Losing Weight on the Go: Keep Food Diary Easier than Ever

A study conducted in 2008 by Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research (KPCHR) discovered that keeping a food diary increases the amount of weight a person can lose. Dr. Jack Hollis, a researched at KPCHR, said concerning the study:

The more food records kept, the more weight they lost. Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories.

Seems pretty simple, right? Without going into too many details in this post, I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. Luckily, I’ve successfully lost (and kept off) about 50 pounds in the past few years. I credit some of that success to keeping a food diary and caloric intake. But let me tell you, it wasn’t always easy. When I started tracking what I ate, it was such a pain to have to look up in a book how many calories were in certain foods, not to mention carry around a notebook and pen everywhere I went. It was well-worth it but certainly not the most convenient activity.

Luckily, there are a lot of websites and apps out there that making tracking food easier than ever (at least I think so). One of the most well-known companies to make this possible is Weight Watchers. However, it is quite pricey to join. But there are a lot of other great resources out there. My favorite? MyFitnessPal.com.

I discovered MyFitnessPal a few years ago, and it has been awesome, not to mention free. The website encourages its users to interact with friends, family, and quite frankly, random strangers on the website. I’ve used it off and on since I discovered it, and found it to really help make me aware of what I’m eating, and I have lost weight. Don’t just take my word on it. Plenty of others testify of how great the website is.

Still, I don’t always have a computer with me, so I was thrilled when MyFitnessPal came out with their mobile app. Not only is it available on the iPhone and Android phones, but the BlackBerry and Windows phones, so just about anyone with a smartphone can use it. The app is super easy to use and you can literally have your food journal anywhere you go. One of my  favorite features on the app is that you can just scan the barcode of any product and it will automatically upload the nutritional information. Even if a barcode isn’t on the food (say you’re eating out), the database has over 1 million foods. Very rarely have I actually had to enter my own information on foods. Goals are totally customizable, and there is also an option to input exercise, which is also nice (because then you get more calories added to your daily goal!) I also think it’s fun to interact with my family and friends on it.

Here are some screen shots. I think it has a pretty clean interface that’s very simple to use:

App can be downloaded for:

The iPhone

Android

Windows

BlackBerry

While the only app I use is from MyFitnessPal, there are some other awesome ones available. After doing some research, the following are the ones that seem to be most popular:

Calorie Tracker by LIVESTRONG.com — available on the iPhone and Android. Users feel like it has the most extensive food database, and that is its main draw, because it seems to lack a very good design. (cost: $2.99)

MyNetDiary — available on the iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. This one seems a little more savvy than CalorieTracker and has more features. However, I would expect it to almost lose the weight for me at the hefty cost of $9.99. Even then, it seems to be pretty popular.

GoMealsHD — available on the iPhone and Android. This one claims to have 175,000 restaurants in the database and 60,000 items. A lot of people like this one because the database is accessible offline, unlike Calorie Tracker, MyNetDiary, and MyFitnessPal. It is also free. The database isn’t quite as good as some of the others, but it seems to get the job done.

So if you want to lose weight, keep a diary. And if you want keeping a diary to be as simple as possible…download one of these apps. It makes life so much easier (and honestly, if it is embarrassing to pull out a food diary in front of people, this makes it a lot more inconspicuous.) Have you found success using a food diary app? Which one is your favorite?