Take a Picture of What You Eat

I recently discovered Time Management Ninja, and love the tips on it. A post from last month was about how taking photos can improve productivity:

Photos capture information that you cannot get via written notes. Taking pictures of an object or a document can provide more insight that simple notes.

The important thing is the ease of capture. Taking a photo is so easy that you’ll actually do it.

I just started keeping a fairly detailed food journal on paper. I have tried to do this on phones before, but they are just way too slow — even though the apps have access to tons of nutritional data, I really didn’t care about that — I just want to know a few things, like what it was, how much I had, and basically how healthy was it. A picture pretty much gives me the first two instantly, then I want to just tap a rating.

And, it’s effective. In 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss [1] cites a study that looked at photo food diaries:

Dr. Lydia Zepeda and David Deal of the University of Wisconsin–Madison enlisted 43 subjects to photograph all of their meals or snacks prior to eating. Unlike food diaries, which require time-consuming entries often written long after eating, the photographs acted as an instantaneous intervention and forced people to consider their choices before the damage was done. In the words of one participant: “I was less likely to have a jumbo bag of M&Ms. It curbed my choices. It didn’t alter them completely, but who wants to take a photo of a jumbo bag of M&Ms?”

The researchers concluded that photographs are more effective than written food diaries. This is saying something, as prior studies had confirmed that subjects who use food diaries lose three times as much weight as those who don’t.

I’ve been working on a way to do this (mostly to scratch my own itch), and will have more to say on that soon.

[1] Ferriss, Timothy (2010-12-14). The 4-Hour Body (p. 60). Crown Archetype. Kindle Edition.