A Solution to the Problems of Chronic Diseases

Article by FRANCHELL Richard-Hamilton, M.D.

What separates those who succeed from those who do not, despite their environment? It’s a big question, especially in regard to people who suffer chronic illnesses. As a bariatric surgeon I am used to treating many chronic health conditions: obesity in addition to diabetes, anxiety, depression, and even substance abuse. These diseases are related in more ways than they are separate. I have seen people freed from obesity because of surgery who then move into alcohol abuse and start a new destructive life path. What I noticed over a decade of treating patients with all types of conditions, is that what sets apart people who overcome from people who yoyo and relapse is what I called their “mindset.” The truth is, I did not know what to call this mindset until I met Kyra Bobinet, M.D., MPH, founder of Fresh Tri, a behavior change software company that has coined the term, Iterative Mindset.™ Dr. Bobinet noticed the same things I noticed while she was in her public health studies and in her work at Fresh Tri. When she talked with patients who maintained good health despite adverse environments, she found that they did not accept failure. Instead, they ‘iterated’ or found other ways to achieve their good intentions. This mindset is not new—it was just never named or trained until now. It can be applied to anyone who has been ill and has gone on to overcome and thrive. Having an Iterative Mindset™ will put you at an advantage in health and in life. That’s why I’m working together with Dr. Bobinet, and our goal is to train patients to use the Iterative Mindset™ to solve the problem of their chronic health conditions. Here are some examples of people who have had this mindset and how they used it: Abraham Lincoln ran multiple times for political seats and lost before he finally ran for president and won. Albert Einstein could not read in his early years and was considered mentally challenged although he developed the theory of relativity. Fredrick Douglass escaped slavery and became the first Black citizen to hold high rank in the U.S Government. Martin Luther King, Jr. experienced discrimination in ways that allowed him to rise up and fight it until the very violence of it took his life. Warren Buffet was denied entry into Harvard Business School before he had the chance to show the rest of humanity his own brilliant business sense. The list of people who display the Iterative Mindset™ mindset is extensive. You may know people of less fame who also have both the inability to give up, to keep their eyes on a goal, and the ability to try something different to get to that goal. There are other types of mindsets to consider as contrasts to the Iterative Mindset™. Performance mindset and growth mindset are two that are now popular. Performance mindset is where an individual constantly evaluates their activity on the way to a goal. This type of striving does not solve chronic problems—it creates problems that arise when perfection is desired, and competition adds stress. For chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, substance abuse, or unstable mental health, the performance mindset has not proven useful. On the other hand, the growth mindset is all about living robustly to achieve happiness with no judgment. It is a belief that your good qualities can be cultivated, and you are in control of what happens. People who like using the growth mindset rise above and see the joy and positivity in all situations, but they may or may not have any intention other than to seek joy. For example, when the goal weight loss is determined, instead of setting a number for pounds to be lost, the patient instead finds the positive in their current situation and finds contentment in it. Growth mindset is used to create a happy state, regardless of performance. Iterative Mindset™ is closer to the growth mindset, but it focuses more on creating behaviors from learning and insight and building on them in order to achieve the desired results. It does not include failure, shame, or guilt in the equation. Dr. Bobinet and Fresh Tri are in the business of training this useful mindset. She states that people who have the Iterative Mindset™ do not consider failure—they just gather insights from their experiences and use the lessons to improve their next steps. People who have or develop an Iterative Mindset™ do not repeat behaviors that fail. They make tweaks and continue to progress until their desired goal is reached. Fresh Tri’s digital health mobile app supplies support at all times. Can the Iterative Mindset™ apply to other aspects of life beyond health? Yes, but when used to improve chronic health conditions, the results are obvious.