Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Motivation Matters

Understanding why one wants to change a behavior is an incredibly important ingredient for success. It's wonderful to have a goal, but personally, if I don't have a clear idea of why I want to make a change, I'm doomed. It's easy to give way to temptation when my friends are eating brownie sundaes or to forgo exercise on a frigid February day if I'm not 100% clear on my motivation.

With regards to weight loss, this is by no means my first time around the block. I've tried and "failed" dozens of times. I always thought it was a matter of me finding the right program or food or reading the right inspirational story. But the thing that was common in all of my previous attempts was a lack of the true motivation.

There are lots of reasons to try to lose weight, and many of them are very good reasons. My grandmother wants me to "get skinny" so I can meet someone. For a while, I tried to use that as my carrot on a stick, but that didn't work so well for me. The truth is, I knew I would never want to be with someone who couldn't see the beauty in me at a size 28. Maybe that's unrealistic, but it's the way I feel. Once I realized that, I adopted a "who cares!" attitude and abandoned my weight loss efforts.

A friend told me that I should lose weight to "show" all the people who made fun of me when I was at my heaviest. Success is the best revenge. That worked for a while. I imagined the stunned look on people's faces when I walked into my high school reunion a svelte size 6 or when I sashayed past that guy who rejected me three years ago. Yeah! That'll teach 'em! The problem with that is that while I'm a passionate woman, I could never drum up a rage that could rival my love for Ben and Jerry. Uh-huh. That says it all.

I tried on other motivations. Up-coming weddings, holidays, vacations and milestones. I bought beautiful outfits 2 sizes too small and promised myself fabulous rewards. Punishments for not changing had little influence on me. My knees and ankles ache when I walk, but I didn't care. Instead, I convinced myself that everyone's knees and ankles ache. The truth is that I just couldn't imagine anything that would change my mind--that is until the day I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes.

Both of my parents have Type II diabetes. While my father was just recently diagnosed, my mother had known she was diabetic for the past eight years. She felt helpless, and despite my family's prompting, did nothing. She refused to attend diabetic education classes and she made no lasting attempt to modify her diet. She lost weight, but because she never exercised and consumed a diet which was about 85-90% carbohydrate, she was unable to control her blood sugar. She stopped monitoring it. For the last two years, she has been experiencing some serious complications. She has mobility problems and is partially incontinent. I don't feel like it's her fault; she just couldn't find her motivation.

For years my sister and I begged and cried and rang our hands but made no changes to our own lifestyles. However, learning I was pre-diabetic was like a punch in the gut. I was terrified and acted accordingly. I cut about three quarters of the carbohydrates out of my diet, went to a dietitian and began focusing on getting my 10,000 steps a day.

My diagnosis was a blessing. It was the motivation I needed to make healthy changes. I haven't been entirely disciplined. Between March and November of 2007, I was able to lose 35 pounds. It was slow, but I was patient.

I've been losing and gaining the same five pounds since the holidays began. I haven't made any headway, but my motivation remains and for that I'm truly grateful. I have also found new motivation along the way. The recognition of others, being able to buy a smaller size and walk for an extended period are wonderful incentives.

Every individual is motivated by something different. There's no wrong if it motivates you to do something positive. So what's your motivation?

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