How Psychologists Help You Control Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of overall health. Keeping your body weight in the right range reduces your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.

Eating more nutrient-rich foods can help you control your appetite and avoid weight fluctuations. In addition, losing weight decreases the risk of certain cancers, including pancreatic, breast (post-menopausal), endometrial and liver cancer.


Self-monitoring is an essential part of behavioral treatment for weight loss. It is a method of assessing behavior change and has been found to correlate with weight loss in behavioral therapy studies. It can be a simple tool such as writing down food and exercise in a diary or more advanced, expensive technology that uses sensors to monitor movement and analyze sweat.

These devices use accelerometers, heat flux and galvanic skin response technologies to measure calories burned, as well as to record the time of day and type of activity. Some also include a pedometer, which records daily steps. This information is uploaded to the user’s computer or smartphone and can be compared against daily, weekly and monthly goals.

In one study, dietary and physical activity self-monitoring adherence was significantly correlated with weight loss. Participants who were highly consistent with self-monitoring lost more weight than those who were less consistent (8). Self-monitoring is a powerful tool for weight loss and should be implemented as early as possible.


Psychologists specialize in the study of human behavior, including emotions and motivations. They also focus on human learning and development. They may conduct experiments with animals, such as rats or dogs, to learn how animal behavior relates to human behavior.

Many psychologists spend several years in graduate school, performing psychological research and developing their skills. They are highly trained in the administration, scoring and interpretation of psychological tests, whereas psychiatrists do not receive this type of training.

The American Psychological Association code of ethics states that therapists must aim to “promote the welfare and physical health of their clients.” This means a therapist cannot encourage his or her client to lose weight. However, some therapists and counselors do use their professional skills to help people manage eating and exercise habits. They can help their clients identify emotions that trigger overeating and emotional eating, as well as teach them coping strategies. They can also teach their patients healthy behaviors to replace unhelpful behaviors, such as incorporating vegetables into meals.

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