Live better, Eat Better: Success begins in the mind

Why are some people seemingly effortlessly motivated to eat better while others struggle?

The answer to this question is one I have long pondered. As a doctor, I’ve often fallen into the ‘rescuer’ trap. With firsthand experience of what devastation poor diet and lifestyle choices can inflict, I’ve tried too hard to ‘help’ my patients understand this link too. I’ve realised that regardless what I did, the success of my patients seemed to be reliant on a different factor; the patient’s mindset.

Of course there are many factors responsible for a person’s success. However in my experience, success seems to be directly related to this. Success is in the mind. It is inside out. My task as a doctor is to figure out what drives the human being in front of me, to strengthen my own toolbox to communicate more effectively.

So, what particular factor is responsible for people to make lasting change and grow as individuals?

In the book ‘Drive’ by best selling author Daniel Pink, he addresses the science of motivation. What he found is that people are motivated by autonomy (our desire to be self directed), mastery (the urge to get better skills) and purpose (the desire to do something important that has meaning). While Daniel Pink discusses this in the realm of employment and business, I have looked at how these factors might play a role in my patient’s lives and how they could help improve how I practice.

Let’s start by focussing on the term purpose. What does it mean to lead a purpose driven life? How do I find my higher purpose?

Living with purpose occurs when a person commits to knowing himself/herself intrinsically and then chooses to live a life that fulfils those core values. In order to know yourself it is important to ask some (sometimes difficult) questions.

What is important to you? What special talents are unique to you? What makes you proud? What are your hopes and dreams? What were they when you were 10? What excites you? What scares you? How do you deal with failure? How do you deal with success? Are you proud of how you’re living? Examine past and current experiences, both good and bad. What did they teach you?

To know yourself and find the answers to these questions, it is necessary to commit to a daily relationship with yourself. Whether you write in a journal, cycle, walk or run; whether you pray, meditate or spend time in nature – you must check in with yourself, preferably every single day.

“When you clarify your purpose, you become centred, you become powerful.”  says author Prof. Robert Quinn. See video link here. When you become clear on your purpose, you are working from a place of power that is in line with the power of the universe. You will begin to crave authentic connections. Slowly the things and people who don’t serve you begin to fall away.

Now start to set goals and commit to completing them. Remember too that this is a lifelong journey. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Follow through with your goals but be compassionate with yourself.

When a person chooses to lead a purpose driven life, autonomy or the desire to be self directed is automatic. No longer do you look for easy fixes and short term gains. You are too busy hearing the call of your own soul. You make your own rules and you stick to them. Mastery means that you check in daily to keep track of the long term goal.

What living purposefully is not: It is not burning the candle at both ends, no matter how driven you are. It is about respecting the needs of the body for regular and sufficient sleep, sufficient but not excessive variety of delicious and fresh whole food and sometimes fasting,  it is about spending time regularly in rest and relaxation with loved ones, it is about doing exercise that challenges you and is suited to you, it is about living your life to your highest calling and doing it respectfully and graciously.

How sad it is today that so many young people are demising from cancer, cardiovascular disease and other obesity related diseases. Almost a third of adults suffer from at least one chronic disease and by the time we retire most have two or more chronic diseases. We live in a world where we eat and drink too much of the wrong stuff, stress too much, sleep too little and we’re dying way too young.

Scientific research now shows significant and causal links between poor sleep and heart disease, obesity, diabetes dementia and cancer. Research also links high stress with cancer, especially breast cancer in women, obesity and disease associated with insulin resistance. Add to this the known links between poor diet and mortality and to me this shows that we can do a lot better. In fact I have patients young and old (some in their 70’s) now finally coming off blood pressure pills they’ve been on for decades.We can make small changes and they can make big differences but we need to start now. Start with yourself. Your children will notice and hopefully do the same or better. Remember, you are, what you need in order to be successful. Read widely, find a life coach if you like, be curious, do whatever you need to live well. It is the best way to honour the gift of life.

We at The Noakes Foundation would love to be part of your healthcare journey. If you have any questions, send them to us. We would love to address these questions in further blogposts and videos.

Much love,



1. ’Drive’ by Daniel Pink

2. ’Why new sleep’ by Prof. Matthew Walker

3. The epigenetic impacts of social stress: how does social adversity become biologically embedded?Vincent T Cunliffe, Epigenomics 2016 8:12, 1653-1669

4. Transcription factor ATF3 links host adaptive response to breast cancer metastasis. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2013; 123 (7): 2893 DOI: 10.1172/JCI64410

About the author:

Dr Hassina Kajee
Board Directors,The Noakes Foundation; Medical Director, Nutrition Network; Medical Director, Eat Better South Africa and Integrative Specialist Physician

Dr Hassina Kajee is co-founder and Medical Director of The Noakes Foundation ‘Eat Better South Africa’ program and was instrumental in overseeing and facilitating the Foundation’s first ever Eat Better South Africa! intervention programme conducted in the Ocean View community. She has since advised on a number of the Foundations subsequent interventions. Her enthusiasm and passion about the LCHF eating science emanates through her. She believes that prevention starts with educating and empowering her patients and the general public with knowledge of the tenets of optimal health including optimal nutrition backed by robust science.

Dr Kajee turned her clinical practice towards chronic disease prevention after years of  practicing ‘palliative’ chronic medicine at the tertiary level where she headed up the High Care Unit at Groote Schuur Hospital. She currently practices privately; in addition she advises as Medical Director of Eat Better South Africa, The Nutrition Network and as a director on the Board of The Noakes Foundation. As a wife and mother of 2 young children, she is passionate about preventative health care and believes in supporting prevention as early as possible- at the prenatal level.

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