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Want to lose more weight? Log a food journal

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More than two in three U.S. adults are considered overweight or obese.

And for many, trying to shed excess pounds, only to fall short of a goal, can be discouraging.

Now, a new study shows an effective way to lose weight can be as simple as writing down what you eat.

The study looked at 142 people who were overweight or obese.

Participants were enrolled in an online weight-loss program for a six-month period where they logged meals and held online group sessions about weight-loss strategies.

Researchers found it took just 15 minutes each day to log meals, and those who did so more frequently saw the most weight loss.

“The people who logged, and consistently logged, lost more weight than those who didn’t,” said Dr. Leslie Heinberg, director of Enterprise Weight Management at Cleveland Clinic, who did not take part in the study. “The people who had the most weight-loss success -- losing 10 percent or more of their body weight -- were the ones most likely to log, log multiple times a day, and keep it up throughout the entire six months.” 

Heinberg said experts have known for years that keeping a food journal is an effective tool for those looking to lose, or even just maintain their weight.

When it comes to making a lifestyle change, she admits it can be hard to start if you don’t have any data, but she said a food diary can act as a "GPS" to help guide people to where they need to be.

Heinberg said the key to success is keeping up with logging over time. 

“This is something to really put into your day and make it part of your routine,” she said. “You don’t question whether you want to brush your teeth every day because it’s part of your routine. Likewise, keeping a food diary needs to be something that you just do as part of your routine, because you know it’s going to lead to your ultimate goal.” 

Heinberg points out most of us spend more than 15 minutes a day on social media and email -- and with today’s technology, there are a multitude of apps that make it fairly easy to help us reach our health goals.

“I think this study is so important because it shows, without a really big investment in time, you’re much more likely to reach your weight management goals than if you’re not logging,” she said. “Getting this information on what is working for you, what your high-risk situations are, what the good days versus the bad days are -- it is all data that’s going to help you figure out the best route to your ultimate goal.”

Complete results of the study can be found in Obesity.