Category Archives: Self-esteem

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.


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

“I Can Make You Thin” by Paul McKenna – A Review

This is the first full book review I have ever done on this blog. I am delighted that it is a review for this book, because “I Can Make You Thin” makes an historic contribution to weight loss and being naturally thin, and also to the entire field of self-help.

“I Can Make You Thin” - Paul McKennaFor almost 2 years now I have been handing this “I Can Make You Thin” book and ‘mind-reprogramming’ CD to every patient who comes to me to lose weight, or who is caught up in the mentality of diets, scales, cravings, or overeating.

At the risk of making this book seem overly simple, here are Paul McKenna’s 4 golden rules…
1. When you are hungry, eat.
2. Eat what you want (not what you think you “should”.)
3. Eat consciously and enjoy every mouthful.
4. When you are full stop.

I’ve seen other reviews that dismiss the 4 rules as just obvious common sense. I’m not sure what common sense they really mean since the rules conflict with the majority of weight loss approaches around. Rule 2 in particular certainly disagrees with the ‘common sense’ that I was taught as a medical doctor.

Even if the rules are common sense, McKenna needs to be given great credit for showing people HOW to live these habits. Hopefully you are buying this for the results, not just to have a fun read and a relaxing, new-wavy listen.

Yes, the title of “I Can Make You Thin”, the pose McKenna has on the front, and the text on the back are bit over the top, but the inside is less so. The book is refreshingly thin :), jargon-free, and entertaining.

McKenna’s style also incorporates techniques such as tapping (TFT), hypnosis and NLP . Hypnosis is what first made Paul famous, and I’ve seen NLP Practitioners review this and say they knew all of these tricks before. In NLP terms Paul is saying that the Golden Rules are the “model” for being “naturally thin”. Just knowing all the techniques won’t help if you have the wrong model.

Importantly, you don’t need any of these techniques to apply the 4 golden rules and lose weight.

Most people can go the book & CD, discover the Aha moments, and get started on transforming their relationship with food and their weight straight away.

There might be a group of people that could eat according to the 4 rules and not be thin, but I agree with what Paul says. For myself, I’m yet to meet such a person.

I have counseled people who thought it didn’t work for them, but it turned out they hadn’t gotten the rules into their behavior, so here are some extra pointers…

  • Just listening to the CD over and over doesn’t seem to be enough. The book plays a big part too. Expect to re-read the book at least once. You can succeed without the CD, so if it doesn’t suit you, no sweat.
  • Don’t add more rules. Extra rules almost always conflict with the four golden rules. Must eat breakfast? No. Just eat when you are hungry. Have to eat only fresh food? Check you really want to eat it, and whether you might want to eat anything else a bit more. Etc, etc.
  • Having trouble visualizing? Just act ‘as if’ you are visualizing, or on the CD just leave it to Paul.
  • Don’t make exercise the focus. Improved fitness will improve your chances of living longer, but unfortunately the best research evidence is that exercise doesn’t help much in losing weight. Keep to the four rules, which are all about food and getting back in control.
  • If you have a question or a difficulty, the answer is somewhere in the book. The information truly is comprehensive (unlike watching YouTube videos or reading this review.) Indeed this updated version covered the two or three remaining gaps I had found before, including the extra chapter which covers self-sabotage.

In summary, McKenna is not the only person to propose this way of eating, but his is the most accessible version I know about. His is also the most likely to reach out from the page and permanently change your thinking and your behavior, and thereby your weight.

You can buy his measly book just to prove Paul wrong 🙂


So that is my review of “I Can Make You Thin” by Paul McKenna.

Here’s what I would like you to do.

—> Do you think this review is helpful?

– Please go to the copy of this I have put up at Amazon, find the bottom of the review where it says “Was this review helpful to you?”, and click YES.

Rate this review on Amazon here.

—> Want to buy this book?

– It’s finally available on here!

– If you’re in Australia I have copies of this book for Aust$30 + $5 postage and handling (includes GST) or, as I mention in the review I supply them for free to people who come to see me.

You can phone my office on 08-8362 5500 for more details, or send $35 direct to PayPal@-you know the drill to take this bit with name, address and the name of the book.

Obesity, weight and food is an incredibly important self-help area. I cannot recommend Paul McKenna’s “I Can Make You Thin” strongly enough.

As with all self help, it’s now over to you.

-Dr Martin Russell

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The Strange Behavior Of Anorexia – Part 2

I ended Part 1 of this series by asking when someone might WANT to have anorexia.

When might you actually want to be repulsed by the thought of eating food?

Put another way, could anorexia ever be “useful”?

Well it is a standard question that I have asked of every so-called problem that I have been told about or come across over the years.

In what way might the presenting problem or symptom or complaint actually be “useful” to the person?

How might depression be useful, or phobias, grief, alcoholism, self-sabotage, low self-esteem, narcissism, or whatever?

This is where you get the idea of “secondary gain”.

Secondary gain is when there is a second or hidden motive for an action. For example being sick can also be a way of avoiding dealing with an issue, as in a child not wanting to go to school or a worker not wanting to face their boss.

This is often implied as a bad way to deal with things.

We’re meant to be upfront, have no secrets, face our fears, not keep hidden agendas.

However the reality is that humans are complex, and being indirect in going after an outcome is an important choice to have.

Some things are quite well dealt with in a secondary way.

Could there be some useful but secondary gain in having anorexia perhaps as a way of attracting sympathy, gaining attention, getting control of emotions of fear or anger, etc etc?

I suppose yes.

Every problem can have secondary gains.

Personally however I don’t think these questions generally lead to useful therapy. When I have explored secondary gains they have often opened up really fascinating stories with many twists and turns, but in the end the problem is no better for having done so.

Secondary gain inevitably happens, but it almost always remains secondary.

Let’s go back to the question with a different emphasis.

WHEN or WHERE might a particular problem be useful?

In the case of anorexia I have only one suggestion for a context.

If I was drifting on a small life raft in the middle of the ocean for days or weeks, and all I had to eat was food that I knew to be contaminated and fatally poisonous, then in this extremely limited situation I could imagine being much happier to have anorexia.

Instead of wishing I had food or being tempted to eat the poisonous stuff around me, I would be happy that I finally had no one pressuring me to eat. Bliss!

But most people with anorexia are not stranded at sea with poisonous food, so in Part 3 I will move on to what else might be going on.

-Dr Martin Russell

Forcing Function… WillPower Made Easy

Most people have never heard of a Forcing Function, because it’s not commonly thought of as a self-help principle.

However of the 1001 reasons you might want more willpower, my claim to you is that almost always willpower is the wrong tool for the job.

On some of these occasions a Forcing Function will do much better.

But what is a Forcing Function anyway?

If you have ever gone to get money from an ATM you will probably have had the experience of sticking in your card, entering all the details, reaching for the money… and then realizing the money wasn’t going to come until you had first taken out your card.

This is a Forcing Function.

When ATMs first became popular, one of the biggest frustrations for users was accidentally leaving their card in the machine. The banks didn’t like it either. Each morning their staff were handling these upset customers who had “been in a hurry and stupidly forgotten to take my card out.”

Banks tried putting bigger signs on their ATMs, with arrows pointing at the place you were meant to pick up your card. They installed beeping reminders into the machines. They changed the display message to tell people to take their card. They still had problems.

In the end they solved it with a Forcing Function.

They changed the sequence so that you don’t get what you came for ie the money, until you have done all the incidental bits, including take your card.

Of course this doesn’t entirely stop people from forgetting their card. They can always put it down on the machine and leave it there, or drop it, or reinsert the card and walk away, but all these are much less likely to happen.

People want their card. They just need to be reminded about it. They don’t need to have more will power, or spend more time beating up on themselves for being stupid or lazy or worse.

The system can just be changed, so human beings can stay the same.

This is allowed!

Self help can be about changing the world around you, not just changing yourself.

Let me give you an example from my counseling practice.

I had a woman complaining that she was struggling to keep a diary. She only wanted to write a few lines and check the inspirational quote for the following day. She enjoyed doing it, she just seemed to “fall off the wagon”, and forget.

She wanted more willpower.

I said she could use a Forcing Function instead.

If she put her diary on her pillow then she would only be able to go to sleep at night by picking up the diary.

It wouldn’t mean she had to read it or write in it, but she enjoyed doing that part of it so she probably would.

She was much more pleased.

But then she thought it through a bit more and got all down in the mouth again.

“But how will I remember to put the diary on my pillow in the first place? It will sit on my bedside table, ignored just like it is now. I need will power again!”

My answer was to add another forcing function.

I told her to put the diary on the floor right where her feet would land when she got out of bed in the morning.

If she forgot the diary she would step on it when she got up in the morning and be reminded to move it onto the pillow then.

She preferred that to my other suggestion.

My other suggestion was to get her to put up signs all around the house saying in big letters “You stupid idiot. You’ve forgotten something. Why do you always forget such simple things…”

But since she’d already tried something very similar for herself, she thought she’d go along with being “forced” instead.

“Forcing Function”.

Strange name. Vital self help skill.

Find a place for it today in your life, and you can report back your experiences with it on this blog.

-Dr Martin Russell


One of the reasons I wanted this web-site to be about self help rather than psychiatry, psychology or therapy, is because much of what people actually have as problems and limitations is not covered in the textbooks.

This is slowly changing however.

Psychiatry is finding labels for more and more, whether by extending current labels, such as finding that “depression” which was previously a 1% diagnosis is now up to 17% of the population at some time in our lives, or by creating new terminology entirely such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD – otherwise known as Minimal Brain Disorder until they realized they couldn’t even find any brain problem at all, even a minimal one.)

However there are still gaps that the textbooks don’t yet cover, and I appreciate Paul Myers of for pointing one gap out to me.

Oh, and he also includes a cure with it as well.

Paul was talking about the problem of people taking themselves too seriously.

It’s pretty common. It’s usually worst in teenagers and the uptight elderly. [Editor’s note – Not exclusively confined to these groups however.]

It’s called the “self-importants.”

Fortunately, there’s a cure for this sad condition.

Go to K-Mart or Target or wherever, and look for the men’s clothing section. Find the rack with the weird boxers on it. The ones with monkeys are the best. [Editor’s note: substitute female equivalent garments as appropriate.]

Buy a few. They’re cheap. Wear them.

The next time you’re hit by an attack of the “self-importants,” just think to yourself: “I have monkeys in my pants.”

That’ll put a stop to the self-importants, you betcha.

At $4 a pair, it’s the cheapest therapy you’ll ever get.

When I wrote to Paul to get permission to use this he also gave me some extra details, perhaps because he knew my medical training would mean I required it…

Martin – It’s not a scientifically proven technique, but the anecdotal evidence is running at 100% so far. And the downside risk is pretty small. 😉

I look forward to seeing “self-importants” in a psychiatric textbook very soon. Along with recommended medication, and a much more expensive and lengthy course of treatment for it too.

Except of course, if this cure catches on. So go spread the word today!

-Dr Martin Russell

Self-Assessment And Self-Esteem

One of the basic assumptions in any self help process has to be that you can assess yourself.

However when a survey shows that 60% of drivers on the road think they have above average driving skills, this is not an assumption that can be taken for granted.

How well do you assess your own performance, in driving, and in the rest of your life?

How well do you assess your ability to assess your own performance?

In medical school I got to meet a lot of perfectionists. It was all part of being in a system that at that time only allowed entry on the basis of high academic results.

I remember chatting to a very dejected fellow student.

He had just completed his viva assessment, where instead of writing answers down on an examination sheet, you actually have to give them live to a panel of assessors.

This is along the lines of the standard cure in medicine for social phobia – which is just to throw them in the deep end. Think about this if a doctor is recommending such a treatment for you.

Anyway he was wailing and trembling about his poor performance, and how he thought he had studied so well, and yet found himself unable to answer almost all their questions.

I later found out he came second to top.

So I fronted him.

What was all this about his ‘poor performance’?

Well, he too had wondered this and had gone back to the examiners and asked them.

Their response was that he had passed the exam after only the first 2 questions. But he had answered so well that they had decided to find out what the limits of his knowledge were and grilled him on the most advanced and detailed stuff they could.

How was he to know this?

What self-assessment could he have done to keep his ‘self-esteem’ intact?

Another example.

In a research study, people were given a written test, and then asked to guess their score before they were told the results.

The researchers were wanting to know how accurate people’s guesses were.

Here is what they found.

Everyone tended to think they were about average!

Overall, those who had better than average scores guessed they didn’t do as well as they actually did, while those who did worse than average thought they got a higher mark.

The researchers’ theory was when people with higher marks thought they did worse, that kept them striving to do better next time, and made them learn more so they got better than average marks.

Those who got poor marks and were over-rating their own performance, never gave themselves the same incentive to improve so they continued to get worse marks and not notice it.

So what might you take away from this yourself?

Here’s a couple of my suggestions for people reading this who are more likely to be on the more self-motivated end of the human spectrum.

First, if you think you are doing well, just check how you know this.

Second, if you think you are doing poorly at something, then you may well be wrong. At least when compared with other people’s performance.

One give-away for this is when people are telling you that you have low self-esteem, or poor self-image. They are saying you are rating yourself lower than others do.

Unfortunately what others call ‘low self-esteem’ may actually be part of what keeps you excelling.

I suggest you be wary of accepting such comments from even the most well-meaning of friends and counsellors.

-Dr Martin W. Russell