Catherine Ann “Cat” Lort managed to lose 38 pounds in the last six months with the help of one common object. It’s not any piece of gym equipment (she’s a self-described “minimal exerciser”). It’s not a diet book. In fact, you may be holding one right now: a cell phone.
Cat snaps photos of everything she eats—no exceptions—and posts them on Instagram as a type of visual food journal. Since she’s taken her weight loss journey public on social media, it’s a way to keep herself accountable for what she eats. So far, it’s working.
“Using this sort of photo food journal encourages us to make healthier food choices because it creates a sense of accountability,” nutritionist Brooke Zigler, MPP, RDN, LD, tells Reader’s Digest. First, it requires that you pause before eating. Keeping a physical food diary can have a similar effect, she says, but taking a photo requires planning, and that gives you a chance for second thoughts—like whether you’re really hungry. A photo’s accuracy also makes it easier for dieters to work with dietitians, who can help you assess the size of your portions and remind you of little extras you might have otherwise forgotten to consider (like ketchup, gravy, crumbled bacon).
How it worked for Cat
“I’ve been using Instagram to aid my weight loss for the past three months,” Cat tells Reader’s Digest. Prior to that, she had been counting calories and paying attention to macronutrients. But after just a few months, “a lot of old habits started to creep in.” So she decided to turn to photo food journaling on Instagram; by having an audience, she knew she would have to be more accountable. “It definitely helps,” she says, “as I think twice about everything I eat knowing I have to take a photo of it and post it.” Specifically, these are some foods that are never worth the calories.
Cat points out that the biggest challenge to photo food journaling is remembering to photograph everything—plus, actually photographing everything. “There can be a temptation to eat little extras and just not put it on there,” she notes. But she’s gotten past that pitfall by reminding herself she’s the only person she’d be cheating.
“Taking a picture of the foods we eat will bring awareness to what our typical diet looks like,” agrees Gabriela Gardner, RD-AP, CNSC, a clinical dietician at the Ertan Digestive Disease Center at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston. However, she says that photo food journaling does come with the risk of developing negative emotions and attitudes toward food. Ideally, we don’t want to be “obsessing about healthy eating and over-restriction of foods.”
Luckily, journaling her meals on Instagram is still an effective technique for Cat. She continues to follow her plan and plans to keep posting the photos until she reaches a weight that is healthy for her height and age. “Making a change such as losing weight is a healthy step,” Cat tells Reader’s Digest, “and I feel happy and more confident in myself as a result of the weight loss.”
Check out even more weight loss tips from real people who’ve lost 20+ pounds.