Stick to your weight-loss goals by identifying your motivation
Have you tried to lose weight a number of times, thinking you have the motivation to do it? Perhaps your doctor has said you should lose weight, you want to impress your family and friends, or your partner wants you to go to the gym with them. Whatever your reasons, you’ve tried many weight-loss programs in the past and you have the motivation to start but you just can’t keep it up.
Why do you quit if you had all this motivation at the start?
It’s not because of your lack of effort. You may be quitting because of the type of motivation that’s driving you to lose weight.
Finding the right type of weight-loss motivation is the key to keeping going.
Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation
Research shows that a significant determinant of weight-loss success is not the plan you follow, but whether you are internally or externally motivated.
External or extrinsic motivation is based on outside influences. This type of motivation can kick things off but doesn’t tend to result in long-lasting change.
With extrinsic motivators, people can experience fast initial results that then slow down or rebound if that extrinsic motivation disappears or changes, or as they start to get close to their goal. It can cause a cycle of dependence on external motives: losing some weight in the short term but regaining it again and again.
Examples of extrinsic motivation to lose weight include:
- Getting your doctor off your back
- Looking good in a bikini this summer
- Taking hot Instagram pics
- Having a six-pack
- Fitting into a new dress
- Making an ex jealous
- To shut your partner up
On the other hand, internal or intrinsic motivation comes from within and is more meaningful to you.
Intrinsic motivations to lose weight are more meaningful. If you’re intrinsically motivated you get satisfaction from the psychological and physiological benefits of losing weight, rather than just looking better or pleasing others. For example, improved nutrition, mood or energy.
This type of motivation leads to more long-term success because it comes from within and is not reliant on outside factors. If you have intrinsic motivation, the focus is more on progress rather than a designated time-sensitive goal. It’s more about wanting to maintain your physical health as a continuous lifestyle habit and understanding that it takes time.
Examples of intrinsic motivation to lose weight include:
- Having more energy
- Being healthy
- Playing with the kids without getting exhausted
- Feeling proud of yourself
- Wanting to live a longer life
How to find your personal weight-loss motivation
Don’t worry if you now recognise you’re extrinsically motivated. That’s OK, especially in the beginning. It can light the fire to kick-start your weight-loss journey.
But, it is important to move to intrinsic motivation to be able to achieve long-lasting results. Think about the meaningful reasons why you want to lose weight. How will losing weight change you as a person and make you feel?
The key to motivation is to do something because you want to, not because you, or others, think you should. Ultimately your goal is to move from ‘should’ to ‘want to’.
Another important factor to keep you motivated in the long term is the type of goals you are setting for yourself. Your goals need to be realistic and achievable in order to motivate you.
Self-efficacy, or having the self confidence that you can do something, is important for success. You need to know that you can achieve your goals to be motivated by them.
So, be realistic. If you’re not being active at all right now, don’t set yourself a goal to run 5km five times a week. Start small with something you know you can do and gradually build up. Reaching these smaller, more realistic goals is more motivating than never achieving the unrealistic, difficult ones.
You also need to own each and every one of your goals as your own – these are things you want to achieve, not goals set by others or society.start your journey now