Weight Loss Motivation 101

by Joshua Wayne, MA

I get emails from people everyday sharing their frustrations and challenges with weight loss.  About 60% of them say they lack the motivation to stick with their weight loss program.  They report that they do well for awhile and lose some weight, but inevitably fall off track- whether due to a loss of focus or some other kind of self-sabotage. 

As a Personal Development Coach specializing in weight loss, and who was originally trained as a psychotherapist, it’s very easy for me to give them advice, but as I sat down to write this article, I thought it might be nice to really start at the most basic, fundamental level of understanding motivation, and to then work up from there.

So armed with my trusty Mozilla Firefox I did a quick Google search for a basic definition of the word.  Here is the first thing that Google gave me to consider (it came from an online dictionary associated with Princeton University):

“the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and the condition of being motivated.”

So let’s pull some key words from that definition and see if we can come up with a useful way to apply the concept to weight loss.

Action Toward a Desired Goal- Taking action here implies that there is a desired goal in place, so the first thing that you must be absolutely clear on is ‘what is your goal?’

The challenge here is that it’s usually not sufficient to just come up with a number.  20 pounds or 30 pounds isn’t going to cut it.  You’ve known that for perhaps years, and telling yourself “I need to lose 20 pounds” over and over again hasn’t gotten the job done.  Just having a number in mind is not provocative enough of a goal.  Read The Next Page

So consider: the better question to ask is, “Why do you really want to lose weight”?  At first glance, this may sound like an obvious question, but if you’re struggling with your weight, you need to ask yourself this question again and again until you have a very clear answer. 

Why are you looking to lose weight?

➢    To feel more confident to start dating again?
➢    To get into your favorite pair of jeans?
➢    To feel sexy for your husband or wife?
➢    To look good at your upcoming high school reunion?
➢    Because the doctor told you you’re pre-diabetic but that there is still a chance to turn it around?
➢    Because you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired?

You have to become crystal clear on your “Why”.  This is the first step in establishing a goal. 

Now let’s look at the first half of that equation, the part about ‘taking action’.  When you get clear and write it down, how motivated to take action are you?  Do you feel your emotions stirring?  Are you feeling the pull to get off the couch?  Are you feeling the readiness to break your bad habits and make changes to your diet?

If you’re not, then you probably need to do some more work on your “Why”, because your “Why” is the foundation of your motivation.

Here is a hint: some people are more naturally motivated towards pleasure (the thought of looking great in a summer dress, meeting a guy/girl, running a 10K), while others are more motivated away from pain (being single forever, having to start taking insulin, having to see their high school friends while being heavy). 

The trick is to find out which one- “Towards Pleasure” or “Away From Pain”- is more compelling to you in terms of your weight loss, and to focus on that.  Write down all the reasons that cause you to begin to stir and want to take action.  This is just for your, so be bold and write everything down, even if it’s very personal.  This is a very important step that cannot be overlooked.   Read The Next Page

That Which Gives Purpose- Building on your “Why”, what is your deeper purpose behind losing weight?  How will your life be better if you lose the weight? 

Create a compelling picture for yourself that is rich in detail of how your life will be better.

➢    What will you be doing?
➢    Who will you be doing it with?
➢    Where will you be
➢    How will you feel when you’re there?
➢    What clothes will you be wearing- or not wearing ; ) ?

In case you didn’t notice, all of the above examples were written in “Towards Pleasure” language.  But maybe you’ll find that doesn’t work so well for you- maybe it doesn’t quite give you a sense of purpose.

If not, how about if you change the wording around a bit?  Remember, some people are more motivated “Away From Pain”.  If this is you, you’ll be more stirred by this question: “So if you don’t lose the weight, or if it continues to get worse and worse, how unhappy and miserable will you be?”

Similarly, you may want to create a compelling negative picture for yourself. 

➢    If you don’t lose the weight, what are you going to miss out on?
➢    What opportunities will you lose out on?  Maybe the ability to enjoy healthy time with your family late into your life?  Or maybe it’ll mean you continue to go out to go to restaurants and take vacations by yourself.
➢    How will your health deteriorate if you don’t lose weight?
➢    What does the hospital room look like where you’ll have to go for dialysis treatments?

So create a compelling picture for how your life is going to be better if you lose the weight, or worse if you don’t.  Cultivate this picture until it gives you a clear sense of purpose.  When that purpose is there, you will be much close to taking the necessary action. 

Remember, that while uncovering your “Why” and the deeper purpose that motivates you is a first step that cannot be skipped over, we all get busy and stressed, and it’s very easy to lose our focus.  At least until you build some positive, forward momentum and get comfortable with your new habits and behaviors, you may have to remind yourself of your “Why” and your deeper purpose again and again every day. 

Write down your answers on an index card and put in by your bed stand or tape it to the bathroom mirror. Every morning and every night remind yourself why you really want to lose weight.  Remind yourself why you need to begin taking action today, what the payoff will be if you do, and what the cost will be if you don’t.

This is not the only step on the journey, of course, but it is an important one that you have to master early on.  Getting the right support in place is also extremely important, as is learning how to handle the stress and challenges of daily life in a healthy, constructive way that doesn’t cause you to abandon your weight loss efforts or turn to food for emotional comfort.

But every journey begins with a single step, and understanding these fundamentals about motivation is unquestionably the first one. I have also put together a
short quiz that you can take to find out how likely you are to follow through on your plans.

All The Best,


Joshua Wayne, MA is a Personal Development Coach and trained psychotherapist with an emphasis on weight loss motivation and mind/body wellness.

In his private practice Joshua has helped his clients achieve their weight loss goals, shape their life direction and resolve a wide range of family problems from relationship difficulties to out of control teenagers.

Joshua has a Masters Degree in Counseling.   He has also been intensely interested in and studying personal development, fitness and spirituality for close to 20 years.  Joshua also heads up the PEERtrainer 12 Week "Point Of No Return" Coaching Program.