• Tanya Sammut

What is CBT for weight loss?

Updated: Jan 24, 2021

CBT for weight loss is a breakthrough approach for anyone serious about making long-term changes to their lifestyle and permanently losing weight. CBT techniques are utilised to enable people to resist tempting food, find alternatives to emotional eating, become aware of 'triggers' for overeating, and prioritise self-care such as exercise and finding time to do this.

At CBT for the diet trap, we advocate making lifestyle changes that boost health, confidence and energy. Weight loss occurs because of this and is not necessarily the focus. Weight loss is the 'bi-product' of making changes.

Dr Judith Beck, the pioneer of CBT for weight loss, states that knowing what to do and knowing how to get yourself to do it are entirely different skills. Dr Beck suggests that building new habits and changing behaviour largely depends on what someone tells themselves (thinking).

CBT for weight loss has been designed for people without a diagnosis of an eating disorder, for example, bulimia.

What happens in CBT for weight loss

· Setting realistic goals

· Eating slow and mindfully

· Understanding thoughts and thought balancing

· Increasing self-compassion

· Hunger vs cravings

· Monitoring of eating

· Becoming aware of triggers

· Alternative behaviours to eating

Case study

Nicole: single 44 years old mother of two, she worked part-time. She made sure that her children ate well, and she limited their snacks. When it came to herself, she lived on high sugar, convenience food and caffeine, and she enjoyed a glass of wine to unwind in the evening and snacks each night that often consisted of cake, crisps or chocolate. Nicole stopped walking and generally the only exercise that she got was cleaning and other household chores. She gave up doing things for herself as she focussed all of her energy on the children. Nicole steadily put on weight over five years, three stone in total. She would often eat food mindlessly whilst watching television, feeling good in the moment and then beating herself up shortly after. She promised herself that 'tomorrow' would be different. Nicole tried several very restrictive diets. She often stuck with them for a few weeks/days, but the same thing kept happening each night, TV, excessive snacks and a feeling of guilt and self-loathing. Nicole began to avoid social events due to feeling embarrassed about her weight. She told herself that she would go once she had lost weight. And, so the cycle continued.


At home sitting on the sofa when children have gone to bed


I deserve a snack I have worked hard all-day.

I can 'be good' tomorrow.

I start my new diet on Monday anyway so what is the harm.

One more won't make a difference anyway.


Initially excited whilst eating

Content whilst eating

Guilty afterwards


Sit on the sofa and eat food.

Nicole began a CBT course; goals were set, she learned to identify her trigger situations and notice her thoughts, through a mixture of balancing and mindfulness Nicole realised that she didn't have to listen to her thoughts. She had many coping mechanisms and alternative behaviours. She started walking again and seeing friends more regularly. Nicole's energy increased. She noticed she was sleeping better. She also learnt that when she ate things that she had not planned for such as larger quantities of snacks, she learned how to get back on track and not think 'sod it, I have ruined it now anyway, might as well give up'. She became less self-critical of herself and learned how to be self-compassionate, she met all of her goals and continues to live the life she deserves.

Name changed for confidentiality purposes.

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