Weighty Matters

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The Why of Motivation

on December 1, 2013

After my morning bike ride (17 miles – a personal best. Booyah! I was shooting for 20 but, frankly, I needed to pee. There’s always next weekend.) I sat out on the porch in the gorgeous weather with a cup of tea and read the Sunday paper. (Bonus, two manatees swam by while I was sitting there.) Parade had an interview with Pastor Rick Warren who spearheaded a weight loss and fitness effort in his congregation using something he created in consultation with experts (Dr. Oz) and called the Daniel Plan. (He’s written a book about it but I don’t actually know the deets.) The article was interesting and the story of the congregation supporting each other is inspiring. Something Warren said in the interview really struck me. I’m paraphrasing, but basically he said that why we want something is the key to how long we sustain the effort.

I often wonder why I’m sustaining a successful effort now, longer than I ever had, when I ultimately failed numerous times before in my life. Oh sure, I often achieved significant weight loss but never got all the way to goal weight and never kept it off.

Perhaps I’m putting the cart before the horse. I haven’t actually reached goal weight and once I do, only time will tell if I maintain the loss. However, I feel more confident than I ever have in my life that I will succeed in both of these goals. In the meantime, I can look at where I am today — one year and ten months after weight loss surgery with a weight loss of 175 pounds. I have never lost this much or sustained an effort this long before. Why is this time different? What was the “Why” of my motivation?

I go back to the lightning bolt “aha” moment I had in the summer of 2011. For months I’d told myself that I was resigned to being super obese for the rest of my life, regardless of how short a period of time that “rest” turned out to be. Then in that big moment of clarity, I said to myself, “I do not want to be disabled by the time I’m 60.” My goal was to lose weight, and use weight loss surgery to help me achieve it. The “why”, the motivation was to enable myself, to become healthy, and to live a better life as long as possible.

What made this different than all of the times before? Well, that depends on which time before. I think when I was a kid my motivation was so others would stop picking on me, so boys would like me. I’m sure that even when I was older my prime motivation remained to make myself more attractive.

As an adult between, say 30 to 40, I’d talk about wanting to get to a healthy weight. Why wasn’t that enough? Looking back and pondering this from my current perspective, I believe that at that time, I wasn’t yet experiencing the true negative impact on my health. I knew I was risking high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart attack, clogged arteries, stroke, early death. However, I wasn’t yet on medication for any of these things. I hadn’t experienced the health scares. I also was still mobile. The horrible, eventual future as still sort of abstract.

Flash forward to 2011. I was so overweight that I was hampered by it in countless ways. I was on medication for high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. I couldn’t walk without breathing hard and needed to help pull myself up stairs, gasping. My knee could have given out on me at any time. Nothing abstract about it. When I couldn’t haul myself up the ladder of my boat, it all came together that my eventual future had arrived.

So the goal of losing weight gained a more powerful, concrete motivation — so that I would not be disabled, but enabled, so that I would be fit and healthy with a chance at a good, longer life. That’s the “why” in my motivation and the reason that I have sustained the effort this long and am heading full sail into the future until I reach my goal and beyond. The goal will change once I get to whatever number/size my doctor and I eventually agree on. Once I achieve my “goal weight”, my goal will be to make the choices that maintain the weight loss and fitness levels. The motivation will remain the same that has served me so well thus far — to live my best, most enabled life.

2 responses to “The Why of Motivation

  1. Hope says:

    I have no doubt in my mind that you’re going to hit your goal and then you’re going to stay there. Why? Because you write on this blog every day about the experiences that weight-loss has opened up for you. And I just can’t see a way that you’d ever go back to your old ways. Sure, you might have a momentary setback from time to time, but then you’re going to get right back onto your bike.

  2. Skye says:

    I like this “why” about motivation concept. It’s useful and it appeals to my cognitive/intellectual size. I always wonder about the why of things, but regarding motivation have always wondered “why not?” rather than “why?”. This post inspires me to look at past successes with a new perspective. (And I hope will not only lead me into healthier habits, but to revising my novel and finding work! Hope Springs Eternal.) Thanks for sharing this, and for sharing how you’ve been “motivated” or not through the years, until you finally had your Aha moment.

    I think having that and knowing the why of your current motivation will make all the difference in the world in your weight loss and maintenance.

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