Your Health: 7 Tips for Cultivating a Growth Mindset

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kathryn matthews | The Nourished EpicureanWhen it comes to your health and well-being, are you ready to adopt a growth mindset in the New Year? (We’ll circle back to what a growth mindset is in a moment).

If you are … a gift from me to you: 25% off through January 9th on a Food & Lifestyle Review (regularly priced at $150) or a Comprehensive Wellness Assessment (regularly priced at $250). Use coupon code Growth25 at checkout.

Personally, health goals always come into sharp focus for me in December when I celebrate my birthday. I view my birthday as the start of my own personal “New Year”, when I not only take stock of my overall health status and get clarity on my health goals, but I also I consider the process of how I will get there over the next year.

What I mean by “process” is that I don’t just make a New Year’s resolution, like “I want to improve my cholesterol numbers”, or “I want to lose weight”—then hope it magically happens. I actively assess, plan and, most importantly, participate in what I need to do to get there.

Depending on my health goals, this might include mindfulness practices, like tracking and logging my food, blood sugar and/or blood pressure; scheduling lab work; scheduling appointments with my naturopath and/or chiropractor; a willingness to modify my food and supplement choices if necessary; and fine-tuning my sleep schedule and/or types of workouts that I do. I don’t do everything that I just listed all at once! I may take small steps or bigger steps. I assess and modify action steps. And I consistently revisit and adapt (if necessary) the process of achieving my health goals.

What is a top-of-mind health goal for you? Losing weight? Strengthening your immune system? Making food and lifestyle choices that support heart health? Moving more in your daily life? Cultivating coping skills to better manage anxiety or depression?

What is—or has been—stopping you from reaching your health goal(s)?

Do you say things like…

I have a slow metabolism.

I’m not athletic.

I don’t have time to go to the gym.

“Healthy” foods are tasteless and bland.

I’m not a “cook”.

Even when I do everything ‘right’; I can’t lose weight!

I have a genetic predisposition to anxiety or depression.

It’s easier for John or Jean to lose weight because they can afford a gym membership; they work at home; or, they have more free time.

I have no willpower!

When it comes to achieving your health goals, perhaps, a fixed mindset is getting in the way…

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck is renowned for her work on mindset, specifically, the idea of “growth mindset” versus “fixed “mindset” (1).

A “growth mindset” is about believing that you can develop your abilities, skills or intelligence through hard work, practice, and perseverance despite failure.

That said, a growth mindset, in and of itself, does not guarantee how much change is possible, how long change will take, or if you will even achieve the results you desire. A growth mindset believes there is capacity to change or improve—even in face of challenges or obstacles. The key is commitment to taking consistent action toward your goal(s).

Keep in mind: not everything—like preferences or values can (or necessarily should)—be changed (2). For example, I recognize the importance of stretching, flexibility, and balance. Over the years, I have tried to love yoga. I really have! I have experimented with various types of yoga and tried different yoga instructors. Bottom line: While I incorporate stretching into my routine, I’m just not into yoga, specifically. It is a personal preference that not even a growth mindset can change. And that is okay.

A “fixed mindset” believes that talent and intelligence are innate and cannot be developed; you either have it—or you don’t.

For example, being musically gifted or a natural athlete. As applied to health, a fixed mindset might believe that you are “naturally” thin or overweight because of genetics.

A fixed mindset focuses only on outcome as a measure of how inherently smart or talented you are. Your “successes”—whether it’s getting straight A’s; winning every swim meet; or being a high-performing salesperson—serve to validate your “natural” ability and talent.

Failure, whether it’s losing a competition, getting fired or being rejected in a romantic relationship, often reveals whether we have a fixed or growth mindset in a particular area of our life.

With a fixed mindset, failure is often perceived as devastating or catastrophic, a confirmation that you are not smart or talented or worthy. Those with a fixed mindset often feel vulnerable because a perceived “deficiency” has been “exposed”; as a result, people with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenges or situations where they do not naturally shine or excel.

A growth mindset, however, views failure as an opportunity to grow and to learn something new. Setbacks offer a chance to step outside one’s comfort zone and master—even thrive on—challenges through learning and effort.

Dwerk sums up the distinction between the two mindsets:

In a fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail—or if you’re not the best—everything has been wasted.

 The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing—regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues.”

Mindset and Health

How might mindset apply to health?

Let’s take “I want to lose weight”, a common health goal for many people.

Those with a fixed mindset, who are overweight or obese, might start a prescription program for an injectable (e.g., Ozempic, Zepbound) or pill (e.g., Adipex, Contrave, Belviq), to lose weight—without considering the potentially serious adverse side effects of these drugs—because weight loss (outcome orientation) is their singular focus.

Those with a growth mindset, however, might make an effort to understand the root causes of their weight gain. They would be willing to learn about—and actively practice—hormone-balancing food choices, mindfulness strategies and lifestyle practices for sustainable, healthy weight loss (process oriented).

As applied to weight loss, the fixed mindset focuses on an outcome that requires minimal effort and “guarantees” an immediate outcome. A growth mindset may not produce instant results, but the process of learning about healthy food choices and lifestyle habits can result in slower, but more sustainable, weight loss and improved overall health.

Where Do You Fall?

What kind of mindset do you have when it comes to your health and well-being? Having a fixed or growth mindset is not an either/or situation. We can be a mix of both mindsets; for example, you may think of your athletic abilities as being fixed but that you can become a better cook with practice.

Fixed Mindset:

— Believes that skills, intelligence and ability are something that you’re born with and can’t be developed,

— Believes they know everything already.

— Believes in effortless success.

— Avoids challenges, especially those that may lead to failure.

— Gives up easily in the face of perceived failure.

— Ignores or dismisses criticism.

— Is threatened by the success of others.

— Focus is on the destination (outcome).

Growth Mindset:

— Believes in the potential to develop—or expand—your intelligence, skills or abilities.

— Wants to learn. Seeks support and guidance.

— Believes that effort, practice, and perseverance can improve potential for positive change and success.

— Welcomes challenges.

— Persists in spite of failure. Views failure as part of the learning process.

— Accepts constructive criticism or feedback.

— Is motivated / inspired by the success of others.

— Appreciates the journey (process).

Your Health: 7 Tips for Cultivating a Growth Mindset

1.  Consider your current mindset re: health.

When it comes to your health and well-being, do you have a fixed mindset or growth mindset? If you have identified that you have a fixed mindset, is it helping or hindering you?

2.  Seek support.

Do you feel overwhelmed by conflicting health information from mainstream media sources? Do you want to make healthier food choices, but feel confused about what to eat? Are you struggling with managing uncomfortable symptoms (e.g., fatigue, brain fog, acid reflux, joint pain) and unsure if/what food choices and lifestyle changes can help? Have you been told that you need to lose weight, yet not received any guidance that can help you make healthier choices? Would you like to look or feel better (e.g., clearer complexion, better digestive health, less anxiety)…but have no idea where to start?

We don’t always know what we don’t know! Consider working with a functional health practitioner, like myself, for guidance, education and support. Through January 9th, I am offering 25% off on a Food & Lifestyle Review (regularly priced at $150) OR a Comprehensive Wellness Assessment (regularly priced at $250). Use coupon code:Growth25 at checkout.

3.  Plan.

Identify the steps needed to create habits that help you achieve your health goal. For example, if your health goal is to eat more nutritious, home-cooked meals, you will want to consider: What constitutes a “healthy” meal? What meals will you prepare for the week? Are there any meals that you can prepare in advance and rewarm on busy days? When will you grocery shop? Is there anyone who can help you prep meals or pick up groceries (e.g., your husband / partner, kids, roommate)? When will you cook—or batch-cook—meals? What / how will you eat healthy meals on days that you are too tired or busy to cook?

Planning ahead, including foreseeing potential challenges and obstacles, goes a long way towards achieving your health goals.

4.  Change the way that you view failure.

Start looking at failure, not as a sign of inability or as a personal shortcoming, but as a vital part of the learning process.

Let’s say that you decide to use a calorie-counting app to track your calories to help you lose weight. A month goes by, and you have not lost a single pound.

How would you feel? Disappointed? Despairing? Angry? What automatic thoughts would you have? Would they be judgmental, like: “I’ll never lose weight!” or “I hate my body!” How would you cope? Immediately stop using the app? Dig into a pint of ice cream? Complain to a friend?

Feelings are feelings. You can feel unhappy, frustrated, or discouraged about not achieving a desired outcome.

Having a growth mindset, however, enables you to react to setbacks with curiosity and resolve. In this case, you would strive to understand why you did not lose weight even though you were at or below calorie count. For example, were you eating mostly processed foods? Did you count alcohol intake? Was it a particularly stressful month? You might consider another strategy or approach.

5.  Pay attention to your self-talk.

Words are powerful. How do you talk about your body and your health? Do you say things like, “I’m destined to have heart problems; everyone on my dad’s side of the family has heart issues.” Or, “Now that I’m in menopause, it’s impossible to lose weight.”  Or, “I suck at weight training!”

Instead, be mindful of swapping out catastrophic thinking for “not yet”. For example:

“I’m working on eating less sugar and refined carbohydrates to improve my heart health; my triglycerides aren’t an optimal level yet.

“I’m trying to make more menopausal-supportive food choices; I haven’t lost much weight yet.”

“I’m not good at weight training yet.”

6.  Get inspired or motivated by the success of others.

Let’s say someone you know—a colleague, your yoga instructor, your son’s teacher—drops a significant amount of weight. Their body has transformed from soft and flabby, to lean and muscular. This is exactly your health goal.

How do you feel about their success? Happy and admiring? Or envious and dismissive?

When others with a similar health goal succeed, a growth-oriented mindset gets curious. Connect with those who succeed. Use their success as an opportunity to learn what strategies and actions they took and how they navigated challenges to achieve their transformation.

7.  Persevere in maintaining positive change

Whether you change your mindset to lose weight, improve overall health, reduce pain or to support heart health, change needs to be maintained.

Unfortunately, when it comes to health, people often tend to revert to old, unhealthy habits once they reach their health goal(s).

For example, many people will do a post-holiday cleanse or detox and experience a positive result (e.g., weight loss, quality sleep, better digestion, clear skin). After completing the detox (or shortly thereafter), they go right back to eating processed foods, late night snacking or drinking sodas, habits that caused their symptoms in the first place!

Growth mindset as applied to health and well-being means that planning is key. What strategies, resources and support will you have in place to maintain the positive results you achieve?

Speaking of support…

If you seek support and guidance on your health journey, consider scheduling a free 15-minute Discovery phone consultation to see if working with a functional health coach is right for you. Click HERE to book a day / time that works for you.





1, 2  Dweck, C. (2016). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Updated ed.). Ballantine Books.

Hi, I’m Kathryn Matthews. As a Board Certified Functional Health Coach, I help clients reclaim their energy, vitality and well-being. I want you to feel empowered about taking charge of YOUR health! To learn more, see About Kathryn.

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