Are There Cognitive Behavioral Therapies For Weight Loss?

Do Cognitive Behavioral Strategies help In Losing Weight?
Do Cognitive Behavioral Strategies help In Losing Weight?

Curejoy Expert Dipti MothayExplains:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psycho-therapeutic treatment that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. CBT is an effective treatment for a wide range of problems such as phobias, addictions, depression and anxiety.


While dieting and exercising result in significant improvement, overweight or obese individuals start gaining weight after a while. The good news is that CBT has also been proved effective for weight loss and is proving to be a better form of weight-loss treatment. So how does CBT help?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Weight Loss

CBT is used to help individuals develop a set of skills to achieve healthier body weight. The behavior change process is facilitated through the use of self-monitoring, goal setting, and problem solving.


CBT for weight loss is based on traditional cognitive-behavioral principles of planning what to eat, scheduling one’s day to include food shopping and mealtimes, arranging the environment to support weight loss and planning for unpredictable situations [1].

A 2005 Swedish study evaluated long-term efficacy (18 months from the end of treatment) of a new cognitive short-term weight reducing treatment program for obese patients. According to their study, the group randomized to receive Cognitive Therapy lost more weight and kept it off over the next 18 months, while those assigned to a waiting list gained weight over the same period [2].


5 Cognitive Behavioral Strategies For Losing Weight

1. Set A Specific And Realistic Goal

Setting small, specific and realistic goals will ensure you stay motivated in the long run and achieve your weight loss goals. Start with small targets like just getting out of bed early everyday, putting on your exercise wear, walking a few steps in your apartment, going to a nearby park and doing some basic breathing exercises or just cleaning parts of the house everyday. These small steps might not impact your scale results but will help you feel confident of your ability to stick to set goals and push you on your road to setting higher goals.

2. Observe Yourself

Most people end up tracking their progress through gadgets or journalling daily progress. A better cognitive approach to ensuring weight loss success is to mindfully observe how you react to food cravings, triggers that demotivate you from sticking to diet/exercise regimes, what time of day do you feel the most vulnerable to cravings, which foods energize/de-energize you, etc.


3. Get Feedback

Feedback about your diet or exercise routine can provide motivation, help you adjust your behavior and improve outcomes. A regular health check by a health care provider can help provide vital information on deficiencies due to the new diet or improvements to your vitals. Lean on friends and family members and be open and positive about constructive feedback to adjust/tweak your weight loss regimen.

4. Be Positive

Focus on what makes you feel better. Like being physically active, being able to fit into your favorite dress, more energy and positive perception of your own body. Look at “diet” changes as a great way to explore and eat a lot of new foods/recipes instead of looking at what you need to give away. Foods that you loved during your growing years can find their way back into your plate.


5. Reward Yourself

The use of rewards as a motivating factor to support change in behavior has been extensively studied and the concept is now being applied to regaining and maintaining physical health [4]. Giving yourself non-food rewards (say a foot massage or a movie) as you try to lose weight can help you stay motivated.


  1. Foster, Gary D., Angela P. Makris, and Brooke A. Bailer. “Behavioral treatment of obesity.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 82.1 (2005): 230S-235S.
  2. Stahre, Lisbeth, and T. Hällström. “A short-term cognitive group treatment program gives substantial weight reduction up to 18 months from the end of treatment. A randomized controlled trial.” Eating and Weight Disorders-Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity 10.1 (2005): 51-58.
  3. Foster, Gary D., Angela P. Makris, and Brooke A. Bailer. “Behavioral treatment of obesity.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 82.1 (2005): 230S-235S.
  4. Group-Based Incentives for Weight Loss Produce Better Results. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2013).