Eat a Pop-Tart? Write it down. Eat an orange? Write it down. If you're trying to lose weight, the simple act of keeping a food diary can double the number of pounds you shed, according to a new study that tracked the weight-loss efforts of 1,700 obese or overweight adults.

In the study, which will be published in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, participants were counseled to adopt a variety of strategies: to exercise moderately for 30 minutes a day, follow the so-called DASH diet (rich in fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy) and keep a food diary. They also attended weekly support group sessions. All participants, in addition to being overweight, were on medications to lower their blood pressure and/or cholesterol. And 44% of the participants were African American, a group that has been under-represented in weight-loss studies of this type.

After six months, the average weight loss was about 13 pounds. "The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost," said lead author Jack Hollis of Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., in a news release about the study. Those who kept a food diary every day lost twice the amount of weight as those who didn't keep one.

Thirteen pounds isn't a huge number, but it's par for the course in weight-loss studies that are deemed successful -- and losing that amount of weight is enough to help improve cholesterol, lower blood pressure and lower the risk of developing diabetes, the authors note in their research paper.

Why does writing stuff down help? The authors aren't clear on that, but they suspect it helps one reflect on what's going down one's gullet. Also helpful for pound-shedding: The group sessions. And physical exercise.

A recent study by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research found that dieters who kept track of what they ate in a food journal lost twice as much weight compared those who didn't.

The results of this study point to food diaries as an inexpensive and straightforward method for weight-loss.

Sites like, and offer free online services, where you can track what you eat and how many calories it costs you, on-line. Both sites allow dieters to monitor both their food intake and exercise and set personal goals. offers a similar service, for a small monthly fee.

Today, with high hopes, our "World News" staff gave our very own food diary a try:

Charlie (Anchor):

Dry bagel & water

Salad: ham, lettuce, pineapple, egg, peas, raisins, Asian noodles, fat-free dressing

Diet Snapple

Bagel with cream cheese & coffee

Salad: lettuce, cole slaw, chicken salad, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, feta cheese

Dr. Pepper

Brownie & coffee

LEE (Writer):

Breakfast sandwich: scrambled egg whites, turkey, lowfat cheese, jalapenos on soy pita

Iced tea

8 pretzel nuggets

Coke Zero

Vegetarian Jambalaya, orange pepper slices, edamame


STU (Senior Producer):

Bagel with lite cream cheese

Orange juice and coffee

Chicken salad sandwich on rye with lettuce and tomato

Fat free raspberry yogurt

Low fat chocolate milk

KATE (Foreign Editor):

1 lowfat blueberry yogurt

18 Nilla wafers

Burrata cheese, tomatoes with olive oil and pepper

Swiss chard w/olive oil and pine nuts

1 Lemonade

Bowl of blueberries and raspberries with whipped cream

1 Blondie

1 bottle spring water

TOM J. (Domestic Editor):

2 cups coffee

Honeynut Cheerios

Ham, cheese, salami hero with lettuce, tomato, oil and vinegar


Granola bar