Diet and the 24-Hour Photo: How Photographic Food Diaries May Aid Weight Loss

The Flash Diet, which involves taking photos of every single thing consumed within a given time frame , came into the public eye last year after completion of a research study carried out at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 43 dieters recorded everything they ate over a period of one week in words and in pictures and the findings showed clearly that the photographic diaries were a far more effective and accurate way of recording daily calories and a greater disincentive to overeat.

Advantages of using photographic food diaries include:

  • An increased awareness of what is eaten, which helps to improve the quality of the diet, and curb high-calorie choices and the taking of second helpings
  • Photos provide tangible evidence of dietary choices that can then be assessed more objectively afterwards
  • Encouraging a structured eating pattern

Disadvantages of 24-hour food diaries include:

  • Feeling self-conscious about photographing your food in public
  • The time, effort and commitment it takes to photograph every single thing that passes your lips
  • The likelihood that motivation will fade quickly (this is not a reliable long-term strategy)
  • Records are unlikely to be complete (the longer the time frame, the more likely they are to have snacks, drinks or meals omitted intentionally or otherwise)
  • It is crucial to have a foundational knowledge of the principles of healthy eating, otherwise any photos will be of limited use

As with any strategy implemented to lose weight, the true mark of its success is whether or not any weight loss is maintained. What is the evidence that the Flash Diet supports long-term weight reduction? It seems to be effective in the battle to shed pounds, but further research is needed to explore any lasting results.

In conclusion, lead researcher Dr Lydia Zepeda suggests that whilst many Nutritionists currently use photos of clients’ meals and snacks to assess the quality of the diet, they should also consider using them as intervention tools to aid adherence to nutritional goals set.

Advice to anybody interested in following this diet includes:

  • Equip yourself with the basic facts about healthy eating so you are clear about what you are aiming for.
  • Regularise your meal pattern. 3 meals per day with 3 mid-meal snacks works well for many people.
  • Ensure your records are complete. Remember that the things you are tempted not to photograph are most likely to be the things you need to address.
  • Set specific and few goals. These may relate to portion size, meal timings, food choices or overall balance, just don’t try to overhaul everything all at once.
  • Seek advice from a qualified Nutritionist or Dietitian if you’d like support with any aspect of your diet
  • Consider photographing your food one week per month and keeping written journals during the time between. Even conventional diaries have been proven effective in enhancing weight loss, maintaining motivation and sticking to healthy eating plans.
  • Once you’ve achieved your target weight, why not use photo diaries as support if you ever feel you are slipping back into bad habits?
  • Stay positive, learn from any lapses and remember that they can actually improve the chances of achieving goals in the future.
  • Above all else choose wisely, be good to yourself and enjoy.