The American public has what can only be termed an “unusual” relationship with body weight. While most people see an excess of body weight as undesirable, paradoxically, 66% of Americans are overweight. That’s two thirds of Americans! This dichotomy – idolizing something that many of us do not have – has created a fraught relationship between Americans and weight. Perhaps it’s no surprise then, that Americans will do nearly anything to lose weight, including going on fad diets, purchasing unproven and untested dieting products, participating in brutal exercise regimes, and even going on television shows such as “The Biggest Loser” in order to lose weight and attain the American ideal of a slim, trim body. What should be even less surprising, given America’s obsession with psychotherapy, is that many Americans are now turning to cognitive behavioral therapy for weight loss!
Cognitive behavioral therapy for weight loss, not to be confused with cognitive therapy, is a form of psychotherapy that attempts to change or modify dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and states of mind. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to change the behaviors or beliefs of a patient when it comes to food, exercise and weight. Cognitive behavioral therapy for weight loss is a “behavioristic” type of psychotherapy, meaning that it tries to modify human behavior.
Some people write off the idea of cognitive behavioral therapy for weight loss, because they do not think that psychotherapy will do any good in what they see as a physical problem. “Just stop eating so much and you won’t get fat,” these people say. But these people often do not understand the complex web of mental, emotional and yes, even physical, factors that come wrapped up with an overweight body. While a medical doctor is more equipped to help people who are overweight because of physical causes, psychotherapists are best equipped to help people with cognitive behavioral therapy for weight loss.
If you are skeptical about the application of cognitive behavioral therapy, first consider some of the other common usages of cognitive behavioral therapy. These usages include treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder (an increasingly common disorder, especially due to the recent war in Iraq and Afghanistan), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bulimia, and clinical depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy treats the underlying causes, symptoms, attitudes, beliefs and emotions that lead to disorders and conditions rather than treating the physical symptoms, as you would do with pills or surgery. In fact, the United Kingdom’s National Institute of Health recommends cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of such disorders.
If you elect to receive cognitive behavioral therapy, you may be asked to performer in a variety of different types of therapies. These may include keeping a diary of significant events and your feelings, thoughts and behaviors associated with these events, being asked to question your assumptions regarding these events (and other assumptions that may be unhelpful to your weight status), and learning relaxation and clear thinking techniques that will help you overcome any inherent thoughts, feelings, attitudes or opinions that may be contributing to your overall weight gain.
Further, cognitive behavioral therapy for weight loss often includes a medical component. Your psychotherapist might prescribe mood stabilizing medications in order to assist with your cognitive behavioral therapy for weight loss.
If you are struggling with weight issues and find that you are interested in cognitive behavioral therapy, contact a psychotherapist in your area. Therapists are often very busy, so if the first one you call is not accepting new patients, they can often recommend someone who is. It is also a good idea to contact your primary care physician if you are put on any medications. This simply lets you be sure that any psychotherapy medications you elect to take mesh with your current state of physical health.