One hundred and fifteen pounds is a number that has made me proud. This amount is the accumulated weight lost by three of my clients this past year. What motivated them? How is it that they could change, because typically desire dwindles somewhere between the contemplation and the reality of changing. Yet these three have succeeded because of their individual motivation for change, and their reasons were not for an upcoming class reunion or appearances; their motives were intrinsic.
For Michael, a 41-year-old technical advisor and father, the choice was clear—he didn't want to go down the path of his father, who died young from heart disease. Michael's body mass index was 31, putting him at risk as obese. What drove him to change was a longer-term outcome. He wanted to become healthy to hike, backpack and hang out with his young son and family.
All three folks dug a little deeper into directing their own lives. To keep motivated, all three—Michael, Scott and Stacy—had to ask themselves the big question: What did they truly want to achieve? Whatever their reasons, it doesn't happen overnight, as Daniel Pink writes in "Drive—The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us." It takes consistency, time and patience, as anyone who's learned a new language or trained for a marathon knows. It's the successful 30-pound loss of Scott, running up a trail, empowered and able to identify solutions to business problems, that fueled him on.
To keep yourself motivated, Pink says, the small questions are just as important. At the end of each day, ask yourself, were you better today than yesterday? Get specific. You don't have to be flawless. Maybe you went a day without ice cream. Maybe you took an evening ride on your bike because you skipped a morning workout.
Scott likes technology and used an app called "Lose It" for more motivation. Texting and technology can be great tools, as results from a pilot study recently demonstrated. A 16-week study to change eating behaviors, physical activity behaviors and body weight showed a 6 percent weight loss with daily texts compared to the non-texted group, which had a 3 percent weight loss. Three texts were sent at 7-8 a.m., midday, and at 7 p.m., consisting of a motivational message, portion control and an end-of-day reminder if you didn't get your activity in earlier in the day. The researchers also noted, however, that weight loss was best at six months with weekly person-to-person meetings, goal setting, feedback and problem solving, at 10 percent weight loss.
Stacy rediscovered how much she used to love running and how good it made her feel. (She had previously opted to watch movies in her bathrobe most mornings.) Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the concept of flow some 35 years ago, when you are immersed in the moment and time seems to stop for you. As Stacy rediscovered, it feels good when our bodies and minds are encouragingly stretched to the limits to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. As Pink writes in "Drive," in flow, the challenges you set for yourself are neither too easy nor too difficult. They are just a notch or two beyond what you think you can accomplish. Then, feeling recharged, kick back and savor the rewards.
Connie Aronson is a Ketchum-based health fitness specialist and personal trainer.