New research suggests that writing down what we eat — that is, keeping a food diary — could just be the ticket to losing more weight. The study, which will appear in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that individuals who scribbled down everything they ate while dieting and exercising lost an average of twice as many pounds as those who didn't keep track.

Those keeping a food diary lost about 18 pounds, while those who didn't lost only nine.

Researchers tracked 1685 men and women at an average age of 55 over a period of six months. The average weight loss for the entire group was 13 pounds; however, those keeping a food diary lost about 18 pounds, while those who didn't lost only nine.

While participating in the study, subjects were asked to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in addition to a low-fat diet. They were also instructed to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day and attend group support meetings once a week. At these meetings they turned in their diet diaries.

The study is noteworthy also because it is one of the first to include a large proportion of African-Americans (44%), who typically have increased risk of developing some of the health problems associated with being overweight or obese. Most African-American participants lost at least nine pounds, a larger loss than in many earlier studies.

Dr. Keith Bachman of the Kaiser Permanente Institute, which performed the study, says that keeping a food diary need not be a ceremonial undertaking. Rather, "scribbling down what you eat on a Post-It note...will suffice. It's the process of reflecting on what you eat that helps us become aware of our habits, and hopefully change our behavior."