What Motivates You??

Last week, we discussed self-monitoring and how it relates to weight management. An important question remains- what motivates you to self-monitor? What are the best motivators? Let’s talk about the most significant motivators and the ones that are most likely to keep us motivated! 

An important theme found by the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Health and Well-being among those who have succeeded in long-term weight management was motivation to change, and what drives you to keep going makes a difference! Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation encouraged individuals in this study to stay on track. Intrinsic motivators were the critical component, and individuals with intrinsic motivators were the most successful. However, extrinsic motivators helped those who sustained long-term weight loss as well.

The biggest intrinsic motivators for those who could lose and maintain weight loss were the desire to improve one’s overall health and fitness level and prevent conditions specific to weight gain. Complications associated with obesity, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, cancer, and joint pain, just to name a few, were a big motivator. Another intrinsic motivator, and one that comes with immediate benefits, is mental health improvement. Exercise decreases anxiety, can help with depression, and gives you a quick endorphin boost, which improves your mood. Over time, regular exercise can help control more serious mental health issues as well, and many people report having more stable moods, less symptoms of depression, and other mental health benefits, even on days they do not exercise. Feeling good when you maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise is a great way to approach long-term weight management!

Many people feel hopeless when faced with losing weight and maintaining overall health. It is important to consider weight loss and management as a “reinvention” of oneself, a lifestyle change, instead of a chore or a short-term solution. Even small steps toward improving your health and fitness make a massive difference in the long run! Simple things, like making small dietary changes and fitness goals, enhance self-esteem, boost your mood, and make it easier to make more significant changes later (even before physical progress becomes noticeable)! 

Taking charge of your fitness and diet empowers you to make changes in other aspects of your life, and with every step you take, no matter how small, your confidence will improve. With confidence in your ability to make changes comes self-esteem and the drive to continue your fitness journey! Find your intrinsic motivation, and remember that sometimes you need to start slow, and we believe that you need to do this for YOU. You deserve to have the confidence and education required to make bigger steps toward weight management, and focusing your motivation towards improving your mental and physical health is something we always strive for.

Extrinsic motivators that individuals used were more diverse and seemed to make less impact overall, meaning valuing your health and fitness level for YOU instead of for someone else is a better indicator of your ability to maintain long-term weight loss and fitness. Things like the desire to fit into that one pair of jeans, look better for a significant other, seek praise, or meet short-term goals may kick start your fitness journey, but in general, they don’t create long-term change. Recognizing that you are taking steps to better your mental and physical health (and doing it because YOU want to and it makes YOU feel good) were much better indicators of long-term success. 

Experts found one important extrinsic motivator that seemed to make a more significant impact than the others- the desire to help others in their weight loss journeys. This was motivating because you have found your success, reeducated yourself, and want others to feel better, too, so you want to pass on the information! This also held people accountable for their journies- the more they tried to help others, the more they focused on their long-term goals. As always, having a community like the one we foster at Fit St. Charles is a fantastic asset! Regardless of whether you are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, having the support of a community can be a big factor in success!

Reframe how you think about weight management- are you doing it for yourself or just because you want to look better? Do you want to FEEL better, or are you just trying to impress others? What motivates you matters, and while you can find short-term motivation from wanting to look better or believing that losing weight will garner praise, doing it for yourself matters more than ANYTHING else. Working out and eating right improves how you feel immediately. It improves your self-esteem and mental health regardless of how much weight you have lost. And that is important to remember- take steps to help yourself, and consciously remember how you feel when you do so.