Keeping a Food Diary

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: I’ve tried all kinds of diets, from protein diets to the Beverly Hills Diet to the apple cider vinegar diet to the cabbage soup diet, and nothing seems to keep weight off over the long haul. I must confess that I am at a point in my life in which I feel the hopelessness and helplessness that an alcoholic or drug addict must feel. Is there anything I can do?

I will not mislead you by suggesting another diet. The bottom line is very simple—there is a direct correlation between intake and weight gain or weight loss. Whether or not excess calories ingested will end up as fat is mitigated by exercise. But the heavier a person gets, the less that person is able to exercise. The weight impacts the ability to move about and affects joints, etc.

You are right when you compare the inability of the compulsive eater to curb his or her appetite to the hopelessness and helplessness experienced by the alcoholic and the drug addict. And if not addressed, the effect results in similar destructive to body and to the quality of life.

In previous articles in this column, I have made suggestions, such as using a smaller plate, eating slowly, and not eating late at night. If you use a smaller plate, settle for one serving, and move away from the table when finished. Lingering at the table if food is present will likely result in unintended grazing. If you are a fast eater, slow down, and don’t worry if someone else gets your seconds. You will do just fine without the second helping. If you have the habit of eating late, take steps to alter that habit. At times, it may feel hopeless, but you are not as helpless as you may tell yourself and others.

A recent study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides another suggestion to your seemingly hopeless situation—keep a journal of everything you eat—everything from that single cracker to that extra pat of butter. Yes, you are reading this correctly; keep a journal of everything you eat.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center tracked the dieting habits of 123 overweight or obese post-menopausal women for one year. At the end of the year, they lost an average of 19 pounds, or approximately 11% of their starting weights. These women kept diaries of everything they ate for one year. Ann McTierman, the lead researcher, stated, “The more accountable you are the better you are going to do at weight loss.”

Give this a try. You will be surprised at the amount of snacking going on. Also, it has been found that smokers who kept track of the cigarettes smoked, smoked less. It seems that the awareness of the actual number of cigarettes smoked caused people to decide that they could wait awhile before having another. A diary may have a very similar effect.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]