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  • Writer's pictureDieting From The Inside Out

Mike Millner on Building Intrinsic Motivation & Learning How to Enjoy the Process | DFIO Ep.268

About Today’s Episode:

Welcome back to a brand new episode of Dieting From the Inside Out! Today, you guys are in for a really big treat—especially those of you who really love the inner work, the deeper psychology behind why it is you do what you do and why you're struggling.

Our guest today is Mike Milner. Mike is a friend and mentor of mine, a world-class coach, and a wealth of knowledge—especially when it comes to the deeper work.

We get into a lot on this episode and this interview is a bit heavier, but I know that, as always, you guys are going to get a lot of it.


35:44 Timelines

Transcript (click to expand)

About Mike:

Mike has been in the health and fitness industry for over a decade. He started out as a personal trainer, but found that most people—himself included—really struggled with nutrition. This revelation caused him to switch gears slightly and pursue nutrition coaching. He has been a nutrition coach for about 5 years now.

When Mike was young he was an athlete and had the typical young, fast metabolism… until he got older and gained a lot of weight.

He ended up struggling with body dysmorphia, disordered eating, and had a horrible relationship with food and exercise.

After moving past the restrictive diets, obsessiveness, and the darkness that came with it, he became a personal trainer so he could help others.

On Being Stuck:

When Mike was still caught up in his obsession with clean eating, he went to lunch with his sister—an eating disorder specialist—who had recovered from anorexia, and she brought orthorexia to his attention. Orthorexia is an obsession with eating foods that one considers “healthy.”

Mike got very defensive, but in the back of his mind, he knew that his sister was right.

After this, Mike began to notice how much fear he had around food. He would avoid traveling or going out to eat, spending time with friends and loved ones, or anything that meant he couldn’t control his nutrition—even though he valued those things—because of that fear around food and gaining the weight back.

He had to take a hard look at himself and his choices and come to terms with the fact that those behaviors weren’t serving him. He had a lot of internal turmoil because his actions were not aligned with his values.

It’s the same for others—fear and obsession surrounding food can negatively impact every aspect of a person’s life, their social life, work, and their confidence.

That’s where the mental game comes in—the mental foundation is where it starts.

You have to know your values.

Let’s say your highest value is spending time with friends and family. If you have a solid mental foundation, you’ll know that you can go out and have fun, while still prioritizing your health and well-being.

Where Do You Start:

Mike states that where you start depends on where you’re at. One thing that he likes to do is start with something that is “purely for the love of the process.”

This could be something as simple as a five-minute walk every day. Whatever it is, it should be something that you want to be a part of your life every single day, no matter what.

Mike calls these “anchors.”

You need to start with one thing.

Many people feel like they have to do everything, but people generally cannot maintain that because you will always reset to your current foundation.

The way you build up your foundation is slowly—by adding one thing at a time.

When you have a strong foundation you’ll eat quality food, get your movement in, and prioritize sleep because you love how those things make you feel.

It won’t be conditional—it won’t be based on the scale, or for a reward (like a cookie). That’s extrinsic motivation.

You’ll have intrinsic motivation when you slowly build your foundation and fall in love with the process—and you’ll shift your identity along the way.

Building Intrinsic Motivation:

Mike says that you can start from extrinsic motivation.

Say you want to lose 20 lbs—think about what that 20 lbs of fat loss is going to unlock for you.

Mike has found that it is never about losing X amount of weight.

When a person stops to think about what they will gain from losing weight it’s things like feeling more confident or being able to play with their kids or, perhaps, alleviating health concerns.

Once you identify those things, you can do a separate exercise considering what you want your future self to look like in terms of life.

How do they look? How do they conduct themselves? What is their nutrition like?

Getting really specific about how that person operates and makes decisions—and what makes you aspire to be that person.

From there, you can see if there is any misalignment or things that you're putting focus on that aren’t important—or maybe it’s not even your goal to lose weight.

You may find that someone else’s voice is behind some of these things.

It comes down to reflection, introspection, and getting real with yourself. From there you can start to put together the roadmap to get to your desired future self.

Why People Avoid Deeper Work:

Mike believes that it is, in part, due to the fact that we don’t do a good job as a society of teaching emotional processing and regulating.

Many people simply bury their emotions and keep plowing forward, so when you start to do the deeper work, it can be very uncomfortable—and you won’t have the skill of sitting in that emotion and getting curious about it without judgment.

It’s like fear—everyone always thinks fear is something they need to overcome, when, in reality, it’s something that you need to acknowledge and make friends with.

When you run from something, that’s when it has power over you.

In psychology, there is something called “ironic rebounding,” which is when the more you suppress something, the more it explodes back up—and becomes more powerful than it was before.

When you learn to sit with your emotions, you will find that emotions are fleeting and feelings are not fact—and that you can sit in the discomfort, which makes life a whole lot easier to navigate.

Why the Identity Shift is Important:

Mike explains that identity is so important because when you begin to act in a way that is out of alignment with who you believe you are, your subconscious will try to pull you back into that identity.

People often struggle to understand why they self-sabotage, but oftentimes it can be traced back to your belief system and your identity.

If you don’t change your identity, your new actions will be short-lived.

This is why you need to slowly build your foundation. The physical process will not last without the mental foundation—the “who” you are and your belief system.

You have to identify your (false) beliefs, trace them back to their roots, and find evidence to refute them so you can start to make that shift. Your actions then have to start supporting that new identity.

This is why simply saying affirmations doesn’t work. You have to get introspective and rebuild your identity.

Jared mentions a study that showed that just saying affirmations—without doing the actions—actually made a person’s inner dialogue worse.

How to Shift Your Identity:

First, Mike says, you have to ask yourself who you are.

You have to think about your characteristics, beliefs, and moments—especially if you self-sabotage. Identify what you felt about yourself in those moments and peel back the layers to get to your current belief system.

You have to go beyond the surface and connect the dots.

Once you have that, you dismantle it—and find evidence to the contrary.


A lesson Mike consistently teaches is the futility of fighting against time and randomness.

Time and randomness have always existed. Time always passes and random things always happen.

When you set arbitrary timelines, you are putting yourself up against time and randomness—which is a battle that you cannot win.

Mike has no problem with aesthetic goals, but he and his team are focused on the forever pursuit. In the forever pursuit, you have times when you are more focused on certain things, but you should focus on the lifelong aspect.

Where to Go From Here:

Again, it depends on where you are, but remember: don’t try to change everything all at once. Trying to change it all at once is not sustainable.

You need to have a plan that allows for randomness to happen.

You do that by finding your anchors and building those up one at a time.

You need to:

  • Ditch the timelines

  • Focus on the one to two things that help you enjoy the process

  • Do those things no matter what

When random things occur, you lean on those anchors.

How to Enjoy the Process:

The first thing Mike would want to know is what they hate about the process. What do you hate about a five-minute walk, drinking water, or eating quality food?

If you hate lifting weights, for example, find a different way to move your body that you enjoy.

There is something in the process that you can enjoy.

Enjoying the process doesn’t mean that you are excited every day to go to the gym or prepare a meal, it means that you appreciate how you feel because of the things that you do for yourself.

What Mike is Excited About:

Mike is getting married in a few months—which is obviously very exciting for him.

In business, while things are mostly status quo, he has been writing more and enjoying that pursuit as another way to help others and pay it forward.


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Post-Production by: David Margittai | In Post Media


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