Want to lose weight? Keep a journal of what you eat

Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:10am EDT
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Motivation and keeping a journal of what you eat are key components for shedding excess weight, according to new research.

Scientists at the University of Kentucky and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that the type of motivation for dieting and techniques to boost it when it dips could mean the difference between success and failure.

"Motivation has an impact on weight loss but the impact is really mediated by adherence to self-monitoring," said Kelly H. Webber, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky. "If you are going to self-monitor your diet and exercise every day you are going to lose more weight.

Webber, who along with her colleagues reported the findings in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, said the best way to self-monitor is to keep a journal of everything you eat and how much you exercise.

The researchers studied two types of motivation, autonomous and controlled, during a 16-week weight-loss program involving 66 overweight women. Autonomous motivation is driven by personal reasons, while controlled motivation is based more on pressure from others and feelings of guilt.

They found that dieters who were self motivated and who kept a journal tended to be more successful.

"People who actually write down everything they eat and drink during the weight loss program are going to do better. And that is probably why commercial programs like Weight Watchers are very successful," said Webber.

All of the dieters were given questionnaires and asked to describe their motivation. Their weight loss and motivation were measured every four weeks during the program. They also measured their own progress with a online self-monitoring program.   Continued...

<p>A man rests at lunchtime at an indoor cafe in Sydney September 6, 2005. REUTERS/Will Burgess</p>