Dr. Phil and the Roots of Motivation

Quinnie is a member of the Clean Plate Club

Yesterday, Childhood Obesity News considered the Cracked.com perspective. Now let’s see what the much more mainstream Dr. Phil (Phillip C. McGraw) has to say about the escape from obesity. Of course, Dr. Phil is encouraging people to use his method, whereas Dr. Pretlow encourages obese children and teens to use the W8Loss2Go method, but the steps leading to change are the same for everybody. Dr. Phil’s “Readiness Profile” presents those steps in the form of a self-evaluation, and the correct answer to every question is “yes.” For example:

I am willing to look at my behavior honestly and answer to myself and other significant people in my life about my problems…. to confront myself and others honestly about how I sabotage myself or allow myself to get sabotaged…. to stop lying to myself, and to others, about things that blind me from being who I am…. to make my health and the control of my weight a top priority in my daily life.

I am at the end of my rope, and I know that I have nowhere to go but up at this point.

Yikes! All that adds up to a tall order. Those tools and methods for psychological housecleaning are arduous for even an adult to manage. Think about how difficult all these things are for a grown person, who presumably brings some experience and life skills to the table. It must be so much harder for a child, who has numerous other growing-up perplexities to deal with, or for a teenager, who among other issues, is beginning to suspect that adulthood is not as rewarding as it once seemed.

Plus, there are things in many families that children, and even teenagers, just doesn’t have any control over. If the work environment is not conducive to a healthy lifestyle change, an adult can decide to look for a different job. Kids are pretty much stuck where they landed. An adult can promise to eat differently, even if it hurts the feelings of a relative who specializes in ridiculously high-calorie cuisine, and even if refusal leads to interpersonal conflict. A kid doesn’t have that luxury.

You did what?

Dr. Phil’s list of questions assumes the quiz taker’s power to throw things away, like clothes that are too big and any problem foods that happen to be in the house. But kids can get in a lot of trouble for throwing away stuff bought with their parents’ hard-earned money.

Most adults have friends and associates who are not totally on board with their weight-management efforts, or who may even actively sabotage attempted reform. Dr. Phil is right to insist that such people need to be set aside, at least temporarily. This is also extremely difficult for grownups to do. For overweight young people, who need all the friends they can get — even if the friendships are toxic — shutting out certain people can be impossible.

Which of these necessary steps do young people have the autonomy to perform? For most kids, fulfilling the commitment to get more physical exercise is probably doable. They also have the ability to spend a great deal of time in positive self-talk, repeating affirmations that can powerfully influence the subconscious mind. And hopefully, the obese child or teen will have the moxie to carry out this requirement:

I am willing to talk straight about what I am doing, and not fool myself into thinking that anyone else can do this for me but me.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Are You Ready?,” DrPhil.com, 2003
Image by Ann Larie Valentine

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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