Get Your Glow Back – Episode 61 – With Dr Heather McKee

Why don’t fad diets work and why are they so popular?

We’re always looking for a quick fix

In behaviour change research dieting causes stress and feelings of deprivation which both lead to long term weight gain

What is a habit? 

40-50% of our day is made up of habits

It’s our routine that matter not our willpower 

Trigger – routine – reward 

Time of day – brushing teeth – positive dental hygiene 

How long does it take for a new habit to stick? 

Not 21 days! – based on research on plastic surgery patients and how long it took them to get used to their changes

More recent research suggests it takes between 66-120 days

Goal dilution – the more complex you try to make your habits, the harder it is to make the stick

Start small, to bring about repetition and make it more likely to become a habit

Connect with your why – we are more likely to stick with goals that align with our values

How long does it take to break an existing habit? 

Try not to miss twice – James Clear

The new habit can become not doing the habit so never miss twice. 

When it comes to breaking a habit it’s like breaking a knot, there are multiple entangled streams that need to be untangled step by step

For example eating too much sugar – a series of interwoven microhabits, to try and suddenly stop would be to try and pull at the centre of the knot

  1. What are the cues in the environment that make us engage with sugar: time of day, visual cues (leaving a cake on the side), a certain mood
  2. Understand the reward that behaviour gives you, what are you really seeking?: the taste, a moment to take a break, comfort, to ease boredom
  3. Start with the easiest tangles first: where am I having sugar and not enjoying it that much 

The Importance of Failure

Research shows failing is important because its important to learn why you failed. Understanding why helps you create life long habits because it allows you to understand the context that your habits exist in.

Track your temptations: when do you give in to temptation most and why then ask yourself what else can you do in this situation

Failure is success if you learn from it

Why do some people find it easier to stay motivated to change?

If their goals are in line with their values, those people who find joy in healthy habits

Self-compassion allows habit change, those who are most compassionate to themselves are most likely to tune into what they need and allow themselves time off when needed to make flexible and long lasting changes.

Cultivating Compassion

Think about the person you care most about, and imagine they had a clear goal, what would you say to them about that goal and the words of encouragement you would use, what kindness you’d show them. Start to use those words towards yourself

Create a strength tree – write down any strength you’ve shown as the branches of a tree with a strength on a leaf, we’re so quick to focus on our weaknesses but being conscious about our strengths allows us to more compassionate and our strengths to become stronger

How does our support network affect our ability to make lasting healthy changes?

Social health is really important for habit change 

Be mindful of who you ask for support, be clear in what support is useful and what isn’t 

If you’re pursuing goals for external reasons they won’t be as successful as when they are for intrinsic reasons

Is it more useful to have encouragement after you complete the habit rather than before to keep the motivation feeling intrinsic?

How important is willpower in making life changes?

None of us have good willpower, it’s fickle we all have limits that mean willpower is broken.

It’s like a muscle that can’t be used all the time, it get become exhausted

Design out willpower and motivation for getting things done – make them habits they you don’t have to motivate yourself to do by creating a habit supporting routine

Studies find those that have the strongest willpower are those that don’t use it often

Where to find Heather



Follow me on Instagram @madeleine_shaw_