Millions of Americans struggle with obesity and the numbers continue to rise. Weight-related illnesses come at a high cost to a person’s health and add up to billions of dollars a year in health care. Many people know they should, but it’s so difficult to get motivated to lose weight.
The struggle is real.
Lose weight. It’s a common New Year’s resolution, but it stays on the list year after year, so that it becomes better suited for a “Wish List”.
Why is it so hard to get motivated to lose weight? What’s that trigger point when we know it’s time to get serious about weight loss, exercise, and healthy lifestyle?
The “Aha moment”. That moment of clarity, when the motivation, belief, and decision to make a change happen all at once.
The motivation to lose weight is different for everyone.
It could be:
- Something the doctor says
- Something a loved one says
- Threat of being on medication and don’t want to be on medication
- Threat of being on medication and can’t afford medication
- Worrying about breaking chairs because of weight
- Worrying about not fitting in chairs
- Not recognizing yourself in pictures
- Being scared straight by life-threatening emergency
- Not being able to find clothes that fit
- Seeing relatives suffer from weight-related illnesses and knowing that’s the path you’re on and deciding you want to get off that path
Sometimes it’s enough to get started.
What makes it last?
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
When I first started my career in education, I observed teachers in the classroom. I visited public high school classrooms and it was immediately apparent that some students weren’t into school. (I know. Shocking!)
They were often unmotivated to complete assignments, participate in discussions, stay awake in class, or even show up.
I visited a Senior English class that was reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – not an easy read by any means, but interesting and entertaining if you can de-code it.
They didn’t want anything to do with Chaucer or his tales.
How do you get people to do something they don’t really want to do? How do you keep them motivated?
The discussion in my education classes and amongst my future teacher friends often centered around the best ways to motivate students.
Motivation is either intrinsic or extrinsic.
Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It’s motivation/movement/action that comes from the simple desire to do something, to reach a personal goal or expectation. It’s the understanding and desire to do well and meet or exceed expectations or goals.
For those high school seniors struggling to de-code Chaucer, few students were intrinsically motivated to make an effort.
Extrinsic motivation means motivation from outside of self, such as for a reward.
Extrinsic motivation is more of a “What’s in it for me?” type of motivation. Getting a homework pass for getting a perfect attendance in class for example. Store rewards and frequent customer programs motivate customers to buy more by offering free merchandise/shipping if you spend a set amount.
The million dollar question for me as a teacher was how do I get students to want to learn? How can I motivate students to learn?
The reality is you can’t make some one do something they don’t want to do.
It’s always a choice.
Those kids reading Canterbury Tales had to muster the motivation to pay attention and de-code the work, not just the language, but the historical context and social norms of the time that make it true, entertaining and still worth a read hundreds of years later.
Reading Chaucer is not easy. Neither is losing weight.
When it comes to our health, we have to be just like those kids in school. We have to want to do it. We have to get motivated to lose weight. Our reasons will differ, but ultimately, we have to see a benefit and decide that it’s worth the effort.
What are some motivators?
Extrinsic motivation alone doesn’t have long-lasting results. Rewards programs for exercising and losing weight are marginally successful.
Many companies offer employees incentives for exercising, tracking steps, reaching 10,000 steps a day, and monitor their activity. Some participants cheated in a major way with these programs. One guy put his step tracker on a ceiling fan.
Some step trackers have an accountability opportunity by creating a community in which you compete with others to get steps, track food, etc. If you’re a competitive person, this may work well for you. Keep it going.
Remember intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. A weight loss challenge or contest can be great motivation to get started. To keep it going for life, it’s got to be something deeper.
When you’re ready, take action.
Success is the accumulation of the daily habits that may seem insignificant by themselves, but over time these small actions add up to results. And then:
- Set a goal.
- 1 pound a week doesn’t sound like a lot, but slow and steady over time tends to lead to more successful weight maintenance.
- Believe you can.
- Believe you’re worth it.
- Be patient. You didn’t get to where you are overnight. You won’t get to where you want to be overnight either. A quick fix doesn’t last. Most of the time it doesn’t work either.
You’re not a child and no one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. You may be subject to consequences for inaction/actions, but ultimately, you still have a choice, even if you choose to do nothing.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that the most important thing is that you feel strong, positive, and well, so you’re able to live your best life.
If you feel uncomfortable in your own skin because of your weight, weight-related health issues, or fitness level, then it’s time for a change.
You can do it!
What do you think? What affects your motivation to lose weight? Positive or negative?