Today I want to talk a little bit about finding your motivation; what is it that drives you to eat healthfully and work out? Is it purely for vanity, is it for health reasons? Maybe its a mixture of the two, maybe it’s something else entirely. I recently overheard a couple of conversations while at the gym which made me stop and think a little bit about this. The two conversations are so drastically different that it got me thinking about the goals that we all have for ourselves, and are there some that will help to drive more intrinsic motivation than others?
First, the conversation that left me a little bit bewildered. While I was
torturing myself foam rolling one day post-workout, there were a couple of girls sitting next to me pretending to do an ab workout. (You know the type, 5 crunches, then stop and talk for a while, than maybe a few more crunches… Really beneficial, obviously). Their conversation went something like this:
Girl 1: Why can’t I lose weight?
Girl 2: I don’t know. Probably those french fries we ate last night. What if we just ate salads for a week?
Girl 1: Yeah, how much weight do you think we could lose if we JUST ate salad for a week?
Girl 2: Probably like 10 pounds, we should try it next week.
Obviously there was more said than this, but this was the general gist of what they were saying. They were talking about legitimately only eating salad (raw veggies, no dressing) for an entire week. Every meal. Every day.
How successful do you think they would be at this? If I had to bet, I’d say they’d both be off of the salad wagon within a day. Not only that, but even if they did last a week, they’d be so devoid of nutrients and most likely ridiculously starving, that their bodies would put the weight back on in a flash once they started eating normally again.
Now, I don’t really care if these girls want to go on a raw veggie diet, because honestly, it’s none of my business. But what I am interested in is the motivation behind all of this. If their motivation were to be healthier, this plan would never be on the table. Missing out on vital nutrients, doing this for a one-week period, only focusing on how much weight could be lost in that time period: it all screams vanity (and some serious miseducation about nutrition). The question is, is pure vanity alone enough motivation to stay disciplined on an ultra-strict diet such as this one? Is it enough to motivate people to continue with diet plans or is there something else we need to stay motivated for the long run?
Moving on to the second conversation I overheard. (I know what you’re thinking — and No, I do not make a habit of eavesdropping… but I can’t help it if my iPod battery died and your conversation is the only thing I can hear besides my own breathing). This conversation was also between two females, but this one left me with an entirely different feeling. You’ll see why:
Girl 1(While lifting weights): I wish I could lift like you do, my arms are wobbly because they’re not strong enough yet.
Girl 2 (Also lifting weights): I started out lifting 12.5 pounds, and now I’m lifting 22.5! You’ll get there, you’ll get stronger.
Girl 1: Yeah, I guess so.
Girl 2: I love being strong! It feels so great. Since I’ve been lifting weights my family asks me to help them carry heavy things instead of the boys. I feel like if I were to get attacked I could protect myself. I just love knowing that I can take care of myself and that my family can depend on me to help out when they need me.
WHAT?!?! I know it seems like I made this conversation up, but I promise you I actually overheard this. I seriously wanted to give this girl a hug. It was one of the best things I’ve heard in the gym in a long time, and she went on for a few minutes about how much better she feels in general now that she is stronger than she used to be.
Clearly, this girl had motivation that went far beyond vanity. Sure, she probably likes the way she looks a little bit more since she’s been working out, but it’s the other things that seem to really push her: Being able to help her family, being able to protect herself.
If I had to place all of my life savings (which, lets face it, isn’t that impressive) on one pair of these girls on which will be healthier one month from now (heck, even one year from now), I would, without a doubt, place all of my money on the girl who is motivated by far more than vanity.
Granted, I’m pretty positive that all of us are motivated by vanity at some point, but I really do feel like there has to be more than that. Maybe you want to be strong so that you can run around with your children, maybe you want to be healthy so that you can still run around with your children years from now. Maybe you want to be strong so that you can be independent and not rely on others to do things for you; Maybe you want to be healthy so that you are able to do things like hike mountains, go kayaking, or learn how to surf.
Whatever your motivation is, even if vanity is part of it (and be honest, because if you say vanity has nothing to do with why you work out, I’m calling you a liar), keep it in mind as you go about your daily life. Yes, the motivation provided by vanity may be all you need to stop yourself from reaching for that afternoon treat, but finding what it’ll take for you to really work hard toward reaching your goals is what will help you in the long run.
What motivates you to eat healthy? To get regular workouts in? Do you think that vanity is enough to sustain a long term health-living plan? Or do you need something more to help you through the inevitable challenges that can be presented when trying to live healthfully?