Recently I have been doing a good amount of reading about success, i.e., Why people are successful. My readings have included some popular books, Talent is Overrated: What really separates world-class performance from everybody else by Geoff Colvin, Outliers: the story of success by Malcom Gladwell and Mindset: The new psychology of success by Carol Dweck which are all worth reading. Most of the information presented in these books has to done with being successful in sports, careers, music and such, and not so much about being successful in losing fat and maintaining a healthy weight. However, I think that a lot of the information is relevant to weight management, particularly the information presented in Mindset.
The first thing to point out that is that none of this has to do with calories, protein intake, types of fat, or whether you should do cardio or resistance training to lose fat (hopefully that puts a smile on your face!). This is not to say that these aforementioned variables are not important, but so much in the field of weight management is fixated on the physiological side (nutrition, exercise, inflammation, etc.). Again, these are very important, but the psychological side of why we do what we do (why we CHOSE to eat certain foods, why we CHOSE to eat a certain amount of food, etc.) and how do we handle setbacks and what can be done to increase adherence and perseverance are also very important (this is why we have the P in SPEED).Our behaviors are really the result of the interaction of biology, psychology, and sociology. I will say much more about that in another post. Anyway, this leads me to the MINDSET concept.
The MINDEST concept is;
“Mindsets are beliefs—beliefs about yourself and your most basic qualities. Think about your intelligence, your talents, your personality. Are these qualities simply fixed traits, carved in stone and that’s that? Or are they things you can cultivate throughout your life?
People with a fixed mindset believe that their traits are just givens. They have a certain amount of brains and talent and nothing can change that. If they have a lot, they’re all set, but if they don’t… So people in this mindset worry about their traits and how adequate they are. They have something to prove to themselves and others.
People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan—without years of passionate practice and learning.”
The following diagram shows how people with different views (Mindsets) of intelligence behave in different situations:
Even though this diagram is using intelligence as an example, I think we can insert eating and movement habits/beliefs as well as the general beliefs about bodyweight regulation. A couple of common statements/beliefs that I have hear people say regarding their weight will hopefully illustrate the point.
“I have always been overweight, my whole family is overweight. I’ve tried every diet and usually lose a little bit of weight but I can’t keep it off. I must have a slow metabolism. I think it is genetic or something. I just can’t lose the weight or keep it off, so I might as well accept that I can’t change how I look”
Does that sound familiar? What about this one?
“I could always eat whatever I wanted when I was younger and not worry about my weight. But for the last 10 years or so I have really struggled with my weight. Why is it so hard now for me to lose weight and keep if off? I never had to work at this before. This doesn’t seem fair. It shouldn’t be this difficult for me. I don’t know if it is worth the effort.”
I think both of these scenarios illustrate a Fixed Mindset.
My point with all of this is not to discount the need to eat a certain amount of calories, or to ingest a good amount of quality protein at each meal to elicit biological mechanisms that will often lead to better appetite control or that getting the proper amount of sleep will modify hormones in a way that can help with appetite control or the fact the billions of dollars are spent on marketing each year to persuade us to eat all types of processed shit, but rather to highlight the fact that HOW we approach the challenge (weight management in this case) can either increase or decrease our chances of succeeding.
Mindset is about the belief that you have a lot of control over what happens. Through effort, often a lot of it, and the RIGHT KIND of effort, great things can be accomplished, including reaching and maintaining a healthy bodyweight. Is it guaranteed? No. But, with a Growth Mindset it is much more likely to happen.
Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success.