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How CBT For Weight Loss Can Help End Your Weight Battle

Neuroaffect Circuit

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Carrie Lam, MD; Jeremy Lam, MD

an image of a fat person measuring his bellyWeight maintenance is a serious concern for a lot of people. There are many techniques and diets that promise to help you control your weight. Some of them work and some of them just seem to make things worse. But, if you’re struggling with this issue, then it might be time to try CBT for weight loss. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to help with a range of problem behaviors, including overeating. Let's explore this special program!

What are Some of the Dangers of Excess Weight?

Excess weight increases your risk of certain health problems. If you’re overweight, you’re more likely to suffer from:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Sleep apnea
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Certain cancers such as breast, colon, and endometrial cancer.

These can be life-threatening issues, and yet people all over the world still struggle with their weight.

What is CBT for Weight Loss?

CBT is a type of psychological therapy that can work with lifestyle changes to help you lose weight. This therapy has been successfully used to treat issues like anxiety and depression. Recently CBT for weight loss has also been introduced into the diet world. If you struggle with your weight, then you probably know that lifestyle changes alone don’t always work. You can promise to stick to a diet or avoid junk food. But, all it takes is a moment of weakness, and you’re back where you started from. CBT can help to avoid that negative process.

CBT for weight loss won’t work for everyone. Your body and your lifestyle are different to everyone else’s. So this is why any weight loss program must be tailored to your needs. However, studies have shown that CBT can be a valuable tool in your weight maintenance battle. It’s far more effective than just trying to force yourself to change your lifestyle without changing the way you think about food at the same time.

How to Use CBT for Weight Loss

doctor consulting a patient reading some diagnosisCBT for weight loss is often useful at several stages in the diet process. Weight loss is a very complex issue that involves much more than food. It’s affected by social expectations, self-image, self-esteem, and confidence. This is evidence of the importance of your beliefs and mental state when you try to lose weight. If you try to lose weight with the same mentality that caused you to gain weight, then chances are, you’ll fail. However, CBT for weight loss can help change the way you think and talk to yourself and about yourself. And this can make all the difference on your weight loss journey. Here are some of the elements that can be improved when using CBT for weight loss assistance:


Finding the right motivation is pivotal when you’re trying to lose weight. CBT for weight loss will teach you to find your true motivation for losing weight and stay focused on it.

Barriers and Triggers

Chances are that you’ve tried to diet before and failed (as most people do). CBT for weight loss will help you identify why you failed in the past. It will help you understand your unique triggers for overeating. And then you will be able to avoid them.

Mood Elevation

Binge eating in response to a low mood is very common. CBT has been shown to improve your mood, which will help support your weight loss efforts.

Body Image

If you’ve struggled with your weight for a long time, then you probably have a poor body image. How you think of your body shouldn’t define your identity. Unfortunately, modern media and supposed beauty standards often convey the message that the way you look is the most important thing about you. CBT for weight loss will help you identify and overcome this negative messaging.

Effective Goals

If you aren’t succeeding at your life’s goals, those big things you want to do and have, it will negatively affect other goals such as weight loss. CBT for weight loss focuses on this problem. It will help you to identify both your weight loss goals, and your larger life goals. And once you’re on the path to achieving your life goals, your confidence and self-image will improve, which will make weight loss easier.

Realistic Goals

It’s important that you set realistic goals for your weight loss. If you want to lose half your body weight in two months, you’ll fail. And that failure will affect your confidence and any weight loss attempts in the future. CBT for weight loss will teach you to set realistic goals that you can achieve.


If you’ve already lost weight, CBT can help you maintain the changes you’ve made to your life and your weight loss. Most diets fail because they’re too restrictive and you gain weight the moment you start eating normally again. CBT will help prevent this disaster and assist to safeguard your health over the long-term.

How Your Weight Impacts Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS)

Weight gain is a very common problem when you have Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), which is why the information about CBT for weight loss is so valuable. Weight gain occurs with AFS because of a variety of problems and imbalances associated with this condition. When the body is under continual stress, the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response is forced to be active for long periods. This can cause the organs and systems associated with it to become fatigued and dysfunctional.

The adrenals are often the first organs to feel the effects of this overwork. And because they produce cortisol (a hormone which is essential for your body during stressful times), these dysfunctions can spread. AFS can affect every circuit in your body, such as your Inflammation and Detoxification Circuits. This then may result in weight gain. And any problem in the individual circuits will only worsen your adrenal fatigue. That’s why it’s so important to address circuit imbalances when they occur.

The Neuroaffect Circuit and Weight Gain

man and woman posing with their great body figure resulting from diet and exerciseYou might not connect weight gain and weight loss with the Neuroaffect Circuit. After all, your brain doesn’t seem to be directly connected to your gut. But the truth is that these two systems are intertwined. The Neuroaffect Circuit consists of the brain, the gut, and the autonomic nervous system (ANS). And the dysfunctions that can occur in this circuit when you have AFS can seriously impact your weight loss efforts.

The gut and brain are connected through the vagus nerve to create the gut-brain axis. The dual communication between these organs means that any physical issues or problems in one organ will directly affect the other. People with AFS often experience dysbiosis, a gut issue that occurs when the natural bacterial balance in the gut changes. Bad bacteria can grow out of control, leading to leaky gut. This spreads bacteria across the lining of the gut and into the bloodstream. Eventually this causes inflammation which is often thought to be a potential cause of mental health issues. When this occurs, the natural gut functions will slow down, leading to problems with digestion and nutrient absorption.

These issues can be a major cause of weight gain in AFS, and will affect the health of the brain and the Neuroaffect Circuit. Unfortunately, if you have AFS, then the health of your brain is likely compromised. AFS often causes neurotransmitter (NT) and hormonal imbalances that affect the communication and functioning of the brain. And stress can cause serious physical changes in the brain that will only worsen as AFS advances.

This combination of gut problems and brain imbalances can severely hamper your weight loss efforts and inflict additional stress on your already overtaxed system.

How CBT for Weight Loss Can Rebalance the Neuroaffect Circuit

image representation of a man wanted and determined for weight lossCBT for weight loss can help to improve the health of the Neuroaffect Circuit. Excess weight is one cause of physical and emotional stress. Making lifestyle changes and mental changes that help resolve that problem will naturally alleviate those issues. But the benefits go further than that. Mental disorders such as anxiety and depression are very common with AFS. CBT has been shown to improve mood and can teach you strategies that may help to alleviate mental symptoms associated with weight gain and AFS. And that will further reduce your body’s stress levels and lessen your adrenal fatigue symptoms.


Excess weight can affect every aspect of your life. People who struggle with this issue often experience serious and health conditions. And these issues can have a long-term impact on your physical, emotional, and mental health. There are lots of techniques that promise relief from excess weight and overeating, and not all of them work. But research into the use of CBT for weight loss indicates that it could be the breakthrough you’ve been looking for.

© Copyright 2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam's Key Question

Excess weight and overeating are serious health problems. There are lots of strategies that promise to help, but many of them make the situation worse. The use of CBT for weight loss is a relatively new idea that could give you the push you need to conquer this problem.

© Copyright 2001-2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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