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Motivation a Major Factor in Successful Weight Loss


Many factors are involved in weight loss: How much and what types of food you eat, the amount and intensity of exercise to burn calories, and biological factors such as metabolism. Psychological factors also play a significant role, including motivation to stick with the program.

Researchers from the University of Kentucky and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined motivation and its relationship to adherence and weight loss in a 16-week intervention program. A “Treatment Self-Regulation Questionnaire” was given five separate times over the course of the study to 66 participants, which was used to identify the source of motivation for losing weight. In addition, the volunteers recorded their food intake, exercise, and body weight weekly.

There are two types of motivation – autonomous and controlled. Autonomous motivation is the choice to make changes for personal reasons without outside influences. Controlled motivation, or extrinsic motivation, is the feeling of pressure from others to make changes.

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Thirty seven of the 66 participants lost 5% of their initial body weight during the study. Those who had autonomous motivation were most successful in adhering to the program and in sustaining the weight loss. They were better at self-monitoring behaviors, particularly between weeks 4 and 8, when dieting motivation most typically begins to wane.

Motivation is a driving force that gives us the will to accomplish tasks and eventually succeed in almost any effort, but those who are most successful believe in the personal choices they are making will be beneficial as opposed to those who only feel temporarily motivated by a short-sighted goal, such as losing 10 pounds before a wedding or being pushed into an unhealthy diet to satisfy the expectations of others.

Those seeking to lose weight should first accept themselves and focus on the positive aspects of exchanging unhealthy habits for those that will help reach the goal of a more healthy body weight. Set goals that are realistic and easy enough to incorporate into your current lifestyle and keep a written tracking list on if you are meeting those goals and, if not, where you can improve. When dieting becomes hard and frustrating, such as when you hit a plateau in weight loss, remind yourself of how far you have already come and that you will get there in time. The sacrifices you make now will make for a healthier body in the very near future.

Source: “Motivation and Its Relationship to Adherence to Self-monitoring and Weight Loss in a 16-week Internet Behavioral Weight Loss Intervention” by Kelly H. Webber, PhD, MPH, RD; Deborah F. Tate, PhD; Dianne S. Ward, EdD; J. Michael Bowling, PhD. It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 42, Issue 3, (May/June 2010) published by Elsevier.



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