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What’s in a Meal Tracker?

Everyone is always looking for that magic bullet when it comes to weight loss. People usually suspect that it is some combination of foods, a certain exercise regimen, or a particular supplement that will guarantee lasting weight loss. However, decades of research have proven that there is one magic bullet that is more powerful than all the rest – that’s the meal tracker. That’s right – no matter what diet program is followed or exercise routine is practiced, people who lose the most weight and keep it off for the longest period of time are always those who use a meal tracker.

Meal trackers come in many different shapes and sizes, so to speak. There are many apps out there that allow people to log the foods they eat, some even with barcode scanners so that no manual entry is necessary. In the future, our phone’s camera will likely serve as a meal tracker; we will take a picture of our meal and the nutrient content will be analyzed and logged automatically. At Structure House, we actually use a paper-and-pencil meal tracker, as studies have shown that there is something powerful about handwriting our meal plans and recording what we have eaten. Researchers believe that there is a neural connection that occurs between the hand and the mind when this method is used.

Whatever the method of meal tracker one chooses to use, it is most powerful when one plans meals ahead of time, records them in the tracker, and then goes back to the meal tracker after eating to make any changes that may have occurred between the plan and the execution. Using the meal tracker in this way encourages mindfulness about one’s choices and keeps one accountable to the decisions made in terms of health. Additionally, the meal tracker can help protect against impulsive eating decisions that one might make if there were no record of behavior.

In short, the surest way to ensure lasting weight loss is to employ a meal tracker. Structure House values this tool so much that we devote an entire class to meal tracking on our schedule every single week.

About Katie Rickel, PhD

Dr. Katie Rickel graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Florida. She completed an APA-accredited clinical internship in health psychology at Duke University Medical Center, with advanced training in behavioral and bariatric obesity treatment as well as the psychological management of chronic pain and illness. Dr. Rickel also has expertise in treating anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias. Her research has been presented at various professional conferences and published in scientific journals. Dr. Rickel has also appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show” and has been quoted in several popular media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Health magazine, Yahoo! Health, Women’s Health magazine, Weight Watchers magazine, and abcnews.com.

View all posts by Katie Rickel, PhD