This Cognitive-Behavioral Strategy Could Be Key To Losing Weight

Written by mindbodygreen

Image by Studio Firma / Stocksy

We're not calorie counters here at mbg, and quick-fix diets aren't our thing. Instead, we're all about focusing on how food fuels us, nourishes us, and makes us feel.

But sometimes, getting to our healthiest selves requires us to lose a bit of weight, and we get that. The thing is, hitting our happiest and healthiest weight isn't often as simple as cutting out certain foods, especially if you actually want to maintain it in the long term. (Ask anyone who's tried to drop a few pounds by following a rigid set of rules, only to gain it all back later.)

"I come from a clinical background, where it's pretty black and white. [Weight loss strategies] have been blanketed as one-size-fits-all," says Cherina Cilauro, a registered dietitian who's currently the coaching program director at Noom, one of the most popular weight loss apps out today. Since her time there, she's seen that "people are most successful when they are in control of their own journey and goals."

A thoughtful approach to weight loss.

When you sign up for Noom, you're connected to a health coach who will work with you to help you reach your weight loss goals. The difference with Noom is that it's not about restriction—it actually isn't even about the food, either. It's about identifying the totally individualized thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that contribute to weight gain and replacing them with healthier responses.

You've probably heard of this before. It's called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and it's an evidence-based treatment method that's practiced extensively in many areas of psychotherapy. With its health coaches and an interactive psychology-based curriculum, Noom integrates CBT into its program to help its users lose weight and make lasting changes to their health.

For example: Say you typically finish a whole bag of your favorite snack while watching TV, or you can't seem to help yourself when the break room is chock-full of treats, or you tend to head straight to the pantry after a long day at work. Instead of going cold turkey on your snacking habit, you'd retrace your steps to identify the different triggers, thoughts, feelings, and other factors that play into your snacking so you understand what exactly keeps that behavior you want to change going.

"The behavior doesn't stand alone," says Cherina. "It's about why or how that behavior came to be; not just, 'OK, well, this is a thing that I want to change, so I'm just going to stop doing it. With weight loss, it's never just the one thing—it's retracing your steps back to what contributed to and keeps that 'one thing' going." In other words, knowing what to do and knowing how to get yourself to do it are two different things. Changing certain behaviors and habitual patterns in the long term is a job for the latter.

Image by Toma Evsuvdo / Stocksy

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So what does CBT for weight loss actually look like in action?

According to Cherina, the sweet spot for successful weight loss is "when you're learning about yourself and tracking that self-awareness." Things like planning snacks around specific times of the day to help prevent mindless eating if you tend to stress out at work or pre-logging your meals in the Noom app as a reminder of your intention for the day. It's all about reframing your thinking—and keeping track of it.

And several studies published in journals including Nature and the British Medical Journal have shown that these self-monitoring and self-awareness aspects of CBT play a major role in long-term weight loss. Literally inputting what you had for dinner is connected with dropping pounds. This, along with Noom's focus on a user's relationship with food—not the food itself or categorizing foods as good or bad—changes everything. And that's just the start of it.

"The best feeling in the world as a health coach is hearing someone say, "Oh my gosh, it wasn't me; I was set up to fail with all these other things I was promised would work for me, but this is who I am, and this is how I work,'" Cherina says. "That's empowering, and I think that's why they're able to move forward and finally be successful in their health goals."

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