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What is your why for weight loss?

I once heard a piece of advice that if you want to accomplish something, ask yourself the question “Why?” five times to discover your real motivation for doing it.

In my work as a care manager, I often encounter people who feel they owe it to other to lose weight. Their original “Why?” for wanting to lose weight is because they feel inadequate.  

Though this internalized self-deprecation is very common among overweight and non-overweight people alike, I want to challenge the notion of shame-based weight loss. I believe a body-positive approach to weight loss, treating it like self-care, is a much more pleasant experience. Losing weight because you love yourself, rather than hate yourself, is a far more sustainable motivation.

Another way of thinking about weight loss motivation

The body positivity movement has gained a lot of attention the last few years, and there is a lot of confusion about what it means. Some people embrace it the concept, while others think it allows people to be complacent about their health and fitness.

While there are a lot of definitions for body positivity, I don’t believe that complacency is part of it. To me, body positivity is about caring and nourishing your body. It’s about exercise, so you move well and feel good in your body.

In a lot of ways our bodies can be compared to machines. And to me, body positivity means maintaining that machine to the best of your ability and treating it like you care about it.

Why shame and hating yourself are also not good for your body

Many people think that if they start to like themselves, it will kill their motivation to change. They instead focus on what they want to be, while hating what they are.

This may seem like a reasonable strategy in a world where we are inundated with fear-based messages about what people don’t want to happen. But studies actually show that fear-based motivation messages are often not effective for long-term change.

Emotions like shame, fear, and self-loathing often create a need for comfort and numbing. Eating can be a way people self-soothe after receiving these types of messages from themselves or others, which can lead to a nasty cycle of binge eating.

Getting back to knowing your why

If you feel motivated to lose weight due to not liking yourself or seeing yourself as inadequate, it doesn’t mean you have to give up. It’s just a matter of reframing.

If you want to lose weight so people will treat you differently, or you feel you’re letting others down, question how that affects you and what benefits there are for you.

Recognize the other benefits of weight loss beyond others’ perceptions and focus on them. Losing weight is a process, as is changing your mindset. A lot of people want to have lost weight, but don’t want to endure the work or adjust to the reality of changing their lifestyle.

Acknowledge your own inherent value and the reasons why you should take care of yourself. Practice self-love (practice being the key word—none of us are perfect at it), and the studies show you will be more likely to succeed.