July 8, 2008

To Lose Weight, Just Keep a Diary

By John Sullivan, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Jul. 8--After polishing off a bag of cookies, it's easy to toss the evidence in the trash and plead the fifth under cross-examination by those pesky internal prosecutors.

But what if there was a dramatic piece of irrefutable evidence, say, a signed confession in the form of a food log? Denying the glutenous crime would seem to get more complicated.

To test this theory, researchers at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., and other major medical centers around the country asked nearly 1,700 participants to adhere to a heart-healthy diet and keep a food diary. They were also asked to attend group sessions and exercise at moderate intensity for 30 minutes a day.

Average weight loss was about 13 pounds after six months, the researchers report in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. More than two-thirds of the participants lost at least nine pounds.

"The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost," said lead author and Kaiser researcher Jack Hollis. Those who kept daily consumption records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records, he says.

A food diary can be as informal as sending yourself an e-mail or text message of what you just ate, the study's authors say -- anything that forces us to confront how we eat.

The findings are from one of the largest and longest-running weight-loss maintenance trials ever conducted, funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health.


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