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Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Obesity

What is intensive behavioral therapy for obesity?

Intensive behavioral therapy is a treatment for obesity. You learn how to change your eating and exercise habits through this treatment. This helps you lose weight.

Intensive behavioral therapy can work very well. It targets poor habits that lead to obesity. These may include unhealthy eating and not exercising. The treatment uses interventions to fix these poor habits.

You will work closely with a therapist. This could be done one-on-one. Or in a group session. You will learn how to change your lifestyle to lose weight. You may especially learn how to:

  • Track your eating

  • Change your environment to prevent overeating

  • Increase your activity level

  • Create an exercise plan

  • Set realistic goals

You may be able to lose a lot of weight by making these changes. You are also likely to keep the pounds off.

Some parts of behavioral therapy are often the same as those in other programs to lose weight. These include self-help groups and commercial weight-loss programs.

Why might I need intensive behavioral therapy for obesity?

You should try to lose weight if you weigh too much. This is important if you are obese. Weighing too much increases your risk for health problems. These include:

  • Diabetes

  • Arthritis

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Sleep apnea

  • Liver disease

  • Stroke

  • Infertility

  • Some lung diseases

  • Some cancers

  • Mental health problems

Intensive behavioral therapy can help you lose weight and keep it off. It can also help you change your eating and exercise habits. This can help you lose weight. Your healthcare provider may suggest this therapy if you are obese. They may also recommend it if you have trouble making lifestyle changes on your own.

What are the risks of intensive behavioral therapy for obesity?

Some people can’t reach their weight loss goals using intensive behavioral therapy alone. Some people have other things that contribute to their weight issues. These can include hormone problems. Or family history of weight problems. Most people find that intensive behavioral therapy can be part of a successful weight-loss plan.

This therapy doesn’t use any risky weight-loss methods. Your weight loss should be safe and steady.

How do I get ready for intensive behavioral therapy for obesity?

Ask your healthcare provider how to prepare for your first appointment. You may need to keep a food diary for several days. You will record all of the food you eat in that time. It’s important to be honest. This is so you have an accurate record of your food habits. You should also be ready to talk about your current diet and fitness habits.

What happens during intensive behavioral therapy for obesity?

Making small changes

Behavioral therapy focuses on making small and realistic changes. Dramatic changes may work for a short time. But they are less likely to lead to lasting weight loss.

Screening for depression

Your behavioral therapist will also screen you for signs of depression. Obesity and depression often go hand-in-hand.  

Self-monitoring and dietary assessment

Self-monitoring is a key part of this type of therapy. You may need to keep a food and fitness journal for several weeks or months. You may need to write down what, when, and how much you eat for a dietary or nutritional evaluation. You'll learn new strategies for meal planning. And for keeping track of your eating habits and how much food you eat.

Taking action to prevent overeating

You will learn how to gain control over the times in which you overeat. You may need to keep all unhealthy foods out of your home. You may also need to use smaller plates. Your therapist may also ask you to focus on eating without distractions. This means turning off the TV or your phone.  

Your plan may also include:

  • Learning how to eat more slowly and notice when you are full

  • Setting realistic goals to lose weight

  • Using small rewards to motivate yourself

  • Learning about nutrition. This may include making meal plans. Also using strategies to self-monitor and track how much food you eat.

  • Being more active. You may set up a formal fitness plan that involves sessions of moderately intensive exercise each week.

  • Getting social support. Your spouse or family members may be involved.

  • Learning how to think more positively

  • Reducing stress and finding what sets off your stress. This may decrease stress eating.

  • Identifying and overcoming weight-loss obstacles

At first, you may meet with your therapist once a week for a few months. Then you may move into a maintenance phase. You may meet once every two weeks or once a month.

You may also use other methods to help lose weight. It depends on your case. Some people lose more weight if they eat meals that were made ahead of time. Some people may also need to take medicine to decrease their appetites or treat depression.

What happens after intensive behavioral therapy for obesity?

Intensive behavioral therapy often lasts for many months. It may still be helpful to meet with your therapist or support group even after you have reached your goal weight. This might be extra helpful if your weight loss has leveled off or if you have started gaining weight again.

How well this therapy works depends on what you put into it. Your therapist can teach you, but you must change your habits. The members of your support group can also help.

Your therapist can help you set realistic goals to lose weight. Keep in mind that losing weight takes hard work. It also takes time. Making small changes in your lifestyle can have effects that last a long time. It can be challenging to make these changes. But the benefits are worth it. Remember that even a modest weight loss can help your health.

Maintaining your weight loss is just as important as losing it. You may be more likely to keep the weight off if you stick with your goals.

Tell your healthcare provider about how your therapy is going. Many people make progress through behavioral therapy. But others aren’t as successful. Ask your healthcare provider about your choices to lose weight. Taking medicines or working with a nutritionist may help. Or you may want to consider surgery to lose weight.

Next steps

Before you agree to the test or procedure make sure you know:

  • The name of the test or procedure

  • The reason you are having the test or procedure

  • What results to expect and what they mean

  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure

  • What the possible side effects or complications are

  • When and where you are to have the test or procedure

  • Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are

  • What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure

  • Any alternative tests or procedures to think about

  • When and how will you get the results Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems

  • How much you will have to pay for the test or procedure

Medical Reviewers:

  • John Meilahn MD
  • Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
  • Ronald Karlin MD