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Want a proven way to lose weight? Start keeping a food diary. A recent study at the Kaiser Permanent Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, followed close to 1,700 overweight and obese adults who were encouraged to eat a healthy diet, be physically active and keep a food diary. After six months, people who wrote down everything they ate and drank at least six days a week lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day or less every week.
“Food diaries make you more aware of what you’re eating and, in so doing, can change your eating behaviors,” says Katherine Tallmadge, R.D., spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of the book Diet Simple. “You’ll be less likely to nibble on food as you cook, for example, if you have to account for each little bite. At the end of each week of keeping a food diary, you can look back and analyze what is working for you and what is not. By finding patterns in your eating habits, you may be able to identify small changes that you can make to cut calories and lose weight.”
The key to long-term weight loss, says Tallmadge, is cutting just enough calories per day so that you lose weight without lowering your resting metabolic rate (RMR), the number of calories needed to sustain basic functions such as maintaining body temperature, heart beat and breathing. Your RMR accounts for two-thirds of the calories you burn every day; the other third is burned up by physical activity, including everything from brushing your teeth to a vigorous workout. For most women, cutting 250 calories per day is enough to lose weight without lowering your RMR. Tallmadge suggests using this formula to calculate your own calorie needs:
1. Begin with a base of 655 calories
2. Multiply your weight in pounds X 4.3 __________
3. Multiply your height in inches X 4.7 __________
4. Add together the totals from #1, #2, and #3 ___________
5. Multiply your age X 4.7 ___________
6. Subtract result of #5 from total of #4 ___________ (your normal RMR)
7. Multiply #6 by 1.3 ____________
8. Subtract 250 calories from the number in step 7 to get the approximate daily calories you can consume and still lose weight without lowering your RMR
Download our portable food tracker so you can record your food intake wherever you go.
A few rules to get you started:
· Write down everything that you eat or drink within 15 minutes of consumption.
· Be completely honest, including not only what you consume but how much.
· Measure your food, if necessary.
· Be as exact as possible when writing down calories. If the food doesn’t have a nutrition label on it (fruits, vegetables, meats), look up calorie counts and other nutritional data on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Web site.
· Personalize the “comment” column and note what you were doing each time you ate. You can start to identify any unhealthy triggers or habits you may want to change, like eating unhealthy foods when you’re bored or stressed.