Thursday, March 28, 2013
What motivates us?
The psychologist in me wants to say "reinforcers" which is fancy pants speak for rewards and punishers.
How do these work you ask?
We change when we become so uncomfortable that there is no other option and what makes us uncomfortable are those reinforcers. Either we see the rewards and strive to do more of whatever it is that got us the reward, or we receive a consequence and try hard to prevent that from happening again!
So when kids whine and get their way we are rewarding them and will see more whining in our future as we just reinforced that behavior. When kids whine and get a consequence we see less of the behavior as they don't want those consequences (results may vary). As a general rule, rewards are more powerful then consequences.
So how then can we apply this to weight loss?
Rewarding ourselves for the positive changes we want to see more of. I.e. drinking 8 cups of water reward self with an extra few minutes in the bath later. The key is to find rewards that "speak" to you. You wouldn't expect a kid to increase good behaviors because you gave them a nickel, that reward wouldn't necessarily be motivating enough.
Consequences in weight loss are typically over-used when perhaps they shouldn't be used at all. I know I'm not the only one who has beaten myself up over poor food choices or not working out. I've called myself names and laid on the guilt trip heavy. How'd that work out? I can say for me, it doesn't help at all!!
Motivation is a personal journey, you are motivated by different things than I am. So to find your motivation requires you to think about why you want to lose weight and what rewards will help make you feel good on that journey.
Tangible rewards are things you can touch while intangible rewards are more social in nature. Some people are motivated by one more then the other although research says for kids that those intangible (aka social) rewards are the most effective. These are things like praise, hugs, pats on the back from mom/dad/caregivers.
With the BLC we strive to reward participants with praise, goodies and support. Those are those intangibles.
So what motivates me? Honestly, I have not thought about this in a long time. I have no ideal WHY I am doing this or what will motivate me to keep moving forward. That sounds crazy when I say it in my own head. But my goals from 3 years ago are different today. I have been so focused on losing weight and not being "fat" that I haven't really internalized the other stuff. Could be because I have all that emotional baggage I blogged about last time and to think hard about motivation means looking at some of that unpleasantness.
Why do I want to lose weight?
Well, I don't want to die earlier than I have to. I already have high cholesterol and diabetes/heart disease runs in my family.
I want to see things in the world and its hard enough to make that happen much less lugging around an extra person on your hips.
I want my kids to be healthy and not deal with weight issues when they get older.
I want to feel sexy and confident in my own skin.
I want to have better sex (can I say that here?) I'm sure I don't have to elaborate.
I want to ride horses and they don't like it when you are obese.
I want to hear compliments from people (this also terrifies me though).
I want to help others reach their goals but first I feel I need to reach my own.
I want to hike the Appalachian trail and its not fat people friendly.
My motivating rewards are typically tangible like material stuff but I also am spoiled rotten and know if I want a new shirt I will go and get it (within reason of course). So those intangible's are pretty powerful too. Here's the thing though. I had lost 20 pounds and no one seemed to really notice. I wasn't getting that external validation. So how to get those intangibles if others are not giving it to you? I don't the answer to it but I can say its incredibly frustrating to not be recognized for the changes. I know I shouldn't rely on others for validation but if that's a primary motivator then to not get it tends to be de-motivating.
Perhaps I need to de-emphasize the external validation, like okay its good to have but these other ones are better. So what else can I use? I don't have an answer, yet. But I do have a 10 hour drive today which will give me plenty of time to mull it over!
I would love to hear YOUR motivators, leve them in the comments below!