When you consider the idea of weight loss, the first that springs to mind will undoubtedly be the food you consume with exercise coming in a close second. Being overweight after all is predominantly a lifestyle issue caused largely by eating too much – of the wrong foods – and exercising too little. Much less commonly explored is how the quality of your thinking impacts your relationship with the food you eat. Because although you might be able to discipline yourself in the short-term – following whatever the latest dietary trend is – without changing your thinking, you risk repeating the same patterns of yo-yoing that so many dieters fall victim to.
HOW DOES COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY FIT INTO THE EQUATION?
Being a psychological treatment, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) isn’t intended to be used in isolation as a method for losing weight. You will still need to make better decisions surrounding your diet and lifestyle. The role CBT plays in your weight loss plan is a supporting one with its purpose being to help you stick to the changes you’ve committed to in the long-term. This is done by creating a structure for you to measure your success by breaking your target of losing weight into smaller, more manageable goals – the behavioural aspect of the therapy.
The cognitive element encourages you to change the way you perceive the world and how you think about yourself in relation to it. This, in turn, feeds back into how you react to the challenges you face, and the creation of new, more positive attitudes and behaviours. Because just as those who struggle with depression and anxiety find the core of their issue to be their dysfunctional thinking, the same is also true of those struggling to maintain their weight. CBT gives you the skills to not only feel better about yourself but to be successful with your long-term weight loss goals.
A recent story in the media detailed the success of TV presenter Denise Welsh, 61, of Loose Women, who struggled with intense sugar cravings and weight gain after giving up alcohol. Speaking about her issue, she said, “Until I gave up drinking, I never really had a weight problem. I’d certainly never had a sweet tooth.” Denise goes on to explain in several interviews that she recognised the need to change the way she thought about food and signed up with a weight loss program that offered CBT. That program was LighterLife, which helps dieters learn how to manage their emotional eating triggers, in addition to offering well-balanced meal plans. Denise also talks about how transformative the program has been for her own weight loss journey stating, “CBT and groups taught me to stop my crooked thinking,” while also adding of her success that she “lost 2 stone in 2 months and has maintained it ever since.”
We’ve talked above about how beneficial CBT can be for maintaining lasting changes during and after reaching your weight loss goals, but what are the steps you need to take to get the most out of incorporating this approach into your weight loss plan?
As we’ve touched on, weight loss is so much more than just the food we put into our bodies. Making long-lasting and effective changes also includes getting enough exercise, the type of company you keep (if they’re a negative influence on you), how long you sleep and how much time you allocate to making these changes stick.
Diet and Eating Habits
Once you’ve found an eating plan that will work for you, the next focus of your attention should be turned towards your relationship with food. Binge eating and emotional eating are both known to have psychological triggers, which can be identified and then addressed using CBT.
The main strength of CBT lies in breaking larger goals into smaller targets that can be achieved in the short-term. The key here is making sure that you’re setting yourself realistic goals, and you’re being specific about what it is you’re asking of yourself. Being overly ambitious in the beginning can see you become discouraged, so try and measure your expectations.
It’s important that throughout the process, there is a degree of accountability. This is why it’s beneficial to work with a Therapist, as you’re encouraged to have held up ‘your end of the bargain’ every time you meet. Groups are also an effective way of doing this as well as logging your daily activity and food intake to give you a visual representation and reminder of your progress.
For you to make lasting changes that will allow you to lose weight and keep it off in the long-term, you need more than just a reason, you need a purpose for doing so. That something being the driving force behind wanting to make the change, which can only be attained by your success. What it is will be up to you, but by having the motivating factor of missing out on your ‘prize,’ you will be all the more likely to succeed.
Once your goals have been reached, you may not want to stick to the exact same eating plan as before, nor would it be good for your mental health to stick to a restrictive eating regime in the long-term. Using CBT can help you realise the significance of your achievements, and in doing so, encourage you to maintain your ideal weight by seeing how far you’ve come and what you have to lose.