How can CBT therapy help with unhealthy eating patterns?

Maggie Morrow Award Winning Therapist
Author: Maggie Morrow, Award Winning Psychotherapist, Counsellor & Life Coach
Last updated: 23rd August 2023

CBT Diagram

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that has been shown to be effective in dealing with a broad range of mental health issues including anxiety, panic attacks, depression and stress. Guided by one of our experienced therapists, CBT can help you make sense of problems and build a tool kit of strategies so you can feel empowered and capable when dealing with life’s challenges.

But did you know that it can also be used to help you form healthier eating habits?

Food and mental health

We know that our relationship with food is intricately linked to mental health. Eating a balanced diet not only nourishes the body, it provides the physical and mental energy you need to sustain yourself throughout the day, lifts your mood and maintains your overall wellbeing.

Mental health struggles can easily impact the way you eat and many people use food as a way to cope with difficult emotions. When you’re eating in response to emotions – be they stress, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, sadness, fatigue etc – it’s called emotional eating. While it may give you a quick boost in the moment, it won’t fix the feelings you are having. Over time, unhealthy eating patterns can develop.

In extreme cases, emotional eating can get out of control and turn into a serious eating disorder such as

  • Obesity – A Body Mass Index (BMI) of >30.0 is classed as obese, >40.0 is classed as severely obese. Prolonged overeating has been attributed to a range of psychological problems including poor self-esteem, poor body image, low self-confidence, lack of motivation, social anxiety and depression.
  • Bulimia Nervosa – Bulimia is a serious mental health condition and eating disorder characterised by binge eating followed by self-induced vomiting, excessive exercising and/or the use of laxatives to stop any weight gain. Sufferers are compulsive critics of their weight and body shape.
  • Anorexia Nervosa – A BMI of >15% below the normal rate may indicate Anorexia, a serious mental health condition and eating disorder. Sufferers have an obsessional fear of gaining weight and use deliberate undereating and/or overexercising to keep their weight down, often based on a distorted body image.

How can CBT help?

CBT can help you understand the link between your negative thought patterns and how they lead to your unhealthy behaviours. That’s why it can be an ideal choice of therapy if you’re worried about your relationship with food and your body.

By using CBT, you may be able to overcome obstacles to leading a healthier lifestyle and develop healthier eating patterns. A therapist can help you set realistic goals, and show you strategies you can use in difficult situations. You may be asked to keep a record of how you are feeling while working towards your goals and address setbacks as they arise.

CBT can also help you to improve low self-esteem and body image issues. By using tried and tested techniques to help you notice when you are being harshly critical of yourself, you are able to change the negative thoughts and feelings you may have about yourself and replace them with being kind to yourself and focusing on the positive things about your body.

CBT has been clinically proven as an effective treatment for serious eating disorders including Bulimia, Anorexia and Obesity. Conventional treatment for the latter two usually also involves dietary advice and medical supervision. The good news is that recovery from Bulimia is possible within 4-6 months, while Anorexia sufferers may take 1-2 years to recover.

Get in touch

If you feel that your eating patterns are not healthy, or you are struggling with being overweight or underweight, the team at KlearMinds can help. Often, the secret of long-term success isn’t simply about diet and exercise, it’s about addressing the underlying psychological issues relating to food and body image, and this is where CBT can be invaluable in affecting a shift in your mindset.

To book an appointment or make an enquiry, please send us a confidential message on this form, or call us on 0333 772 0256.

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