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How to Get Motivated to Lose Weight

Learn the secrets of motivation to achieve weight loss success

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Updated February 15, 2014

How to Get Motivated to Lose Weight

Motivate yourself to lose weight.

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Many people believe that motivation is a magical quality that some people have and some people don't. But there are easy techniques that anyone can learn to get motivated and lose weight. By understanding how motivation works, you can assemble the building blocks you need to achieve weight loss success.

Different Kinds of Motivation

There are two kinds of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is the inspiration that comes from an external source, outside of you. For example, if your physician tells you that you need to lose weight, you may be externally motivated to go on a diet out of fear of poor health. Many rewards are extrinsic sources. If you go on a diet in order to fit into a smaller dress size, your motivation is extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from within. If you exercise because of the sense of accomplishment you achieve at the end of the workout your source of motivation is intrinsic. If you choose a healthy snack because it makes you feel better about yourself, you are internally or intrinsically motivated.

So why do different types of motivation matter? Extrinsic and intrinsic inspiration will come into play at different times during your weight loss experience. By understanding how to use both extrinsic and intrinsic forms, you equip yourself with the tools you need for weight loss success.

Use Extrinsic Motivation to Accomplish Short Term Goals

People often begin an exercise or weight loss program for external reasons: their clothes don't fit, their doctor has told them that they need to lose weight, family and friends have put pressure on them to slim down. These extrinsic factors are great for getting the ball rolling.

When you feel outside pressure to lose weight, let it motivate you to gather information. You may not be ready to go on a diet, but you can learn more about weight loss plans and exercise programs. Find out if there are small steps you can take to improve your health before you take the plunge and commit to a full-scale weight-loss program. Ask your physician about how making small changes to your diet or lifestyle will affect your health.

Extrinsic motivation can also be helpful when you need a gentle nudge to achieve short-term goals. For example, you might know that exercise is good for you, you may even know that you'll feel better after you complete a workout, but on some days you might still struggle to get to the gym. On those days, promise yourself a healthy reward. Set the DVR to record your favorite show or pick up some bubble bath and reward yourself with time in the tub after the workout is complete.

Foster Intrinsic Motivation to Achieve Long-Term Success

While extrinsic motivation may help you overcome short-term challenges, people who are successful at weight loss are usually motivated by intrinsic factors. Eating well and exercising makes them feel good so they continue to practice healthy habits for the long term.

So how do you create internal motivation? The good news is that most people already have it. All you have to do is find it, identify it and acknowledge it.

3 Steps to Foster Internal Motivation

  1. Set short-term goals. Set yourself up for success by setting very short-term achievable goals. Your long-term goal might be to lose 30 pounds, but a good short-term goal might be to eat a lean healthy breakfast each day during the week. If a weekly goal seems too broad, set a goal for just one day or even an hour. Swap the high calorie soda for water during one meal or commit to cut your lunch in half and save half for another day.
  2. Keep a journal. Write out each goal in a journal. At the end of the day, comment on the day's success. Keep in mind that just taking the time to write in your journal is healthy and an accomplishment in itself. Use positive words that describe how you feel about your actions.
  3. Acknowledge your success. Take time to review your successes and give yourself credit. Review your journal on a regular basis and take pride in every step you've taken to improve your health.

As you move through the process of fostering internal motivation, you'll find that your confidence in your own abilities will increase. When you acknowledge the success of small accomplishments, it becomes easier to believe that larger goals are attainable. You begin to believe in yourself and in your ability to change your health by changing your weight.

Sources:

Williams, Geoffrey C.Grow, Virginia M.Freedman, Zachary R.Ryan, Richard M.Deci, Edward L. . " Motivational predictors of weight loss and weight-loss maintenance." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol 70(1), Jan 1996, 115-126.

Silva, Marlene, Markland, David, Carraça, Eliana, Vieira, Paulo, Coutinho, Sílvia R., Minderico, Cláudia S., Matos, Margarida G, Sardinha, Luís B., Teixeira, Pedro J. " Exercise Autonomous Motivation Predicts 3-yr Weight Loss in Women ." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise April 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 4 - pp 728-737.

American Council On Exercise Personal Trainer Manual, Module 3, Session One. Dr. Diane McCaughey, Ph.D. Accessed: December 19, 2011. http://diannemccaughey.com/

Christopher J. Armitage, Mark Conner. " Distinguishing Perceptions of Control From Self-Efficacy: Predicting Consumption of a Low-Fat Diet Using the Theory of Planned Behavior." Journal of Applied Psychology Volume 29, Issue 1, pages 72-90, January 1999.

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