Hint: It has a lot to do with words and numbers.

Numbers don't lie. We've all heard that old saying. Well, the fact is they may not exactly lie but they can sure be used in a confusing way so you always want to pay close attention when someone starts pointing to the figures. But when it comes to losing weight and managing weight loss over time, you can relax. The numbers are right on the money. And words can help you lose weight, too. Here's how:

It begins with a reality check

If you're eating what you think is a healthy diet and you're also exercising consistently you should be losing weight, right? Maybe. What might be missing in that formula is making sure you're really doing what you think you're doing. And the best way to find out is to start keeping a food and exercise journal.

Successful weight control, appropriately enough with our numeric theme, is a numbers game. In order to lose weight you have to burn off more calories than you consume. The math is simple. The problem is that many of us take in more calories than we realize and, conversely, burn off fewer calories than we realize. That's why it's so important to keep track. The average participant in the National Weight Control Registry (the largest study of successful weight losers ever conducted) lost 65 pounds and kept if off for over five years. Many of those participants achieved success through self-monitoring, which relies on food and exercise journals along with regular weight checks.FoodJournaling

Getting started is easy

Just pick up a journal (you could also send yourself emails or text messages) and begin recording your daily food intake, including amounts and calories, as well as the type and duration of your exercise. There are a wide variety of apps and other electronic tools to help you. Here are a few you might want to check out:

If an old school paper journal is more your style, you can pick one up in a book store or find a specialized Personal Food and Fitness Journal on Amazon, like the one pictured here.

Now that you have the means to track your information, the next step is to determine the appropriate calorie level to achieve your weight loss goals. A registered dietitian can help with this or you can go to one of the gender specific sites below. Just click on either Women or Men. The personalized calculator on these sites helps you get a clear picture of your exercise and calorie needs. There's also a breakdown of the amounts (in grams) of nutrients you need, including carbs, protein and fiber. Keep in mind that any discussion of caloric intake is based on averages and you may need more or fewer calories and/or exercise to lose and maintain weight.

You'll want to check out the site below, too. It offers some solid evidence of the benefit of recording your food intake based on an extensive study by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. This study is also significant because a large percentage of the participants are African Americans who generally have a higher risk for conditions aggravated by being overweight:

Here's what Time Magazine had to say on the subject

The informative excerpt below is taken from an online Time article that was, in turn, reporting on a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You can click on the link that follows the excerpt for the full story.

A new yearlong study of weight loss in overweight or obese women identified three key strategies for taking off unwanted pounds. The No.1 tip for success? Writing down everything you eat or drink in a food journal. Women who kept food journals consistently lost about 6 lbs. more than those who did not, likely because they held themselves responsible for everything they ate, the authors said. Food journaling isn't easy or convenient, but done consistently, it can help steer dieters to more healthful choices since it allows people not only to keep track of calories, but also to gauge the overall quality of their diet. The authors advise dieters to write down absolutely everything in their food journals, including condiments, toppings and sauces, and always to keep track of portions. Women in the study were given printed booklets to use as their food journals, but people can use anything they like, from low-tech notebook and pen to ready-made apps for iPhone or tablet.

For anyone thinking of starting a food journal, the authors have some helpful tips:

  • Be honest: record everything you eat.
  • Be accurate: measure portions, read labels.
  • Be complete: include details such as how the food was prepared, and the addition of any toppings or condiments.
  • Be consistent: always carry your food diary with you or use a diet-tracking application on your smartphone.

Full story: Time Article

Be sure to check out these helpful websites which provide access to weight loss tools and resources, including calorie counters

And for some personal help close to home … Dietcise!

At Riverside Wellness and Fitness Center, our registered dietitians and certified group exercise instructors don't just tell you how to lose weight. We show you how in our 8-week weight loss program, Dietcise! New classes start Tuesday, January 15, 2013, at 10 am and 6 pm. For more information, contact Holly Hicks, R.D., Wellness Programming Manager, at (757) 875-7533 or