Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Eat, Write, Succeed

A recent study from the University of Kentucky corroborates what many of us already know: writing is powerful magic.  This study shows that people who are trying to change their eating habits are much more likely to succeed if they write down what they eat every day.

This does not mean counting or recording calories.  That was not studied.  Only the journaling was measured and correlated with success.  This study supports the concept, from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, that in order to change behavior, you need frequent, concrete feedback.  By writing down what you eat, you are essentially giving yourself that feeback.  That is the theory anyway, and the researchers speculate that it might be one reason why Weight Watchers is much more successful than most other weight loss programs.

Whether you are trying to lose weight, or change your eating habits for other reasons, it might be worth a try.  I've been keeping a food journal, and I find that when I start to think I haven't been eating very well, and I look back over the last few days, it's always better than I thought it was.  I think this relates to a general tendency, also addressed in CBT, that we tend to imagine there's a pattern of negatives where in fact only one or two events have occurred. 

In building new habits, there is a threshold, between 4 and 8 weeks, when many people start to feel discouraged, start to think thoughts like "it's no use, it's not working."  The journal can show, with concrete evidence, that it is working.  With more accurate information, our thoughts and feelings come into agreement with how things really are, and we feel energized to keep going.

Since ancient times, it has been believed that writing things down is powerful magic.  Maybe it's been true all along.

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