McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Weight loss workbook developed by McMaster professors

By Suzanne Morrison
Published: October 30, 2009
Valerie Taylor
Valerie Taylor, assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences

Diet pills. Diet meals. Online diets. Low carb diet plans. Appetite suppressants. Like Oprah, lots of us have tried every kind of diet and failed. Not to worry!

Three McMaster University experts have developed a successful weight management tool in the form of a workbook which uses cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to achieve lasting weight loss, with the goal being health — physical health, psychological healthy and a healthy relationship with food and the body instead of an obsession with numbers.

Cognitive therapy, used by psychologists and psychiatrists since the 1960s for a diverse range of mental health conditions, is an approach which helps people change the way they think about their problems. This concept is designed to help individuals identify and understand feelings — such as loneliness, joy, anger and loss of control — that may lead to behaviours such as overeating.

"The goal in developing this workbook was to create a tool that, while useful for a psychiatrist or a family doctor, was also user friendly enough that a patient could follow it by themselves — whether they’re in Nunavut or Ottawa," said Dr. Valerie Taylor, assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences in McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. She is director of the mood disorders somatic health program and the psychiatric team affiliated with the bariatric surgery program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare. Taylor heads the Canadian Obesity Network mental health division.

The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Weight Management includes exercises and worksheets to help individuals customize a weight management strategy based on their own habits and lifestyle. It sets out a realistic weight management plan by showing how to manage triggers, overcome critical thoughts, make enjoyable changes and gain support from family and friends.

Step-by-step, the workbook focuses on ensuring people understand weight (the role genetics play), provides weekly personal check-ups and helps individual decide on the right weight management approach, with an emphasis on maintaining a permanent lifestyle change. The book focuses on changing health behaviours but also incorporates approved weight management tools such as surgery and medications.

"Our workbook is designed to provide the general public with the basics of cognitive therapy designed in a way that they can then apply to their weight struggles," said Taylor. She co-authored the workbook with Michele Laliberte, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and neurosciences and director of the outpatient adult eating disorders program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare, and Randi E. McCabe, associate professor in psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences and psychologist-in-chief of the anxiety treatment and research centre at St. Joseph’s.

On Nov. 1, the workbook will go on sale in Canada at a cost of about $30. It will be available in all major bookstores and from The three authors will be doing local book signings in the near future.

The workbook attracted the attention of obesity experts at scientific meetings held by the Obesity Society in Washington this week where Dr. Taylor chaired a symposium on cognitive therapy. "This is one of the largest gatherings of obesity experts in the world and our book was sold out here on day one, indicating people in the field are looking for options", said Taylor.

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