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January 6, 2012 at 11:49 AMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Study: Writing Exercise....for Weight Loss?!

By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This Author

Weakling intellectuals, rejoice! Turns out losing weight is lot easier than we ever thought. A new study published this week shows that just a 15 minute WRITING exercise can increase your weight loss success.  

A new component of weight loss success was revealed with the release of a new study published in Psychological Science.

In this study, to reflect the 58% of women in the United States considered to be overweight or obese, only female undergraduates with a BMI or Body Mass Index of 23 or higher were allowed to participate. (To put this into perspective, a BMI of 18.5 – 24.9 is considered normal.)

After compiling their group, researchers weighed and measured study participants, but then did something a little less expected.

They handed each participant a list of values including  things like “creativity”, “politics”, “music”, “friends” and “family” and asked these women to rank each item in terms of their value to her personally. After scoring these sheets, the women were divided in half.

The first group was instructed to write for 15 minutes about the value that was most important to her. The other half, the control group, was asked instead to write for 15 minutes about why one of the least important values to her, may be the most important to someone else. Then, they were sent home.  Each woman was asked to come back sometime between one and four months later to be weighed once more.

The Results?

In the end, those women that had spent just 15 minutes writing about something they strongly valued DID actually show some small advantage over those that hadn’t. Women from the control group GAINED a total of 2.76 pounds, while the rest LOST an average of 3.41!

Christine Logel and Geoffrey L. Cohen who cowrote this study have a history of research revolving around the power of the mind and specifically self-worth on our lives.

Said Logel to reporters, “How we feel about ourselves can have a big effect… We think it sort of kicks off a recursive process.” “There’s certainly no harm in taking time to reflect on important values and working activities you value into your daily life… My dream, and my research goal, is to get this to the point where people can do it deliberately to benefit themselves.”

How Writing Might Spell “W-e-i-g-h-t L-o-s-s”

As a writer myself, I understand the power of refining a thought or feeling into something intelligible on a page. In writing, especially in personal journal type writing, we are able to become that sort of wiser, more evolved version of ourselves. I can personally say that in sitting and writing down my thoughts, I’ve been able to achieve a clearer understanding of myself, where my feelings are coming from, where others’ feelings are coming from, why some things are right and others aren’t and, I guess, generally, the reason for things.

By clarifying our thoughts, writing boosts our confidence and instills a sense of accountability – whether anyone else ever sees our writing or not.

While it’s hard to say exactly how just 15 minutes of writing could make the difference it did in this study, as Rick Nauert, a senior news editor for PsychCentral suggested, perhaps it wasn’t the act itself, but more the ripple effects it had.

Maybe they went home and because they were lifted up with thoughts of what was really important to them, they didn’t need that “comfort snack” they usually had. Then the next night, because they hadn’t had that comfort snack the night before, they weren’t really hungry for it the next day, and so on and so on until eventually, over the course of a month or two all those snacks  they didn’t have added up.

Assigning Our Own Value

Said Logel of her results, “We have this need to feel self-integrity,” Throughout our lives, human tendency is to determine our own value in terms of what others see and judge us. But what if we turned that around? What if instead WE looked at ourselves and judged our own value, then let others know what that was?

The cowriters of this study answered this question in a previous study using the same technique on inner-city minority 7th graders who were doing poorly in school compared with their white peers. Years later, after completing the 15 minute writing exercise, those students were STILL performing better than those that didn’t take part.

We don’t have to accept the value society have assigned us argues the team. “We can buffer that self-integrity by reminding ourselves how much we love our children,” or our art, or our will, or even our knowledge of sea slugs. When we stop looking at our mistakes to rather step back and look at the whole of ourselves and what we have to offer, we become a better person that is happier with all facets of our lives, including perhaps, our bodies.


Photo Credit:

Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL)

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1 Comment

  • It doesn't surprise me that writing would have a positive effect on your weight loss. It DOES surprise me that it could have such an effect when only done once! That's huge. Just imagine the impact it could have if people made it a regular habit. I just read an article that talked about the benefits of blogging for patients with seems we're only scratching the surface of the benefits of writing :)

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