Fitness and Self-Esteem

Hi website visitors,I recently received a lovely email and some cool questions from a journalist working for the website, POPSUGAR, (, a wellness website which claims more than a billion visitors per year. Wow! That’s a lot! She asked for some help on the topic of self-esteem and body image.Here’s her note:

Hi! Dr. Burns,

Thanks so much for getting back to me; I honestly didn’t know if you’d see my message!

I have some questions for you, and would of course link my interview to Feeling Good, and mention your resources. I have to tell you — your book changed my life, and the lives of many people I’ve talked to who have also struggled with depression and anxiety. I got it for my dad last Father’s Day and he loved it, too.

My idea for our story is centered around the idea that many women deal with a lot of negative self-talk, whether it’s about their physical appearance, fitness journey, abilities, etc. I brought up your 10 categories of distorted thoughts in our staff meeting and how your book teaches someone to identify those and replace those thoughts with ones that are rooted in positivity and reality — we all thought this will be a wonderful trick to teach our readers as well.

Would love to include a quote or two from you in the intro about identifying these thoughts, and how to correct them. In fact, if you could answer these four questions it would be a great help:

  1. How do distorted thoughts affect body image?
  2. Do you think distorted thoughts can be a roadblock in someone’s wellness/fitness journey? How so?
  3. What’s a small piece of advice you could suggest to a woman struggling with poor self-esteem/body-image issues?

And less important, but if you have time:

  1. Do you believe that fitness and healthy eating plays a strong role in having a healthier mindset and more positive / realistic thoughts?

Thank you again for your help on this story, I’m so honored to work with you! Have a great night,


To read David’s response, CLICK HERE!

Or, if you prefer to read Dominique’s columns based on her email exchanges with David, here they are:

Dr. Burns,

I just realized I never sent you the finished piece! It did so well and my colleagues LOVED it! Here’s the link (CLICK HERE).

I also referenced you and that post we worked on together in my latest piece about food shaming. CLICK HERE

Let’s definitely work on something again soon — our readers love any mental health topics, and are starting to be more open about anxiety. Excited to do more together soon!

Free Resources for Aspiring Therapists Who are Poor!

Hi Dr. Burns,

I am currently a sophomore doing my BA in Psychology and wish to continue all the way thru to get my Doctorate. I saw one of your podcasts on motivational therapy during my last class at Argosy University. After seeing it I have gotten very interested in what you’re teaching and feel that it could eventually be helpful to me when I start my practice.

I would love to learn more about what you’re teaching but right now I don’t have any money to buy any books or anything—maybe eventually I can.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and whatever you can pass my way would be very appreciated!

Sincerely, Robin

If you would like to see Dr. Burns response to Robin, CLICK HERE.

Anxiety and Magical Thinking

Hi web visitors,

The following is a note about anxiety that I just sent to my Tuesday training group at Stanford this week, and it occurred to me that you might find it of interest. You may need the definition of Outcome Resistance and Process Resistance to grasp the note. Outcome Resistance means that although the patient is suffering, he or she will resist effective treatment for a wide variety of reasons. In anxiety, the Outcome Resistance nearly always results from Magical Thinking. In other words, the patient has the superstitious belief that the anxiety, although uncomfortable, protects him or her from some terrible catastrophe.

Process Resistance means that the patient may (or may not) want a positive treatment outcome, but does not want to engage in the therapeutic process required to cause a successful outcome. For anxious patients, the focus of the Process Resistance almost always has to do with Exposure Techniques. Nearly all anxious patients will fairly forcefully resist using Exposure because it is so frightening to them. They simply do not want to have to face their fears. If the therapist gives in, and agrees not to use Exposure, the likelihood of full recovery is poor.

And about 75% of mental health professional do give in to the patient’s resistance, because the therapist also fears Exposure therapy, thinking it is, indeed, dangerous for this or that (erroneous) reason. I call this “Reverse Hypnosis.” In other words, the patient has hypnotized the therapist into believing that Exposure is dangerous as well!

If you’d like to read about my new insight on this topic of the effect of Magical Thinking on Outcome Resistance and Process Resistance for anxiety disorders, CLICK HERE.

Does Mental Illness Exist?

Hi Dr. Burns,

I am halfway through “feeling good”, I just want to say how powerful it is. It is absolutely fantastic so far. I am applying your techniques to myself.

Do you mind me asking, and this is nothing to do with my health, is the whole idea of low serotonin levels being linked to depression a mere myth? Is there a link between depression and any brain neurotransmitters your opinion?

What about mental illness, does it exist?

Kind regards, Shane

To see Dr. Burns’ response, CLICK HERE.

Two Miscellaneous Trivial Pics You Might Like

Hi web visitors.

I just got two photos in the email. The first is a photo taken by one of our Sunday hikers at the Ranger Station half way through our hike yesterday. I like to think of this as my new therapy office! And you can’t beat the fees, either!

Of course, I’m no longer in clinical practice, and I’m not doing real treatment, but it is fun to think about, since I have always really loved doing therapy. The joy of seeing someone suddenly recover is one of the greatest highlights of my life.

Hikers, like members of my Stanford training group, get unlimited free training–both in the Tuesday group and on the Sunday hikes if they are interested–and they can also do some personal work in both settings, since the concept of “healing yourself” is absolutely essential to TEAM-CBT, even for therapists. If a therapist has used his or her own tools for personal healing, he or she will have far greater effectiveness and credibility with patients.

Personal healing and training have often been linked in the history of psychotherapy. The personal healing makes for the crucial difference between a technician–who has learned the methods–and a healer, who arguably comprehends suffering, and recovery, at a somewhat deeper level.

CLICK HERE FOR THE GOOFY PHOTO of David in his new “office.”

The second photo was sent my a website visitor who found a free copy of Feeling Good at a local, outdoor “lending library.” CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO. She also included this lovely note:

Hi Dr. Burns,

Just wanted to say I am really loving ‘feeling good’ a copy of which I randomly found in a free mini community library box in a hedge near my house (!) one day when I didn’t have anything to read while my baby was napping. I think your strategies will permanently help me overcome my self critical thoughts. God bless you for your work to help people. Inspirational! Can’t wait to check out the podcast.


Just a little trivia for today!


Unraveling Decades of Abuse

This is an interesting and unsolicited endorsement I just received from someone who I think has been reading one of my books, probably Feeling Good.

Dear Dr. Burns,

Amazing book!!!! You are helping me unravel decades of abuse and realistically–no fake positivity mantra….!!!

I think my biggest problem is attracting toxic people and breaking up with them, and then going back to them.

I think your book will help me love myself and stop needing approval from people that are no good for me.


Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your kind words! I’m so sorry you’ve had to tolerate decades of abuse. It sounds like you’ve been through a tremendous amount of unhappiness and suffering. And I’m so glad you’re bouncing back now! That’s super cool!

I’m absolutely with you on the “fake positivity” stuff. That has always annoyed me tremendously, so we’re on the same page for sure. When you try to cheer someone up who’s depressed, it nearly always comes across as patronizing. It sounds like you’re trivializing what the person is experiencing. True healing requires therapist compassion, empathy and skill, and not silly “affirmations.”

I also agree strongly with your comments about self-love. You are 100% right–once you love yourself and no longer “need” love and approval from others, the world can kind of open up for you. Although I talk about this in the chapters on the Love Addiction and the Approval Addiction in Feeling Good, it is one of the main themes of my book, Intimate Connections. Intimate Connections is all about the dating game, and the power dynamic that so many lonely single folks don’t understand. That book will show you how to get people chasing after you so you don’t have to chase them, so you’ll have a large supply of people to date. However, that book, sadly, doesn’t really show you how to develop a deep and meaningful relationship once you’ve found someone who you really care about and want to get close to. For that, you’ll have to read my book, Feeling Good Together!

Mmmm, this sounds like I’m doing an infomercial. I apologize. But I wanted to let you know of other resources that might further your cause.

One of the great things about the cognitive model of trauma is the basic idea that our thoughts create our moods. This idea goes all the way back to the Greek philosopher, Epictetus. Nearly 2,000 years ago he wrote that people are disturbed, not by things, but by the views they take of them. This can be extremely liberating to individuals who have been victims of trauma. That’s because the trauma actually occurred, and in most cases, cannot be undone. However, we CAN change the way we think about the trauma. Once you crush the distorted negative thought that trigger your depression, shame, anxiety, hopelessness, and anger, you can develop joy, confidence, and self-esteem once again. And often, this transformation can take place rapidly. In my experience, effective treatment usually does not require months or years of treatment, although many therapists do not believe this and find the notion of high speed recovery to be quackery or impossible.

To learn more about the high speed treatment of trauma, you might also want to read my blog on this topic. If you are interested, you can CLICK HERE.

All the best, David