Q_ Will keeping a food journal really help me in my efforts to lose weight?

A: This is such a common question because people tend to get lazy with writing down everything they eat. I have to say though, without a doubt, the answer is yes.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that those who kept food records six days a week -- jotting down everything they ate and drank on those days -- lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less.

When keeping a food diary, you should aim to write down everything that you eat, whether it's a whole meal or a bite of a cookie. Accountability and honesty are the most important steps to losing weight and keeping it off. Be honest to yourself about what you eat because every bit counts. You may start to realize that handful of M & M's you pick up every time you pass by your co-workers desk. A lot of the eating we do is subconscious but at the end of the day it all adds up. Only an extra 100 calories every day can lead to a 10 pound weight gain at the end of the year.

Additionally, when you review a diary, you can often point out problematic cues, triggers and habits that may be contributing to weight gain. For example, some people may notice they are skipping meals or eating most of their calories at night. Although keeping a food journal can be hard and time consuming I definitely recommend it. You become more aware of what you eat and can catch yourself the next time around.

To start keeping a food journal of your own, follow these tips:

• Write throughout the day. Don't wait until the end of the day to record what you ate and drank because you will be more likely to forget certain foods by then. • Focus on portion sizes. Use measuring cups and/or food scales at home to become more wary of correct portion sizes, especially when dining out. • Use whatever type of food diary works for you. It doesn't matter whether you use an actual journal, email, or your blackberry. • Don't skip your indulgent days. Record even those days when you overeat because it holds you accountable for the good days as well as the bad! • Eat at home. By preparing your own meals you'll have more control over what you consume and what ingredients you put in to make it. You'll also save yourself a few hundred calories, helping speed up your weight loss.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto