Study: Writing exercise helps women lose weight

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Writing down important values helps women lose weight, found in study.

Psychologists found in a study that women who perform writing exercises about important values like relationships, creativity, music or politics lost weight. In their investigation, the researchers compared women who were asked to perform writing exercises about what’s important to them, to a control group given a different writing exercise.

According to authors, writing down positive affirmations makes us feel good about ourselves, which in turn may help us live better.

In their study, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, researchers Christine Logel of Renison University College at the University of Waterloo, who coauthored the new study with Geoffrey L. Cohen of Stanford University gave 45 female undergraduates a list of important values to rank in order of importance - 58% of the women were overweight.

Half of the women were asked to pick the value that was most important to them and write about it for 15 minutes. The other half was asked to write about why a value might be important to someone else.

At the beginning of the study, all of the women were weighed, and then again at one to four months. Weight loss for women who performed writing exercises was 3.41 pounds, but the control group who was asked to write about a value that was not important to them, gained an average of 2.76 pounds.


“How we feel about ourselves can have a big effect,” Logel says. “My dream, and my research goal, is to get this to the point where people can do it deliberately to benefit themselves,” she adds.

Cohen, in a past study, used the same technique for minority seventh-graders who were underperforming at school. He found the writing exercises continued to help the student's academic performance years later.

Logel carries a keychain to remind herself which values are important in her own life - - something she says everyone could do. The reason writing exercises may have helped women lose weight is because it may set off a “recursive process”, Logel says.

When the women wrote down important values they felt better about themselves, leading to less food consumption and weight loss. The study authors say it’s too soon to say whether the writing exercise would work for everyone trying to lose weight – but it cerainly won’t hurt to try.

Psychological Science
“The Role of the Self in Physical Health: Testing the Effect of a Values-Affirmation Intervention on Weight Loss”
Christine Logel and Geoffrey L. Cohen
December 7, 2011

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