What's Your Spark?

By , Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
According to a Gallup poll, more than half of all Americans have a desire to lose weight, but only about a quarter of them are actually working toward that goal. That means roughly 25 percent are actively trying to shed pounds and embrace healthier lifestyles. So what sets those go-getters apart from the people who haven't gotten off the couch?
In a word, they've found their "spark"—that glimmer of motivation that compels them to not only set goals, but to take the steps and make the sacrifices to achieve them. Without a spark—without a why—you'll be hard-pressed to achieve real results, simply because you don't yet have a compelling reason to do it.
In a group of 50 people who all want to lose weight, there might be just as many different motivators. One person could be driven by a vision of a stronger, slimmer version of herself. For another, the stimulus might be a health scare that spotlights the need for life-saving weight loss. Other sparks could include the desire to start a family, run a race, pursue a physically demanding career, tap into a creative outlet or have enough energy to keep up with children or grandchildren.

SparkPeople Members Share Their Sparks

Motivation is contagious! Get inspired by these SparkPeople members, who were eager to share the defining moments that ignited their fires. Use their stories to help you find your own spark.

"Being a mom is something that I really want to do. When I think about how being healthy will affect that goal, I'm extremely motivated. I know that whenever I get pregnant, being healthy means that my baby will get more nutrients and I'll be able to withstand the physical changes of pregnancy and labor and delivery better when I'm physically fit. As a mom, I can pass on healthy habits to my children. It keeps me going, even on days that are harder for me."

"One big way I stay focused on fitness and nutrition is remembering why I want this, why I want to be strong and healthy. My big ‘why’ is for my three children: I make them my reason, not my excuse. I want them to grow up with proper nutrition and daily exercise in their lives, so they are set up for success from the start! I also want this for me...to finally meet my fitness goals I have set for myself. I deserve that!"

"I agree that being a role model/example for others to live the highest quality, healthiest life is a valuable motivation. Enjoying the rewards of being healthy and fit affects everything, from my energy for work to the joy in friendships."

"I want to like how I look. I want to feel good in my body. I want to live a long, healthy, active life. I want to keep hiking and making art all my life."

"My thighs rub together and wear away the material on my jeans between my legs. I've thrown out countless pairs of pants because of this issue and it kills my confidence to see those holes in my jeans. And I want to be smokin' hot. I want to see what that feels like after being called countless names growing up."

"I want to wear something other than stretchy/maternity pants again."

"To feel more confident. For clothes to look better. Because my boyfriend gave up smoking and I am inspired by his willpower."

"Working out and eating right makes me happy, going on hiking adventures with people and being active with friends makes me happy."

"I think overall health has a big impact on happiness in life, and I want to have a happy, long life."

"Simply...I love it. Working out is my happy, my drug, my stress reliever, my thing."

"I am tired of being overweight and exhausted."

"I am not comfortable with my body. I don't fit into any of my clothes, I'm sluggish and I have a hard time moving."

"I want to live. My father died prematurely of complications of diabetes. I'm pre-diabetic. There is no gray area for me."

"I don't want to be in a wheelchair and dependent on others."

"(I want) to stay as healthy as possible for my senior years."

"Why am I doing this? Because my entire life, up until my early forties, I didn't do anything to eat healthy or lose weight. I was sure that no matter what I did, I would always be fat because it was in my genetic makeup. Now I know the truth: My weight management is 100% up to me. I am doing this because I want to be healthy and break the cycle of obesity in my family."

Finding and Nurturing Your Spark

If you want to lose weight but lack motivation, you may need to do a little more digging to pinpoint your "why." Ask yourself what is important to you, and how losing weight could help you achieve or protect that. Do you want to have enough energy to travel abroad? Would you like to finally feel confident after years of being teased or ignored? Do you simply want to live a longer, healthier life without relying on prescriptions and mobility aids? Are you afraid of becoming a burden on your children or grandchildren?
Once you've found your spark (or multiple sparks), stay committed with these quick tips:
  • Write it down. Keep your spark in plain sight, whether it's on a chalkboard in the kitchen, a poster on your office wall, or a screensaver on your phone. Looking at your written goal will help keep you motivated and connected to your goal.
  • Use a visual motivator. Find or create pictures that represent your spark. Maybe it's a photo of yourself during a healthier time, an image of a place you've always wanted to visit, pictures of your children or grandchildren or a photo of a favorite activity you want to enjoy for years to come. Paired with your written statement, these images can be a powerful tool to keep you on track.
  • Revisit your spark. Goals are living, breathing things. It's unrealistic to expect that they'll never change, or that there won't be detours along the path to success. Every so often, take the time to reflect on your spark, make any necessary adjustments, forgive yourself for slip-ups and remind yourself why you started in the first place.
What's your spark? What drives you every day to push farther and harder toward your goals?