Willpower In A Flash: The Photo Diet

They Say That A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words…

Is This Picture Worth 20 Pounds?


Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently asked 43 dieters to record what they ate over one week in words and in pictures.

At the conclusion of the study, the researchers found that the dieters who photographed their meals prior to eating them kept a far more effective and accurate record of daily calories than the food loggers.

More importantly, the Photo Dieters were less likely to overeat.

One volunteer told the researchers: ‘I had to think more carefully about what I was going to eat because I had to take a picture of it.

‘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?’

Another volunteer said the photo diaries actually improved the quality of his diet.

‘I noticed that there weren’t too many greens in my diet, which means I should try to eat more vegetables and fruits.’

So, Why Does Taking A Picture Of Your Dinner Help You Stick To Your Diet?


  • According to researcher, Lydia Zepeda, “nutritionists see diaries as recording tools. Now they should explore the role of photo diaries as intervention tools”.
  • According to the health/science writer at the Daily Mail, “by having pictorial evidence of how they have been feeding themselves, dieters have a guilt trip about the quality and quantity of what they are eating”.
  • According to this seasoned Photo Dieter, Photo Dieting is a ‘food re-education through a lens’ with the emphasis on re-education. About what I eat, when I eat and how much I eat.
  • According to me, Photo Dieting is a blend of modern technology and conscious eating.
  • By using their camera-phone to snap a picture of their lunch, Photo Dieters are freeing themselves from the unconscious eating patterns associated with Emotional Eating and our epigenetic predisposition to wolf down a Big Mac, fries and a Coke.
  • It may sound a little Oprah, but by forcing yourself to stop, for just a minute, and think about the food that you are about to put in your body, you allow your conscious mind to check back in and take back some control from your raging hormones and your emotions.
  • The food logs, while effective, do nothing to stop you from pigging out at the trough. They may make you feel guilty afterwards, as you record your gluttony for posterity.
  • And guilt is the last thing that any dieter needs.


  • Food logs have already been shown to be a successful diet tool.
  • Past studies have shown that dieters who use a food log lose three times as much weight while dieting as those who diet sans food log.

Now, this study didn’t look at weight loss, but it did show that Photo Dieters found it easier to eat healthily than food loggers.

  • They found it easier to not break their diets.
  • Maybe this little trick is signaling the end of Yo-Yo dieting.

So Where Do We Go From Here?

  • Find a way of eating that fits into your lifestyle and will help you lose weight. That may be a DIET or simply a decision to eliminate all of the “white foods” from your dinner plate.
  • Start snapping pictures of your meals prior to ‘chowing down’.
  • If you are really gutsy, start up a WordPress blog and upload your meal photos to your own personal Photo Diet blog. Our Photo Dieter friend could probably give you a few tips.
  • Feel free to poke around my archives for ideas on how to create your own custom diet and exercise programs. And feel free to ask questions.


If you like what you see here, click here for updates or Share this Post with the rest of the world.



  1. this is a pretty cool idea. i think i might try it for a day to see what it is like. i think it definitely helps with accountability. thanks for posting about this!

  2. I accept the challenge. Where my usual motivators have failed to kick my butt, lets see if the camera can.

  3. Wow. I’m a nurse and I blog, and I often take pictures of my food for my blog. I think this idea is great. I think it would also work really well for primary care providers. Even if a food log is not kept, it would be easy to use to guide people- “Herb, you see how much potato is on your plate, and how little green beans? Next office visit I want you to have twice the greens and half the potato.”- It would give providers a good idea of how badly people are eating. Food is much more important than drugs for most DMII- and we as health care advocates could do a lot more to help people understand what is/is not a healthy diet. Thanks for the articles links!

  4. Thought I’d come back and comment on how it worked out for me.

    I started it the day after this post and went for just under a week.

    It did work very well, over a short period of time.

    For the past few weeks I’ve been really struggling to keep making good food choices. Beginning the photo blog really forced me to get back on track as I didn’t want to blog bad choices.

    It was however a lot of work and the blog started to feel really monotonous so I stopped after a week.

    The result was it was the kick start I needed to find my willpower to eat right again. I’ve been making good choices all this week and feel like I am back on plan.

  5. Congrats on being back on track.

    I found that taking the pics was helpful – I always have my camera phone on me.

    Blogging about it would be just too much.

    Keep up the good work

  6. Interesting. When I saw the title I thought it would be to have unflattering pictures of your chubby self on your computer, refrigerator door, etc, which also helps too! Great post!

  7. Pictures do always speak loudly. Although most of my clients knew they needed to shed some Lbs, it wasn’t unitl they saw a video or a picture of themselves with friends or family, that they then discovered they needed to get serious. Sometimes seeing a picture really does magnify reality. I like this idea.

  8. I actually love this idea, and have just started doing it myself – so far, so good. It makes SUCH a big difference, particularly with portion control!

  9. This seems like a great idea! This would definitely keep me accountable with what I was eating

  10. I love this idea. Pictures and scales don’t lie. Sometimes we all need a little reminder “photo” to help remind us to keep to our goals.

Comments are closed.