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As a child, you may have kept a diary to record your daily activities, your hopes, and your fears. If you wrote in the diary each day, it might have seemed as if the diary itself had become one of your best friends. As you grew older, the diary might have become a record of your job search, love life, or wedding plans. Psychologists, in fact, tell us that writing down your goals can be the first step to achieving them. It has been demonstrated that individuals who kept a written record of their hunt for employment were more likely to find the job they wanted than those who did not.

It's not surprising, then, that some dieticians recommend keeping a food diary or journal if you're hoping to lose weight. If you're not accustomed to writing, the idea can seem a bit daunting at first. After all, if you don't seem to have the time to record all of your baby's "firsts"—the first words, the first steps, the first day of reciting the alphabet—how can you be expected to find the time to write down everything that passes through your lips? It's a valid question; however, if you stop to consider just how much time you spend eating, surely you can find the time to write down what you eat.

The key to keeping a food diary is motivation. You have to have a desire to record your food choices. One good way to do this is to place a picture of your heaviest self onto the cover of a notebook. Also, make sure that you keep the notebook in full view, either on your bedside table or on the kitchen table. This could provide you with just the incentive you need to make note of what you're eating. Another motivating factor could be to log your daily weight at the beginning of each diary entry. That way, you can see if your dietary choices are having an effect on your weight. If you find that you are shedding pounds, you can affix a gold star next to your entry. The gold star can provide the psychological boost necessary to continue to lose weight.

Of course, the next question you'll face is: What exactly should I write down for each entry? To begin with, just include a running list of foods, along with portion sizes. You might be surprised to find out not only what you're eating, but also how large the portions are. Next, categorize each food entry. Is it a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, or fat? Such information could be vitally important in determining where your excess pounds are coming from.

You can also use your journal for meal planning. If you think about what you should eat ahead of time, you'll be less likely to indulge in the wrong foods. Such planning can make you feel more organized and more in control—two important elements for losing weight.

If you indulge in comfort food every once in a while, don't panic. Eating high-calorie foods occasionally can help prevent a feeling of deprivation which can lead to overeating. The key is to eat "bad foods" in moderation. It is also important that you write down everything you eat, including fatty foods. Trying to hide your food choices by not writing them down is counter-productive and could lead to feelings of guilt.

Yet another helpful idea is to write down your goal weight each day. This can be an important element of psychological warfare. Knowing what your goal is—and mapping out a way to get there—can improve your chances of achieving critical milestones.

Also, when possible, try to make your diary experience fun. Do your writing on the patio, by the pool, or in your bathtub. Set the mood by playing some of your favorite music in the background. Decorate your diary by using colored pens or colorful stickers. Whatever you can do to make your diary-keeping chores more interesting will certainly be helpful.

Be aware of the fact that it could take you a while to get into the diary-keeping habit. But, once you see those pounds melt away, you'll find it's well worth the investment of time and energy

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