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Getting back to the WHY: Motivation

Jennifer Russo

Retrofit Behavior Coach

2017 is coming to a close and while it’s a time to reflect on the year gone by, it’s also the perfect opportunity to start looking forward. What will you change this year? What is working well? What’s making you happy and what’s not? A great way to reflect and regroup on your weight-loss journey is looking at your personal motivators. WHY do you want to lose weight? The better you know your drivers, the more likely you are to follow through and complete your goals.

Let’s look at the two types of motivation. Many people embark on a weight-loss journey because of extrinsic motivators. This type of motivation comes from outside ourselves: advice from a doctor, pressure from a loved one, an opportunity for career growth or even the desire for praise or acknowledgment from others. Extrinsic motivation can be beneficial in the short term. Positive reinforcement from others is very compelling. However, this motivation is short-lived; once the external force goes away, the motivation does too. Trying to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle on external motivation alone usually is not sustainable over the long haul.

On the other hand, intrinsic motivation is specific and personal to each individual. Sustained lifestyle change becomes more likely when you know what drives you from within and what you value. It is practicing a behavior for the sheer enjoyment of it, which induces a sense of self-satisfaction. People who are intrinsically motivated to lose weight tend to find happiness from the physiological and psychological components of being healthier rather than from the physical change. The increased energy, mood and physical freedom they get from losing weight gives them a consistent stream of ongoing motivation.

How do you identify factors that will intrinsically motivate you to live healthily for the rest of your life?

Take a bit of time to think about it and then make a detailed list of all the reasons WHY you want to lose weight. This should include the upside of being thinner and the consequences of not losing weight. Is your weight holding you back from anything: physically, socially, emotionally, professionally? If you don’t lose the weight, what are you going to miss out on? How will your life be better if you’re healthier? Make it as specific to you as possible and include any feelings attached to the goal.

The feeling is what drives the motivation not the actual tangible result.

Examples:

*A grandfather who wants to lose weight, so he can ride the mules into the Grand Canyon. The tangible result is that he can ride; the intangible one is that he gets to make that memory with his grandchildren.

*Good health. This is too vague. Make it specific to you, such as: “I want to avoid diabetes, because my (mom, dad, fill in the blank) had it and it really affected their quality of life”.

*You want to fit into that red dress that makes you look so good. Tangible result: the dress fits. The intangible result: you feel really good about yourself and empowered.

Put the motivator list (or a modified version) on a piece of paper and tape to your bathroom mirror, so you can read it twice a day when you brush your teeth. Additionally, put the list on your phone. No one knows what you’re looking at. It looks like you’re just checking your messages. Read it when faced with temptation, when you feel discouraged, when you stray from your plan, when your step count is too low, before opening a menu, or if you feel deprived or restricted. You’ll realize that those French fries aren’t as important as losing weight and being healthy. Creating a picture of how your life is going to be better if you lose weight, or worse if you don’t, gives you a sense of purpose. It will help you to subvert short-term pleasure for long-term goals.

This New Year’s, dig deep and think about how losing weight could affect your life. Whatever it is you want out of weight loss, commit to finding that out. With clear, personal motivators designed just for you, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance at weight loss this year.

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