‘Diet Trap Solution’ Author Spills her Skinny Secrets

Bala Cynwyd’s Debbie Beck Busis explains how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy plays into weight loss.

photo by tessa marie images

Starting a diet is easy. Staying on one ... not so much. That’s why Dr. Judith Beck and Debbie Beck Busis wrote The Diet Trap Solution: Train Your Brain to Lose Weight and Keep It Off for Good, the new follow-up to the bestselling The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person. The mother-daughter duo works at the Beck Institute in Bala Cynwyd, and they co-wrote the book. As Busis explains, losing weight is an issue of mind over matter.

MLT: The Beck Institute specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy. How does that apply to weight loss?

DBB: We call it diet coaching, not therapy, but the underpinning is the same. The premise is that you have a thought. Then that thought influences how you feel, and that feeling influences your actions. People think the situations they’re in make them overeat, but eating is not automatic. It’s the thought about the situation that leads them to eat. We help people learn new ways to respond to the thought.

MLT: Give us an example of how that would play out in real life.

DBB: If someone engages in emotional eating after a fight with her boyfriend, my role is not to help her with the boyfriend but to help her with the eating. Or, say someone got reprimanded at work, then went to his desk and ate a huge bag of pretzels. My job is help him think, “I feel bad, but if I eat a bag of pretzels I’ll feel worse, so I’ll go for a walk.”

MLT: That sounds logical, but if it were that easy ...

DBB: The first step is to become aware of your thoughts, because you may not even realize why you’re eating in certain moments. Those are called automatic thoughts. We can’t control whether or not we have the thought, but we can control how we respond to it. We do that by having responses ready. The goal of CBT for weight management is to give people a toolbox of responses.

MLT: What’s in that toolbox?

DBB: Both books—and my in-person sessions at the Beck Institute—begin by teaching major skills that are the foundation for successful weight loss. They are: Make a list of reasons that you want to lose weight, eat sitting down, eat slowly, give yourself credit for dieting and exercising, learn the difference between hunger and “not hunger,” recognize your emotional eating, learn how to get back on track right away after making mistakes, and eat according to a schedule.

MLT: Are the two books meant to work in tandem?

DBB: They can. The first is a six-week program that teaches a series of weight-loss-oriented skills. But even with those skills, people told us they were falling into common diet traps. We came up with the eight most common traps or triggers, and they are the focus of the second book.

MLT: But you’re not prescribing a certain diet.

DBB: No. We get people into the right mindset to be successful with whatever diet they choose. We talk about why, how and when people eat before we talk about what they eat. 

MLT: Do you have any personal experience with losing weight?

DBB: Judy lost 15 pounds 20 years ago; I lost 20 pounds nine years ago. Maintaining the weight loss is just as hard as losing it. 

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