Does it seem like, no matter how hard you work out at the fitness center, the scale isn’t budging? Weight loss plateaus happen for many reasons, but one culprit could be hidden calories.

How carefully do you track what you put in your mouth, if you even track it? Even if you’ve been good about eating healthy, prepped meals, little things like calorie-laden espresso drinks, the office candy bowl, mindless snacking on “just a few” chips while watching television can all add up to sabotage your goals.

Taking the time to journal what you eat could be the key to uncovering bad habits and patterns and finally seeing that scale budge one again. In a study published by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, those who recorded their intake experienced double the weight loss of those who didn’t.

Here’s the basis of why food journaling works.

• Food journaling forces mindfulness and keeps you accountable.

Knowing you’ll have to write down what you ate makes you think twice about grabbing that extra handful of chips or scooping out another serving of mashed potatoes. It might sound like a guilt trip, but it’s just a way to keep your mind focused on your intentions throughout the day so you can succeed.

• It teaches you a lot about your eating habits.

A food journal may help you realize that what you think you’re eating and what you’re truly eating are not the same, and how that’s affecting your goals. For instance, maybe you’re eating healthy foods, but in excess. Maybe you’re not eating the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, skipping meals and setting yourself up for binging, or eating too few calories and slowing your metabolism.

• It reveals your emotional relationship with food.

If you take the time to record the circumstance surrounding your snack and meals, you’ll also gain insight into your emotional relationship with food. You might discover that you only eat junk food when you’re stressed, bored, or with company. Noticing these patterns builds awareness that in turn helps you work on your relationship with food.

Tips for Successful Food Journaling

1. Do it right away.

Like anything put off, telling yourself you’ll record your snacks and meals later in the day usually mean it won’t get done. Establish a pattern of recording food as soon as you eat it throughout the day. Recording your meals on a smartphone app or personal tracking device eliminates any excuse of inconvenience, since we always have these items with us.

2. Be completely honest.

Why lie to yourself? You’re only hurting your progress towards your goals and undermining your workouts at the fitness gym. It’s okay to fail — just record it and learn from it.

3. Review the journal on a daily and weekly basis.

Keeping a journal and then ignoring it still won’t help you. Make an appointment with yourself to track your progress, look for patterns, and continually improve your knowledge and attitudes.

If you’ve never food journaled, this one practice could make the difference between a plateau and the results you’ve been looking for. By drawing your attention to what you’re really eating and revealing the hidden emotional triggers that sabotage your good intentions, food journaling can be a valuable tool to both get and stay fit for life.