight loss also was good for her joints. Satterwhite has an arthritic knee, so the reduced weight on it felt like “a huge improvement,” she said.

Dieters don't want to write it down
“It had a very big impact,” Satterwhite said of the diary. “If I was walking through the kitchen and wanted to grab a cookie or a brownie, I would think twice because I knew I had to write it down.”

That was a common experience among those who kept diaries, noted Stevens. “Study participants said, ‘I thought about eating a second helping of chocolate cake but I didn’t because I didn’t want to see it in my food diary,” he said.

The food diaries helped people see where extra calories were coming from, and also to recognize the hidden calories in familiar foods.

“For example, a bagel,” Satterwhite said. “They’re much higher in calories than you think they are.”

Karen Donato, the coordinator for overweight and obesity applications at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in Bethesda, Md., thinks one of the big effects of the diary is that it can help people realize when they’re just eating out of boredom or stress.

Original article

Posted: 2008-07-11 05:00:32

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