The Beck Diet: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person-and Maintain Target Weight (Part 1)

Sep 30 09:57 2007 Alvaro Fernandez Print This Article

Do you wonder why, after losing some pounds, you typically regain them quickly? Interested in discovering how to maintain your target weight? Read this interview with Dr. Judith Beck, Director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research and author of The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person, a widely acclaimed book on how we can develop the mental skills required to sustain weight loss. Part 1 of 2.

Copyright (c) 2007 SharpBrains

Today we are honored to interview Dr. Judith Beck on how cognitive techniques can be applied to develop a number of important mental skills. The latest application of these?. Losing weight.

Dr. Judith Beck is the Director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research,Guest Posting Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond. Her most recent book is The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person.

Alvaro Fernandez (AF): Dr. Beck, thanks for your time. What does the Beck Institute do?

Judith Beck (JB): We have 3 main activities. One, we train practitioners and researchers through a variety of training programs. Two, we provide clinical care. Three, we are involved in research on cognitive therapy.

AF: Please explain cognitive therapy in a few sentences

JB: Cognitive therapy, as developed by my father Aaron Beck, is a comprehensive system of psychotherapy, based on the idea that the way people perceive their experience influences their emotional, behavioral, and physiological responses. Part of what we do is to help people solve the problems they are facing today. We also teach them cognitive and behavioral skills to modify their dysfunctional thinking and actions.

AF: I understand that cognitive therapy has been tested for many years in a variety of clinical applications. What motivated you to bring those techniques to the weight-loss field by writing The Beck Diet Solution?

JB: Since the beginning, I have primarily treated psychiatric outpatients with a variety of diagnoses, especially depression and anxiety. Some patients expressed weight loss as a secondary goal in treatment. I found that many of the same cognitive and behavioral techniques that helped them overcome their other problems could also help them to lose weight-and to keep it off.

I became particularly interested in the problem of overweight and was able to identify specific mindsets or cognitions about food, eating, hunger, craving, perfectionism, helplessness, self-image, unfairness, deprivation, and others, that needed to be targeted to help them reach their goal.

AF: What research results back your finding that those techniques help?

JB: Probably the best published study so far is the randomized controlled study by Karolinska Institute's Stahre and Halstrom. The results were striking: nearly all 65 patients completed the program and this short-term intervention (10-week, 30-hours) showed significant long-term weight reduction, even larger (when compared to the 40 individuals in the control group) after 18 months than right after the 10-weeks program.

AF: That sounds impressive. Can you explain what makes this approach so effective?

JB: A unique feature is that the book doesn't offer a diet but does provide tools to develop the mindset that is required for sustainable success, for modifying sabotaging thoughts and behaviors that typically follow people's initial good intentions. I help dieters acquire new skills. We have sold over 70,000 books so far, and are planning to release a companion workbook this month to further help readers implement the 6-week program and track progress.

AF: So, in a sense, we could say that your book is complementary to all other diet books.

JB: Exactly-it will help readers at setting and reaching their long-term goals, assuming that the diet is healthy, nutritious, and well-balanced.

The main message of cognitive therapy overall, and its application in the diet world, is straight-forward: problems losing weight are not one's fault. Problems simply reflect lack of skills--skills that can be acquired and mastered through practice. Dieters who read the book or workbook learn a new cognitive or behavioral skill every day for six weeks. They practice some skills just once; they automatically incorporate others for their lifetime.

AF: What are the cognitive and emotional skills and habits that dieters need to train, and where your book helps?

JB: Great question. That is exactly my goal: to show how everyone can learn some critical skills. The key ones are:

1) How to motivate oneself. The first task that dieters do is to write a list of the 15 of 20 reasons why they want to lose weight and read that list every single day.

2) Plan in advance and self-monitor behavior. A typical reason for diet failure is a strong preference for spontaneity. I ask people to prepare a plan and then I teach them the skills to stick to it.

3) Overcome sabotaging thoughts. Dieters have hundreds and hundreds of thoughts that lead them to engage in unhelpful eating behavior.

NOTE: the interview continues now in the article The Beck Diet: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person (Part 2).

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Alvaro Fernandez
Alvaro Fernandez

Alvaro Fernandez is the CEO and Co-Founder of, which provides the latest science-based information for Scientific Brain Training and Brain Exercise, and has been recognized by Scientific American Mind, MarketWatch, CBS, Forbes, and more. Alvaro holds MA in Education and MBA from Stanford University, and teaches The Science of Brain Health at UC-Berkeley Lifelong Learning Institute. You can learn more at

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