Can CBT help form healthy habits?

profile picture of Bianca Clarke
Cognitive Behaviour Therapist
31 May 2022
Next review due May 2025

You might have heard of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) but did you know that it can be used to help you form healthier habits? Here I’ll explain how CBT might be able to help you with reaching your healthy eating and exercise goals. CBT can also help with improving your relationship with your body.

Is there a link between diet and mental health?

Yes. We know that eating a healthy balanced diet can help your mood and overall wellbeing. Eating regular healthy meals and snacks can make sure you have enough energy and help you to think clearly.

We also know that if you’re struggling with your mental health you might find it impacts the way you eat. You might find you lose your appetite or find it hard to cook for yourself and that you lose weight. Or you might find that you eat more and gain weight.

Some people also use food as a way to cope with difficult emotions. This can lead to developing disordered eating habits.

What is CBT?

CBT is a type of talking therapy. It was originally created to help people with depression and anxiety but is now used for a range of conditions. It helps you to understand the link between any negative thought patterns and how they impact the way you feel and behave. A doctor might be able to refer you to a CBT therapist if they think it would be helpful for you. There are also online courses and books you can use to try CBT techniques by yourself.

Can CBT help me with my diet?

CBT techniques can be used to improve your lifestyle by helping you to understand the choices you make. For this reason, it’s sometimes used to help people lose weight. CBT can also help you if you are worried about your relationship with food, for example if you are binge eating. By using CBT, you might be able to:

  • change your eating patterns
  • maintain an active lifestyle
  • deal with any barriers to a healthier lifestyle

You might talk to a CBT therapist about setting realistic lifestyle goals for yourself. They can also help you to plan for difficult situations, for example eating healthily when you’re feeling stressed or tired. Your therapist might ask you to keep a record of how you are feeling while you work towards your goals, and any setbacks you face.

Remember that including healthier habits in your routine may not result in weight loss but can still be a positive change for your body. For example, you might find that the quality of your diet improves or that you get stronger.

Can CBT help me with my body image?

CBT can help you to improve low self-esteem and the way you feel about your body. This is because CBT techniques can help you to change the negative thoughts and feelings you have about yourself. This might include:

  • noticing when you are being critical of yourself
  • being kind to yourself
  • focussing on the positive things about your body

If you think CBT might help you to have a healthier relationship with food and your body, speak to a GP.

If you’re worried about your mental health, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. You’ll be able to get mental health advice and support usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.

profile picture of Bianca Clarke
Bianca Clarke
Cognitive Behaviour Therapist

    • Food and mood. Mind., published December 2017
    • Depression. Mind., published March 2019
    • Types of Eating Disorder. Beat., accessed 16 May 2022
    • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Mind., published September 2021
    • Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder. Beat., accessed 16 May 2022
    • Dalle Grave, Riccardo, Massimiliano Sartirana, and Simona Calugi. Personalized cognitive-behavioural therapy for obesity (CBT-OB): theory, strategies and procedures. BioPsychoSocial medicine 2020, 14(1): 1-8.
    • Treating and Preventing Adolescent Mental Health Disorders - What We Know and What We Don't Know. A Research Agenda for Improving the Mental Health of Our Youth. Treatment of Depression and Bipolar Disorder. Oxford Medicines Online., published August 2012
    • Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Mind., published November 2018
    • Self-esteem self-help guide. NHS Inform., updated 27 May 2021

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