Mindset to Walk on Fire: Emotional Strength for Losing Weight

Mindset to Walk on Fire: Emotional Strength for Losing Weight

Firewalk-lane-in-front-UPW-Tony Robbins
Small fire lane at the entrance to the Unleash the Power Within event.

“Why on earth would you want to walk on fire?” This was a response to my Facebook post about attending the Tony Robbins’ event called Unleash the Power Within (UPW). Above you will see the “cute little fire” they greeted us with at the entrance to the West Palm Beach Convention Center in South Florida. This was step one, for building emotional strength and fitness, where we had to write down our fears and limiting beliefs on a piece of paper and then throw them into the fire. Some people left the event right then, just from looking at that little fire and thinking about walking over it.

The second photo, below, is the REAL fire they were making in the BACK of the convention center that greeted us around 1AM after a day of learning how to get our mindset strong enough to do anything. And yes, I am now officially a Firewalker. So to answer that person’s Facebook question, I replied, “Because I don’t want to walk on fire. Therefore I must.”

Main Fire Tony Robbins UPW event
The main fire at UPW event for making the 25 firewalking lanes.

What does walking on fire have to do with peak performance or losing weight? If you have a mindset strong enough to walk on fire, you can do anything! It’s all about shifting deep down inside. And for that, there are six key steps.

Emotional Strength for Losing Weight

I was able to dramatically shift someone who weighed 300 lbs. to lose over 110 pounds with just 5 sessions, one of which was taking her to the gym and putting her through her first strength fitness routine. Just to get her to put on her tight workout clothes and show up at the gym was a massive change.

This client, who was 30 years old, had never successfully lost weight on her own. She would lose a few pounds and then go back to her old weight. By the time I met her, she had all but given up.
She was at a point medically where she was in danger, not just the pre-diabetes, high cholesterol and all the inside chemicals and hormones being all out of wack, but she could barely walk due to the stress on her ankles.

She made a decision to meet me one day at the training park. Two years later is still a “gym rat” with a commitment to healthy eating and she is running 5k events with her goal on a marathon. Those 5 sessions shifted her to create rapid and lasting changes. 

Step 1: Make the decision to change your life.

Many times we think we’ve made the decision, but in actuality, the real truth about the decision is “I would like to,” or “I will try.” What’s missing from those intentions? Certainty! When I bought my tickets to go to my first UPW event, I made up my mind I was going to walk on fire. I didn’t analyze it, I didn’t debate it with myself and I didn’t even think about what might go wrong. I just said to myself, “He has gotten hundreds of thousands of people do this over 30+ years, so I’m sure he’ll teach us how.” That’s it.

The decision is key, because it will either move us forward or give us pause to hesitate, get stuck or to change our minds. This is how people never end up making it to the gym to work out. First they debate if they have the energy, then they mentally go through their calendar of all the things they have to do that day, then they visualize having to find and pack up all their “stuff” to go the gym, then they think about the process of taking a shower there afterwards and putting their smelly sneakers in the car. It’s endless, right? So after all that, we devise our list of “reasonable” reasons to not go to the gym that day. (Reasons = Excuses.)

But what if your best friends calls and says, “Hey, why don’t you meet me for dinner in an hour?” You don’t even hesitate or debate it with yourself, right? You just make a decision and that’s the end of it. You close the door on talking yourself out of it. So make a decision, and then show up.

Step two: Have some faith.

Be open to seeing where it may take you. Listen, to have faith in something that we don’t see or know for sure what the outcome will be, we have to let go of our need for certainty, which is one of our most basic human needs; the need to have the comfort of knowing what is going to happen in our lives. This is why we need rituals and traditions. We all love certainty. But certainty can get boring after a while, right? So we all also have a need for uncertainty or variety. To have faith, we need to value uncertainty more than certainty.

Step Three: Change your beliefs.

Sometimes we don’t even know what our deep core beliefs are.

Beliefs are developed as children or as adults. They might have come from our families or our culture. Limiting beliefs are thoughts or feelings that basically say we can’t do something; they are riddled with reasons why we can’t. These are the beliefs that, if not exposed and turned around, are the things that sabotage us. Most of us showed up at the UPW event with this limiting belief: “I can’t walk on fire.” But for many of us, that belief also sounds like, “I can’t lose weight and keep it off,” or, “I’ll never be as good as pro golfers.”

I remember one of my first coaches suddenly rang a cow bell during our first phone coaching session. Startled, I said, “What the hell is that?” She answered, “Every time a client says a limiting belief, I ring that bell.” (How obnoxious!) She rang that bell a lot the first session. I was shocked to realize that many of those beliefs were unconscious. I guarantee you, the bell ringing sharply declined thereafter!

Going back to the client above, I discovered that she believed she couldn’t lose and keep weight off. I asked her why. I dug deep. Had she ever changed any bad habit? Had she ever had any successes in her life? And guess what? Years ago she had stopped smoking! Really? Well, if you succeeded at that, you can do anything! I had her relive that process and go back to that state of mind. I had her immerse herself in that empowered feeling.

Step Four: Change your identity.

Why do we go on diets, lose weight and then go back to overeating? It’s because we will always return to the patterns that we feel are consistent with who we are. So for example, if deep down inside, your identity is that of a person who is overweight and can’t stop eating the wrong foods, then even after a successful diet, you will return to that identity and go back to that behavior. In many ways, the circuits in our brains are like rubber bands. They will stretch, but then they will return back to their original shape.

I had my client choose a new identity of a being a fitness athlete. It doesn’t matter if she didn’t believe that to be true in the beginning. I told her to pretend she was acting in a role. I told her that immersing herself in thinking the thoughts and having the behavior of that new identity, eventually she would become that person. How do I know that for sure? Because all the years of thinking and behaving like her old identity had internalized and stamped her current identity. That which you focus on, you become! Choose wisely!

Step Five: Change the Thoughts and Meaning.

I had her set up a notebook where she wrote down all the dis-empowering thoughts in her head, and then we wrote down a more empowering thought to respond to each negative one. I taught her the powerful technique of associating massive pain with eating the wrong foods and getting fat, and massive pleasure with getting in shape and becoming thin. She had those associations completely flipped around. Then she had to decide, which one was she going to choose to stay focused on? The pain or the pleasure? That’s where the fire walking comes in!

How do you walk on fire? You get yourself in state! Motion creates emotion. If you move your body as if you are doing a karate move, and you throw your fist into the air and you shout “Yes” with the intention of absolute certainty (over and over), you will change the biochemistry in your brain. Changing your words from, “I will try” to “I absolutely will,” will also affect those chemicals in your brain. It changes the intent, certainty and emotion.

What if you changed the meaning of fire walking from “what a dangerous thing to do” to “this will make me feel so empowered”? With these changes, you have effectively set your brain to walk on fire. There are three primary patterns of emotions called The Triad: change your physiology, change your focus and change the meaning.

Fire walking-Nancy-Dye-Tony Robbins'-Unleash-the-Power-Within Event
Nancy Dye after completing her second fire walk at Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within event in Palm Beach, 2016.

Step 6: Stay focused on your goal and destination.

But choose your focus wisely. Let me tell you about the first time I walked on fire. After an entire day of learning the above, I was at the front of line, just about ready to walk down that line of hot, 2000+ degree burning coals. I took my power stance. I threw my fist into the air! I yelled out, “Yes!” and then I set my focus NOT on the burning coals and my fears and what may go wrong, but on the end of that line of coals. I focused on the feeling of the outcome; the great empowered high I would have and all the people cheering for me on the other side. I was ready for the crew member to call out, “Go!”

Suddenly that crew member working our line threw her arm straight out in front of me, blocking my passage and demanding I stop! (Wait, what? She was ruining my “state!” What was she thinking?) She pointed over to my right, and there was a man dressed in fireproof clothes, with a scarf covering his lips and nose, and a fire helmet on. He was on the Robbins Fire Team and he was pushing a wheelbarrow towards us. Inside the wheelbarrow were brand new, red hot coals from the huge bonfire nearby. He was coming to refresh the fire!

What? Now? It was pitch black out save for the lights coming from the edges of the coals on the other 25 fire walking lanes. Mind you I said edges, because the rest of the coals were grey! Hey, I thought, this is unfair! I want to walk those lanes over there with the friendlier grey coals!

But I had no choice. I had to stand there and watch them take a shovel and carefully lay these red hot coals from one end of my lane to the other. I could feel the fresh heat. I could smell the more intense smoke. I was concerned my “state” was going to be compromised. The second they were done, she put her hand on my back and, slightly pushing, she said, “Go!”

I tried to snap back into state! I tried to change my focus and set my eyes on the outcome. I started to walk one stride at a time! I had the determined, powerful stride of a confident firewalker. I got this! And then I felt the scorching fire on my right foot! It shocked me. What the hell was that? Oh yeah, I was walking on fire! I picked up my pace and got to the other side.

Everyone was cheering. I was grateful for the crew member hosing off my feet with cold water! It was a great lesson really, because my pattern has been to sometimes get distracted from my goals. My pattern has been to sometimes let limiting beliefs in, if only for a second. We have to learn to stay focused, even with the unexpected arrival of red hot coals in life trying to steal away our attention and change our beliefs.

My client shifted and is now running and setting goals for marathons. Two years later, she still works out with her fitness trainer in the gym. She is a completely different person inside. She is living out her identity of being a fitness athlete. Her empowered core belief now is that she is absolutely certain she will never go back to her “old story.”

Shifting a person is something that affects a person’s core. Once we shift someone, we have taken them off the pathways in their brain that kept them stuck in their old stories of past failures that they practiced over and over with their thoughts and behaviors.

Shifting has several main keys: changing your body, your focus and the meaning you associate with the things in your life. Then you need to get rid of your old “story” and limiting beliefs and choose a new identity. And finally, reverse your associations for pain and pleasure and stay focused. These are some beginning strategies for getting someone to shift into lasting change.


Nancy Dye is a breakthrough mindset coach and resilience trainer helping people to transform the quality of their lifestyles. Nancy trained with RMT (Robbins-Madanes Training) and has over 30 years as a weight loss, peak performance and sober coach. She specializes in “jumping over” adversity, addictions and diseases, and transitioning through life stages.

With a career in sales and marketing, and having been coached by the top sales trainers in the corporate world, as well as by some of the most elite coaches in the world of sports, Nancy redesigns the inside lives of executives, entrepreneurs, veterans and athletes.

Nancy is married to Jack Miles, a former Olympian gymnast who is inducted into four athletic Hall of Fames. For one-on-one coaching, or information on her “Mindset to Walk on Fire” workshop, Nancy can be reached at NancyDyeSICoach@gmail.com