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Tell Your Diary About Every Mouthful, Say Determined Dietitians

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"Bite It & Write It!: A Guide to Keeping Track of What You Eat & Drink" by Stacie Castle, Robyn Cotler, Marni Schefter and Shana Shapiro (Square One Publishers, $7.95)

As bathing-suit season approaches, would you rather the calendar didn't budge? If pounds that won't seem to budge are the reason for that, a quartet of determined nutritionists would like to help destroy that dread once and for all with a common-sense approach that many health providers and researchers have shown to make a real difference.

If you've read a blurb here or there about how keeping track of your food choices in a journal helps with success in weight loss, or had a doctor or nutritionist mention it to you in passing, there will be no avoiding the pack of well-informed dietitians trying to hammer the point home for you in "Bite It & Write It!"

Castle, Cotler, Schefter and Shapiro — successful Long Island, N.Y., practicing registered dieticians — corral all the evidence from their clients and scientific literature to show how vital recording your food, water and exercise choices, as well as hunger levels and feelings, can be to shedding weight and keeping it off.

Over the last 25 years, all studies done on this topic have shown that this simple act reaps success: It helps one lose weight (or more weight and more consistently than those who don't keep journals) and maintain it once it's been lost — a major triumph, since 95 percent of dieters have been shown to regain lost weight.

The dietitians/authors clearly explain all the benefits, like in this bulleted key point list. They expand on each point, but here are the highlights:

—It makes you accountable.

—It helps you plan.

—It pinpoints your problems.

—It will keep you motivated.

—It assists you in setting realistic goals for yourself.

Unlike many food journals (even from best-selling trainers, who often sell them as companions to their books), which are little more than pretty-covered blank books with space to record your food, "Bite It & Write It" is packed with information that will make you more likely to fill in those blanks.

First, there are chapters covering 10 weeks of goals: "Be Present"; "Keep the Heart of Your Home Healthy"; "Shop for Food Like a Pro"; "Eat Breakfast Each Day, and You'll Like What You Weigh"; "Keep Drinking — Water, That Is"; "Snack Right, Be Light"; "Brighten Your Plate", "Be a Healthy Weight"; "Fat — Eat It Without Being It"; "Master the Menu"; and "Keep on Moving." There are also calorie guides and a virtual refrigerator, full of tips and sidebars.

Another plus is that you can easily tote around this thin paperback book in your pocket, purse or backpack.

As you are working through the goals listed in the book each week, there are spots for you to write your weekly personal goals, as well as their weekly conclusions.

And for 10 weeks, there is a page to record food choices, calories, water, exercise and other nutrients you may wish to track (like carbohydrates or fat) for each day of the week.

Truthfully, those thin blank slots are the least important element of the information that is stuffed into this go-to guide. You could find more appealing, suitable or convenient space on smartphone apps or websites like MyFitnessPal.com (which is one of many free sites offering thousands of food counts and tracking diaries). Or in hardcover thin notebooks, made by PlanAhead or Carolina Pad, with magnet latches.

But that is part of the point this qualified quartet makes: Any method will do. Their unrivaled contribution is to feed you the vital reasons why tracking your diet is important. One such area involves the effectiveness of marking your hunger level after each meal. Here is the skinny on that:

Note sections below each meal "can be used either by you or your nutritionist. Here, write about your hunger and fullness, any physical symptoms you are experiencing, or your emotions. The ultimate purpose of keeping a daily food journal is to become a more mindful eater. This means you should strive to always be aware of how hungry or full you are, and then eat accordingly. Use this scale to rate your levels of hunger and fullness, and then record the number in the Notes section of your journal."

1) "Very hungry. This is the most dangerous level to be in, as you probably feel like eating everything in sight. You definitely should have eaten by now in order to stabilize your blood sugar and avoid irritability, anxiety and lightheadedness."

2) "Ready to eat. Your stomach is growling, and you begin to feel hunger pangs. If you're in this level, you should find something to eat."

3) "Neutral. You are neither hungry nor full. Appetite-wise, you feel just right. This is the level of comfort you should experience between meals."

4) "Satisfied. Ideally, this is the feeling you should have after finishing a properly portioned meal. Be aware that you may not feel immediately satisfied afterward, especially if you eat too quickly."

5) "Stuffed. Danger Zone. We are all familiar with the feeling of being uncomfortably full after a meal — e.g., Thanksgiving. At this level, you are stuffed to the point of sickness and great discomfort."

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "After-Work Gourmet" column. To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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