Can you think yourself healthy?

Dr Michelle Celander, WW Program & Science Director, shed some light on the role mindset plays when it comes to building healthy habits, how you can shift your way of thinking and why it can lead to a more successful wellness journey.
Published 25 April 2019

Before you define your wellness goals, there’s one place you should start: your mindset. Your mind is a powerful tool and the way you think can have a huge impact on how or if you achieve what you want to. Unhelpful thoughts could derail you, while a helpful inner dialogue could propel you forward.


Q: Does mindset play a role in weight loss?

“Mindset is critical. It’s one of the most important parts if not the most important part of achieving a sustainable and long-term approach to health and wellness. How you think determines how you feel, which determines what you do and, of course, those behaviours repeated over and over again is what becomes habit over time.”


Q: How can mindset help goal setting?

“A helpful mindset is important in setting goals that are active and achievable. An example of this is choosing to set ‘to-do’ goals rather than ‘to-stop’ goals. A goal that says, ‘At 3 o’clock in the afternoon I am going to choose to have berries and yoghurt when I get hungry,’ is far more likely to be achieved than the goal that says, ‘I am going to stop having chocolate at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.’ That more active approach within your mindset is going to help you achieve your goals far more naturally than a goal that says I am going to stop doing something.”


Q: How does WW define mindset?

“At WW we look at mindset as being about helping you gain greater self-awareness so you can make different choices, achieve your goals and be a happier and healthier version of yourself. We prefer to think of mindset as being about unhelpful thoughts and helpful thoughts rather than just being positive or negative.”


Q: How can I change my mindset?

“Yes. Thoughts are not fixed, we have thousands of thoughts and often those thoughts are repeated over and over again. Shifting your mindset is a little like circuit breaking. The very first step is being aware of that thought and the next step is to really ask yourself, ‘Is that a helpful thought?’ If it’s not, it’s important to learn to replace it with a thought that is. You need to see what a particular thought is and observe what it’s saying before you can change it.”


Q: What are different thinking styles I can try?

“A single thought is one thing, but when it’s repeated over and over, that style of thought becomes a mindset. Probably the most unhelpful type we see a lot of is the ‘all or nothing’ mindset—where you think something is either good or it’s bad, or if it isn’t perfect, you’ve failed. There’s no middle ground, and that can really derail people from achieving their goals. There are always challenges and, when your mindset is in a helpful place where you can see setbacks as an opportunity to learn something, try something new and make a different choice; that’s when you’re really shifting into a more helpful mindset. It’s one that says, ‘I can continue to get better, as long as I stay focused and keep trying, I’ll get there’.”


Q: How do WW members shift their mindset?

“We have a specific curriculum that includes the most important mindset aspects for somebody who is going on a wellness journey. Things such as practising gratitude, self-compassion, mindfulness, thinking styles, stress management, sleep, and understanding types of hunger and goal setting are all part of the program.”


Q: What techniques can help me adopt helpful mindset?

“Gratitude, self-compassion and reality-checking your thoughts are all proven techniques. Fostering gratitude can be done by using the ‘3 good things’ technique: at the end of the day reflect back on your last 24 hours, and identify three good things, big or small, that made you feel good. Self-compassion is critical for a helpful mindset and a simple technique that we use is asking members to talk to themselves like they would to a friend. Reflecting on what you would say to a friend when you’re in a specific situation and adopting that as your thinking, as opposed to any self-criticism. Learning to reality-check your thoughts is also a useful technique. This is when you pause and unpack a thought and ask yourself, ‘Is that actually true or is that just a thought?’ You can then actively choose to replace it with a more helpful thought, something along the lines of what you would say to a friend.”