Taking charge of your diet

Based on her extensive experience working with clients with addiction problems, Sylvie Boulay (a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) has written Take Charge of Your Diet to show how the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be used to aid weight loss. Rather than proposing a particular diet, the workbook offers practical tools to help slimmers adhere to whatever plan they have chosen. This week on the blog, Sylvie gives an overview of how CBT can make a difference.

What has lockdown been like for your weight? Public Health England did a survey of over 5000 adults in England and found that they gained an average of nearly half a stone and 21% put on a stone or more. At the same time the Zoe survey of over a million people’s diet over lockdown found that 34% put on 3.5 kgs but 32% lost 4 kgs. Clearly lockdown has caused a big shift in people’s lifestyles.

The individual picture is probably more complex with people experiencing fluctuations in weight. Some themes have been common to all:

Uncertainty about the future

A focus on the link between poor health, obesity and Covid complications

A focus on food because of a change in shopping habits and a lot more time spent at home and with others

Lack of gyms and organised sport activities but perhaps more walking

Different methods of communication with more phone and zoom

A very difficult situation for anyone with weight issues but also a truly extraordinary opportunity to examine our lifestyles.

What has it been like for you? Do you want to use what you learned in lockdown to change some habits relating to food or exercise? Then CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is for you. It is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, body and behaviour are all interlinked. When something happens, the way we react depends on our perceptions. Once we are aware of our thoughts and feelings, we can train ourselves to respond in a way that helps us reach our goals. CBT has been proved to work to help people change and it is particularly useful to achieve long-term weight loss.

CBT was a life saver for me during lockdown. It helped me to cope with the fluctuations in my moods and to develop strategies to manage anxiety. I lost a lot of weight at first because I went into a scarcity mindset: my first thought was ‘what if we run out of food?’. I couldn’t bear to waste anything and I ended up cooking endless soups with the leftovers. Then when shops reopened, it was hard to resist the bakeries and coffee shops.

What did you learn from your lockdown experience? How did you deal with the ups and downs? How did you plan ahead in uncertain times? How did you nourish yourself both physically and emotionally? What did you learn about your values and who or what is essential in your life? What habits are helpful or unhelpful and what do you need to change? How can you take it further to help you in the future?

The CBT model is about the here and now and focuses on what is within our control. It doesn’t specify any particular eating regime but it gives slimmers the practical tools to become their own weight loss experts. With a little practice you can learn to:

Understand your eating patterns

Make sense of previous attempts at losing weight

Choose a sensible plan and set yourself goals

Create new habits which will keep you on target

Challenge any unhelpful thoughts

Spot risk situations and plan to deal with them

Managing cravings

Prepare for setbacks and learn from them

CBT techniques are easy to understand. They do take practice but they will give you the power to take charge of your eating so you lose weight for good. Ultimately of course, it’s not just about sticking to a particular regime, it is about creating a new style of behaviour which results in a more satisfying life.


Take Charge of Your Diet: A Self-Help Workbook Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by Sylvie Boulay is out on 30th September 2021. Also available as an ebook. 

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