With the New Year in full swing, many out there are looking for the right fitness program to kickstart a new, healthier lifestyle. What makes MindFirst Health & Fitness different from the plethora of digital health and fitness options out there?
In an interview, MindFirst’s founder Bob Jacobs shared his background in the health and fitness industry and how his experience has shaped the MindFirst program to be different from anything else on the market.
What is your background in health and fitness? How did you get involved in this industry?
Bob entered the fitness industry “through the side door.” He shared, “I was involved in the employee benefits field, specifically with group health insurance. Around the year 2000, all of the health insurance companies started championing the cause of health and wellness — and it was really for weight loss to reduce claims costs … I was excited about it.”
As health insurance companies and those in charge of employee benefits began to champion weight loss to reduce the costs of chronic illness, Bob shared that, initially, he saw a lot of people losing weight. “As we started doing that, we saw that people would lose weight by going into ‘biggest loser’ contests. People would start to exercise because you held a ‘Walk Across America’ contest. And then, three months later, when the contest was over, they stopped. A year later, most of them gained the weight back. Within two years, they’d all gain the weight back. What I saw was that it wasn’t working.”
How did the idea for MindFirst Health & Fitness come about?
Bob’s personal observations helped spark the idea for MindFirst. A few years ago, Bob’s workplace had held its own “biggest loser” contest. His coworker lost 105 lbs; but six months down the road, she shared with him that she still felt like the same, bigger person. She would reach for size 18 pants instead of size 6, and she still felt like she needed more room on public transportation. “I wanted to tell her, ‘Your self image is going to win out. You’re going to end up how you see yourself.’ I wanted to share how the subconscious mind works,” but he chose to keep it to himself. Later, he shared, that same coworker got married, had two kids, and gained the weight back and some. From this experience, Bob said, “I understood that what we were doing wasn’t working. That’s where MindFirst was born.”
As he thought about ways to make these corporate wellness programs better, Bob said, “I’d always used cognitive psychology to help me in business.” He went through a series of workshops in previous jobs covering how the mind works, how to use visualization and affirmations, and how to change thought processes. “And I said, ‘Let’s apply this to exercise and nutrition so the changes can be internal.’” He added, “Ninety percent of people who lose weight gain it back within two years. So we have to talk about changing how you think first.”
How is MindFirst Health & Fitness different from other health and fitness coaching programs?
Two years ago, Bob shared that he thought MindFirst was ready to go to market. But when they interviewed participants, he observed a problem. “We found that although people were losing weight, exercising with us, and changing how they thought, they were really stressed. People had way too much stress in their lives. When I went on the journey to explore that, it was a very short one.” Countless stories on covers of major magazines discussed the detriments of stress on the human body and the benefits of mindfulness. Bob said, “Mindfulness and meditation changes the brain; it reshapes how you think. It slows you down and makes you more present. So we added that in to our program.”
“Every other program out there concentrates on outside actions. They all deal with the outside activities.” Instead, Bob shared that the MindFirst Health & Fitness program focuses on helping people find what they enjoy about a healthy lifestyle. To make permanent, lasting changes, you have to alter the way you think about exercise and food. This program is built entirely around the MindFirst philosophy: “Change the mind, and the body will follow.”
“We have this tool, our brain, which has the ability to analyze and decide on over 10 million bits of information per second. We know that that’s the important part. But nobody is teaching you how to use it. So what we focus fully on is how your thought processes fit in with your health and fitness. How do your emotions or the words you say fit in the process? We dovetailed this seamlessly into exercise, nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. We do all the same things that other fitness programs do … but we add cognitive psychology. That’s the big difference.”
What are your sources for the MindFirst Health & Fitness program?
Bob shared that MindFirst implements a variety of resources, particularly for the cognitive psychology and motivation elements. He read over 20 different books from a variety of motivational figures, including Lou Tice and Dr. Wayne Dyer. In forming the MindFirst program, Bob said, “[I used] the great minds of the world, and life experience, and put them together to create a great program.”
In addition to being well-read in the cognitive psychology field, Bob put together a team of experts in nutrition, exercise, and neuroscience to develop the MindFirst program. Mary Kate Keyes, a visiting professor of nutritional sciences and a registered dietician, is featured in many of the program’s videos. “Mary Kate Keyes seamlessly integrates nutrition and cognitive psychology together in our program. She delivers even more of the material than I do.”
“Dr. Wayne Westcott is the one who pulled our fitness program together. He’s the behind-the-scenes guy. Wayne has written 20 books on fitness, and he consults with the army, the navy, and AARP. He is well-renowned in the fitness field and an exercise physiologist.” And neurologist Marie Kazinsky consults with the MindFirst team, providing her knowledge about cognitive psychology research, which is incorporated throughout the program.
When discussing his role with the MindFirst program, Bob shared, “I’m kind of like Oprah. I’m not the expert, but I’m the voice of the people in the sequence of things.” In his weekly talks throughout the program, Bob breaks down Mary Kate’s discussions by sharing his own experience with how these lessons apply in everyday life.
What impact do you hope to have on those struggling with their weight?
“When John Lennon was in the first grade, a teacher asked, ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ And he said, ‘I want to be happy.’ And she said, ‘No, you don’t understand the question.’ And he replied, ‘No, you don’t understand life.’ So, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but if anybody said this in the first grade, it would be John Lennon.”
“My objective is to help people, first, live happy lives.” Bob said, “Being happy is the first goal … We’re so stressed, there’s so many demands on our lives and our kids. I’d like to help people clear their mind, slow down, and learn to think differently.” He added, “If they’re happier and learn to slow down, then we’re giving them exercise and nutrition information in a manner that they can easily use … I want [people] to feel better about themselves, be happier people, and the rest of it will all come together.”
Do you hope that MindFirst’s philosophy has a broader impact on the fitness industry? Do you see trends already going that way?
“Cognitive psychology and mindfulness, the combination of those, is helping people make changes toward their fitness and nutrition. It’s a no-brainer. With or without us, this is going to change. It’s just a question of whether we’re going to be the ones to do it. We’re getting great feedback from people who have been around this industry and from people who are enjoying the program. I believe we have a good chance of being really impactful.”