Behavioral scientists say the mere act of recording a behavior often leads to a change in that behavior. In other words, make a note of what you normally eat before cutting back on calories.
Rose Stein, a secretary and mother of three teenagers, had this experience. “My doctor told me to keep track of everything I ate for two weeks, then bring the list to her so we could work out a diet.
“I thought I was pretty careful about what I was eating — I made a special effort every day to eat just a simple salad for lunch in the company cafeteria.”
Writing everything down gave Rose a new self-awareness.
During her first week of record-keeping, she realized that the two or three doughnut holes she thought she ate were actually eight or nine; that her lunchtime salad was really lettuce and tomatoes drenched in creamy salad dressing; that her “occasional” midafternoon candy bar was actually a daily dose; and that after a big dinner with her family, she nibbled on leftovers while clearing up.
“I was really surprised,” Rose recalls. “Up to then, I thought I was watching my diet. But when I wrote it down in black and white, there was no escaping it — I was eating way too much.”
By the second week, even before she went back to her doctor, Rose began to alter her diet. She started her day with a piece of fruit and a small bowl of cereal and quit eating doughnuts at the office. She tried a low-calorie dressing on her lunchtime salad (and liked it). And when she saw her doctor again, she suggested that maybe a more substantial lunch, like a sandwich, might cut back on her urge to snack in the afternoon.
Try it. Record what you eat for two weeks. Include the time you eat, the foods you eat and the amount you eat. Be honest. If you’re not, you’re only deceiving yourself. Make notes every time you have something to eat. You may forget if you wait till the end of the day. At this time, don’t make an effort to alter your eating habits — but don’t stop yourself if the urge to do so strikes.