Monthly Health Message:

Write It Down: One Small Step to Weight Loss

December 2008

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Losing weight is always a challenge. Crash diets often reduce a person's metabolism, could cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and can lead to serious health problems. Much of the weight lost on a restricted calorie "quick weight loss" or "fad" diet is water and muscle tissue, not fat. When a person goes back to their normal intake patterns, they end up gaining most of the weight back. Losing weight slowly and keeping it off, along with staying healthy, is a challenge. In addition to weight loss, keeping your self-confidence and a positive attitude is important.

A recent article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reviewed a research study that compared those who kept a food diary as part of their weight loss plan as compared to those who did not keep any food records. They found that those who wrote down everything they ate and drank daily doubled their weight loss compared to those who did not maintain the diary. The participants attended 20 group sessions that encouraged them to lower their caloric intake.

Specifically, participants in this study were encouraged to: (1) take part in daily moderate to intense physical exercise for half an hour a day, (2) modify their diet according to the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) guidelines, and (3) keep a daily log of their caloric intake. After six months, 72% of participants who attended all 20 group sessions and spent an average of just under two hours of moderate to intense exercise weekly, achieved an average weight loss of 13 lbs in 5 months.

When people measure or monitor their behavior, they are often inspired to do better. Keeping records of food intake allows someone to reflect on their daily habits and to make better food and beverage choices. It also makes a person more aware of their habits and allows change in behavior.
Try the www.MyFoodDiary.com website. Here you will find the tools you need to lose weight the healthy way. The idea is to create a long-term solution to weight loss with a permanent change to your lifestyle. The good news is that it's easier than you might think. My Food Diary gives you the tools you need to make good, healthy decisions about food and exercise (including an online food diary, an exercise log, powerful charts and reports, a body log, and a discussion forum).

The Online Food Diary is easy to use. Simply search the food database of over 50,000 items and add your items to the food diary. The information that you have entered will give you suggestions about how to improve your diet or how to stay within your calorie goals. The system can track calories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars, fiber, sodium, cholesterol, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and water.

The Exercise Log allows one to keep track of the calories burned through physical activity. Select from a list of over 600 activities or enter the information from your exercise equipment or heart rate monitor.

The Body Log is used to track your weight, waist, body fat percentage, hips, chest, bicep, thigh and calf. A summary table calculates exactly how many pounds and inches you have lost.

The true power of this system is in the Charts and Reports. Each report or chart is customized to the individual and a person can view their progress over time, receive personal tips, and even see what they would weigh in 3 months if every day were like today.

Also included in the My Food Diary Web site is a Discussion Forum which provides the support and companionship needed to help you reach your goals. Through this helpful feature, you can learn from others, share your tips, offer encouragement, and make friends.


  1. Rutgers
  2. Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  3. School of Environmental and Biological Sciences