In an issue of Psychotherapy Networker (Sep/Oct 2012, vol. 36, no. 5, p. 20) I read a review of the book MINDSET: THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS by Stanford University developmental psychologist Carol Dweck which explains how our self-view can be changed to spur us on to success by shifting our mindsets. It’s relatively simple.

The article, “The Truth about Bullying,” by Stan Davis, explains Dweck’s concept of fixed versus growth mindsets. People with a fixed mindset see themselves and their attributes or inadequacies as more or less permanent—they’re good at some things and bad at others, outgoing or shy, lovable or unlovable. Fixed-mindset thinkers view their successes as a “reflection of their more or less immutable gifts or talents” and view their failures as a “reflection of unchangeable deficits and weaknesses.” So many disregulated eaters have this kind of fixed mindset: they’re either this or that and mostly don’t feel good enough about themselves. Desperate to succeed, they’re thrilled and relieved when they do and feel awful when they don’t, as if failure confirms what they knew all along—there’s something permanently defective about them.

“People with a growth mindset explain their successes entirely differently, as the result of conscious, actively chosen behaviors and strategies.” They attribute their success to things such as having practiced a lot, made healthy choices, or to having thought more rationally. “When growth-mindset thinkers fail, they don’t blame their intrinsic inadequacies but look for different strategies to succeed as in ‘I could try….’”

Fixed-mindset thinkers might say to themselves, “I don’t exercise because I’m lazy.” A growth-mindset thinker would make that, “I need to develop better strategies for getting myself to exercise because the ones I’ve been using aren’t working very well.” A fixed-mindset thinker would view failure as, “proof that there’s something wrong with me,” while a growth-mindset thinker would view it as, “proof that I have yet to find the way to succeed.” There’s a world of difference between these two mindsets. Try describing each of them in your own words to understand them better.

How can you apply a growth-mindset to your challenges, eating and otherwise? What would growth-mindset thinkers say about a binge, eating “normally” for a week, dropping out of the gym, or running their first marathon? Practice using a growth-mindset and I guarantee it will help you reach your goals and also lift that awful feeling that there’s something permanently, seriously defective about you.