4 Types of Motivation and How They Affect Weight-loss


Motivation is the driving force through which we strive to achieve our goals. If you are pursuing weight-loss to be healthier, having the right motivations can help you keep going when the going gets tough. Motivation gives you something to visualize, inspires you, and can equip you for any challenges that lie ahead.

4 Types of Motivation

First, a few facts about motivation itself. There are four types, or sources:

  • External Motivation – Often initiated by outside sources such as friends, family or doctors. For example: “My doctor says I need to lose at least 50 lbs.”
  • Guilt-driven Motivation – A result of trying to escape from negative feelings. For example: “I would feel badly if I didn’t go to the gym this week.”
  • Identified Motivation – A result of wanting to be like, or identify with, someone else who is doing the behavior in question. For example: “I want to be like the people at my gym who are very fit and seem very confident.”
  • Internal Motivation – Happens when the desire to change arises within the person. For example: “I like doing it…it’s fun” or “I want to lose weight to get off a medication, so I want to give it all I have.”

Is There a Best Type?

Studies that examined motivation to exercise or lose weight have shown that the most enduring source of behavior change is internal motivation. The more a person’s motivation comes from within, as opposed to an outside influence (i.e. doctor or spouse), the more likely it is that behavior change will continue.

Unfortunately, because of the weight bias and stigma that exists in society, many people are motivated to lose weight to feel better about themselves. While it’s okay to want to feel more confident in your body and your health, it’s important to realize that weight is not connected to your self-worth or your character.

What Motivates You?

Before embarking on a weight-loss journey, stop to ask yourself why this is something you want to do. Here some common answers:

  • Alleviate weight-related health conditions / go off a medication
  • Improve self-esteem and body image
  • Increase mobility and more easily accomplish physical tasks
  • Business or job advancement
  • Increase social attractiveness

People who attempt weight-loss for health reasons and increased mobility are examples of people who are fueled by internal motivation. However, you may find that you are driven by one or more of these motivation types.

One of the best things you can do to keep yourself motivated is to list all the driving forces that inspire you to work on weight management. Go through them one by one and try to categorize them into one of the four motivation types listed above. Is it a healthy source of motivation? Is it sustainable? Will it serve you equally well in the future?

Once you have done this exercise, you should start to see the real reasons you want to manage your weight. Hold on to your internal motivations and lean on them when things get tough and you feel discouraged.

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