Unlocking Weight Loss Success with a Growth Mindset

A mind[set] is a terrible thing to waste. Believe it or not, your mindset can make the difference in losing weight, or giving up and staying the same–or worse, going in the wrong direction. Find out how a growth mindset can help you lose weight!

Your best friend tells you she’s starting this new diet. How do you react? Do you encourage her, ask about her goals?

After a few weeks diligently following her program she tells you she’s only lost 2 pounds.

What would you say to her?

That she’s a total failure at weight loss? That she should know she’s done this a million times before and always falls off the wagon?

Maybe you ask her why she keeps putting herself through this misery.

If you’re the kind of friend I think you are, the answer is “of course not.”

You would probably tell her that, sure, she wanted to lose more, but let’s focus on what she’s doing right.

Pat her on the back for the progress, then offer to be her accountability buddy, or go for walks with her to keep her motivated.

There are any number of things you can do to encourage her, but the point is, that’s what you’d do. Encourage her.

You wouldn’t tear her down and tell her she’s stupid to have even tried.

Then why do we do that to ourselves?

A new diet or exercise program won’t work if your head’s not in the right place!

How To Use A Growth Mindset to Lose Weight

Losing weight and getting into shape are not rocket science. We all know what to do.

Eat more fruits & vegetables, control portion sizes, and exercise regularly.

Most importantly for weight loss, take in fewer calories than you expend.

Those are evidence-based, proven ways to lose weight and get fit. But we’re kind of sick of hearing about them, right?

If it’s so easy, why is it so dang hard?

Because you have to master your mental game. You have to conquer your mindset.

If you typically resist all talk about mindset, please keep reading. This is groundbreaking stuff.

I’m about the most stubborn stuck-in-my-ways, don’t like change person there probably ever was.

The very word MINDSET made me roll my eyes with scorn and derision. What a bunch of hogwash. Everyone knows you can’t change the way you’re made!

Oh, but everyone is wrong! Even me!! (not sure how that happened ?).

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset

What’s A Fixed Mindset?

A fixed mindset says you’re either good at something or you’re not. You’re either a math whiz or you suck at math.

It says if you’re wrong about something (and others find out about it) you’re mortified and try mightily to find someone or something else to blame.

You may resent others’ successes, give up easily, or adopt a “who cares” attitude on the outside.

For the purposes of health and fitness, a fixed mindset can be deadly. Have you ever said or thought any of these?

How can you use a growth mindset to lose weight?
  • I’m naturally plump
  • I never lose weight when I diet
  • I guess this is just the way I’m made
  • My hormones are out of whack
  • I’m too tired to exercise
  • I hate exercise

Those statements of supposed facts can undermine any thought of change in your fitness habits. Even if you really want to lose weight and get in shape!

Unless you change your mindset, trust me, your lizard brain will win out every time.

What’s A Growth Mindset?

The growth mindset says that you can change. Your personality is not set in stone, your habits and proclivities are not either.

Use a growth mindset to transform your fitness.

Think about what this might mean for your weight and health! Maybe a growth mindset is just the ticket you need to finally transform your fitness.

Even if you’ve always thought, “I’m not the creative type,” it doesn’t mean you can’t change. You CAN. I don’t even give a crap how old you are!

These different aspects of your life you may think can’t be changed are numerous:

  • logical
  • frugal
  • organized
  • energetic
  • slim
  • muscular
  • even-tempered
  • crafty
  • patient
  • [insert default trait here]
book mindset by carol dweck

You can learn new things and cultivate new abilities. No matter how set in your ways you think you are, and no matter how old you are.

According to Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. in her groundbreaking book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way โ€” in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments โ€” everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

Carol S. Dweck, P.hD.
Developed by Beth Dichter

With a growth mindset, you usually believe that with enough effort and practice, you can improve. Where you are right now is just the starting point.

Setbacks become opportunities to learn better ways to accomplish your goals, instead of excuses for why it’ll never work out.

A growth mindset is the mindset that actually allows you to try. After all, if you absolutely think you can’t do something, why would you even try?

Answer? You wouldn’t. That’s why cultivating a growth mindset is so important.

How To Cultivate A Growth Mindset To Help You Lose Weight

How can a growth mindset help you lose weight?

Well, maybe you, like me, didn’t come bursting forth into the world with a growth mindset.

I’m pretty sure back when I was born (1956) no one had ever heard of this concept.

Sure, we heard all the typical platitudes of the day:

  • if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again
  • don’t be a baby
  • there’s nothing to worry about
  • you’re just not good at math (or art, or whatever)

But lo and behold, some 50+ years later I learned what it is and now my life is changed. Not all at once, and not completely…no, that will never be the case.

But I know now that I can change in areas I never thought possible, and that’s a miracle to me.

And my health & fitness is definitely one place I’m using a growth mindset to change and improve.

So what can you do to cultivate the growth mindset?

1. Practice, practice, practice.

You can’t just decide you’re going to follow this growth mindset with, say, eating better, try for a day, and quit.

You need to practice. This isn’t a one-time thing; it’s for the rest of your life.

It’s about learning how to learn and grow from mistakes and setbacks, and recalibrating for better/different results next time.

Then evaluating and adjusting. Over and over again.

That’s both the beauty and the curse. You’re never really there, but you always get to improve! It’s such a relief to not always feel like you must measure up, but be so scared you won’t that you don’t even try.

This is all about try.

Think about this; when you were first learning to walk, you didn’t fall down and think, “Okay, never trying that again! I must look like an idiot!”

No, you got back up and eventually learned to walk. That’s what a growth mindset does.

2. Don’t focus on specific goals.

This means if you didn’t meet the arbitrary goal you set for yourself, or you’re not a size 6, or you don’t fit into those skinny jeans, look at it as “not yet.”

I’ve warned about the trap of a certain goal weight number, or a certain date by which to meet a specific goal, but work with me here.

Progress is what we’re going for. I don’t care if you lose 1 pound a month. Most people gain 5 pounds every year, so if you lose 12, you’re 17 pounds ahead of everyone else!

If you wanted to learn to speak French fluently, after a few lessons would you give up because you weren’t perfectly fluent yet?

I sure hope not.

If your kids took piano lessons and they couldn’t play Rachmaninoff after the first couple of weeks would you stop the lessons? Of course not.

So I think you get the picture here. Getting to a comfortable healthy weight and being fit are not one-time goals. You never really arrive at your destination. There is always something to reach for.

[Which is a good thing, by the way.]

3. Find role models and encouraging allies

Begin filling your mind with stories of those who have succeeded. Especially ones who are in similar situations to yours.

If they can do it, I promise, so can you! Read everything you can about the success mindset, and DECIDE to “just do it anyway” when you must.

Tell your excuses (yes, I give you permission to talk to them) “no, dammit, I’m the one in charge here! I appreciate that you’re trying to help me, but I know what’s best.”

Along with finding others who have broken through their fixed mindsets and embraced growth, surround yourself with those who will not only challenge you to new victories, but encourage you along the way.

In addition, you may need to limit your time with people who criticize you and bring you down, only in the name of making themselves feel better.

This isn’t always the easiest thing to do, of course, but may be necessary for your continued success.

Some ways to find like-minded people include taking on a new challenge like joining a walking club or group, or signing up for a class on something you’ve always wanted to learn.

Or, if you can’t find anyone local, join a Facebook group like the Phase Two Fitness! We exist to lift each other up, encourage one another, and share helpful advice.

4. Write about your thoughts, challenges & successes.

This is where journaling can come in handy. Even if you have no interest in journaling.

Ask me why I say this! I have an on-again, off-again romance with writing things down.

For one thing, I usually lose the journal or scrap of paper I’m writing on. But mostly I just never feel like I’m doing it right!

A journal can help to foster a growth mindset

Which is really dumb, because there’s no right way to journal. I’m not sure what I’m afraid of…after all, no one else is ever going to see what I write, right?

And why should I care if someone does, anyway?

But anyway, writing this stuff down makes a huge difference. You can begin to see patterns. Patterns of when you crave certain foods.

Patterns of the negative or unhelpful thoughts that keep coming up again and again.

And the successes!! You may be surprised about how many good things you’re doing that you never give yourself credit for.

And when you can see those things consistently, you have something to build on; something that can grow into a totally new you.

Put It Into Practice

If you’re tired of staying the same, never living up to the goals you set for yourself, you need to do something different.

Doing the same unhelpful thing(s) over and over again won’t get you where you want to go.

Decide you’re going to cultivate a growth mindset, and then set about doing it. Get a notebook–it doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy–just something to write in and start writing consistently.

Start seeing failures as conduits to growth. The very word “failure” has such a negative connotation in our world.

Failure simply means there is something to be learned or another direction to be taken. It’s not the end of the world, it’s not the end of your dreams, it doesn’t even have to be negative at all.

In fact, let’s decide here and now to redefine the word “fail.” From now on, it means something like:

First Attempt In Learning

Forever Ascending in Life

Forever Acquiring Important Lessons

See how many of these you can come up with. Get creative! And when you think of one, repeat it over and over throughout the day(s) until it becomes your mantra.

Changing your mind one thought at a time is possible, if you have a great enough desire, and you commit to small, consistent changes.

You can use a growth mindset to lose weight, and transform your health and fitness for the better, and for good!

A new diet or exercise program won’t work if your head’s not in the right place!

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  1. I absolutely agree; mindset is so important. Not just applicable for fitness either! Your own thoughts effect so much of your life. โ™ก

  2. Great post! As an educator, we teach our students how to have a growth mindset from a young age. I wish this mindset shaping was around when I was younger. I work on it though now. It’s truly amazing how we can limit ourselves with a fixed mindset. Great read, thanks!