Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help You Lose Weight?

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We’re one month into 2021–how are your New Year’s resolutions going? Are you keeping them or have you given up? One of the most common resolutions is to lose weight and the weight loss industry may be catching up to the mental health industry. One weight loss app even promotes itself as using cognitive behavioral therapy to change eating habits.

Those who struggle with obesity and losing weight may suffer from a behavioral addiction known as overeating. You may have even heard of the group called Overeaters Anonymous. Unfortunately, many people don’t believe a behavioral addiction like overeating is a true addiction because it doesn’t necessarily involve substance abuse (although it can involve medications). However, behavioral addictions are real addictions and should be treated as such.

What Are Behavioral Addictions?

Behavioral addictions involve many activities besides overeating. Some of these activities include gambling, sex, social media, shopping, plastic surgery, or pornography.

Can food be a real addiction? The definition of addiction, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a compulsive, chronic, physiological, or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence.” In plain language, it’s any behavior that becomes compulsive to the point that it causes harm. When it comes to overeating, have you ever heard the phrase “digging your grave with your teeth?”

With food, in particular, you can’t just stop eating altogether. You may not have the physiological dependence of a drug or chemical addiction, but could you imagine the willpower an alcoholic would need if someone told them they could only have one drink a day but they must drink that one?

That probably wouldn’t work too well. Rather, a person’s thoughts and behaviors about food need to be reframed through techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy.

 What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on the negative self-talk that leads to destructive or bad behaviors. By having someone evaluate and replace those negative thoughts with positive affirmations and thoughts, people can make long-lasting changes. The weight loss industry seems to be embracing this as the foremost technique for losing weight, rather than just counting calories or doing hours of cardio. Online apps such as Noom even advertise their cognitive behavioral approach and offer one-on-one coaching via text message.

With Noom’s success, other sites have been following their approach and business model. These new startups try to modify behaviors to enable long-term change and weight loss with counting calories playing a secondary role.

Even old facilitators of weight loss are focusing more on behavior changes. Weight Watchers was once about measuring all your food on a scale and weighing in once a week. Now they have virtual meetings, food journaling, and one-on-one virtual coaching at their highest level of membership.

How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Create Lasting Change?

This particular therapy has applications with other behavioral addictions as well as mental health issues and substance abuse. By focusing on the reasons why you formed automatic negative responses to triggers, you can see the fallacy of your thinking and replace those old thoughts with new ones. For instance. Instead of thinking “I’ll always be fat because I can’t lose weight,” you might try replacing that thought with a more logical, positive one, such as “I am taking care of my body and health so I can do all the things I want to and weight is just a number.”

Society and culture in general seem to be making a shift in behavioral patterns and embracing body-positivity. After reflecting more diversity in body types with plus-size models representing the “real” woman, larger and healthier women seem to be everywhere. As society is embracing different body types, you can train your mind to look at weight loss in a whole new light and focus on health rather than the number on the scale. Cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on weight loss through a healthy lifestyle can change the way we look at dieting and help us lead a healthier, happier life.

What Other Techniques Can Help You Get Healthier?

One of the most common causes of behavioral addiction surrounding food is stress eating. Ever heard the phrase “comfort food”? Many people use food to self-medicate their feelings when they’re stressed or anxious. Have you ever indulged in a chocolate treat to make yourself feel better? There is a physiological response when you eat chocolate that makes your brain increase its levels of serotonin and dopamine, which respectively stabilize and elevate mood. 

Finding other ways to relieve stress and improve mood can help you avoid that Hershey’s bar. Try yoga or meditation for stress and anxiety relief. If you have another physical activity that you enjoy, make a point to work it into your lifestyle. Some people enjoy taking walks in nature to take a timeout from daily life, relieve anxiety or stress, and get a bit of exercise.

While you can’t eliminate the need for food, you can make some healthy adjustments to your diet. If you really have to have that chocolate bar, make sure it’s dark chocolate with 85 percent cocoa to reap a wealth of health benefits, like a mood boost and antioxidants. For those who take antidepressants or mood stabilizers, this doesn’t mean throw out your pills and gorge yourself with chocolate–always consult a doctor before stopping a medication.

The bottom line is that overeating is a behavioral addiction that can be treated by using cognitive behavioral therapy methods to help reduce stress and modify a person’s attitude and actions surrounding food and body image.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has found its way into many weight loss programs and, rather than being just another fad diet, people are using CBT to learn to change their thinking and modify their behavior regarding food and to get healthy in the long term. When you are making your annual resolutions to lose weight and get healthy, consider apps that focus on behavior modification, like Noom. Their use of personal coaching and CBT can lead to a lifestyle change and a new way of looking at health rather than the dreaded “dieting.” Engaging in activities that relieve stress can enhance the effects of CBT by allowing you a clearer perspective to make the necessary changes to your thought processes and behaviors. Here at Everlast Recovery Center, we use CBT to treat substance abuse, mental health disorders, and behavioral addictions. You can reduce stress through our yoga program or try some outdoor activities such as hiking. We are here to help you be the best person you can be. Let us help get you back on track for 2021 at our Riverside, California campus. Call 866-DETOX-25

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