One of the biggest problems with losing weight is the motivation to do it. In this article we explain why the motivation for wedding body transformations may not be the best for you.
However when their wedding comes around, their brain kicks in to gear and they become super motivated.
Why is this?
Is it a good thing?
Are there any problems with this type of motivation?
Losing weight is simple; there are a few basic ideas that you need to follow consistently and you will get results, 100% guaranteed. Being simple doesn’t mean that dropping the weight is easy, though – a lot of people confuse simple and easy as the same thing.
If you ask any child, they will more than likely be able to tell you that if you eat more than you need, you’ll put on weight, and if you eat less than you need, you’ll lose weight. That’s the basic principle of dieting. The rest are just tricks and techniques to try and get you to stick to this rule and make it fit in with your lifestyle.
However, the tricks and techniques you employ when dieting turn out to be just as important as the quantity of calories you consume. I say tricks and techniques…they are not magic., but merely ways to help you stay on track. They help you adhere to your diet and be consistent.
Consistency is KEY, and to be consistent you have to have a strong reason to want to lose weight. Most people just want to look better. However, in the days, weeks and months that you have to “endure” your diet, wanting to look better is not always going to be at the top of the list when you are hungry, tired and have the chance to eat a big slice of chocolate cake.
You may have good expectations for your diet now, however, emotions change day by day – hour by hour – minute by minute. You need to have a plan for when you aren’t feeling at your best. This is when you start to make bad choices (often involving food) to try and make yourself feel better.
To explore this further, let’s take a few steps back and delve into motivation.
If you do something because you’re seeking something in return, or to avoid being punished, it’s an extrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards such as:
In the case of wedding weight loss, the main extrinsic motivator is looking better (image). However, weight loss can also be connected to money (being paid to lose weight), or status (being respected and liked more by being slim as well as receiving compliments).
We can think of extrinsic motivators using the “carrot and stick” analogy – the donkey is walking towards the carrot because he is hungry while walking away from the stick as he doesn’t want to be punished – it’s a lot more bribe-based. The reward is often the outcome, and provides a large, but short-term hit of pleasure.
These things are significant as they affect the success of your fat loss long term. i.e. after your wedding day. I will explain more about this once we’ve gone over intrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation, often known as self-motivation gives you more of a rewarding feeling that you would normally receive with a physical reward (extrinsic).
Intrinsic motivation is driven by internal rewards such as:
In the case of weight loss, the intrinsic motivators are often less obvious than external ones. They also vary greatly depending on the individual.
Some specific weight loss intrinsic motivators could be:
As you can see, extrinsic motivators are a lot more obvious than intrinsic ones – especially to people observing you. If you are overweight, the obvious reason to lose weight is to look better.
However, there is an issue with extrinsic motivators…
Think back to when you have bought something new. It may have been a new phone; a new car (or anything that you worked for and saved up to buy).
When you first get the item, you’re super happy…
You want to show everyone…
You think about it all day long…
However, after a little while, those feelings start to subside – you no longer get the pleasure hit that you did when you first bought it. The phone or car becomes just like all the other items you own – possessions that are just there. The pleasure you received didn’t last long. Although it felt great, if you were using it as a motivator to help you achieve something, it probably wouldn’t last long enough to see you through to your end goal.
When you decide that you want to lose weight for your wedding, you are setting yourself an extrinsic goal – you want to look good for your wedding day. Basically you care what other people think of you, and you are self-conscious of how you look. You want to look the best you can in your wedding dress and you want to remember it all with perfect looking wedding photos.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose some weight for your wedding as long as it’s within a healthy context. Some people have distorted views of their body and are unable to see that they already look great.
The problem with using your wedding day as an external goal for your weight loss is that it’s a fixed point in time that will come and go. This means that as soon as your wedding day passes, you will lose your motivation for losing/maintaining a healthy weight.
This is the reason so many women put back on all the weight they lost after their wedding day or honeymoon.
It’s also important to consider how losing weight will make you feel…
People often have an unrealistic idea of how losing weight will affect them. The emotions you feel when you imagine the future are your thoughts and ideas of what you THINK it will be like when you reach your goal – it’s just an assumption.
Changing one part of your life (fat loss) won’t just magically solve all your problems – if you aren’t happy you need to find out why that is – just like when you dream of winning the lottery and you imagine how great your life would be; how happy you would be; how all your problems will just disappear into thin air. You may have heard that lottery winners don’t actually turn out to be that happy. Their expectations far outweigh the reality of being rich. The same happens with weight loss – having a better body won’t make you happier – at least for long. It’s often something else you’re seeking.
Intrinsic motivators are very different to extrinsic ones. They allow you to concentrate more on the process and tasks that lead to weight loss as well as the final outcome – think of doing a sport you like just because you enjoy it, and then winning a competition. This kind of achievement brings tremendous fulfilment, and because it’s not just the outcome that you’re chasing, you receive pleasure from the process as well.
Now, applying all this to diets, fitness and weight loss in the run-up to weddings, does it make sense that most women go about these the wrong way?
The common process goes something like this:
Can this be considered a successful diet?
After all this, women will often repeat the same process to lose weight again once they feel unhappy with the weight they’ve put back on.
They say “I lost weight this way before, so it worked…I’ll just do it again”
It becomes an endless circle of dieting and then putting the weight back on, often referred to as yo-yo dieting.
Albert Einstein once defined insanity as: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
It’s no good going through the same process and expecting to keep the weight off if you didn’t before.
So what can we do to fix this process?
As noted above, the wedding dieting process usually lacks intrinsic motivation. The end goal is extrinsic (body image), and the process is “endured” to reach that end goal. The process isn’t enjoyed, so soon as the goal is reached (on your wedding day), the good habits employed go out the window.
A quick side note – There’s nothing wrong with extrinsic goals. It’s ok to want to look good! In fact, it’s a human trait to want to have a better appearance. It’s also built into our brains to like people who are betting looking. This is partly due to being able to assess if someone is healthy or not just by their appearance.
The same applies to the extrinsic motivator, money – more money essentially means a better, more stable life, so is highly favourable to seek out. As we’ve already noted, extrinsic motivators are not very dependable when trying to achieve something. However, combining them with intrinsic motivators creates a very powerful mindset to help you reach your goals.
So, for a successful wedding “diet” you need a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. These intrinsic motivators will hopefully change the way you think and add to the reasons for you to lose weight. In this way, you can drop fat for your wedding for more than just body image. This means that you will begin to enjoy the process and have reasons to continue once your external motivator (looking great for your wedding day) passes. I put “diet” in inverted commas because it’s more habit and lifestyle changes that lead to successful weight loss rather than a “diet”. The term “diet” has too many negative connotations attached to it.
Your external diet goal can still be to lose weight and to get a better body image. You can also include other extrinsic motivators to reward yourself during the process – these can be things like new clothes when you reach a certain weight, or a small trip away. It’s also very rewarding to hear compliments from others about your progress.
The idea should be to set your external motivation to look good for your wedding day, then build intrinsic motivators around it to tie you into the process long-term, beyond your wedding.
The internal motivators need to be explored a little more than external ones. You need to think of some reasons that make you really want to lose weight – just for you – be it having more energy, becoming stronger, or increasing your life expectancy. Once you start your diet intrinsic motivation sometimes appears as you start to feel the benefits of the process. Quite often, something that you used to dislike becomes enjoyable because you start to feel good from doing it. Intrinsic motivators are the reason you often see people doing things that look difficult and painful – the reward is so beneficial that they start to enjoy the “painful” process.
If you really don’t enjoy what you are doing, you need to find something that you do enjoy! It just won’t work if you try and endure doing something. If you don’t like a particular exercise, don’t do it! – experiment. Find something you really do enjoy. You’ll be more consistent with it because you are doing it for yourself and not just to get the end result.
Skills are an excellent way to take your mind off an extrinsic goal like weight loss. Instead of doing exercise to burn calories, with a skills you are internally motivated to keep doing it to get better. A fun skill to learn can be handstands, and while caught up in practising over and over again, you forget that you are burning energy at the same time.
That’s the beauty of an internal motivator – it takes your focus off the eternal one and makes the process enjoyable. This can also be considered as a type of reframing, explained below.
This list mentioned earlier will give you some ideas for internal motivators:
Take some time and explore which resonates with you. Once you begin your weight loss journey, focus on these results as well as the physical weight loss.
When losing weight, your diet is the most important part (exercise just supports it), so it’s really important to enjoy what you eat as well. This means following a diet which includes things that you WANT to eat, as well as being able to feel rewarded from the benefits of your good eating habits. If you aren’t particularly fond of a certain food that may be beneficial your weight loss goal, you can actually start to like it if you analyse the benefits of it.
When you eat a food that you either like or dislike, you have either positive or negative emotions attached to it. However, taste is just one aspect of the food – there are other aspects that you can think about:
These are just a few of the positives you can derive from eating better. If you don’t particularly like a food, thinking about the positives can quite often overshadow that one negative (taste) and actually make you feel good from eating it. This re-framing technique is very powerful in helping you eat healthier and be more consistent with your diet – the food many not be your favourite, but if it makes you feel energised, fills you up and keeps you on track, you can often start to feel good about eating it.
Another very powerful motivator is to track your activity. Activity trackers such as the Fitbit, Jawbone or Garmin record your movements and motivate you to reach daily step goals. The reward is simply the pleasure you get from meeting your target, and of course, the benefits you get from doing regular exercise. Knowing how many steps you are doing, gives your internal rewards for moving more. You will find yourself going for walks or getting lost just to get your steps up to hit your targets!
You can also join leagues and compete against your friends and colleagues to see who can do the most amount of steps by the end of the week.
The opposite of a fitness tracker (which rewards you intrinsically), would be a punishment for not adhering to your goals. Punishments are extrinsic and can include being fined for not doing something (monetary) or simply not receiving compliments for good progress. Punishments work well for some people, but they aren’t really the way to go, as they don’t bring the fulfilment that intrinsic motivation does. They can however, work well for short-term goals or to push you to complete something that is a one-off.
Every fours years we have the Olympic games. The Olympic athletes often train their whole lives to compete, which requires a lot of dedication and sacrifices. To onlookers the work it takes to reach this level can often not seem worth it. However, these onlookers are focusing on the extrinsic – the result. The athletes actually enjoy the process. They get fulfilment from it. That’s what drives them to get up every day to train. Their self-motivation comes from the benefits they feel from the training, enjoying the experience and having purpose – it needs to, because winning is not always guaranteed in sport!
A very interesting fact that I learnt a few years ago (and is fundamental to happiness), is that often gold medal winners get depressed after their initial high of winning their event…
Because they have lost their purpose. It was the process that gave them fulfilment – their intrinsic motivation. They achieved their extrinsic goal of winning, but the real long-term bringer of happiness (the intrinsic motivation) is lost. Unless they compete for something else, or better athletes appear in their competition, they have less reason to drive themselves to train.
What does this mean?
Extrinsic and intrinsic goals support each other! It’s important to have extrinsic goals in place to have something to work towards. The intrinsic motivation then comes from the benefits you get from the process. What you’ll find is that when you reach your extrinsic goal, it will move – you’ll aim for something better. i.e. you won’t be happy when you achieve your initial challenge. You will want more. This is why extrinsic goals often leave you unfulfilled and don’t bring the happiness you think they will. That’s why soon after athletes start to feel they are losing their purpose, they set themselves new goals to re-ignite their drive and intrinsic motivation.
How does this apply to diets?
Set your extrinsic goals such as weight loss, but realise that once you reach it, you’re not necessarily going to be happy – your goal will move. You will reassess your goals and want an even better body. That’s why you need to appreciate the process. You need to find activities you like and foods you enjoy. This will bring you true fulfilment and accomplishment.
This leads me onto gratitude. Our lives these days are so fast-paced and stressful that we forget to be grateful for what we have. We focus so much on what we want, that we forget that we already have so much. We spend so much time looking at what others have, that we forget that there are others that could only dream of having what we already have.
Practising daily gratitude allows you to take notice and remember what you have in your life. The theory of gratitude is scientifically backed and has been proven to bring many benefits, including happiness. The process is simple too! You can start by writing down 3 things that you are grateful for at the end of each day. It could be something related to your health, your family or your career. The only requirement is that you come up with something different every day. This process will make you appreciate the things in your life more and bring you more fulfilment and happiness. Gratitude is such an important topic that I’ll be covering it in more detail in a future article.
We have two main types of motivation – extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivators are ones that you do for an external reward – in the case of fitness, to look better. Intrinsic motivators are ones that you do because you enjoy the process – going to the gym just because you like it and enjoy the benefits, such as an increase in energy and better health.
When setting weight loss goals, it’s important to have intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivators. You won’t stick to your diet if you don’t enjoy the process.
Practice gratitude to value what you have in your life already. It’s perfectly acceptable to want to lose weight, but realise that it won’t necessarily make you as happy as you expect. Gratitude and learning to enjoy the process is proven to bring much more happiness than chasing external goals like weight loss.