Behaviour Change
Weight Loss
Health Care Professionals

Talks: Understanding Behaviour Change in Weight Management Consultations

February 14, 2022

Dr Richard Pile and Dr Heather McKee Thrive Tribe Talks Webinar.

Dr Richard Pile and Dr Heather McKee talk the importance of how you approach conversations around weight management with clients and the core principles of long-term behaviour change.


Dr. Heather McKee, with a background in health behaviour change Psychology shares her thoughts and expertise, before Dr. Richard Pile, practicing GP, discusses best practice for approaching these types of conversations with patients.

Part 1:

“Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.”

So how can we grow the skill set and confidence to maintain healthy habits long-term?

Dr. Heather McKee talks us through the steps to creating healthy habits that last.

While extrinsic (external) motivating factors get us started, research shows that connecting with the intrinsic (internal) motivation is what really gets keeps us going long-term and gets us the results.

It’s less about willpower, and more about knowing that the goal you have set gives you something back in return.

Therefore, although using numbers such as the scale weight to measure progress is useful, it is better to steer away from focusing on the scale weight and instead reflect on how it feels to eat better, regularly move your body, and get the right amount of sleep. It is most helpful to find your WHY, connect with those feelings and think about what these good habits will bring you and how they positively contribute to your life.

“It's about making the smallest, most gradual and consistent changes over time in order for it to be sustainable.” Doing too much, too soon, can lead to people feeling restricted and deprived and results in burnout.

Another factor that influences how likely an individual is to follow through with their goals is how well planned they are.

Think WHEN and WHERE is that lifestyle change going to show up for you in the next week?

For example, the goal of exercising more could look like: Monday I will attend spin class at 8am, Wednesday I will go for a 5km evening jog at 6pm and Sunday I will go swimming at 10am.

What’s the smallest change you can make this week, that even your most exhausted self could still manage? This a great question to ask to get someone thinking about what is easily achievable to create those small wins and feelings of satisfaction to help gain momentum over time.

“We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” – John Dryden

Part 2:

Dr. Richard Pile takes the lead in discussing how GPs can bring up weight in a consultation and the difficulties around this. He argues, as a GP, you can be the right person, in the right place, at the right time to be having discussions around weight management and lifestyle changes with patients. However, instead of focusing on weight as a metric, putting an emphasis on health, happiness, and enjoyment in life, and asking questions around how those elements of health and wellbeing currently look and how they can be improved. Dr. Pile shares a sample of case studies from individuals who changed their lives in various ways to reverse pre-diabetes and hypertension through lifestyle medicine.

Dr. Richard Piles top considerations:

Firstly, the use of language is important. For example, use of the word ‘obesity’ might be helpful in some contexts, others it might not be the most appropriate.

The use of visual aids and graphics such as charts might also be helpful for some individuals.

Ask open questions around weight with patients, such as:

·      Have you ever had any concerns about your health due to your weight?

·      Has anyone every spoken to you about your weight before? What was that discussion like?

·      What have you tried previously that you found helpful?

·      What have you tried that was difficult for you or not helpful?

Explore the reason for weight gain or unhealthy habits. It might be the case that the patient could benefit from a referral into a mental health service to deal with some emotional trauma or difficulties as the root cause, before then coming back to discuss food groups and behaviours around eating or exercising at a later date.

Get individuals to consider the pain and benefits or pros and cons of making a change.

Explore extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation.

Choosing the right moment and using time wisely.

A GP's role is in the priming and planning, not the delivery of a weight management course. GP's can make onwards referrals for patients into weight management and healthy lifestyle services such as One You Lincolnshire for continued support for the individual.

Ultimately, it is always the patient’s choice to make a change, but we can offer them the right help and support to do it more successfully.

If you are interested in attending future thrive tribe talks, you can sign up with our referral team by emailing us.
Catch up on the recording of this webinar.
Hear more from Dr. Richard Pile
Hear more from Dr. Heather McKee

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