This super simple trick could be the key to weight loss

A reasoned mind would have to agree that the idea of forcing yourself to be accountable by keeping a journal of your bad habits, is a pretty good one.

Photo: Bethany Newman

Most of the pillory lobbed at dietary self-tracking is roused by how time-consuming it is. Successfully adhering to a diet in the midst of our frenetic work schedules is hard enough without amputating hours to log exactly how weak-willed we are.

Time constraints aside, a reasoned mind would have to agree that the idea of forcing yourself to be accountable by keeping a journal of your bad habits, is a pretty good one.


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But what if it could still be effective without taking up such a significant portion of our day?

Just 15 minutes

Jean Harvey is a professor in the department of nutrition and food services at The University of Vermont In Burlington, that recently penned a study that rejects the notion of a fundamentally time draining diet diary. She says with a little practice, it can take as little as “15 minutes a day.”

The study focused on individuals enrolled in low-calories diet regiments, required to exercise at least 200 minutes a week. Over the course of six months, each subject was required to log what they ate every day through a web-based program.

While Harvey did note that the longer participants spent tracking what they ate, the more successful they were, twice a day (15 minutes max) still proved to be much more effective than putting your food indulgences on the pay-no-mind list.

The most successful of the group, who initially spent a little over 23 minutes a day taking note of what they ate, lost 10% of their body fat and widdled their journaling down to a brisk 15 minutes by the time the study was concluded.

In defense of dietary tracking

Keeping track of what and how you eat is a great way to ensure you adhere to whatever diet you’ve deemed fit. Even if you’re not adhering to a strict diet and just trying to maintain a sense of balance, you’ll need a way to make efficient modifications.

This can be done by identifying patterns, accommodating for larger meals by being reminded to have fewer calories later or earlier. Most importantly, it enacts the wonderful tool of self-loathing.

You’ll be much less likely to eat a 195 calorie donut if at some point you’ll have to write “it’s 11 pm, and I just ate a 195 calorie donut.”

“Research shows that food diaries are excellent tools for people trying to lose weight. It can also be used to make sure you are eating a healthy diet and getting all of the nutrients your body needs.” – Dairy Council of California,

Reduce calories, control hunger by devoting just 15 minutes to taking notes.


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CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.