Kari Dahlgren

Coach | Author | Advocate

feel normal around food again

The Best Self-Help Books for Weight Loss: 13 Inspirational Reads

top 13 self-help books on weight loss psychology: because mental health paves the way towards physical health

If you’re looking for the best self-help books for weight loss, you’re in the right place. Not only am I an author and avid reader in the self-help genre, but I’m also an eating psychology coach. My personal library is chock full of items right up your alley.

I like to update this list at least once a year with new books I’ve added to my shelf along with the absolute best self-help books that I keep on this list year after year. While some of these books are directly about healing your relationship with food, others might seem off-topic.

Rest assured that every book on this list can help you address your mindset and any psychological blocks to weight loss that might be standing in the way.

The Best Self-Help Workbooks Related to Weight Loss Psychology

Trust me when I say this: workbooks are the most underrated and cheapest forms of personal development available. While a workbook can’t compare to working directly with a therapist or coach, they can help you get a rapid start on your journey.

In my opinion, workbooks are a standout because they bridge the gap between knowledge and action. While many books on the psychology of weight loss offer valuable information, workbooks go a step further by actively engaging you in the process of change. They encourage you to not just consume information but to apply it.

Here are my top workbooks in the self-help and weight loss psychology genre. Remember — even if something doesn’t appear weight loss-related, it still addresses the necessary mindset.

1. “Why We Do the Things We Do” by Kari Dahlgren

Some of us can carry limiting beliefs that trigger self-sabotage and weight gain — and we don’t even know it! How can we set ourselves free from the weight struggle if we don’t even know what’s standing in the way?

In Why We Do the Things We Do, you’ll put pen to paper to discover the limiting beliefs that trigger self-sabotage around food. That way, you can get out of your own way on this weight loss journey.

2. “Don’t Believe Everything You Feel” by Robert Leahy

Don't Believe Everything You Feel self-help book cover

Navigating the full spectrum of emotion is something we were never taught in school, and this workbook closes the gap. I bought this workbook on a whim — because I actually disagreed with the title! — but once I cracked it open, I had to add it to this list of the best self-help books for weight loss. One of my biggest takeaways was the concept of emotional perfectionism: insisting that life be happy all the time. (I never had a word for it before!)

In my work as an eating psychology coach, I advocate that we need to embrace the full spectrum of emotion — including the emotions we resist the most, like loneliness, sadness, and boredom — in order to stop reaching for food without hunger.

The Best Self-Help Books for Weight Loss Psychology

While some of these books are directly related to food and weight loss, many of them are not— and that’s why they’re so good! Some of the best books on weight loss dive into the psychological strengths we need to develop in order to reach our natural weight — and those don’t always relate specifically to food.

Here are some of my favorite self-help books on topics that I believe relate to eating psychology and the path to reaching your natural weight:

3. “Women, Food, and God” by Geneen Roth

cover of Women Food and God, the best weight loss mindset books

In Women, Food, and God — which refers to God in a more spiritual sense than religious sense — Geneen Roth explores the deep-rooted emotional and spiritual reasons behind our eating habits. Geneen illustrates how our relationship with food isn’t just about hunger but is deeply intertwined with our beliefs about self-worth, love, and our spiritual essence.

This is one of my favorite books of all-time as it goes far beyond the psychology of weight loss and delvers deep into the psycho-spiritual layers that carry all the “juice.” I have two copies of Women, Food, and God: one to loan and one to keep so that I never go without a copy. I am not kidding.

4. “Daily Reminders on Psycho-Spiritual Wellness” by Kari Dahlgren

Daily Reminders on Psycho-Spiritual Wellness is the perfect companion for anyone entering the vulnerable process of giving up dieting. I know how scary it can feel to let go of the food rules, so each chapter contains a nugget focused on the psycho-spiritual causes of overeating for better self-understanding.

Psycho-Spiritual Wellness is my personal philosophy for stopping compulsive eating, which focuses on psychology and spirituality to heal your relationship with food. Designed to be digestible and supportive, each standalone chapter in Daily Reminders gently guides you towards feeling normal around food, which is the ultimate goal.

5. “More Than a Body” by Lexie and Lindsay Kite

cover of "More Than a Body" self-help book

More Than a Body is an absolute must-read on the journey towards body acceptance. Written by the Kite sisters, this self-help book challenges the conventional narratives surrounding body image, urging us to recognize and celebrate our bodies for their capabilities and inherent worth, rather than their appearance alone.

This book is not even remotely directed towards the topic of weight loss! However, I included it in this roundup because body acceptance is a crucial element for overall wellness, and wellness can pave the way to your natural weight.

6. “Heal Your Body” by Louise Hay

cover of Heal Your Body, one of the best self help books for weight loss

If you believe that your thoughts and spiritual state can manifest as physical symptoms in your body, then you will love the spiritual self-help book Heal Your Body by Louise Hay. This book is probably the most far removed from the psychology of weight loss, but it’s an important one. I can explain why after I introduce the next book, because their themes are connected in the most beautiful way.

7. “The Language of Letting Go” by Melody Beattie

cover of "The Language of Letting Go" self-help book on codependency

The Language of Letting Go is a therapist-recommended book on the topic of codependency; so why is on this list of the best self-help books for weight loss? Because codependency can sometimes correlate with difficulty losing weight.

If you resonate with the notion that trapped emotions can lead to weight gain, this book serves as a beacon, illuminating the path to emotional liberation and self-care. It encourages readers to release the burdens of the past, embrace the present, and foster a nurturing relationship with oneself.

According to Louise Hay (in the book listed just before this one), one of the spiritual roots of weight gain is a resistance to forgive. Therefore, if The Language of Letting Go helps release burdens of the past, it may also facilitate a journey towards weight loss by addressing the emotional underpinnings of holding onto extra weight.

8. “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk

cover of The Body Keeps the Score

The Body Keeps the Score primarily focuses on how trauma impacts the body and the mind, rather than directly addressing weight struggles. Bessel van der Kolk explores the ways in which trauma can manifest physically and how it affects our overall health and behavior.

While the book doesn’t specifically focus on weight struggles, the connections it makes between physical health and psychological trauma can provide valuable insights into the complex factors that may contribute to weight issues, such as emotional eating or a disrupted body image.

9. “The Joy Diet” by Martha Beck

cover of The Joy Diet, among the best cbt books for weight loss

This book is absolutely not a diet, and it doesn’t even touch on the topic of food. Rather, The Joy Diet is about enriching your life with practices that bring genuine joy and fulfillment. This can be an especially helpful self-help book if you struggle with finding joy in your life, which can trigger patterns of eating for pleasure instead of nurturing pleasure elsewhere in your life. I also highly recommended this book because Martha Beck is one of my favorite life coaches.

10. “The Slow Down Diet” by Marc David

cover of The Slow Down Diet, best weight loss mindset books

Also not a diet! Instead, Marc David’s The Slow Down Diet takes a refreshing approach to weight loss by emphasizing the power of relaxation and pleasure in transforming our relationship with food. Rather than offering another strict eating regimen, David delves into the metabolic power of joy, relaxation, and quality.

He posits that by savoring our food and being present during meals, we can improve digestion, regulate appetite, and achieve sustainable weight loss. Aside from Why We Do the Things We Do, this is another book that speaks directly to weight loss psychology.

11. “Health At Every Size” by Linda Bacon

cover of "Health at Every Size"

I have to be honest — I have a love/hate relationship with this book! What I love about Health at Every Size is that Linda Bacon describes set point weight theory in depth. She makes an extremely well-researched argument that even if you stop eating, you are unlikely to lose weight as the body adapts to starvation. Giving up dieting is the clearest path to reaching your natural weight. 

What I strongly dislike about the book is that Linda oversimplifies the solution, as giving up dieting alone is not enough to address the psycho-spiritual underpinnings of overeating. Furthermore, Linda grossly oversimplifies process of feeling your feelings to help stop emotional eating.

All that said, I included this self-help book in my roundup because it’s an excellent source of motivation for giving up dieting. Just don’t stop there. Continue to explore the psycho-spiritual causes of overeating as well.

12. “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron

In When Things Fall Apart, Buddhist nun and bestselling author Pema Chodron delves deep into the human psyche, addressing our innate tendency to seek comfort during times of distress. For many, that comfort is found in food, leading to patterns of emotional eating, which is why this book, though not directly on the topic of weight loss psychology, still lands on my list of the best self-help books for weight loss.

A resistance to discomfort is one of the greatest triggers for compulsive eating, in my experience as someone who has been there. Through her teachings, Chodron encourages us to confront our discomfort head-on, because one of the keys to personal growth is leaning towards discomfort instead of trying to numb, buffer, outrun, or escape it. By learning to navigate tough times without relying on food as a crutch, a healthier relationship with food and body can emerge.

13. “Eating in the Light of the Moon” by Anita Johnston

Anita Johnston’s Eating in the Light of the Moon offers a metaphorical journey into understanding and healing disordered eating. Through myths and stories from various cultures, Johnston paints a picture of food struggles as symbolic expressions of deeper emotional and spiritual needs.

If you’re a fan of Psycho-Spiritual Wellness, this self-help book is right up your alley. Again, it’s not directly on the topic of weight loss, but when we heal the inner blocks, weight loss can happen naturally for some people.

Better Together: Suggested Self-Help Book Pairings on Weight Loss Psychology

Embarking on a journey towards understanding the psychology of weight loss is deeply personal and multifaceted. Pairing books that complement each other can provide a richer, more holistic understanding of the complex interplay between mind, body, and spirit in the context of weight loss.

Here are some thoughtfully curated book pairings that complement and enhance each other’s teachings:

  • The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie & Daily Reminders on Psycho-Spiritual Wellness by Kari Dahlgren: These books together serve as a powerful combination for those navigating the journey of releasing emotional baggage and embracing a life of self-compassion and spiritual wellness, crucial for overcoming weight struggles.
  • Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth & Eating in the Light of the Moon by Anita Johnston: Dive deep into the emotional and spiritual roots of your relationship with food with this pairing, offering rich narratives and personal introspection to understand and heal your eating habits.
  • Why We Do the Things We Do by Kari Dahlgren & The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk: This pairing offers a hands-on approach to uncovering and addressing the underlying beliefs and traumas that manifest in our physical health, including weight. My practical exercises in Why We Do the Things We Do complement van der Kolk’s in-depth exploration of trauma’s physical and psychological impact.
  • The Joy Diet by Martha Beck & The Slow Down Diet by Marc David: For those seeking joy and mindfulness in their approach to food and life, this pairing emphasizes the importance of pleasure, relaxation, and savoring the moment.
  • Don’t Believe Everything You Feel by Robert Leahy & Why We Do the Things We Do by Kari Dahlgren: The most action-packed duo! Leahy’s strategies for navigating complex emotions are perfectly complemented by my interactive approach to uncovering and transforming limiting beliefs, providing a comprehensive toolkit for emotional wellness and clarifying the path towards your natural weight.

By exploring these pairings, you can gain a more nuanced understanding of the psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of weight loss, leading to a more holistic and sustainable journey towards wellness.

Navigating the Psychology of Weight Loss Through Well-Written Pages

The self-help books and pairings presented here are more than just guides — they are companions in your journey, offering insights, comfort, and tools to help you address the psychology of weight loss, far beyond the surface-level of food and dieting.

Remember, the journey to your natural weight is personal and unique. Each book on this list brings its own flavor of wisdom, whether it’s about healing from trauma, embracing body positivity, understanding the psychological underpinnings of eating, or simply finding joy in every aspect of life.

Incorporate these books into your life not just as reading material, but as stepping stones towards a deeper understanding of yourself. Let them guide you, challenge you, and inspire you to become the most authentic version of yourself.

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Ready to dive even deeper into your journey of self-discovery? I proudly present my most celebrated workbook, Why We Do the Things We Do. This 75-page digital workbook reveals your unique psychological blocks to compulsive eating. By actually putting pen to paper, you’ll be surprised by what comes up.

Some say ‘feel it to heal it’ but this workbook takes it a step deeper and helps you ‘see it to heal it.’ If you’re the kind of person who logically knows how to live a healthy lifestyle but you compulsively do the opposite, this workbook will illuminate what’s standing in the way. Then, you know exactly where to focus your energy.

You scrolled a looong while to get here. I'd love if you could leave a comment!

I read and reply to every single one! Just like I do with my emails. Since I don’t use much social media (outside of Pinterest and YouTube), I very much enjoy this opportunity to hear your thoughts and connect ✨

8 thoughts on "The Best Self-Help Books for Weight Loss: 13 Inspirational Reads"

  1. Christysays:

    Just ordered on Amazon 🙂 be here in two daysssss

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Gotta love two-day delivery 🙂

  2. Laura Lloydsays:

    Hi Kari, I enjoyed this post so much. Thanks for flagging these up! It’s a joy to see the work you’re sharing, thank you for all that you do!

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      So glad you found it useful Laura! 🙂

  3. Johnsays:

    My weight is up right now, though I will get it back down as I have in the past with making better food choices. Your reviews of the “15 best self-help books for weight lost” is very much appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      I’m glad you like this roundup, John! Thanks for the comment 🙂

  4. Regina Potasniksays:

    There’s a website that has great prices on used books. Secondsale
    I got 8 of these books for $20
    Im excited to get reading. I’ve found I do better with eating this way if I read your post daily.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      I love this Regina! I am flattered that you enjoy reading my work so frequently <3 and I'm sure everyone else here appreciates the tips for bargain books!

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