Think Yourself Thin….The Complete Beck Diet for Life

A few days ago, I introduced you to my Better than the “Best Life” Weight Loss Plan.

In that post, I told you why diets and workouts simply don’t work for most people.

I told you that unless you address your personal weight loss roadblocks, you may be trapped forever in a cycle of yo-yo dieting….well, that sounds ominous, doesn’t it?

I told you how it all comes down to lifestyle. And to make things just a little bit easier, I divided those lifestyle factors into 3 groups:

  1. Physical Factors
  2. Mental / Emotional / Spiritual Factors
  3. External Factors

Today, I will be discussing your mental/emotional roadblocks to successful weight loss.

In particular, I will be discussing Dr. Judith Beck’s psychological approach to successful weight loss.


Who is Dr. Judith Beck?

Judith S. Beck, Ph.D., is:

  • judith-beckThe author of the textbook, Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond, which has been translated into 20 languages and is the basic textbook in the field for most students in psychiatry, psychology, social work, and psychiatric nursing in the U.S. and around the world.
  • Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania
  • The Director of the non-profit Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research
  • The daughter of  Aaron T. Beck, M.D., the founder of cognitive therapy, with whom she has worked closely in developing its clinical applications and theoretical advancements.
  • A consultant for research studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health
  • The past president of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy

And what is the Beck Diet all about?

According to Dr. Beck, the Beck Diet:

  • Frees you from guilt, worry, self-consciousness and self-blame
  • Frees you from your fear of hunger and your fear of losing control
  • Frees you from overwhelming temptation and emotional eating
  • Frees you from feelings of deprivation, unfairness and discouragement
  • Frees you from obsession about your food choices, weight and appearance.

In short, Dr. Beck’s CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) approach to weight loss attempts to free you from your controlling thoughts and emotions. There techniques taught in this book have been successfully used as a treatment for many clinical disorders, personality conditions and behavioral problems.

To this point, only Dr. Beck has applied these techniques to treat the mental issues behind obesity.

Her step by step approach allows you to make gradual changes to your thoughts and behaviors. Over time, her techniques build upon themselves and “lead you to make the psychological changes you need to be satisfied with your food choices, your ultimate weight and yourself.”

I have used these techniques on a number of my clients, and what I love about Dr. Beck’s techniques is how they help dieters avoid the pitfalls that happen to all of us.

She teaches you how to transform your psychological “giving-in” into a psychological “stick to it” muscle.

The Plan

There are 5 stages to Dr. Beck’s program.

Stage 1 – The Success Skills Plan

In Stage 1, you will learn and practice Dr. Beck’s  nine “success skills”.  Those skills include:

  1. scale-weight-feetMotivate yourself daily
  2. Weigh yourself daily
  3. Eat slowly or mindfully
  4. Give yourself credit
  5. Get moving
  6. Overcome hunger, cravings and emotional eating
  7. Plan and monitor your eating
  8. Follow your plan, no matter what
  9. Get back on track – right away

To help you develop these skills, you will have to complete various tasks and techniques.

And believe it or not, in Stage 1, there is no dieting. That begins in Stage 2.

And before you can proceed to Stage 2, you HAVE to master the 9 success skills.

Stage 2 – The Think Thin Initial Eating Plan

In Stage 2, Dr. Beck introduces her “Think Thin Eating Plan”.

I will go into more detail on Dr. Beck’s eating plan in a future post.

However, I have to say that this is the one area of Dr. Beck’s book that I disagree with. Her recommendations are typical of most of the other diet books on the market. It all comes down to the typical Food Pyramid / Caloric Restriction theory that has been failing dieters for decades.

Obviously, the nutritional guidelines weren’t drafted by Dr. Beck. I can only assume that a nutritionist associated with her practice put this together.

In her defense, I have heard through the grapevine that Dr. Beck’s readers complained that her previous book didn’t have this information and that they were shocked that a “diet” book wasn’t telling them what foods to eat. So, in an attempt to make them happy, Dr. Beck added this chapter.

Personally, I still recommend that you complete Stage 2. I just think that you should follow another diet. This one or this one.

You will spend 2 to 3 weeks in Stage 2. And like Stage 1, you need to fulfill specific requirements before moving on to Stage 3.

You will also continue to work on the 9 Success Skills from Stage 1.

Stage 3 – The Challenging Situations Plan

emotionaleatingDuring this stage, you will learn how to apply the skills you have learned in Stages 1 & 2 to various challenging situations:

  • Eating outside the house
  • Entertaining at home
  • Or when you are psychologically or emotionally stressed out.

There are a wide variety of skills to work on in this section. I will go into these skills in greater detail in a future post.

In my opinion, the skills you will learn in this stage should be required reading for anyone trying to lose weight and still have some semblance of a social life.

Stage 4 – The Think Thin Lifetime Eating Plan

To enter Stage 4, you need to know that you can follow your plan in any situation.

If you have achieved that level of self control, you can now loosen things up a bit, knowing that you are in charge of your thoughts and feelings and that if you start to put on some extra weight, you have the skills necessary to turn things around.

And not that she doesn’t trust you, but Dr. Beck still has a few more experiments to make sure that you are ready to graduate to Stage 5.

Stage 5 – The Motivation for Life Plan

Stage 5 is Dr. Beck’s Maintenance Stage.

During this stage, she asks you to follow 1 of 3 different plans:

  1. Daily Motivation Plan – when dieting/maintenance is going well
  2. Re-Motivation Plan – when dieting/maintenance becomes difficult
  3. Get back on Track Plan – when your skills slip and you gain weight

And like all of the other stages, Dr. beck has a series of daily tasks designed to maintain your success skills and your weight loss.


Some of you out there don’t need this book. Those extra holiday pounds are probably already melting away as you have returned to a more “normal” day to day schedule.

This book is written for those people who need to re-gain control over their thoughts and emotions.

If that sounds like you, I can heartily recommend Dr. Beck’s new book…..Except for the dietary recommendations..

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  1. Step 1 of her plan is the best part. So many people ignore that aspect of weight loss and when they do one slip up sends them off their diet.

  2. I would say to pick up the most recent one, but if cost is and issue, her first book (not the workbook) should be available at the library. You could try out the first stage with the library copy and if you felt that it was working for you, go out and buy the new one.

  3. Thanks,
    Motivation is certainly a key.
    Different personalities will handle it in different ways, ie some need feedback from peers, some need a rigid regimen, but all need the mindset that it has to happen.

    Think yourself thin is a great way to put it.

  4. Weightlossguru,

    I had the same reaction when I read that as well.

    I am trying to arrange a conversation with Dr. beck to discuss that and some other questions I have with her program. I am assuming that she has reasons to back up that aspect of her program.

    If you (or anyone else) has any questions about Dr. Beck’s program, please comment/email and I will pose them to the good doctor.

  5. I think if people do chose to weight themselves daily, they shouldn’t freak if the scale shows a 2-3 pound jump. Typically the weight of a person can go up a down over a 24 hour period.

    I like to look at week-to-week changes is weight, because that seems to show the real overall trend.


    PS: When I first read the title of your post, I thought the singer “Beck” wrote a weight loss book…”Two Turntables and a Microphone!”

  6. That’s weird – The exact same beck tune pops into my head every time I see Dr. Becks book on my bookshelf.

    And regarding the frequency of bodyweight measurement, that is one area where I disagree with Dr. Beck. As you mentioned, short term weight fluctuations can freak people out. personally, I prefer my clients to use the bathroom mirror as a guide.

    When you step out of the shower and see yourself in the mirror, you KNOW whether or not you could stand to lose a few pounds. You don’t need the number on the scale to confirm it.

  7. As a professional therapist I heartily recommend Dr. Beck’s approach. In fact, in what I believe to be her best book (The Beck Diet Solution) she does not advocate daily weigh-ins and for those who feel compelled to do this she offers practical guidelines to break free from (potentially) obsessive behaviour. For those people attempting to lose weight there are listed, by applying well-researched CBT techniques, practical exercises which certainly do help to control sabotaging thoughts around ‘the numbers on the scale’. I used her prgramme on myself before I discussed it with clients; and I can speak from personal experience when I say that, when it comes to CBT techniques applied to weight loss, this is the best plan around. I should know; I have struggled with the issues described in the book for over 35 years, and in 42 days (the length of the daily ‘steps’ approach employed by Dr. Beck) I feel that I have successfully broken free from several destructive patterns of ingrained behaviour. Clients I have had are reporting similar success. I agree that the approach could be criticised for its lack of nutritional guidelines, but it does deal with resistances many of us have to the weekly weigh-in by dealing with sabotaging thoughts in a pragmatic, highly structured manner. I suggest people who have issues with weight control and ‘dieting’ attempt Dr. Beck’s 42 step plan for themselves. Also, they may get a pleasant ‘side effect’ surprise; clients are reporting back to me that they are using some of the techniques described in the programme in other areas of their lives.

  8. […] No matter how much you rely on junk food, there are psychological, neurological and nutritional approaches that can help reduce your dependence on food to modulate your emotions. And most of them are free or at least very reasonable. MP3s of guided meditations, brain wave entrainment and/or hypnosis require very little cash and almost zero effort from you…and can be very, very helpful. Supplements like Chill Pills cost less than $1 a day and can have a profound effect on your mood. Dr. Judith Beck lowers the cost of using Cognitive Behavior Therapy as a weight loss aid by laying out her techniques in her book – The Complete Beck Diet for Life. […]

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