As holiday season creeps up on us, a lot of people notice something else creeping up on them – their weight. The combination of cold weather, delicious food, many social gatherings, and stress can wreak havoc on your diet. At this time of year, many people find themselves eating less healthfully and exercising less regularly. It’s no surprise then that losing weight is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions! Just because it’s easy to gain weight this time of year doesn’t mean it’s inevitable or irreversible.
We all know the basics of weight loss – burn more calories than you eat. But we also all know how hard it actually is to lose weight for some people. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to help people lose weight and keep it off. Most people don’t think of therapy as a way to lose weight, but research has shown that our weight is affected by so much more than what we eat; it’s affected by how we feel, where we live, who we interact with, and more. Because there are so many factors at play, CBT can help you make the necessary changes to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that can lead to achievable weight loss.
Whether you are currently in therapy for weight loss or are thinking of starting, here are a few things you can try to help you lose weight:
- Journal. Writing down and keeping track of everything you eat and drink can help you identify patterns and can also help uncover those hidden calories that we tend to forget about. Do you ever wonder how you gained weight this week when you were trying to hard? Journaling can help you find those little things that are adding up.
- Rate your hunger. Use a 0-10 scale where 0 is STARVING like you want to eat your own hand and 10 is STUFFED like you just overindulged at Thanksgiving. Before you eat, rate your hunger and make sure you are actually hungry and not bored, tired, thirsty, etc. Somewhere in the 3-6 range is normal hunger “time to eat.” If you are lower than 3, you’re waiting too long to eat and are more likely to overeat. If you are above 6, you’re not really hungry and shouldn’t eat. This same scale can be helpful to use after you’ve eaten a bit to see if you really do want seconds (or thirds or fourths).
- Eat mindfully. Do you ever find yourself eating and eating and eating and not really paying attention to what you’re eating? Maybe you’re watching tv, maybe you’re talking to a friend, maybe you’re checking out social media on your phone. All these things lead to distracted eating which, again, make us more likely to overeat. Try setting aside some time to focus on what you’re eating or drinking and nothing else. Maybe sit quietly with your cup of coffee and see what it’s like to sip the coffee, focus on how it tastes, how it feels, how hot it is, etc. Or try eating an apple and paying attention to how crunch it is, how sweet it is, how juicy it is, etc.
These are some of the things you can try to help with your weight loss. But if you find yourself struggling to really lose weight or keep it off, consider finding a therapist who specializes in weight management. Some of the ways a therapist can help you apply CBT to weight loss are to help you set goals for yourself. While this sounds easy, most people set goals that are either too hard to achieve or they just eventually stop trying to achieve their goals. Your therapist will work with you to not only set realistic goals but to help you maintain your motivation to continually work towards your goals. CBT will teach you how to self-monitor in a way that sets you up for success. You’ll learn how to evaluate what has worked well and what hasn’t and to identify next steps in a way that keeps you moving forward. It’s common for people to indulge in one unhealthy treat and then give up for the rest of the day. Using skills taught in CBT, you can learn how to indulge and not feel guilty or discouraged but still find your way back on track.
When people are dieting, they often struggle to maintain their motivation. It is also common to feel a sense of anxiety about “messing up” your diet or to fear certain times of day or social settings. CBT can help you maintain your motivation and navigate the feelings and beliefs that can get in the way of successfully – and happily – losing weight.
Have you found other ways to maintain your motivation to lose weight? Or do you have tricks that you use to help you lose weight? If not, or if you are looking for more help, consider therapy. Contact me to learn more about ways I may be able to help you!