Overview of CBT for Obesity

Obesity is one of the health problems that cause the most deaths worldwide today. 2.8 million adults die each year due to obesity. Obesity invites many diseases and is a multifactorial disease. It can be caused by genetic, social, psychological, familial, biological, behavioral, cultural, or environmental factors.

Obesity patients who want to have a healthy body and brain may prefer treatment methods such as diet, exercise, medication, or surgery. But as long as the patient does not give up his overeating habits, they cannot get rid of his excess weight permanently. It is possible to overcome these habits with the help of CBT for obesity (cognitive-behavioral therapy). It is impossible to get rid of obesity as long as you regain the weight you lost with treatment.

Doctors may use cognitive behavioral therapy alone or in combination with other obesity treatment methods. You can benefit from CBT for obesity together with bariatric surgery or drug therapy.

Why CBT for Obesity is Done?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an obesity treatment that allows you to both lose and maintain weight. Thanks to CBT for obesity, you can get rid of your overeating habits and get the healthy body you desire. The goal of therapy is to eliminate the habits that cause you to be obese. However, to better understand the function of CBT for obesity, it is useful to explain the types of obesity and overeating habits.

Types of Obesity

Endogenous obesity

It is a type of obesity that occurs due to certain internal health problems of the patient. Diseases such as hypothyroidism, hypogonadism, diabetes, or polycystic ovary syndrome can cause obesity. However, the most common endogenous cause that doctors encounter is endocrinal. So, obesity is caused by one of the endocrine glands not working properly. However, patients who are obese due to endogenous causes make up a relatively small proportion (2%-3%) of obese patients. This brings us to exogenous causes.

Exogenous obesity

Today, 90%-95% of obesity cases are due to psychological or emotional reasons. Exogenous obesity occurs with overeating, certain eating habits, or eating disorders. In addition, doctors associate depression and anxiety disorders with exogenous obesity.

Types of Eating Disorders

Exogenous obesity and eating disorders are directly related issues. Doctors have observed that most patients with obesity have serious errors in their engagement with food. The most common eating disorders today are:

Binge eating disorder

If you regularly eat large amounts of food for short periods and cannot stop, you have a binge eating disorder. It is not possible to burn the calories you take in this way with physical activity. People suffering from this disorder often associate external influences with food and cling to food when they experience emotional distress. Most people with binge eating disorders are overweight or obese. However, people with normal weight can also develop binge eating disorders.


It is the medical name for the feeling of excessive and unremitting hunger. Patients with hyperphagia concentrate only on eating. Under normal circumstances, your feeling of hunger should decrease when you eat. But hyperphagia causes you to feel hungry no matter how much you eat. You cannot control your urge to eat, even after you have had enough.

Night eating syndrome

This identifies the patients who wake up at night to eat or eat excessively after dinner. In this syndrome, the person is fully aware of when and how much they eat.

How You prepare

The first and most important factor is honesty. You must be honest with yourself and your doctor. Before your first meeting, reach out to your doctor and inquire about how to prepare yourself. Your doctor will likely want you to keep a food diary. You should record every food you eat over several days. Thus, your doctor gets an idea about your eating habits. You should also prepare yourself to be honest with your doctor about your current diet and exercise habits.

What You Can Expect

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an indispensable part of obesity treatment. Therapy aims to make the patient lose weight permanently by changing their eating habits.

For this purpose, your doctor:

  • Monitors and modifies your food consumption.
  • Changes your physical activity habits.
  • Takes control of the triggers around you.

CBT for obesity has many parts. Your doctor will decide which of these will be most beneficial for you and will act according to your situation:

Setting weight loss goals

If you want to change your eating habits, you need patience and discipline. For this, it is an effective method to set certain goals for yourself. For example, you can aim to lose 0.5-1 kg per week. Methods such as diet education or the use of portion-controlled meals help you reach your goal.

Setting behavioral goals

It’s just as important as setting weight loss goals. These goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-constrained (SMART). It is unthinkable for a person to change their behavior without setting realistic goals. For example, fill half your plate with fruit or vegetables.


This is one of the most important elements of therapy. For this, you need to keep a food diary and physical activity log for several weeks or months and monitor your weight. You should record every food you eat, its calories, conditions, and quantity. Studies reveal that self-monitoring is directly effective in weight loss.

Stimulant control

You should control the environmental factors that trigger eating and understand and eliminate the environmental factors that cause you to overeat. In therapy, you will learn to eat more fruits and vegetables, prepare low-calorie meals, and have these foods within easy reach. In addition, you will learn here to avoid any action that accompanies the act of eating. There will be no reading or watching TV while eating. You just have to focus on eating and have total control over your behavior.

Eating style

By slowing down your eating much more than you are used to, it is possible to achieve a feeling of fullness with a small amount. To slow down your eating, you should concentrate on the texture and taste of your food and chew slowly to savor it. In addition, techniques such as getting up from the table for a short time during a meal or drinking water between bites are also helpful.

Behavioral contracting and reinforcement

Being rewarded for successful results can motivate you more to lose weight. Doctors have observed that this method is effective in group therapies.

Portion control and meal planning

Again, a highly effective behavioral strategy. Planning and structuring your meals increases your control over overconsumption. For example, you can achieve this with portion-controlled plates.

Increasing physical activity

Changing your physical activity habits is one of the most important elements of CBT for obesity. When you apply it with self-monitoring, it allows you to have a much healthier and more successful weight loss process.

Social support

The support of your family and loved ones can make a difference in your weight loss. Social support positively affects weight loss in the long run. If those closest to you are aware of your struggle and support you, both your motivation and the amount of weight you lose can improve.

Other tools

Some behavioral tools can help support a successful weight loss process:

  • Learning to say “NO”.
  • Reducing stress factors.
  • Speak positively to yourself.
  • Learn to maintain self-control at parties or restaurants.

After Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can last for months. Even if you achieve the results you desire, it is helpful to continue to talk to your doctor and support group. If you start to gain weight again, be sure to seek help to refresh what you have learned.

The success of the therapy will depend entirely on your dedication and discipline. Although therapy teaches you weight loss techniques, you are the one who will practice them. Contacting other patients in your support group when you feel pessimistic can prevent you from making the wrong decisions.


After therapy, maintaining the weight you have achieved is just as important as the weight loss itself. It takes endurance and time to make the behavioral changes permanent. Remind yourself of the goals you have set often and do not deviate. Remember that the changes you make will have life-saving effects in the long run. Finally, if you show the necessary perseverance, happy and healthy life awaits you with the results you achieve.

For More Information

In Istanbul Medical Assistance your comfort during or after all kinds of procedures is our priority. Whether you are looking for more information, an initial evaluation, or a second opinion, do not hesitate to contact us via Whatsapp at +90 530 884 47 22. We will get back to you as quickly as we can.

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