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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Weight Management

Hello Everyone, 

Todays post will be on CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). I hope you all find it informative and helpful on your weight loss/weight management quest.

Please Enjoy!

Please note that in this post "X" = BAD & "Y" = GOOD

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Weight Management

"Manage your Thinking and you Manage your weight!"


At the end of this session you will:


  • Understand how your thoughts, feelings and behaviourrs are connected;
  • Be able to identify some of the ways you distort your thinking that leads to weight management problems;
  • Know how to change those unhelpful thoughts to more realistic or positive thoughts that will help you manage your weight.


  "Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them." ~ Epictetus


If you say... 

X - "I can't go on vacation. I always gain weight on vacations!"

... it is not the vacation that is the problem, but the view you take of the vacation.


Cognitive behavioural therapy helps you to change your thinking so you say to yourself...

Y - "This vacation I may not lose weight, but I have the skills to stay within my calorie budget and maintain my weight! I will focus on the fun!"


 "What we think we become. All that we are is the result of what we have thought." ~ Buddha


If you say...

X - "I will never lose all this weight"

... your thoughts are likely to come true.


Cognitive behavioural therapy helps you learn to say...

Y - "It will take some time but I will lose weight!"


CBT & Weight Management = The way you think about food, your body size, and your health affects your feelings and your behaviour and therefore your weight!


Your thoughts, feelings and behavours are all linked, think of a triangle, each point represents one of these things

CBT is a learned skill that takes practice so that means doing homework! You will need a notebook or a binder!!


CBT Skills

CBT Skill #1 : Finding Motivation

Poor weight management motivation might be a result of some of the following unhelful thoughs: (Fill in "?" with your own)

X - Resisting food is too hard

X - I don't really care

X - It's not worth it

X - It won't work

X - I can just take pills to control my diabetes and blood pressure

X - "?"                                


One of the first steps in managing weight is to list all the reasons weight loss is a good idea. Examples are...

Y - I'll have more energy

Y - I'll be able to take the stairs

Y - I will take less medication

Y - I'll have fewer medical appointments

Y - My clothes won't be so tight

Y - I'll be broud of myself

Y - I'll be able to tie my shoes

Y - "?"                                  


The CBT part...

1. Write the advantages of losing weight down


If you get stuck, try writing down what your real or even your imaginary best friend would say to you. 


CBT Skill #2: Give Yourself Credit 


Poor weight management is often the result of harsh self criticism and focusing on everything you do wrong.

You might say...

X - I don't deserve credit - look at my size.

X - I won't say anything good to myself until I've lost all this weight

X - "?"                                   


Learning to speak well of yourself is an essential part of weight management. Every time you make a healthy food choice, resist a bag of chips, or add a bit more movement in your day, be kind to yourself and say...

Y - That was good!

Y - Way to go - a small step in the right direction!

Y - I did it!

Y - I deserve to lose weight!

Y - It's been a long time since I said no to ice cream so good for me!

Y - "?"                                   


The CBT part is to say good things to yourself again and again. It may be difficult to believe these encouraging statements at first, but over time your thoughts will be less negative and you will see yourself in a more positve light.

Write thse positve statements in your gournal, read them every day, and maube reward yourself with a dollar!


CBT Skill #3: Change Distorted Thinking

Difficulty managing weight may be due to many, many distorted ways of thinking. CBT works to replace those unhelpful and incorrect thoughts with realistic thoughts. Working with FACTS and not FICTION is very important to weight management.

Following are 12 examples of distorted thinking and lots of suggestions on how to change them into helpful weight loss self talk!

1) All or Nothing Thinking

You look at life and weight loss in absolute black-and-white categories. You might be saying:

X - I have to lose all this extra weight, it's no use losing just some!

X - What's the use of walking for 10 minutes - I need to get sweaty for exercise to count!

X - If I eat one "bad" food I might as well go all the way!

X - I can never resist chocolate!

X - I am either 'good' or 'bad'

X - "?"                                   


Not too many things in life are purely black and white. Try thinking in Shades of Grey, which means thinking somewhere in between.

Y - Even if I lose 5% of my present body weight, my medication will likely decrease!

Y - A gym workout would be great, but walking around the block is better than nothing! Besides, exercise is really about feeling better, and improving both my health and my mood!

Y - That was a high calorie meal this morning, but the whole day doesn't have to be perfect. I can eat a healthy lunch and make the rest of the day OKAY!

Y - "?"                                    


2) Dwelling on the Negatives

Just as the name says, this cognitive distortion is all about negative thinking and remember, what you think you become. Some examples are...

X - I am overwhelmed - I give up!

X - I didn't lose weight this week - it's not fair.

X - This is too hard

X - My family will just sabotage my efforts

X - "?                                     


Sometimes the answer to negative thinking is to flip it to a more positive or more realistic statement.

Y - I am overwhelmed, but I know this is all worth it, so there is no use giving up. With practive I can do this!

Y - I didn't lose weight this week but I stayed on my food plan so it is likely my weiht loss with show next week.

Y - This is hard but living longer to be with my family makes it worth the work.

Y - I will ask my family to stop sabotaging!

Y - "?"                                  


3) Overly Positive Fortune Telling

Hope of a better future is important to our overall health, but overly positve fortune telling does not consider the more likely outcomes. Statements such as the following will sabotage weight management...

X - It doesn't matter if I eat this, I'll make up for it later.

X - I'll just have one more square of chocolate and then I'll stop.

X - I've kept this journal for 2 weeks now - I can do without it!

X - "?"                                    


A good way to counteract overly positive fortune telling is to conduct an small personal experiment, or recall how things really turned out in the past.

Y - I will eat this food now and see if I really do make up for it later.

Y - How many times have I stopped at one square of chocolate? So what makes me think this time is different? Well, let's see if I can do it!

Y - Every other time I have stopped journaling I have gained weight. This time I will keep going, because it works!

Y - "?"                                     


4) Random Rules

Sometimes our distorted ways of thinking creates some interesting random rules...

X - Calories eaten standing up don't count!

X - Weight loss has to be fast!

X - Don't leave food on your plate - eat it!

X - Weekends and vacations don't count!

X - If it's healthy it will tast bad!

X - "?"                                    


Let's look at the scientific evidence...

Y - Every calorie counts!! Research has also found that if I eat sitting down I will eat more slowly, feel full sooner, taste and enjoy my food, feel satisfied more easily, count calories, and lose weight! WOW!

Y - Rapid weight loss often leads to rapid weight gain back. Slow and steady will win the weight loss race.

Y - The evidence is in  - its either waste or waist!!!

Y - No scientific evidence suggests that the human body metablizes calories differently on the weekends or vacations!

Y - "?"                                      


5) Emotional Reasoning

We often take out feelings to be truths about ourselves, and these feelings can lead to weight gain.

X - I feel like a loser... when I go to the gym I can hardly do anything. I am staying home.

X - I feel like a piece of chocolate right now.

X - I feel like the biggest failure in the world.

X - I feel so stressed - I need to eat

X - "?"                                         


Ask yourself some questions about those feelings. And remember
"Don't believe everything you feel".

Y - What's a loser? Couldn't I exercise somewhere else? How will I feel staying home?

Y - Just because I feel like having chocolate does that mean I have to eat it? Can I decide not to eat it? Could I feel like a piece of fruit instead?

Y - Have I failed at everything? Where have I succeeded?

Y - What do normal weight people do about stress? Will I feel stressed about eating and then have 2 stressors to deal with?

Y - "?"                                          


6) Mind Reading

At times you may think you know exacly what someone else is thinking, but really, none of us are mind-readers. If you try to mind read, it can certainly lead to over eating.

X - My friend won't like me if I say no to her brownies, and people will think it strange if I just ask for water.

X - "?                                           


To help with mind reading you might try a cost/benefit analysis exercise. Ask yourself, what is the cost of thinking this way and what is the benefit? Add a fraction of a follar amount to get a numeric value! Here is an example...

Y - The cost of this thinking is that I will eat the brownie and drink the pop, my calorie intake will increase and I will berate myself all the way home. Cost = $0.70

Y - The benefit of this thinking is that I have an excuse to eat the brownie or have a caloric drink. Benefit = $0.30

Y - The cost is higher than the benefit so I'll just tell my host that brownies are not in my food plan today and I would love a glass of water!

Y - "?"                                            


7) Self-Deluded Thinking

Self deluded thinking is believing for a moment what yhou know not to be true.

X - I cheated this morning so I might as well keep cheating because today is a write-off!

X - Right now I do not care about my weight, so I will eat what I want!

X - "?"                                              


Sometimes just identifying the cognitive distortions can help to make changes.

Y -  I am deluding myself if I think I can just write off today and eat whatever I want. This thinking got me here and won't get me out of trouble!!! I will go right back to my food plan this minute!

Y - I am deluding myself if I think I don't care about my weight because I do. Every time I put food in my mouth it matters! I want to be thinner and healthier!

Y - "?"                                                


8) Justifications

We can justify a lot of overeating!!!

X - I can eat this becuase its my birthday.

X - It's okay to wat this because it was free.

X - It's been a busy day! It's okay to eat out because I don't have time to cook!

X - "?"                                            


Try using humour to change some of these justifications.

Y -  Of course I can eat this because there are no rules on birthday days! I can also run a red light, jump the line at the bank, whatever I want - It's my birthday!

Y - Yes I will eat all the free food I can find and I will also take everything I find cubside with a FREE sign, all the free magazines at the entrance to the library...

Y -  Of course we can eat out because it doesn't take any time to drive to the resturant, order the food, wait for the food to cook, eat the food, wait for the bill...

Y - "?"                                         


9) Exaggerated Thinking

We can certainly make weight management situations seem much worse than they are with exaggerated or catastrophic thinking.

X - I can't stand being hungry, I have to eat now.

X - The only thing that reduces my stress is food - I need to eat chips!!

X - My ideal weight is 130lbs and I need to get there no matter how hard it is!

X - "?"                                           


Exaggerated thinking can be moderated by the 'what if' technique.

Y - What is I tried to go hungry for an hour? What if I distracted myself for an hour with something that makes me think less about the hunger? What if said "It's just hunger - I can wait for my meal!"

Y - What if I tried something else to reduce stress? What if I tried a walk just this once to see if it helps?

Y - What if this is my best weight? What if this is the lowest number of calories I can consume and still be healthy?

Y - "?"                                             


10) Should Statements

Should statements are full of pressure and do not help in changing eating behaviour.

X - I should be able to manage my food intake

X - My family should understand my weight problem and should not push foot on me.

X - I should like to go to the gym

X - I  should not inconvenience my family.

X - "?"                                          


Replace the word 'should' with a more realistic word.

Y - I will learn to manage my food intake!

Y - My family do not understand my weight problems and will push  food on me until I firmly say NO!

y - I do not like to go to the gym. I will find some type of movement that I do like!

Y -  I can invonvenience my family. I is a good learning experience to accommodate a loved ones needs!

Y - "?"                                               


11) The Reward Fallacy

Do you expect your sacrifice and hard work to be reqarded, and feel bitter if you are not rewarded? Have food rewards been a part of your life for so long it is hard to think of any other kind of reward? You may be saying...

X - I did so well - today I deserve a treat.

X - I have lost 25 pounds - I deserve something sweet.

X - "?"                                            


Surveying what others do to reward themselves may give you some new ideas. Here's some example...

Y - I do deserve a treat, but I also deserve to be thinner! My friend treats herself with a visit to the library. I will go pick up a new book.

Y - Weight loss does deserve credit, but it does not have to be sweets! My sister treats herself to bubble baths - i will try that!

Y - "?"                                             


12) Wishful Thinking

Wishful thinking is magical thingking and is not positive or productive. Time is wasted here!

X - I wish I was a calorie millionaire.

X - I wish this was easier.

X - I wish I could just wake up thin.

X - I wish I never had to think about exercise.

X - "?"                                          


Wishful or miracle thinking can be fun but it can also be a waste of time. Use the "That's Life" or " O well" technique to help you deal with reality.

Y - That's life, I am not a calorie millionaire so I have to manage the calories I eat if I want to be Healthy!

Y - O well, I cannot wake up thin, that is childish and magical thinking. I am going to distract myself and think of something else!

Y - Too bad, moving my body is important for my health! We are meant to more!

Y - "?"                                         


The CBT part is to identify and change al these distorted thinking patterns. But not in one day!! Give youreslf permission to work on thse unhelful ways of thinking slowly. It takes time to learn new ways of thinking!! Write down your unhelpful and/or negative thoughts and use ONE of the suggested strategies to make positive/realistic changes.


CBT Skill #4 Good Thinking

If you get stuck, there is always the good thinking of others...

Y - Movement is Medicine!

Y - I eat until I am not hungry not until I am full!

Y - I am careful about my food choice and stick to my food plans!

Y - I work to maintain a healthy lifestyle and healthy weight!

Y - I live with a calorie budget!

Y - I do not comfort myself with food!

Y - I do not compare myself to others but work to live the best I can!

Y - The momentary pleasure is not worth the weight gain!

Y - My Best Weight if the one where I am healthy and have a good quality of life!

Y - "?"                                     


The CBT part is to write down, read, rehearse, and practice the positive and motivational thoughts. As they change your feelings and behaviours, you will have the keys to successful weight management.


In Review


  • Write down and read your motivations for losing weight daily, or even more often!
  • Give yourself credit for the right things you do to manage your weight - no matter how small. Write them down, review daily, and celebrate your successes!!!
  • Learn the ways you distort your thinking and practive changing those negative and unhelful beliefs to more realistic and helpful thoughts. Be patient - all new skill take time to develop.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice the good thinking you have learned and soon, it will just be the way you think!
 ~Alberta Health Services
So I hope people found this informative, look for my post on "Emotional, Binge and Addictive Eating"





19 votes + -


alaskadara wrote 63 months ago:
What a great post! Thanks for sharing this information, it is really helpful to me. It is so motivating to look at things from this perspective. I look forward to your future posts.
treagal wrote 63 months ago:
Thanks for it.
Liz_M_ wrote 63 months ago:
Excellent post. I found myself nodding in many places.
JessyeCantini wrote 63 months ago:
The great "Beck Diet Solution", from Dr Judith Beck!

I´m a psychologyst and work with CBT (but my field of interest is fear ans anxiety) since college.

I bought this book here in Brazil some years ago. I loved to see your post, ´cause it reminded me that I should read it again (and do all the activities that she proposes).
melwa wrote 63 months ago:
Excellent post! We all know what we need to do ie eat less/better, move more - but it's our head that gets in the way. I believe mindset is the biggest barrier to releasing weight for me. This is a great reminder- thanks.
Marine1811 wrote 63 months ago:
Wow great post, seems much like my CBT for PTSD, distorted thinking and such.All is so true. TY. ED
carolstartingover wrote 63 months ago:
I got a lil distracted by some misspelled words, I am really a picky person about that. However, it did not discourage me from taking in what CBT is and how it will help me think about weight loss and the deterents that we perceive as sabatoge. I would be foolish not to think that I may partake in more eating at holidays, but I don't do it for 30 days straight. It is only the days which we actually have a party and I don't binge. Great post.!!
losinghollyann wrote 63 months ago:
Great post. I have read through it twice, and am using some of it already. I appreciate your taking the time to post all of the information. Thanks!
lisamyershb wrote 33 months ago:
Great post! I just purchased a book from Nook regarding CBT and weight loss. My mindset is my biggest barrier. Daughter and I are planning to start our journey on Monday. No more negative, distorted thinking for me!

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