The Top 10 List: A Way to Stay Focused on Weight Loss

September 10, 2012
Anne Baily resasons to lose weight list

One of the biggest challenges to major weight loss is sticking with it. When I began my 100 Pound Weight Loss Project two years ago, I created a list of my Top 20 Personal Reasons to Lose Weight. It's a convincing list, and although I pasted it at the front of my food diary, I still manage to forget about it. I especially forget at moments when, like Winnie the Pooh, I think it's surely "time for a little something"—preferably something loaded with calories.

But recently I discovered a technique that helps keep my weight loss motivations front and center. In her book The Beck Diet Solution, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Judith Beck suggests that you:
1. Make a list of every possible reason you should lose weight.
2. Rank the reasons from most important to least important.
3. List your top 10 reasons on a note card or a piece of paper small enough to carry in your wallet or purse.
4. Commit to reviewing your list three times a day: when you first wake up in the morning; at a time of day when your willpower weakens, like the late afternoon when your blood sugar drops or when you’re in front of the TV at night; and before you go to sleep at night.

Excavating my list from its forgotten computer folder, I have to admit that these might not be the most important ones out there:


#1: "So I can wear pencil skirts.”
#8: "So that when we do leg lifts at the gym I can actually lift my leg!"

Then I recall that when my daughter Perrin was a cox on a crew boat, she asked each of her eight rowers to give her a phrase to shout that motivated the girls to row harder and faster. She shouted these phrases at moments in races when their muscles were screaming for oxygen and wanting to quit.

Maybe I could use this trick, too. What phrases really get to me about my diet?

My doctor told me that if I don't get the weight off that I'll die young. Bada bing! There's one.

My mom suffered from terrible dementia before she died, and I've always been deathly afraid that I'll lose my mind, too. Obesity can cause dementia. Bam, there’s another.

I raced a guy up a flight of stairs the other day and won! What a rush that was. Ok, I’m on a roll.

Eventually I come up with 34 reasons to lose weight. I narrow those down to a top 10 list and put them in priority order. Because weight loss often feels like something negative, I try to phrase these reasons as positively as possible.

Now I've got to squeeze these reasons onto a doggone index card. I slim the sentences down into key phrases and make them all fit.


These look too boring to read over even once. So I put them on a bright orange card (in honor of fall, of course), and then paste the card onto Origami paper. Yeow! This is highly motivational. I'll laminate this, take it for a test drive, and let you know next week if it works.

—Anne Bailey blogs for Fitbie and is on a journey to lose 100 pounds