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Write to Lose Weight

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A woman in workout attire writes in a notebook


Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. 


Writing about what’s really important in life can help people shed the pounds.


Social psychologists Christine Logel and Geoffrey Cohen invited 45 college women to participate in a study about values and health. 58% of these women were overweight or obese. The women first ranked 10 personal values (e.g., close relationships, music, having a good sense of humor) according to how important they were to them. The women were then randomly assigned to write about either their top-ranked value and why it mattered to them (the intervention conditionor their ninth-ranked value and why it might matter to someone else (the control condition).

Over the course of one to four months, women in the intervention condition lost an average of 3.41 pounds, while women in the control condition gained an average of 2.76 pounds.

Why This Works 

Writing about our values helps us feel better about ourselves, which can curb our desire to eat to cheer ourselves up. Affirming our values also frees up mental energy, which we can then devote to exercising and eating better.

When This Works Best

This intervention works best for people who are overweight or obese (that is, who have a body mass index of 25 or greater).

Original Study

Logel, C., & Cohen, G . L. (2012). The role of the self in physical health: Testing the effect of a values-affirmation intervention on weight loss. Psychological Science, 23(1), 53-55.

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Logel, C.

Photo CC by Shinichi Sugiyama