How to Escape the Diet Trap Cycle & Keep Weight Off for Good

People often think they need to change their eating to lose weight. While this is true, it’s only half of the story. To make permanent changes in their eating, people need to make changes in their thinking because individuals’ thinking highly influences what they do and don’t eat.

[Read: 5 Ways to Make Meditation Less Intimidating]

Maybe you’ve had thoughts such as:

  • It’s okay to eat this because I’ll start my diet tomorrow
  • It’s unfair that I can’t eat like everyone else.
  • I’ve had a bad day so I deserve to eat this.

When dieters have thoughts like these and leave them unchecked, they end up overeating—and then feeling bad that they did. They need to identify the thoughts (which we call “Sabotaging Thoughts”) that might get in the way of sticking to their diets, and then come up with strong responses so they don’t give in. Judith Beck Deborah Beck Busis Diet Trap Solution

[Read: Are You Truly Healthy? 15 Questions to Ask Yourself]

Imagine what would happen if, once a dieter had the thought ,”It’s okay to eat this because I’ll start my diet tomorrow,” she was then able to counter it with, “No, it’s not okay! Waiting to start my diet tomorrow has never worked. This moment counts and I need to make healthy choices today so that I can have a healthy tomorrow, too. Besides, today is yesterday’s tomorrow which means I need to get started right now.” Reading this kind of response every day makes it so much less likely that she’ll end up overeating.

What we’ve described to you – learning to identify and respond effectively to unhelpful and sabotaging thinking – is a key component of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, also known as CBT. CBT is a form of talk therapy that has been demonstrated in over a thousand clinical trials to be effective for a wide range of psychological and behavioral problems, including chronic obesity and binge-eating disorder. Without using these CBT techniques to help change their fundamental thinking, dieters may make short term changes in their behavior but they invariably revert back to old habits (and once they do, gain weight back). It’s only once they learn to change their thinking that they are able to keep weight off for good.

[Read: Change Your Eating Habits One Baby Step at a Time With This Ditch & Switch Guide]

A powerful and effective CBT tool is creating and reading Reminder Cards. Reminder Cards are simply cards (either physical ones or virtual ones you create for your phone or tablet) that contain helpful responses to sabotaging thinking. When dieters make these cards and read them every single day, it helps these new ideas penetrate their minds and enables them to overcome the thinking that would lead them astray. Let’s say, for example, a dieter identifies that he may have the thought, “It’s okay to eat this because everyone else is.” He can then make the following Reminder Card to read daily:

The Diet Trap Solution Judith Beck Deborah Beck

Or the dieter who has the thought: “I’m so upset, eating will make me feel better.” She could then make a Reminder Card that says:

[Read: It’s All About Your Hormones! Dr. Sara Answers the Top 3 Weight Loss Questions]


If I dieter identifies that she’s likely to have the thought, “I just want to eat normally like everyone else,” a Reminder Card can help remind her:


[Read Maria Shriver’s latest “I’ve Been Thinking” essay]

Once dieters are able to identify and respond to their sabotaging thinking, they are finally able to make and sustain healthy habits. Creating Reminder Cards and reading them every day is a key component in changing your thinking and in doing so, you can really change your life.

Diet Trap Solution Judith Beck Deborah Beck Busis

About the Author

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Judith S. Beck, Ph.D. is the President of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy and the clinical associate professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the New York Times bestselling author of “The Beck Diet Solution.” In addition to teaching, supervision, and clinical work, she has been a consultant for several National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) studies, has developed widely adopted assessment scales for children and adolescents, and has presented hundreds of workshops nationally and internationally on various applications of cognitive therapy.Deborah Beck Busis, LCSW, is Beck Institute’s Diet Program Coordinator. She helped Dr. Beck develop the diet program and works with her on a variety of different projects at the Beck Institute, including conducting research. She counsels dieters in the US and other countries, consults for organizations, and lectures nationally and internationally. She is currently developing a training program and manual for diet coaches. Deborah Beck Busis received her Masters of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania and is a licensed clinical social worker.

Read more from Judith S. Beck and Deborah Beck Busis

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