Category Archives: Foundations

The Power Of Negative Thinking

This a quote from a subheading in one of my favorite books of all time, “The Peter Principle“.

But in fact this approach has a long and rich history.

I am just about to head overseas on a 2 month trip with my wife and 3 small kids – and leave my counselling practice unattended for all that time.

For many reasons, this was something I assumed I would NEVER be able to do.

With the Power of Negative thinking (done more informally than Tim suggests in his video below) I managed to do it.

Think of this as a farewell from me – til November anyway – and, an invitation to you to apply negative thinking in your life for your success.

-Dr Martin Russell

Legal Self Help

I like my self help advice along the lines of the KISS principle – Keep It Short & Sweet.

Here is some legal self help advice that is about as KISS as it can get.

If you are ever questioned by police or authorized officials then this may save your bacon.

I know these videos are for US audiences who have the Fifth Amendment (the US Constitutional right to silence) and the Miranda Warning (letting you know that if you DO say something it can be used against you.)

But if you any in a country where someone reads you your rights, then I think that this is must-have legal self help  advice.

Here are two experts giving you the details behind this KISS approach to legal matters…


Don’t Talk to Cops, Part 1 – The Lawyer


Don’t Talk to Cops, Part 2 – The Policeman

Thanks to Gary North for identifying this for me.

-Dr Martin Russell

Human Limitations

Human beings are remarkably limited creatures.

We can only handle a small range of physical enviroments. We die if we are too hot, cold, get too little oxygen or too much carbon monoxide. We can’t see X-rays or radio waves or even infrared or ultraviolet. We can’t hear dog whistles or most geological rumbles.

Heck we can’t even detect magnetic energy.

We can’t fly like a bird. We can’t run as fast as most cats or dogs. We can’t go underwater very far at all.

But for almost all of these physical limitations we have found a way around them with our ingenuity and creativity.

More interesting are the psychological limitations.

There are many such limitations we have, but a Dr Albert Bartlett claims there is one that stands out…

“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”

I would expand this to include other areas of non-linear thinking such as the reality-shattering 80/20 rule.

But rather than get bogged down in jargon, let’s simplify it.

Removing limitations is fun.

Let Dr Bartlett take you on a whirlwind tour of undoing one particular human limitation…

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5051121482067161853

[This video is in fact the first half and the other half seems to be lost to the world. However there is a complete transcript you can find here.]

-Dr Martin Russell

Self Help… Thinking Bigger

Self help can often seem very individual and isolated.

However when I say ‘self help’ it includes the idea that no man/woman is an island.

If you are reading this then chances are you are in a very priviledged position compared to most of the 6+ billion humans on this planet.

There is an entire world around us and lots of other people in that world too.

As individuals our fates are often tied to the people, culture, financial system, politics etc etc around us.

However if you don’t take these bigger factors into account, your own individual efforts can end up swamped by the tide of history.

One of these factors is this…

I do not believe that the next 20 years will be ANYTHING like the last 20 years.

What works today, will often NOT work tomorrow, because the future will not just be a straight line continuation of the past.

Helping yourself will show others that it is possible.

Helping yourself will also put you in a position to help people who haven’t planned for an altered future.

Like they say on airplanes safety instructions, “Please make sure you have your own oxygen mask on before assisting others.”

I encourage you in these turbulent times to view these videos here as a starter…
http://www.chrismartenson.com/crash-course

Take these bit by bit. Each one is a treasure of bigger thinking, and it is the best presented version I know of how thinking bigger can really be self help.

Oh, and just for the record, I only go along with with 95% of everything he says. I’ll let you judge what the 5% is.

-Dr Martin Russell

Exercise And Weight Loss… The Final Nail?

The problem with studying exercise for weight loss is that you can’t really disguise the exercise.

If exercise came in a pill you could do it.

You could get a big group of people and randomly give half the pill with exercise in it, and the other half a dummy, sugar pill that looks, smells, tastes etc just the same (aka a ‘placebo’.)

This is the scientific way to test whether pills works for weight loss.

But what about exercise?

It’s a bit hard to have a ‘dummy, sugar pill’ for physical activity. The sweating and heart-pumping bit sort of gives it away.

What this means is that for exercise for weight loss there is no way to do the gold-standard of a “double-blind, placebo-controlled” study.

Is this a problem?

Oh my wordy, YES!

Time after time it has been shown that the psychological power of medicines is a huge part of their overall effectiveness.

But is this specifically a problem for exercise and weight loss?

Well I only know of one good study that covers that question.

The researchers didn’t invent a dummy, sugar pill, but they did the next best thing as Ben Goldacre at Bad Science reports

Alia Crum and Ellen Langer from Harvard psychology department took 84 female hotel attendants in 7 hotels. They were cleaning an average of 15 rooms a day, each requiring half an hour of walking, bending, pushing, lifting, and carrying.

These women were clearly getting a lot of good exercise, but they didn’t believe it: 66.6% of them reported not exercising regularly, and 36.8% said they didn’t get any exercise at all.

The study abstract reports that one group of the hotel attendants was…

…told that the work they do (cleaning hotel rooms) is good exercise and satisfies the Surgeon General’s recommendations for an active lifestyle. Examples of how their work was exercise were provided.

Subjects in the control group were not given this information.

Although actual behavior did not change, 4 weeks after the intervention, the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before.

As a result, compared with the control group, they [the hotel attendants who were told that their cleaning job was in fact ‘exercise’] showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index.

These results support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect.

Now here is the really interesting bit.

HOW MUCH weight did people lose in 4 weeks merely by being thinking they were exercising?

These details are from PsyBlog

The average weight of those in the intervention group reduced from 145.5 lbs to 143.72 lbs. Over the same period the control group showed no significant change. For those of you working metric-style that’s 66.14 kg down to 65.33 kg.

That’s weight loss of almost 2 pounds, just under 1 kilogram, in just 4 weeks.

Not bad huh, for doing nothing extra?

So here’s the kicker.

Doesn’t that sound scarily similar to the 1 kilogram or 2.5 pounds in 12+ weeks that is the ENTIRE benefit of exercise anyway?!!!

[If you didn’t know this was all exercise does, see my previous post with the scientific evidence.]

Exercise, if done for weight loss alone, has suddenly become not just a minor factor, but instead an utter waste of time!

Could this really be the final nail in the exercise / weight loss coffin?

Massive industries of gyms, fitness equipment manufacturers, personal trainers etc etc hope it’s not true.

But what is there left that could resurrect exercise as a real weight loss tool?

If any one knows, I’m all ears.

-Dr Martin Russell

Exercise For Weight Loss

There is so much misinformation around about the benefits of exercise, particularly in regard to weight loss.

But let’s use a bit of common sense, shall we?

When we get active ie exercise, we use up energy.

If you don’t eat more calories, then this energy has to come from your body stores ie from fat.

So exercising more will burn off fat, and you will lose weight.

Simple, isn’t it?

NO!!!

Common sense has failed you and everyone else who pushes this line of thinking.

Don’t kill the messenger. I’m just passing on the researched reality.

Exercise has a pitifully small weight loss advantage.

Mild to moderate exercise removes an average of less than 3 pounds / 1 kilogram.

Vigorous exercise produces barely any more weight loss at 4 pounds or 1.5 kilograms.

That’s all!

Now that isn’t to say exercise doesn’t have other important. It does.

Exercise tones up your muscles, improves your heart, is a more effective mood enhancer than anti-depressants, helps you live longer, among other benefits. Pretty important if you ask me.

It’s just that exercise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for losing weight.

This totally non-commonsense finding is systematically proven by a review of all the best literature on exercise put together by the most authoritative research collation body in the world, the Cochrane Collaboration. They are not sponsored by medical companies so they are uniquely independent reviewers.

The header of their “Exercise for overweight or obesity” review does indeed say…

We found that exercise has a positive effect on body weight

But buried lower down in the sleep-inducing technical details they admit how miserably small the weight loss is…

When compared with no treatment, exercise resulted in small weight losses across studies. Exercise combined with diet resulted in a greater weight reduction than diet alone (WMD – 1.0 kg; 95% confidence interval (CI) -1.3 to -0.7). Increasing exercise intensity increased the magnitude of weight loss (WMD – 1.5 kg; 95% CI -2.3 to -0.7).

The small weight loss is the same whether you exercise for 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 months or 12 months!

Not only that but no matter what type of exercise it is, the results are still unerringly the same.

You can check out the full study here.

In summary.

When someone, a gym instructor, a personal trainer, a friend, a health adviser, or even a medical authority, tells you that exercise will help you lose weight, I invite you to challenge them.

Ask them how much weight they think exercise will help you lose and watch them ignore your question, squirm, or outright invent stuff.

If they disagree with the study above then have them send their research proof to me. No one has yet.

Bust the myth-making.

Truth is that yes, on average, exercise will lose you weight. Just not much.

-Dr Martin Russell

The Diet Spring Clean

Welcome Readers, old and new … it’s Spring in the Southern Hemisphere!

Time for that famous phrase “spring clean” – making sure things are not just tidied away or half-done, but thoroughly cleaned out ready for summer.

Do you want to lose weight, a little or lots?

Do you want to stop feeling guilty, or ‘out of control’ around food?

Have you tried eating differently, and either it was great for a while but then fell back, or it simply didn’t get the results you wanted at all?

Then this is could well be for you.

But What Is A ‘Diet Spring Clean’ ???

Thanks to Radio 5AA’s Amanda Blair, who herself ended up using just such a non-dieting approach through her own trial and error, for letting me announce this on her show on Sept 24 and recommending people come here to find out more.

I’m anti-diet, because for 95+% of people they don’t work in the long term.

People who go on diets are likely to regain all the weight they lost if not more, AND end up feeling bad and guilty about their eating as well.

Not a good result!

So instead, I’m proposing a whole clean-out of your approach to your weight, what you eat (the original meaning of the word diet before “the industry” took it over), the way you eat, your mindset, and food in general – a total “diet spring clean”.

What could possibly sweep clean aside all those rules, restrictions, “healthy” hints, nutrition tips, calorie counting, and “helpful advice” that infests the media, our friends and families, and often ourselves?

Four simple steps…

  • Step 1.  When you are hungry, eat.
  • Step 2.  Eat what you want (NOT what you think you should.)
  • Step 3.  Savour every mouthful.
  • Step 4.  When you are full, stop.

That’s it. Really.

No pills. No surgery. No meal replacements, shakes, supplements, counting, points, calories, carbs etc etc etc aaaAARFGH! Stop!

Everything else is unnecessary clutter and garbage, until and unless you have these 4 steps in place.

Skeptical?

Good. I would be too.

In fact I was very skeptical when I first came across this, and I needed to know much more.

I’ve set up a way for you to learn more too. There is an interview with complete detail of the 4 steps packed into a short 27 minutes, and it’s all yours completely for FREE.

Simply put in the details so we can send you local Adelaide details including the interview. Type in your name, email address, and click Send.

Full Name:

Email Address:

-Dr Martin Russell

Introducing Gavin de Becker

One of the biggest aspects of self-help is most certainly safety and it’s opposite, danger.

A huge chunk of psychiatry is taken up with the manifestations of this issue – anxiety, phobias, worry, self-confidence issues, paranoias, anger, violence.

A patient of mine gave me the trememdous gift of introducing me to a man who specializes in helping people living in anxiety and fear.

For those of you like me who hadn’t heard of Gavin de Becker before, he is an American specialist in security issues, especially for governments, corporations, and celebrities, and yet his core message is very much for individuals in our everyday life.

When he was 10 Gavin de Becker watched his mother shoot his stepfather while his 2-year-old sister slept in her bedroom. When he was 16, his mother, a heroin addict, killed herself. Violence and things to fear has been an integral part of his life, and his work.

I was first given his book Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (And Parents Sane)” which was more meaningful for the fact that I have 3 young children of my own…

A generation ago, in Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, Benjamin Spock told parents that they already possessed most of the important knowledge about their children’s health. Similarly, when it comes to predicting violence and protecting children, I submit that you already know most of what you need to know.

You have the wisdom of the species, and the expert voice that matters most is yours. Yet, society has trained us to believe that we don’t know the answers, that professionals know what’s best and that good parents listen to them. As a result, we have come to believe that we will find certainty outside ourselves. We won’t, of course, but we can find the illusion of certainty, particularly if that’s what we’re willing to settle for.

-Dr Martin Russell

8 Glasses Of Water Daily. Really?

One of the most recurring health wisdoms is that you need to drink 8 glasses of water daily.

Also known as the 8×8 (8 glasses of 8 ounces each) or 2 Litres of water daily.

I seems to make sense to so many people, including bottled water sellers, that for many people it is pure common sense.

From my medical training I already liked to tell people who tried to convince me to have my 8 daily glasses, the stories of people who died from “water intoxication” including a spate of deaths in my own state from people trying to avoid the dehydration when they took the party drug, Ecstasy.

On a more personal level, this idea of 8 daily glasses of water ended for me when I watched the “Lawrence of Arabia” movie and watched an Englishman train himself to drink water like a desert-living Arab.

Of course this was a movie, not science.

But often movies are better than science for personal change anyway.

Still the idea of 8 glasses of water on a daily basis has been put to the test by researchers, and in summary – the idea doesn’t hold water.

The most complete study was this year in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

The best thing about this study was that they specifically addressed the 4 key health benefits proposed for 8 glasses of water daily: that it leads to more toxin excretion, improves skin tone, makes one less hungry and reduces headache frequency.

All these had no scientific evidence of benefit, and the closest was the question of affecting appetite where two studies disagreed with each other, and the researchers considered it was worth looking into further.

Of course this all begs one question.

Where did this daily water myth come from?

An excellent review paper in 2002 in the American Journal of Physiology suggested a possible source. Professor Valtin proposed that…

…the notion may have started when the [US] Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council recommended approximately “1 milliliter of water for each calorie of food,” which would amount to roughly two to two-and-a-half quarts per day (64 to 80 ounces). Although in its next sentence, the Board stated “most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods,” that last sentence may have been missed, so that the recommendation was erroneously interpreted as how much water one should drink each day.

Myth busted. There is no scientific basis for a recommendation of 8 glasses of water a day.

So what’s my advice?

I say decide for yourself.

[What do you expect on a self help blog, really.]

More specifically, figure out how to know when you are thirsty. The signals for wanting water in are as clear-cut as the ones for wanting water out. We just seem to get better trained on the full bladder than we do on the parched lips.

Then have what ever you feel like; water, other fluids (even caffeinated ones), or foods that have water in them.

If adding a bit more water than that helps you with headaches, skin tone, appetite etc go for it.If it doesn’t then don’t.

-Dr Martin Russell