Better health takes patience and discipline, but it can happen, says Tanja Shaw.

Right mindset key to success

The problem isn’t the plan, says Tanja Shaw. The problem is that we don’t stick to any plan consistently enough to get results.

  • Oct. 14, 2017 9:30 a.m.

Tanja Shaw

Special to The Progress

When it comes to transforming our bodies, improving our health, we love tactics and strategies. Diet books, 28-day plans, intermittent fasting, meal plans, cleanses. And when we don’t get results, or we don’t stick to them, we assume the strategy is wrong. That the plan isn’t working. That we need more information, more education.

And while what we eat, when we eat, how much we eat, and how much and how often we move our body matters, 99 per cent of the time we don’t need to research more information, learn new strategies and read more diet books. We need to work on our mindset.

The problem isn’t the plan; the problem is that we don’t stick to any plan consistently enough to get results, and we have unrealistic expectations of results when we do stick to a plan for any length of time. We don’t practise enough patience and discipline. We tell ourselves stories and lies to justify choices that don’t align with our overall desires. And our minds can play powerful tricks.

It may sound like I’m coming at you with a bit of tough love, but I really want you to feel energetic, alive, proud, and healthy in the weeks, months and years to come. And if you’re reading this article, my guess is that you want the same.

If, right now, you’re not 100% happy with where you’re at: your health, your progress toward your goals, I invite you to check in with your mindset. It’s not a lack of knowledge, it’s the choices, habits and excuses that get in the way of reaching our potential. Before I go on, I want to be clear that I’m not advocating for perfection. But when ‘treats’ become a mindless habit, or when we start justifying poor choices, its’ time to check in with yourself.

Here are six of the most common ‘stories’ we tell ourselves. And when I say we, I truly do include myself as well.

• Over-dramatization. “I just can’t stop eating at night.” “I just can’t stop hitting snooze in the morning.” “I’m out of control! I don’t know what to do!!”

Shift your mindset: Ditch the drama. Of course you can stop eating at night. Of course you can get up without hitting the snooze button. And you’re only a pause and a few deep breaths away from being back in control. It may not be easy, but you can do it.

• Fortune Telling. “I’m really good during the week but I always fall off on the weekends.” “I always crave sugar during that time of the month.”

Shift your mindset: You will never outperform your own expectations. As soon as you keep telling yourself these kinds of stories, you’ll keep living them. Your past performance does not define you. If your story is not getting the results you want, it’s time to write a new one.

• Blaming others. “I can’t eat well because my husband needs his ‘meat and potatoes.’” “I’d be in better shape but my co-workers always bring in treats.” Shift your mindset: Unless you’re chained down and force fed, you do have a choice. It may be more difficult to eat well when your family isn’t on board. It may be more tempting to eat treats when there’s a box of cookies in your staff room. But you’re in control. You get to choose. Keep your eyes on your own work and your own goals.

• Procrastination. I’m going to indulge today because I’m going to try harder and start tomorrow. If I eat all the foods I want today, I’ll “get it out of my system” so I won’t crave it anymore. Shift your mindset: Check in with yourself, and ask how well this is working for you. Has binging on foods over a weekend actually resulted in reaching your goals long-term? Has letting yourself go ever actually worked? Anytime is a good time to make a good choice. There is absolutely no reason that the last three hours of your day need to be full of poor choices because the first part of your day was.

• Letting perfection get in the way of progress. I’ll start when my family leaves. Or when the kids go back to school. Or when I have time to sit down and make a meal plan. Or when the house is clean. Or on October 12th.

Shift your mindset: This story is part procrastination, and part need for perfection. I tell my clients that if we all lived in a bubble and we only needed to think about eating well and exercising, we’d all be in perfect shape. But life isn’t like that. The human experience is exciting, fun and messy. Having a house full of people is a great opportunity to practice making better choices.

• Justifying indulgences. “I had a stressful day- I just need to sit down and eat that cookie.” “It’s Friday, live a little.” “It’s fall, the pumpkin spice lattes only come once year.” “That one little cookie won’t hurt.”

Shift your mindset: I’m not saying that you can never indulge, but when indulgences become habits, or we start to justify them, we need to watch out. Check in with yourself. Do you really want it? How are you going to feel 2 hours, 24 hours, or 2 weeks after? And that one little cookie probably won’t make a massive change for you physically, but each little detail adds up. More importantly, each time you give into your stories, your justifications or indulgences, you are training your brain to give in. Mindset matters.

While we LOVE to follow new plans and new food rules (that someone else made up), the missing link is not knowledge. It’s mindset. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you’ve tried multiple diet plans and still aren’t happy with where you’re at, it’s time to try something different. It’s time to put intentional action into changing your mindset. There’s no magic formula to changing your mindset. Now that you’re aware of some of the stories you could be telling yourself, look out for them. Then change them. It’s as simple as that. Easy? Not always. But I never said it would be easy. Keep practicing. You got this!

Tanja Shaw is a health and fitness coach, Rotarian, passionate entrepreneur, mom, runner, and owner of Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle, and host of the Ascend Lifestyle Performance Podcast. Learn more at

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