When trying to lose weight, most people focus on physical changes, such as exercising more and eating properly. However, few people appreciate the significance of mindset and how it affects your ability to lose weight. The importance of cultivating the right mindset may surprise you.
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed-Trait Mindset
In general, people have one of two types of mindsets: (1) a growth mindset, which involves the belief that people can grow, improve, and evolve; or (2) a fixed-trait mindset, which is the belief in God-given traits that are unlikely or impossible to change.
Studies have shown that people who have a growth mindset are more likely to see success in areas as opposed to those who have a fixed-trait mindset. Many people with a fixed-trait mindset talk themselves out of new experiences by saying things such as, “Oh, I’m not a runner,” or “My whole family is obese, so I am too.” This type of mindset can actually keep them from making the changes they need to improve their lives and their health.
Mindset and Genetics
There’s an area of study called epigenetics, which states that what we are exposed to and the habits we keep can actually change our genetics, or rather how our bodies read our genetic sequences. Similar to this, our mindset can change our bodies’ physical abilities.
One study which conducted functional testing of individuals’ capacity to exercise shows just that. Researchers split the subjects into two groups, tested their blood, and told one group they had found a gene that makes someone a genetically good exerciser while telling the other group they found a gene which made them poor exercisers. The group who believed their gene made them good exercisers had an increased physical capacity to exercise (for example, better lung function). Those who believed they did not have the good exercising gene dropped in capacity. This shows that mindset affects your body’s physical abilities.
Another area showing that mindset matters is self-acceptance. Studies have shown that people who are self-accepting, meaning they are able to accept themselves for who they are, are much more likely to make positive, healthy behavior changes. Those with negative or self-deprecating self-talk were not likely to make those same changes.
Even if you may not like where you are in this moment, if you have the ability to accept that with a positive outlook instead of disempowering self-talk, you are much more likely to see successful changes.
Perceptions of Ourselves and Our Behaviors
Other studies show that how we perceive ourselves and our behaviors can also affect our chances of success.
For example, in regard to dietary setbacks such as going on vacation or ordering an indulgent dessert, it turns out that it is not the setback itself, but how we relate to it that matters. If you believe that your indulgence is not too concerning, you are more likely to return to positive heathy behaviors and continue losing weight. If you perceive your setback as something very concerning or upsetting, you will be more likely to gain weight.
The final message from these studies is that your mindset matters. How we perceive ourselves and our behaviors can have a huge impact on our ability to lose weight. Cultivating a mindset of growth and positive self-acceptance is likely to help you in your health journey.