One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident


Elaine’s Corner: What Motivates You?

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Elaine is back and let me tell you she had me nodding through this whole post. It took me years to figure out what my motivators are. Wanting to look good in a bathing suit was never enough to keep me going but being a healthy, happy example for my son is. I’ll let Elaine explain what the heck I’m talking about.

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Think about this for a second – If I gave you $100 an hour to dig a ditch and then simply fill the ditch back up with dirt for 8 hours a day, would you take the job? This scenario is a classic case study on the role of motivation in human behavior.

Motivation, as we all know, is an amorphous, slip-through-your-fingers kind of feeling that often comes in intense bursts and then fades to the background of jobs, spouses, kids, and other daily tasks. As I spend weeks thinking about and writing motivation, I’ve spent considerable time about thinking about extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. In general, you can think of extrinsic motivators as “external” to you and intrinsic motivators as your “internal” motivators. Both are important – but which one matters the most?

In terms of weight loss, external motivators are things like looking sexy, being attractive, or wearing a smaller size jeans. Preparing for a wedding or class reunion are also external motivators. These motivators aren’t bad, but they aren’t great either. These motivators can give you a spurt of energy, but are often not sustainable long term. Roni writes often about how she spent her 20s trying to lose weight to fit in to smaller clothes, but it wasn’t until Ryan was born that everything “clicked” for her….

Internal motivators are those motivators that stick with us, day in and day out, to get us through the boring and sometimes monotonous schedule of eating healthy, exercising, and taking care of our bodies. Internal motivators come from a deep appreciation and love of oneself, from knowing that you are worth it, and from knowing that you can and do have the power to make long-lasting positive change in your life.

If you think about the scenario of digging a ditch simply for income, you might think that “sure, I could do that for a day or two. Maybe even a month.” A research study done at Yale University was completed in the 1960s and determined that there was no amount of money that could motivate an employee to do meaningless work for an extended duration of time. The same is true of weight loss – you have to find your internal motivators, bolster them with some external motivators and rewards, and commit for the long haul.

The fun thing about internal motivators is they are all different. For me, it’s the self-efficacy and pride that comes from being able to run a half-marathon. What is it for you? What motivates you to the very core of your being?

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There are 15 comments so far.


    September 28, 2010

    “There was no amount of money that could motivate an employee to do meaningless work for an extended duration of time.” That pretty much sums up why I quit my last job :)

    Josie @ Skinny Way Of Life

    September 28, 2010

    without a doubt, my children. They motivate me to my very core, it’s so hard to explain but children have this power that truly changes your life. It wasn’t until my daughter was born that nothing was about me anymore, even the way I eat. I had horrible eating habits/eating disorder until I found out I was pregnant with her. Its cause and effect,she changed my life for the better and now I keep it going to give her a healthy life. That’s what motivates me.


    September 28, 2010

    As I’m sure many will say, I want to be a good example for my children, and also be around to enjoy my grandchildren. But I also want to live the fullest life I can for myself. I want to be able to dive into anything presented to me and to feel proud of myself. Oh, and I want to look good doing it :)


    September 28, 2010

    I don’t know if this makes sense, but I’m a huge bargain hunter – I get a thrill out of finding something for $2 when I might have considered buying it at $4? And that’s something I take with me to dieting – I love making a recipe that fills me up and tastes great, but is a caloric bargain. So I like to use vegetables – lots of flavor bang – and strong herbs, spices, flavored oils. I like gelato – Ciao Bella has a blackberry cabernet sorbet – because you use these tiny spoons for maximum flavor. I like making a cheesecake – with part-skim ricotta, splenda – with orange zest and lemon juice, knowing that the entire (small) cake has the calories of two slices of store-bought. I also enjoy being creative, making something new and interesting (though apparently less than Roni!). I try to spin junk food as “more of the same”. A twinkie is always a twinkie but my home-made low-sugar almond-pear torte is unique and special and healthier.


    September 29, 2010

    I’m not married, nor do I have any children or anyone to take care of (besides myself), but one thing I have not been able to do, ever, is finish what I start. I just keep telling myself that if I can finish this, I can do anything.

    Anne Marie

    September 29, 2010

    My daughter-since her inception, I have found the inner strength to become drug free, go back to college to get the jobs of my dreams that I am passionate about, and most recently lead a healthier lifestyle. I now have the drive, the will, and most of all the desire to do well because with each little tiny step of achievement, I feel better.


    September 29, 2010

    I hate to admit this but I am motivated by being able to do something that others are unable or unwilling to do.


    September 29, 2010

    About 12 weeks ago, I had heart attack symptoms. Both of my arms were tingling, my chest was tight, and I was sweating profusely. I felt like I was having an out of body experience and that this physical body was foreign to me. I went to the doctor, and found my blood pressure and cholesterol level off the charts. Of course being significantly overweight did not help matters. I finally hit rock bottom, and felt tired, alone and truly depressed. Who is this person? I lost my sense of self. Luckily I had an awaking and what I call my “second chance”. I was at a cross roads in my life, and needed to make a choice, (a) continue down this path or (b) change my lifestyle. Simply put “do or die”, the choice is mine, either stand on the side lines or play in the game. Happily, I have changed my eating habits one step at a time; I started the Jenny Craig program and incorporate weekly exercise into my plan. Luckily, I have also influenced my family to change up their bad habits as well. As a result, I am down 30 lbs, and feeling great. This is a life time commitment and permanent life style change for me. I am already feeling more energetic and healthy.


    September 29, 2010

    It’s funny how many people are saying their children. It is the same for me. I had parents who sort of told me how to eat but never “showed” me how to eat. I eat what my boys eat, that’s it. A snack is some grapes or a cheese stick or an apple. I don’t give them something healthy and then nosh on chips in front of them. Example is the best teacher and I want them to have a long, healthy life. Heart disease is in my family so we all have to be careful.


    September 29, 2010

    I was kind of thinking when I started reading this like digging a ditch (when you lose weight and are motivated) and filling the ditch (when you gain back that weight when the motivation is gone)! If you think about it like that, no one would ever yo yo diet! I think for me….finally….the motivation is wellness, not the size of my jeans. If I focus on eating foods that will make me feel better, then the smaller jeans will come with that. Loved the article!


    September 29, 2010

    My motivation is peace and contnentment. I feel happier and more confident when I eat right and exercise. Both are truly critical to my personal well being. And, the only numbers I am currently focused on are my points intake can amount that I exercise – it takes away that one last mental pressure of the scale – life is good.


    September 30, 2010

    What motivates me is a sense of accomplishment and elation of setting a goal and achieving it, eventually. Reading blogs like this reminds me that I can have an off day or snack on some chips and it’ll be okay as long as I continue on my goal of healthy living. What also motivates me is a sense of comraderie that I get when I find other people who are just as realistically motivated. All in all, I do it for myself because when I am kinder to myself and feel good about myself, that leaves more room for other people in my life.


    September 30, 2010

    What motivates me is the sense/feeling that the life I have been living for so many years really is not a representation of what I feel in my heart and know in my mind. But… what is a person – is it what they think, or what they DO? I realized that I am probably at the mid-point of my life – I’m 49 and that there is so much more ME to develop, share and experience. This process is not about looking better in a pair of jeans (though that does sound pretty fine! :)), it’s about not dying and feeling that there were parts of me left un-touched, un-explored, un-challenged. I’m learning more than I ever have in my life; I’m challenging myself at work, I’m reading and listening more. Damn – life IS good. What’s my motivation…? My motivation is to die (many, MANY years from now) with the feeling that I’ve done everything I possibly could have.

    Deanna - The Unnatural Mother

    September 30, 2010

    LOVE THIS!!!!!!


    September 30, 2010

    I used to work with older people and I just really saw the difference between the people who had taken care of their bodies throughout life and the people who had not. My dad is 45 and he has emphysema from smoking, neck problems from years of not lifting things at work properly, he’s overweight, smokes (still!!), drinks Pepsi all day, and eats frozen dinners or takeout all the time. Many of my family members are the same. I wanted to be the one who changes my family’s trend to be fat and unhealthy. That’s my motivation!