Most of us here know that.
And, eavesdropping on an exchange between ONEKIDSMOM and 4A-HEALTHY-BMI, I checked out a TED talks presentation by Dan Ariely on what motivates people to keep on working in the workplace. It's a bit long, but really interesting. And (since motivation is motivation) pretty applicable to the motivation we care about most: motivation for the work of maintaining weight loss.
Ariely talks about a number of interesting experiments. What motivates people to keep on building Legos? When they get paid less for each one? When they get little or no acknowledgment of their work? When their assembled Legos are destroyed in front of their eyes?
What motivates people to keep on circling matching pairs of letters on a page? Because they've put their name on the page? What if the "marker" scans the page and says "uh huh"? What if the marker doesn't even look at their work? What if the marker puts the page right into a shredder?
What value do people ascribe to origami structures they've made themselves -- when the origamis are pretty ugly? When the instructions get tougher and the origamis uglier? And: do those independent evaluators who didn't build the origamis think they are worth as much as the origami makers do? Why do people like the Ikea furniture they've built themselves more than conventionally acquired furniture? Or like cakes more when they have made them from mixes to which they've added their own eggs and milk?
Ariely tells us that motivation, whether negative or positive, depends upon meaning: and that meaning is more than "pay" for work.
I get that. Weight loss maintenance isn't just the number on the scale for me, the "pay". If I'm motivated to maintain weight loss, it's in large part because for me this means I'm doing everything I can to avoid recurrence of estrogen-positive cancer.
Ariely tells us that motivation increases when the task is harder: but that the "Sisyphus" effect is pretty discouraging. You remember Sisyphus, eternally rolling his rock up the hill and then eternally tormented when just near the top the rock rolled back down again. Destroying the Legos had a similar effect. Weight loss can feel like that too: and of course we know that only 5% of those who take weight off keep it off. So: what can we do to avoid or diminish the Sisyphus effect?
Not requiring that we maintain our lowest achievable weight: being realistic about lowest sustainable weight.
Recharacterizing weight loss maintenance within a range.
Expecting that there will be "blips" up and catching them fast . .. before we "roll all the way to the bottom again".
Ariely says we're motivated to work longer and harder, despite pay or discouragement, if we really love the work: if we have an intrinsic joy in building Legos, for example.
And we can learn to take joy in eating healthily. Exercising reasonably. But: experience tells us that excess rigidity (never having an ice cream cone: running 10 km every day and, inevitably, injuring ourselves) are not conducive to weight loss maintenance.
Acknowledgement of our work matters. Even an "uh huh" to the Lego builder will help, or a quick scan of the matching pairs of letters on the page. Ignoring work, from a motivation perspective, is almost as deflating as having our work destroyed in front of our eyes.
We get more acknowledgement during the weight loss phase than the weight maintenance phase. So: if we want to sustain motivation in weight loss maintenance, we'll need to search out and create our own acknowledgment. SP's At Goal and Maintaining: Transition to Maintenance is a wonderful source of ongoing acknowledgment, and so too the comments by individual Spark friends on blogs! But we also need to give ourselves credit, acknowledge to ourselves that maintenance matters. Putting on your spring clothes and having them fit . . . matters. Looking good in a bathing suit . . . . matters
The more effort that goes into work, the more we value the product of the work. That's true for the Ikea furniture, and it's true for the origamis.
My "day job" might seem more prestigious than weight loss maintenance, and I do like what I do. It's most definitely meaningful to me. Getting the job required hard work. Doing the job requires hard work. But: I haven't done anything harder than weight loss maintenance. And so I value it. A lot. (Credibility in my profession is also enhanced, I'm pretty sure, by looking like a person who has a bit of . . . . self-discipline).
Ariely tells us that during the industrial revolution there was a huge focus on increased workplace efficiency: breaking manufacturing tasks into individual steps raised productivity. But: at the cost of alienating people from their labour because they didn't get to participate in the "big picture". That's what modern "knowledge economies" are all about.
Losing weight is a pretty efficient process -- reducing calorie intake, increasing calorie output. It results in pretty direct payout in terms of lower figures on the scales. Maintaining weight loss requires remaining engaged in the process. Maintenance must continue to be meaningful. It will be up to us to create ongoing meaning for ourselves -- both large scale meaning (those reduced health risks, including cancer and diabetes and heart issues) and smaller scale meanings (the increased pleasure in movement! those great vanity moments fitting into more attractive clothes!). We will need to set challenges, own our own efforts, make weight loss maintenance part of our personal identity, and take pride in it.
That's why I joke about my $50,000 body: the approximate annual cost in gym fees and foregone billable hours of sustaining weight loss and fitness. Would my 62 year old, post 90 pound weight loss wrinkly body be worth that to anyone else? Not thinking so . . . but it's worth it to me. I'm happy to be fitter and healthier at 62 than I was at 22 or 32 or 42: and to have sustained the weight loss from age 52 onwards (taking a few blips into consideration over the past decade plus).
Ariely isn't talking about motivation for weight loss maintenance. I've made these connections here, and he might not agree. Or might have no interest at all in such connections. But what Ariely has to say about workplace motivation is transferable to this maintenance work of ours.
And: weight loss maintenance IS work. The hardest work I've done. Requiring eternal vigilance. So I'm happy to grab onto any motivational techniques that look useful.