I truly relate to the participants of AMI-tv’s documentary series, Mind Set Go, which kicks off its second season on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. I’ve struggled with my weight for most of my life and have had to deal with the mental blocks that kept me from achieving my health and fitness goals. Over the past few years, I changed my focus from short-term fixes to a long-term wellness plan, and I’ve lost around 50 pounds. Despite that success, it’s still a daily challenge, and I often have days when I have to battle negative thoughts.
As it so happens, overcoming negative thoughts is the entire point of Mind Set Go, which follows the journeys of eight overweight Canadians as they attempt to change their lives for the healthier.
“It’s all about the brain, and it’s all about your mindset,” supervising producer Sophie Morgadinho explains during a phone interview from Toronto. “It’s not like a diet. It’s stopping the behaviours that are causing you to be unhealthy, and it really starts with changing the way you think about yourself and what you’re doing every day.”
Helping the show’s participants to transform their outlooks and bodies are fitness and health experts Julie and Lowell Taylor (The Amazing Race Canada) and a group of Canadian Paralympians. One of those Paralympians is Para Hall of Famer and retired para-alpine skier Karolina Wisniewska, who says she was thrilled to take part in the series.
“I think the thing that appealed to me most of all was this opportunity to be in a position to kind of inspire or help someone based on the things I learned as a high-performance athlete,” she says. “And on another maybe more personal level, I retired from alpine skiing in 2011 due to a concussion, and after my retirement, I too had struggled with maintaining my fitness. So I could really relate to what maybe some of these participants on the show were experiencing themselves.”
Each expanded, one-hour episode of the show follows a participant as he or she attempts to get fit and triumph over some of the mental hurdles that have tripped them up in the past. For self-professed “sugar addict” Dana, who is featured in the season premiere and paired with Paralympian powerlifter Ness Murby, that means confronting the grief she tried to suppress with food after her father died. For formerly fit Darryl, who is featured in the sixth episode and paired with Wisniewska, that means coming to grips with a degenerative hearing condition that left him profoundly deaf.
“My strong feeling with Daryl was that he just really needed somebody to bounce ideas off of and to talk him through it and to kind of think about what was resonating with him,” says Wisniewska. “The second aspect, I think, is that he did need a bit of a kick in the butt.”
Wisniewska was more than happy to provide that kick. While she says her history of concussions makes her very empathetic towards those who are facing adversity, being born with cerebral palsy makes her want to push able-bodied people to meet their full fitness potential.
“I’m someone who was born with a disability, and I’ve never understood able-bodied people who take their bodies for granted,” she says. “So that’s where my competitive athlete side comes out, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my god. Stop making excuses. You have no excuse, just do it.'”
At the beginning of their journeys, Dana, Darryl and the other participants all choose a physical challenge to complete at the end of their three-month transformations. These challenges, which include a mountain climb and a long-distance bike ride, are designed to provide a measuring stick for the physical and mental progress each person has made. While the Taylors and the Paralympians are a key part of the process, in the end, the participants have to look inside themselves for the inspiration they need to succeed–a situation Wisneiwska is very familiar with.
“At the end of the day, in ski racing, you’re at the top of the hill, you have to kick out of the start gate, and you have to race that race,” she says. “Nobody else is going to do it.”
According to Morgadinho, watching people overcome their mental demons and achieve their health goals was a motivating experience for everyone involved with the series.
“Working on the show, I have to tell you, it’s been really inspiring because I see people make transformations in their lives,” she says. “And it’s not like Biggest Loser. You’re not going to see someone come back 100 pounds lighter. It’s not about that. But you see a difference in their confidence and their happiness, and they’re healthier, they look better.”
She continues, “For me, it’s very inspiring to look at the things that I can change and go, ‘I know I’m in control of this. I have to change how I look at the problem and how I look at the solution.’ I hope that viewers are also inspired to make positive, healthy changes.”
Upcoming episodes of the series feature Canadian Paralympians Michelle Stilwell, David Willsie, Ina Forrest, Pamela LeJean, Shawna Ryan and Andrew Haley.
Mind Set Go airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on AMI-tv.
Images courtesy of AMI.