Have you ever felt like you’re at a loss, not knowing what to feed yourself, whether to eat more or less? How many times have you wished there was an easier way to lose weight than diets and gym memberships?
You’re not alone in this feeling. We’ve all been there. We want to lose weight, but we don’t want to lose our minds in the process. We want to find a way to shed those extra pounds without giving up our daily habits and the foods we love.
There’s a solution to this dilemma. It’s called cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for dieting, and it was developed to help people like you who want to lose weight but don’t know how.
What is CBT for dieting?
CBT for dieting takes a slightly different approach to traditional dieting. Rather than trying to force yourself to eat fewer calories and lose weight, you work with a mental health professional to identify the thoughts and feelings that cause you to overeat. Using cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy, you’re able to identify unhealthy habits and behaviors and replace them with healthy ones. As a result, you lose weight without giving up your daily routines or the foods you enjoy.
So how did this therapy develop?
The science of eating and weight loss is constantly evolving, and cognitive behavior therapy was one of the first effective models of treating obesity. In the 1960s and ’70s, obesity was considered a psychiatric disorder. People who were obese were often prescribed drugs or, if they were really unresponsive to treatments, were considered unfit for life and had to be institutionalized. Thanks to the pioneering work of psychologists, led by Leonor Hickey, cognitive behavior therapy helped to change this.
CBT for dieting differs from typical cognitive behavior therapy in that it targets specific eating behaviors and habits. Rather than focusing on the thoughts that lead you to overeat (e.g., ‘I think I’ll have a chocolate cupcake now’), you work with a therapist to identify the urges that cause you to overeat. For instance, you may have tried to lose weight by restricting your food intake or attempting to exercise away your unwanted pounds. In these cases, your therapist may want you to try a different approach, such as relaxation training, to address the root of the problem.
Why should you try CBT for dieting?
There are numerous advantages to trying cognitive behavior therapy for dieting. First off, rather than limiting yourself to diets and quick fixes, you’re investing in a long-term strategy that can help you to achieve your weight loss goals. Second, by identifying the feelings that cause you to overeat, you can take steps to change them and stop bad eating behaviors. Third, since dietary restrictions can be challenging to follow, learning to regulate your eating is more effective when done in a supportive environment. And finally, as we’ve established, there are times when a different approach may be required to lose weight. Working with a mental health professional to identify the thoughts and feelings that lead to overeating can help you to find the treatment that’s right for you.
How Does it Work?
CBT for dieting is a combination of two psychologically based therapies: cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. Let’s examine each of these approaches in greater detail.
Cognitive therapy is all about changing the way you think. You are encouraged to think thoroughly about your eating behaviors and the feelings that lead you to overeat. In this therapy, you’re not told what to do or how much to eat; you simply identify the thoughts and feelings that cause you to overeat and change them.
In behavioral therapy, you are given specific instructions about what to do and how to do it. For example, you may be asked to write down any negative thoughts that come to mind when you’re tempted to eat or to snack during the day. Or, if you are trying to restrict your calorie intake, you may be asked to limit yourself to no more than four hours of eating per day.
Cognitive behavior therapy for dieting combines these two therapies and teaches you to think about your eating behaviors in a different way. Rather than focusing on the food you eat (e.g., ‘Should I have a chocolate bar or a salad now?’), you identify the feelings and thoughts that cause you to eat. This allows you to change the way you think about food and your body. It also encourages you to explore new ways of eating that will better suit your needs. This type of therapy is appropriate for anyone who wants to lose weight.
Steps to Lose Weight Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dieting
So, how does cognitive behavior therapy for dieting work? Begin by taking a critical look at your eating habits and behaviors. Think about the times when you’ve been most successful at shedding those extra pounds. What have you done, and what was the outcome? What worked for you, and what didn’t? Start with the easy wins, and build from there. Use these questions to help you identify the habits and behaviors that you want to change. Once you’ve clearly defined your objectives, you can move on to the next step.
What are your thoughts when you’re tempted to eat? Are you telling yourself that you’re worth it or that you’re a poor person who deserves to be punished? Do you sometimes tell yourself that you’ll never be able to keep off the weight? Start by looking at these questions, and then answer them honestly. Remember, if you’re lying to yourself, you’ll never be able to change. You’re better off being open and honest with yourself.
Step one: Identify the thought patterns that lead to overeating
Based on your answers to the questions above, you’ll be able to determine the types of thoughts and feelings that cause you to overeat. Take some time to write these down. You may also want to read some of the many classic essays on this topic, like Eric Berne’s The Practice of Relaxation. These works will help you to understand more about what is causing you to overeat and how you can change.
Step two: Develop a plan to change the way you think
After you’ve clearly identified the thoughts and feelings that cause you to overeat, you can develop a plan to change them. You might decide that you want to restrict your calorie intake or increase your physical activity. Perhaps you’ll want to try a combination of both. The important thing to keep in mind is that a plan is nothing without action. You have to take steps to put the plan into practice. This is where behavioral therapy comes in. The idea is to give you specific instructions on what to do and how to do it. For example, if you decide to increase your activity level, you may be asked to walk for 30 minutes after every meal or workout. If you choose to restrict your calories, you may be asked to spend the next few days preparing a meal that contains at least half of the recommended daily amount of vegetables. These are just examples; your therapist will have a plan for you to follow.
Step three: Monitor your thoughts and feelings
In order to keep track of your thoughts and feelings throughout the day, you will need to be vigilant about logging them in a notebook or digital diary. Whenever you have a craving or feel a bit unsatisfied, you can write it down. This is a good place to start. Also, during food preparation, keep your eyes open for any stray thoughts or emotions that may pop up. When this happens, write it down so you don’t forget about it. The more you write down, the better. This is your plan; now it’s time to put it into action. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see great results right away. It may take some time for these new ways of thinking and relating to food to truly take effect. Keep in mind that this is a long-term project, and you’re likely to experience some ups and downs along the way. Just keep trying, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier lifestyle in no time.
Hopefully, you found this article valuable. As you may have guessed, losing weight is a difficult process. In some cases, traditional dieting may not be the answer. What do you think?