Help With Obesity: Behavioral Therapy and Support Groups

Reviewed Dec 31, 2016

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Summary

You can get support: 

  • From one-on-one therapy
  • From a supervised support group
  • From a combination program with an education component

You probably gained weight slowly, so expect the road to a healthy weight to be equally long and winding. But, you can get there, and there is no reason for a trip to a healthy weight to be a miserable one.

If you are looking for personal help with your weight problem, there are three basic routes you can follow:

  1. One-on-one help from a nutritionist or therapist who specializes in weight-loss issues
  2. Support from a group, led by a therapist
  3. Help from a commercial program that includes education, group support, and a specific food plan, such as the Weight Watchers® program

One-on-one help

If you want someone to point you in the right direction, you might start with a trained therapist who deals with eating disorders. Ask your doctor, local hospital, or a weight-loss clinic to help you find one. A psychologist or a licensed certified social worker (LCSW) are often good choices, especially if the person has a lot of experience helping people with weight problems, both too little and too much.

For example, Judith Matz, LCSW, in the Chicago area, focuses on people who want to lose weight. She says the best thing about getting one-on-one help from a therapist is that she will listen to your concerns without judgment. She will use the time you have together to hear what you have to say about your attitude toward food, your body, dieting, exercise, stress, and other things that led you to your current weight.

She asks people if they:

  • Eat when they are stressed or when they are hungry
  • Eat when they are lonely or sad
  • Eat too fast, too often or too much
  • Feel satisfied or full after a meal
  • Feel guilty about what or how much they eat

Whatever a therapist learns from your answers will help her help you build a healthy relationship with food. A change in attitude is often the first step toward building a food plan that lasts. It’s not the plan that helps the person lose weight, Matz says, but the new way that person looks at food.

“There’s a difference between a healthy relationship with food and eating healthy,” she explains in her book, The Diet Survivors Handbook. One of the worst things you can do, Matz says, is to diet, regain the weight, then diet again, back and forth, over and over. Yo-yoing is worse for your health than carrying too many pounds, she says.

Once you build a healthy relationship with any and all food, you can work with a nutritionist for help with meals that meet your particular health or cultural needs. When you eat only what you need to be healthy, you can eat almost anything and variety is good for you.

If you have diabetes or a heart condition, for example, you will need to choose certain foods and cooking methods to stay healthy. Or, if you want to stick to a vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal, or other restrictive diet, you may want advice on how to keep fit while you stick to that plan. 

Support groups

Matz says many people do well in support groups because they find so many other people have the same—or worse—problems than they have. They feel better when they see they are not alone. 

“Sometimes, that’s all people need to get back on track,” she says.

In a support group, everyone shares their experiences. You learn from others, as a therapist leads the group toward the end of extreme eating.
 
Some support groups limit the conversation to a particular food issue at each session. Others are open-ended, offering ongoing support for whatever anyone needs to discuss.

If you worry about losing your privacy in a support group, Matz says you should talk to the leader before the group starts and ask for a promise that your name and other information will be protected.  

Check with your local hospital, university, or YMCA or YWCA for advice on where to find professionally supervised support groups for people trying to lose weight. 

Commercial programs

Most of these programs offer a combination of training, group support, and a very specific eating plan. You meet at a regular time, and follow the same format at each session. The leader will teach you things you need to know about food choice, cooking, and weight, and then he will expect you to use what you have learned until the next session.

Expect to get on the scale at every meeting. Don’t worry about it because you will get praise from the group as you shed pounds, and understanding when you slip. Since everyone is there to lose weight, the playing field is level, which may give you some comfort.

According to some studies, people on combination programs often succeed at taking off weight and keeping it off.

Check your local business directory for Weight Watchers®, Jenny Craig, or other weight loss systems or go to their websites for more information.

“The issue is to make positive changes but not be a perfectionist about it,” says Marsha Marcus, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and psychology who specializes in eating disorders, obesity, and women’s health. “Start now. Let your goal be to shape your behavior, eat more whole foods, fewer processed foods, control portions, and start some physical activity, like walking. You can do it in 10-minute bouts, if you need to, just do it. Pick what works for you and don’t try to change your entire life overnight.”

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/obesity

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

NEDA Helpline
800-931-2237

Obesity Action Coalition
www.obesityaction.org/advocacy/support-groups

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Marsha Marcus, PhD, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Judith Matz, LCSW, therapist specializing in treating eating disorders, Skokie, IL.
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

You can get support: 

  • From one-on-one therapy
  • From a supervised support group
  • From a combination program with an education component

You probably gained weight slowly, so expect the road to a healthy weight to be equally long and winding. But, you can get there, and there is no reason for a trip to a healthy weight to be a miserable one.

If you are looking for personal help with your weight problem, there are three basic routes you can follow:

  1. One-on-one help from a nutritionist or therapist who specializes in weight-loss issues
  2. Support from a group, led by a therapist
  3. Help from a commercial program that includes education, group support, and a specific food plan, such as the Weight Watchers® program

One-on-one help

If you want someone to point you in the right direction, you might start with a trained therapist who deals with eating disorders. Ask your doctor, local hospital, or a weight-loss clinic to help you find one. A psychologist or a licensed certified social worker (LCSW) are often good choices, especially if the person has a lot of experience helping people with weight problems, both too little and too much.

For example, Judith Matz, LCSW, in the Chicago area, focuses on people who want to lose weight. She says the best thing about getting one-on-one help from a therapist is that she will listen to your concerns without judgment. She will use the time you have together to hear what you have to say about your attitude toward food, your body, dieting, exercise, stress, and other things that led you to your current weight.

She asks people if they:

  • Eat when they are stressed or when they are hungry
  • Eat when they are lonely or sad
  • Eat too fast, too often or too much
  • Feel satisfied or full after a meal
  • Feel guilty about what or how much they eat

Whatever a therapist learns from your answers will help her help you build a healthy relationship with food. A change in attitude is often the first step toward building a food plan that lasts. It’s not the plan that helps the person lose weight, Matz says, but the new way that person looks at food.

“There’s a difference between a healthy relationship with food and eating healthy,” she explains in her book, The Diet Survivors Handbook. One of the worst things you can do, Matz says, is to diet, regain the weight, then diet again, back and forth, over and over. Yo-yoing is worse for your health than carrying too many pounds, she says.

Once you build a healthy relationship with any and all food, you can work with a nutritionist for help with meals that meet your particular health or cultural needs. When you eat only what you need to be healthy, you can eat almost anything and variety is good for you.

If you have diabetes or a heart condition, for example, you will need to choose certain foods and cooking methods to stay healthy. Or, if you want to stick to a vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal, or other restrictive diet, you may want advice on how to keep fit while you stick to that plan. 

Support groups

Matz says many people do well in support groups because they find so many other people have the same—or worse—problems than they have. They feel better when they see they are not alone. 

“Sometimes, that’s all people need to get back on track,” she says.

In a support group, everyone shares their experiences. You learn from others, as a therapist leads the group toward the end of extreme eating.
 
Some support groups limit the conversation to a particular food issue at each session. Others are open-ended, offering ongoing support for whatever anyone needs to discuss.

If you worry about losing your privacy in a support group, Matz says you should talk to the leader before the group starts and ask for a promise that your name and other information will be protected.  

Check with your local hospital, university, or YMCA or YWCA for advice on where to find professionally supervised support groups for people trying to lose weight. 

Commercial programs

Most of these programs offer a combination of training, group support, and a very specific eating plan. You meet at a regular time, and follow the same format at each session. The leader will teach you things you need to know about food choice, cooking, and weight, and then he will expect you to use what you have learned until the next session.

Expect to get on the scale at every meeting. Don’t worry about it because you will get praise from the group as you shed pounds, and understanding when you slip. Since everyone is there to lose weight, the playing field is level, which may give you some comfort.

According to some studies, people on combination programs often succeed at taking off weight and keeping it off.

Check your local business directory for Weight Watchers®, Jenny Craig, or other weight loss systems or go to their websites for more information.

“The issue is to make positive changes but not be a perfectionist about it,” says Marsha Marcus, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and psychology who specializes in eating disorders, obesity, and women’s health. “Start now. Let your goal be to shape your behavior, eat more whole foods, fewer processed foods, control portions, and start some physical activity, like walking. You can do it in 10-minute bouts, if you need to, just do it. Pick what works for you and don’t try to change your entire life overnight.”

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/obesity

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

NEDA Helpline
800-931-2237

Obesity Action Coalition
www.obesityaction.org/advocacy/support-groups

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Marsha Marcus, PhD, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Judith Matz, LCSW, therapist specializing in treating eating disorders, Skokie, IL.
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

You can get support: 

  • From one-on-one therapy
  • From a supervised support group
  • From a combination program with an education component

You probably gained weight slowly, so expect the road to a healthy weight to be equally long and winding. But, you can get there, and there is no reason for a trip to a healthy weight to be a miserable one.

If you are looking for personal help with your weight problem, there are three basic routes you can follow:

  1. One-on-one help from a nutritionist or therapist who specializes in weight-loss issues
  2. Support from a group, led by a therapist
  3. Help from a commercial program that includes education, group support, and a specific food plan, such as the Weight Watchers® program

One-on-one help

If you want someone to point you in the right direction, you might start with a trained therapist who deals with eating disorders. Ask your doctor, local hospital, or a weight-loss clinic to help you find one. A psychologist or a licensed certified social worker (LCSW) are often good choices, especially if the person has a lot of experience helping people with weight problems, both too little and too much.

For example, Judith Matz, LCSW, in the Chicago area, focuses on people who want to lose weight. She says the best thing about getting one-on-one help from a therapist is that she will listen to your concerns without judgment. She will use the time you have together to hear what you have to say about your attitude toward food, your body, dieting, exercise, stress, and other things that led you to your current weight.

She asks people if they:

  • Eat when they are stressed or when they are hungry
  • Eat when they are lonely or sad
  • Eat too fast, too often or too much
  • Feel satisfied or full after a meal
  • Feel guilty about what or how much they eat

Whatever a therapist learns from your answers will help her help you build a healthy relationship with food. A change in attitude is often the first step toward building a food plan that lasts. It’s not the plan that helps the person lose weight, Matz says, but the new way that person looks at food.

“There’s a difference between a healthy relationship with food and eating healthy,” she explains in her book, The Diet Survivors Handbook. One of the worst things you can do, Matz says, is to diet, regain the weight, then diet again, back and forth, over and over. Yo-yoing is worse for your health than carrying too many pounds, she says.

Once you build a healthy relationship with any and all food, you can work with a nutritionist for help with meals that meet your particular health or cultural needs. When you eat only what you need to be healthy, you can eat almost anything and variety is good for you.

If you have diabetes or a heart condition, for example, you will need to choose certain foods and cooking methods to stay healthy. Or, if you want to stick to a vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal, or other restrictive diet, you may want advice on how to keep fit while you stick to that plan. 

Support groups

Matz says many people do well in support groups because they find so many other people have the same—or worse—problems than they have. They feel better when they see they are not alone. 

“Sometimes, that’s all people need to get back on track,” she says.

In a support group, everyone shares their experiences. You learn from others, as a therapist leads the group toward the end of extreme eating.
 
Some support groups limit the conversation to a particular food issue at each session. Others are open-ended, offering ongoing support for whatever anyone needs to discuss.

If you worry about losing your privacy in a support group, Matz says you should talk to the leader before the group starts and ask for a promise that your name and other information will be protected.  

Check with your local hospital, university, or YMCA or YWCA for advice on where to find professionally supervised support groups for people trying to lose weight. 

Commercial programs

Most of these programs offer a combination of training, group support, and a very specific eating plan. You meet at a regular time, and follow the same format at each session. The leader will teach you things you need to know about food choice, cooking, and weight, and then he will expect you to use what you have learned until the next session.

Expect to get on the scale at every meeting. Don’t worry about it because you will get praise from the group as you shed pounds, and understanding when you slip. Since everyone is there to lose weight, the playing field is level, which may give you some comfort.

According to some studies, people on combination programs often succeed at taking off weight and keeping it off.

Check your local business directory for Weight Watchers®, Jenny Craig, or other weight loss systems or go to their websites for more information.

“The issue is to make positive changes but not be a perfectionist about it,” says Marsha Marcus, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and psychology who specializes in eating disorders, obesity, and women’s health. “Start now. Let your goal be to shape your behavior, eat more whole foods, fewer processed foods, control portions, and start some physical activity, like walking. You can do it in 10-minute bouts, if you need to, just do it. Pick what works for you and don’t try to change your entire life overnight.”

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/obesity

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

NEDA Helpline
800-931-2237

Obesity Action Coalition
www.obesityaction.org/advocacy/support-groups

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Marsha Marcus, PhD, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Judith Matz, LCSW, therapist specializing in treating eating disorders, Skokie, IL.
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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