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  • Writer's pictureAphrodite Beidler

Dysregulated Eating: A 2-Week CBT Plan to Improve Eating

CBT-Based Plan for Overeating and Body Image Issues

What is required:

8 Steps

2 Weeks

1 Goal

Daily practice

Start by reading through what each step entails. Before you set your goal make sure you take into account what is happening in your life this month and any particular health or other issues that may interfere.

Setting your goal is the most important thing for this exercise because without having a goal you will not know what you have accomplished at the end of the two weeks.

Weight and food.
What will you eat? A donut or an apple?

Step 1: Assessment and Goal Setting

Pay attention to some of your specific behaviors and thoughts related to overeating. Then decide on what you want to improve on or accomplish in the next two weeks. Make it into an actionable goal. Write it down.

For instance, a goal could be: "I want to change my eating routine after work. When I come home from work I want to have some healthy food choices. In the next two weeks, I will not get into mindlessly binging on unhealthy snacks and crackers".

  • Set one specific, realistic, and achievable goal related to your eating habits. Plan to do it for two weeks.

What is your goal? ____(make sure you write it down)_______

Step 2: Cognitive Restructuring

Challenge negative and distorted thoughts about body image and self-worth.

  • Identify one aspect of your body that you like. Create a positive affirmation around it. Focus on it each day for two weeks.

Step 3: Understanding Triggers

Use a food and mood diary to track overeating and emotions. Track what happened before and after overeating.

  • Find one trigger for each day you were led to overeat. What "gave you permission" to do it? Continue for two weeks. At the end of the two weeks look at the triggers and see if there are patterns.

Step 4: Developing New Behaviors

As you are recording your triggers and feelings, you may want to remind yourself that you know about healthy eating habits. Trust yourself!

  • Plan your lunches and dinners for two or three days to reduce impulsive eating. Plan your shopping and cooking during the weekend for the week ahead.

  • Make it simple and fun. Be decisive.

  • Practice mindful eating. Eat slowly. Chew well. Drink water. Pay attention while you are eating inside to see if you can become more aware of hunger and fullness cues.

Step 5: Emotional Regulation Skills

Use skills to manage emotions to avoid resorting to overeating. Here are three key skills:

  • Mindfulness: as you are going about your day pay full attention to your surroundings and your inner state - do it as an observer, reserving any judgment, don't criticize.

  • Deep breathing: set a 5-minute timer and just breathe in and out.

  • Activities that provide comfort or distraction - your active participation is necessary here - don't just scroll or watch - crafts, walking, talking with someone, dancing, cooking, planting, staying active.

Step 6: Body Image Acceptance

Engage in activities that help improve body acceptance and self-esteem.

  • Focus on body functionality and health rather than solely on appearance.

  • Set a 5-minute timer (same time as deep breathing is ok) and meditate on one sentence/mantra that starts with: I am grateful for _________(example: I am grateful for my arms feeling strong today).

  • Repeat your mantra with each in and out breath.

Step 7: Relapse Prevention

Develop strategies to maintain new habits and prevent relapse.

  • Plan for dealing with setbacks and maintaining progress.

  • Being realistic means that you don't expect to do things like a robot every single day. However, aim for most days and focus on the days you did well. Then repeat!

Step 8: Regular Review and Adjustment

At the end of each day and the end of each week review your progress towards your goal. Give yourself feedback and keep adjusting making small corrections as needed. Change what isn't working for you.

  • Adjust the plan as needed based on what is or isn’t working.

  • Acknowledge your successes even if they are small! Small is beautiful! You can build on small steps.

  • Keep up the good work for two weeks!

It's important to note that this plan should be tailored to your specific needs and circumstances. Sometimes it is ok to push yourself harder and not take any excuses while other times you may need to allow for a slow down. Trust yourself and you will soon find a pace that works for you.

Additionally, it’s often beneficial to work collaboratively with your healthcare professionals, such as a dietitian or your physician, and your counselor when addressing issues related to eating and physical health. Start with a visit to your physician for a wellness check, if you haven't done that already this year. Don't delay.

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