It couldn’t be a more perfect day for a summer picnic. The sun is out, family is gathered in the park, and the picnic table is lined with blueberry pie, lemon dessert, cookies, and more. The spread of desserts is incredibly enticing, but as you eye up the goodies, it hits you: What about my diet?
Is your mental dialogue:
A) Whatever. I’m not going to miss out on dessert! It’s a special occasion and I’m not going to be miserable all day by settling for just one small piece.
B) It’s ok. I’m going to pick my favorite dessert and have just a small piece. I’ll eat it slowly and enjoy every bite, but I won’t make myself feel guilty about it.
Which sounds more like you, option A or option B?
Overeating can cause your diet to take a turn for the worse. Much like in the situation above, having delicious foods in front of you can make you not only crave them, but feel entitled or guilty about wanting to eat something that conflicts with your dieting efforts. Yet often it is not the actual act of overeating that sets people up for failure — it is their negative thinking.
What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that stresses the impact of a person’s perception of a situation on their reaction to that situation. CBT aims to help patients change their negative thinking or behaviors to improve their mood or functioning. Dr. Judith Beck, director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, explains the relationship between CBT and weight loss by highlighting that “knowing what to do and knowing how to get yourself to do it are entirely separate skills. When it comes to changing behavior, especially long-term, habitual patterns, getting yourself to do something different, even when you know it’s good for you, depends largely on…your thinking.”
It’s harder to change your thinking and habits while you are also trying to change your ideal wellness and weight loss. Dr. Beck recommends starting to develop your cognitive and behavioral skills prior to overhauling your diet to get accustomed to a healthy mindset and eating habits.
Making Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Work for You
You can begin to develop these cognitive skills by practicing a few small, but impactful habits. Stick to a regular eating schedule to regularize your eating and plan for special occasions in advance. Learning how to deal with cravings and eating mistakes is also a valuable skill to prevent negative thoughts from ruling your mindset.
Creating what Dr. Beck calls “response cards” — index cards with affirmative messages on them — is one tool that can help patients curb their temptation to overeat and form a healthy perspective on eating. Reaffirming helpful messages such as, “I can focus my attention elsewhere to help my cravings pass” or, “I can be healthier or I can eat whatever I want — I can’t have both” can help to keep feelings of disappointment or hopelessness from sabotaging a person’s eating behaviors.
Address your weight and wellness goals in a healthy manner this summer and beyond. By employing Beck’s cognitive skills and working with a weight management physician, you can manage your cravings with help from behavior modification and medical weight loss options that can help you achieve your ideal wellness.
Download our guide to healthy weight loss to lose weight safely and reliably this summer (and all year round!)