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Be a diet detective How a FOOD DIARY could uncover the truth

Weight loss, IBS triggers, eating disorders… They’re all complex issues. But keep a basic food diary and you can pinpoint problems – and find solutions, says Melanie Leyshon

MUSTN’T HAVE CHIPS TWICE A DAY. A banal diary entry by a young schoolgirl in 1974. That schoolgirl was me.

Those words reveal an unhealthy preoccupation with chips at the time – available with school dinners and a particularly good fish and chip shop on my way home. I never told my mother about these extras. I can only put my healthy childhood weight down to enthusiastic outdoor activity, strict mealtimes and snacking rarely (apart from those daily chips).

It doesn’t add up

It’s incredibly easy to forget or omit the food and drink extras that creep into our day. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reveals we could be miscalculating our calorie intake by the equivalent of a Big Mac and fries every day day. Its recent survey showed that men and younger people, in particular, mentally downsize their intake the most. The data suggests men are chomping through 3,119 calories daily (not the 2,065 they claim), and women 2,393, rather than the 1,570 they reckon. Indeed, if our estimates were true, we’d be eating less than we did in the 1970s – which seems unlikely considering the UK is officially the fat man of Europe, with 62% overweight and 27% classified obese.

Before we can change, we need to address our actual intakes, which is where keeping a food diary comes in. Experts agree this is one of the best ways to get a true picture – as long as we’re honest. If a diary is filled in properly, dietitians and nutritionists find this the most effective way to assess by how much and why we’re overeating. Evidence shows people who keep a food diary lose twice as much weight as those who don’t, according to a study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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About Healthy Food Guide

Is someone or something getting in the way of your weight loss? Our experts help you take back control and get the results you want. We help you beat the diet saboteurs, keep a food diary for better health and offer inspiration from a reader (and her doctor) who put her type 2 diabetes into remission. We've got loads of delicious, leaner recipes, including Gordon Ramsay specials, a tailor-made diet plan, plus ways to fight your fitness phobias!