Dr. Phil tells me willpower is a myth

Dr. Phil

I’m a certain that when I say the name Dr Phil, that almost the entire planet would know who I’m talking about.  But…..if you don’t know who he is, Dr. Phil McGraw is an American television personality, author, psychologist and the host of the hugely popular Dr. Phil television show. He first came to fame after several appearances on Oprah Winfrey’s show in the late 1990’s before creating his own show.

When I was in California recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Phil in person. I loved listening to him talk about physical and mental health issues.  Such an incredibly informative session and an honour to be in his company. 

Dr Phil says that willpower is a myth and that there is a misconception about breaking habits; “We don’t break habits.  We replace one set of behaviours with another,” says Dr Phil.  

Dr. Phil recommends doing two things:

  1. Create a new set of empowering behaviours that replace the old behaviours, but gives you the outcomes from the old behaviours.  This is great advice. When I first start working with someone that wants to lose weight, there are usually a series of behaviours that have resulted in them being obese or overweight in the first place.  
    For example, lack of exercise, poor food choices, emotional eating to deal with stress, anxiety or depression and excessive consumption of alcohol to assist with sleep.  During our coaching we must find ways for our clients to adopt new empowering, healthy options, such as eating healthy food, cutting down alcohol consumption and introducing the right type, and amount, of exercise into their daily routine so they still gain the benefits they were obtaining from the old behaviours.  The key is to take small steps consistently to change the behaviour. The benefits will be felt almost instantaneously.
  2. Program your environment to support your change.  For example, exercise each day, workout at a time that supports you.  It may be as simple as putting your gym clothes out at the end of the bed near your runners so that as soon as you get out of bed in the morning you see them, put them on and do your early morning workout session before you find an excuse to not do it.  Another example I find helpful could be to do a fridge, freezer and pantry detox. This is a great exercise to do with people to help them remove the foods that they have easy access to, but don’t support them in their long-term health.

Dr. Phil says the greatest long-term challenge is maintaining change.  “Take smaller bites.  If you have 25 kgs. to lose… next year is going to pass whether you do anything or not.  So just start nibbling away it!”

Such great advice  Dr Phil.  I tell clients that your weight loss journey is like walking a long flight of stairs.  I want you to get to the top, but you’re not going to do that in one big step. Instead, let’s take one step at a time and just focus on that next step.  Before you know it, you’ll be at the top.

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