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Are Fear Motivators Or Happy Motivators More Powerful?

Most of us need a motivating factor(s) to embark seriously and focused on a weight control journey.  Some of these motivators are triggered by fear of something occurring if we do not control the weight.  Some examples of these include fears of:

  • Suffering a severe medical outcome (such as a heart attack, stroke, cancer) if the weight is not lost
  • Not being able to keep up physically with children/grandchildren
  • Having a weakened immune system to fight off future Covid waves and other pathogens
  • Having people look at you and judge you based on your poor weight control

Conversely, there are “happy” motivators that can serve to help gear up your weight control efforts.  Some examples of these include:

  • Having an upcoming wedding or other event and striving to fit into a certain outfit
  • Winning some “Biggest Loser” contest at work and being awarded a prize for the great amount of weight loss
  • Having people tell you, with increasing frequency, how much younger/healthier you look as the weight loss progresses
  • Throwing away a bottle of pills that was treating a weight-related co-morbidity that is no longer present.

So, of the different types of motivators, which is the more powerful set?  Here is my opinion, but first, an analogy:  I have had many patients in my career that have been smokers.  Despite trying so hard to convince them to stop smoking, offering help, etc., rarely does the smoker stop smoking.  However, I have witnessed many people that suffer some serious medical event such as a heart attack, and on that same day of the ER visit, smoking is stopped forever.  The fear of dying or suffering more serious events is enough to break the addiction.

Unfortunately, I believe that fear inspires more action than quest for a “happy” outcome.  There is something about our internal chemicals beyond the “fight or flight” hormones that trigger us into action when we feel fear.  

The purpose of this entry is not to ask you to spend every waking moment cowering in fear of the consequences of NOT losing the weight.  However, when you think of the reasons you should, keep in mind all of those reasons and not simply the quest to fit into a certain outfit for an event that will come and go.  The “happy” motivators tend to have a finish line.

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