Finding the Motivation to Get Motivated

Many people have approached me over the last couple years to ask where it is that I found the motivation to change my life so drastically. Most of them knew me from before as a (funny) obese, chain-smoking couch potato and are fascinated by my transformation into to a (funny) healthy living advocate and runner.

Before I get to the answer just yet, I think it’s important to establish what exactly motivation is. By definition, motivation is “that which gives purpose and direction to behavior.” (Source) With this in mind, it basically means we are looking for something to drive us to exercise and eat well – something to get us going.


Everyone has their own reasons that motivate them to want to change their life. They can include anything like losing weight, breathing better, running faster, reducing the amount of medication needed, feeling sexy, fitting in smaller clothes, finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, lowering blood pressure. I could go on.

I was young enough when I started to change my life that I didn’t have any serious medical issues yet, but knew I was on the road to an early grave. My father, who I largely take after (pun intended) has every disease under the sun related to being obese – Type II Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea.

While avoiding a future full of medications and complications from something that was preventable was definitely one reason I wanted to lose weight, I was also getting to the point where I was simply sick of being fat. I had been obese for so many years of my life, but the trouble was I was blaming other things and people even though I really did want to change.

I blamed my parents for fostering my obsession with food and for not leading by a healthy example.

I blamed the food itself for being so delicious and for being hard to resist.

I blamed the clothes that didn’t fit because they were made so small and not true to size.

I blamed moderation for not being a part of who I was.

You get the idea. The bottom line was that all I knew was it wasn’t my fault.

Then one day in late 2008, I was visiting my gyno for an annual appointment, and she straight up asked me what was going on with my weight. I didn’t know how to respond at all, and so she asked me what my plan was and why I didn’t just join Weight Watchers. I do NOT like being told what to do, and certainly not from someone who didn’t understand the true reasons behind my obesity.

I was humiliated. I left the office feeling defeated, embarrassed, angry, mad, sad and like I had been seriously wronged. After tossing these negative feelings around in my head for several days and then letting the anger subside a bit, I started to reconsider what she had said.

I realized that maybe she was in tune with the reasons for my obesity. She asked me what my plan was. What was I going to do to fix the problem.

It was then that it clicked.

Motivation is not something that happens to you – it is something you make happen. Those who are motivated are not waiting for something or someone else to get them motivated; they are making it happen for themselves.

I was only successful in changing my life this time around because I finally accepted personal responsibility for my obesity, rather than succumbing to the excuses I had developed a true knack for making over the years.

So now back to the original question – where did I find the motivation to change my life?

Right here.

I just wish I had known it was within me all along.

I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on this. Was accepting responsibility a turning point for you? What would you say motivates you to live a healthy life?

46 Comments on Finding the Motivation to Get Motivated

  1. Kalli
    March 2, 2011 at 8:33 am (10 years ago)

    love this post. thank you for sharing this private realization with us beth. i think motivation now comes from wanting to live my best life and being able to in my older years. i am no spring chicken now but love that i can go play with my younger friends all the time 🙂

  2. Katie Photiadis
    March 2, 2011 at 8:39 am (10 years ago)

    This is SUCH a great post!!! Thank you for sharing this defining moment in your life. I can really relate to this post. I, too, felt like it was everyone’s fault–except mine–that I had weight issues. And it wasn’t until I realized that I actually had the power to change things that I started losing weight and getting healthier.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  3. Gretchen @ Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen!
    March 2, 2011 at 8:55 am (10 years ago)

    Thanks for posting this, girl. As I only came to my own personal realization last August, hearing how you came about deciding to get healthy is still so close to my journey here. I too used to blame everyone else for my obesity – my dad, for being overweight most of his life (he is now super healthy, so I guess that was probably a motivating factor for me too), my mom for always nagging me about my weight and making me feel defiant, my brother for eating unhealthily, the clothing stores, the magazines, the media, etc, etc, etc. But it wasn’t until I took personal responsibility for letting myself get so, well, fat, that I could really start the process of reversing that.

    I’m not even sure if I can identify the specific thing that happened that made me decide to change things once and for all, stop being obese, lazy, and emotionally addicted to (crappy) food but something definitely changed in me the day that I decided to start my blog and change my life. But here I am, over 45 pounds gone so far and I have to say it is literally the best thing that has ever happened to me!

    Your success continues to be such a huge source of inspiration for me as I continue to work my way down toward a healthy weight. Thank you!

  4. Victoria (District Chocoholic)
    March 2, 2011 at 9:20 am (10 years ago)

    It’s definitely true you need to make it happen for yourself, and sadly, some people never realize this. I’m glad you did, it makes it possible to achieve so much more, and you are living proof of this.

    For me, my turning point wasn’t about physical health, as I’ve been a competitive athlete since I was 10, but about mental health. I finally buckled down to work on that for good about a year and a half ago (details are complicated so I’ll stop there).

  5. Bambi
    March 2, 2011 at 9:22 am (10 years ago)

    Wow. Thank you for this post. I have been stuggling to figure this out for myself.
    I too blamed my parents, extended family, media for my eating problems and weight. I know that I learned my habits from my family but I was the one who didn’t change for all those years.
    I went through a very tough time at the end of last year and through a lot of soul searching I decided that I was done with the all the unhealthy things I was doing to myself. I was slowly killing myself and I figured out I want to live. So that is my motivation for this journey. I want to live instead of hiding behind my fat.

  6. Emily
    March 2, 2011 at 9:28 am (10 years ago)

    There aren’t words for how motivating you and this post are. I hit a low-point with my motivation at -48lbs last August, and I’ve since gained about 10lbs back and maintained that weight. I’m certainly thankful that I’ve been able to maintain the -38, of course, but I really needed to read this this morning since I am recommitting to the program today. You’re my hero! 🙂

  7. mtommasi
    March 2, 2011 at 9:40 am (10 years ago)

    wow, you look great for having this realization in ’08! I had the same thoughts running through my head – but it took a breakup (but we’re back together) and a move back home (living in FL, moved home to VA) that changed things. I just simply ATE LESS, because i didn’t feel like it. So I think that shrank my stomach a bit. Plus eating from mom’s fresh garden helped too 🙂 Now I’m back to living with my boyfriend and he’s a runner so we eat pretty healthy and run (not together yet, he’s at half marathon status and i’m at like 5K status!) I want people to know that it doesn’t happen overnight, and don’t refer to it as a DIET! It’s a lifestyle change! And reading some comments (& even your post) – don’t put the blame on you or anyone, just change now! Fantastic post Beth, thank you!!

  8. Amy @ Second City Randomness
    March 2, 2011 at 9:42 am (10 years ago)

    The amount of motivation and perseverance you’ve shown over the last year that I’ve read your blog is amazing. Just sayin’.

    I think my motivation at first was purely physical. I have no issues admitting that. I was never an unhealthy weight (maybe 10 lbs heavier than I am now?), but I was living unhealthy. Chain smoking, constant drinking while enjoying my staples of pasta and pizza, etc. Once I started to actually feel better while losing the muffin top, that’s when things really started to kick into gear. I couldn’t believe the difference in energy!

    I started learning SO MUCH about nutrition later than I probably should have. Which made me a little resentful towards my parents, but hey- like you said, some of that responsibility falls on yourself at some point. And it’s better late than never, right? 🙂

  9. Marci
    March 2, 2011 at 9:48 am (10 years ago)

    That is a great post, Beth. To look back and write about it means you are totally in charge and on the other side of obesity.
    i agree that it is so easy to blame others, and blame good tasting food! That’s a good one.
    My problem is I have recently put on a little weight and don’t know what’s happening. But I do blame me and know it’s up to me to figure it out. I tend to always think my problem is more complicated than other people but don’t know why.
    Anyway, can’t wait til you reach your goal so soon!

  10. Stephanie @ The Cookie Battle
    March 2, 2011 at 10:13 am (10 years ago)

    What motivates me to live a (semi) healthy life is how it makes me feel. I feel so much better physically and mentally when I am eating healthy foods and getting a variety of nutrients. The same goes for exercise, I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I complete a hard workout. It’s the self esteem boost that keeps me coming back 🙂

  11. Holly
    March 2, 2011 at 10:17 am (10 years ago)

    Great post Beth – I too have spent time blaming others (mostly my parents) for my bad eating habits. But you explained it so well, I needed to take responsibility for myself and change things.

    What motivates me? Feeling good about how I look and how I feel each day — and as corny as it sounds, one day I hope to have kids and I want to be a healthy example for them, so that they hopefully don’t have the struggles my sisters and I have had when it comes to food.

    • Beth
      March 2, 2011 at 10:18 am (10 years ago)

      That doesn’t sound corny at all! I am actually so excited to be able to lead by healthy example one day when I have kids so that they grow up realizing that good food and exercise make them FEEL good and that is what’s important!

  12. OliePants
    March 2, 2011 at 10:20 am (10 years ago)

    This is probably one of the best posts you’ve ever done! And you do a lot of great posts. I spent so much time blaming my parents for my weight and then would just go back to eating. It was just a never ending cycle. Until I got away to school and lived by myself. Then, I realized that I had no one to blame except myself because no one was forcing me to do anything. It was in law school that I saw that my life was not just going to change for the better, but rather I had to take the reigns for myself. It’s still an everyday process and I struggle and fall a lot. But, I have changed to know that it’s no one ‘s fault by my own and no one’s responsibility but my own!

    • Beth
      March 2, 2011 at 10:22 am (10 years ago)

      Thank you! And I agree – it’s not like one day you decide to be healthy and then that’s it. It’s about making healthy decisions every day, every meal, every chance you get. Another major change for me was realizing that if I fall, just get back up. Don’t start again next week or next month or tomorrow, start now. That’s been a huge difference for me this go-round.

  13. Kandi
    March 2, 2011 at 10:55 am (10 years ago)

    Wow. How candid your doctor was with you. But I can see how that was a motivation in itself.

    I’m just starting my journey to healthy living. I kinda figured it out mentally last year, but this January is when I got MOTIVATED.

    My problem was always fear. Fear of change. I had always been on the heavy side and so it just felt normal to me. I didn’t want to think too much about how it would be to be in a normal/healthy weight range and what changes that would bring in my life (even if the changes were positive). As I got older and the weight starts to take a toll on you, I was just afraid to do anything about it.

    But I agree with you 100%, at one point, I just get TIRED of being overweight. I looked at a picture of myself at Thanksgiving a year ago and said “Kandi, look what you did to yourself.” Then I told myself its time to stop being afraid and lazy and just take charge.

    Staying motivated is hard. I’ve lost 16 pounds and sometimes I think “okay, that’s enough. I don’t want to do this anymore.” I really am afraid of what I can be and feel and experience if I’m healthier. So that’s why I love the health blogs like this which lets me see that there are other women out here pushing through each day just like me. As Kalli commented earlier, I want to live my best life. I want to be the best I can be. I want to live consciously and happy and as healthy as possibe during my time hear on this planet.

    Please keep the blog motivation coming! (And sorry for such a long post, I can be long-winded). 😮

  14. Emily
    March 2, 2011 at 11:35 am (10 years ago)

    I definitely had a less life-transforming event than you, but after getting a stress fracture, coping with depression and gaining a lot of wait, I too, visited my gyno who I had seen six months earlier. She looked at the scale, looked at her notes (saw a 20+pound weight gain in six months), looked back at the scale and asked “did I write this down wrong last time?” I got my ass back in gear that day and haven’t looked back since.

  15. Emily
    March 2, 2011 at 11:44 am (10 years ago)

    Thank you for this post. It sums up what I’ve been grappling with, even after joining WW May 2010, and not “being able” to stick with it consistently. I kept waiting for it to be easy, like other things have been for me in life – where external motivation (i.e. parents, oh-if-i-don’t-work-i-won’t-get-paid, etc.) has usually been more than enough to make me an overachiever even.

    But with becoming healthy, it didn’t matter how many times my dad glared at me with disgust, or my mom (the super-healthy-runner-nurse-lady-hero) told me that I should take care of my health…I was waiting for some magical motivation fairy to make things just happen, and that I would be good at it (natch).

    Accepting responsibility for my weight and my hypertension at the age of 33 was KEY. I had to stop blaming my dad, my full-time teaching stress, then my grad school stress, my this-relationship-didn’t-work-out-so-I’m-probably-never-going-to-get-married stress, and so on and so on.

    Anyway, this comment is turning into a post. Ha. I realize, more than the eating and the exercise, it’s the mental choices each day – am I going to choose to engage my mind and body into this endeavor, put in the hard work of owning it and motivating myself in this way, or am I going to keep wasting time (and ultimately my life) looking for some shortcut.

    This post made me think a lot, and strengthen my vows to myself, so THANK YOU!

    Happy Wednesday!

  16. Lisa
    March 2, 2011 at 1:42 pm (10 years ago)

    So true. I love what you said. I wish we lived closer to each other. It seems like we had similar experiences and felt the same way…

    I made ALL the excuse…oh it’s genetic. I’ve “tried everything”. I made every excuse I could that didn’t involve me taking responsibility. And when I had the negative experience with my doctor telling me I was obese I left feeling angry too. “How DARE she?” Etc etc….

    I see myself in these obese people on “Heavy” and “Biggest Loser.” They make excuse. They claim they tried everything. I want to yell at the TV and say “I SAID THAT TOO! You AREN’T trying everything!” Just DO it.

    • Beth
      March 2, 2011 at 1:47 pm (10 years ago)

      I wish we lived closer too!

      And yes, I feel like that’s the bottom line. Definitely easier said than done, but only after I came out from behind all the excuses was I really able to change my life.

  17. Matt
    March 2, 2011 at 1:47 pm (10 years ago)

    I am motivated by how I look and feel.

  18. lucky girl
    March 2, 2011 at 1:59 pm (10 years ago)

    I am motivated to lose weight because I’m tired of feeling like crap every time I get dressed or have to go somewhere. But I can’t get motivated to exercise. I love what you said about motivation is not something that happens to you it is something you make happen. I have been waiting for something or someone to motivate me, but I need to motivate myself. Thank you for posting that!!

    • Beth
      March 2, 2011 at 2:01 pm (10 years ago)

      Realizing that it was ME who needed to make the change happen was a big turning point for me!

  19. rc1001
    March 2, 2011 at 2:08 pm (10 years ago)

    Amazing post, Beth!!! I love the way you put it. Life happens, sure, but it is well within our power to take life’s lemons and make some DEEELICIOUS lemonade, damnit!

  20. J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog)
    March 2, 2011 at 2:22 pm (10 years ago)

    I can relate, Beth! (I accidentally just typed Bath, lol)

    I have been overweight all of my life and have had high blood pressure since I was a baby. So by the time I was 26, I didn’t have very bad side effects from obesity, but I knew that would change by the time I hit my mid 30s- early 40s, so I had to get the ball rolling to prevent premature health deterioration and avoid future weight-related complications. So I gave up on deadlines and unrealistic diets, and just set out to lose weight at a slow pace and still enjoy the foods I love. It’s an ongoing battle, and I’m still obese, BUT I have maintained a 70 lbs loss for almost 4 years now and that’s better than my high point. Plus, I quit smoking 5 years ago — or it will be 5 years on the 8th! 🙂

    I don’t consider myself a fitness guru and complete health nut, I’ll always have my unhealthy tendencies, but I believe in balance, not perfection, and that’s what matters most to me. My goal is not just good health, but also happiness and inner peace. It really is a journey, not a destination. 🙂

    Congrats on your success, it’s very inspirational! And you look fantastic! GO GIRL!! 😀

  21. biz319
    March 2, 2011 at 3:06 pm (10 years ago)

    Thanks for this post Beth – its just what I needed to get back on track.

    My husband has been sick the last month, and as much as I tried to tell myself that I couldn’t eat right or exercise because he was sick, there was plenty of opportunity for me to plan/exercise – I used him as an excuse.

    So I packed my gym bag with every intention of running on the treadmill (its 28 degrees here today) and realized I had no pants. Yesterday I would have just gotten in my car and driven to McDonald’s. Today I walked outside for 50 minutes – woot!

    We all have choices, and yes there will always be stresses, but its how we react in a positive way that anyone will get to their goal.

  22. Emily
    March 2, 2011 at 3:34 pm (10 years ago)

    GREAT post 🙂

    Accepting responsibility was a major part of my turning point, but the other part of my turning point was realizing what my triggers for binging and eating out of control were and trying to eliminate them as much as I could within my control.

    Things that motivate me to keep going and keep a healthy lifestyle are how amazing I feel when I eat good & healthy food and when I exercise. I also work in an upper end retail store and would like to fit in the clothes better than I do right now. I think what really motivates me is my life ahead, I don’t want to suffer with preventable health problems because of my weight.

    Great job with your weight loss!!

  23. Colleen
    March 2, 2011 at 4:33 pm (10 years ago)

    OMG. Thank you so much for this post. I am exactly where you were in 2008 and struggling with the motivation to eat better and exercise more. You hit the nail on the head!

  24. Maura
    March 2, 2011 at 4:48 pm (10 years ago)

    As much as we may not always believe it, and sometimes we forget, happiness is a choice. It can be a hard choice, but its still our choice to make every day when we step out the door. Great post.

  25. Madison
    March 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm (10 years ago)

    Thank you for posting that article on saving money at Whole Foods. It is one of the most useful post I’ve read in a long time. Thank you, thank you!

  26. Lisa
    March 2, 2011 at 5:49 pm (10 years ago)

    I feel like getting started and having a plan is the hardest part to living a healthy life (a close second is sticking to it!)! In the past I have joined gyms and diet programs, but because of all the wrong reasons, it was mostly external “motivation”.

    I started taking responsibility for my health about a year and a half ago and it is definitely the reason I still am!

  27. Kelly Kokoska
    March 2, 2011 at 7:46 pm (10 years ago)

    I too made drastic changes in Julu 08 after visiting the gyno for my annual exam. He told me that after 30 a woman loses muscle mass and will continue to gain weight. I think he was implying the obvious. I then joined WW at work and was able to not only lose 25 pounds but I learned to eat very healthy, run and take care of myself. i am now a leader of my own WW meetings. Everyday is challenging for me. I have times when I struggle with motivation. I just want so badly to be strong physically and mentally. I want so badly to never go back to being that big girl again. Love your blog, you are so real and motivating….

  28. Jenn@slim-shoppin
    March 2, 2011 at 9:58 pm (10 years ago)

    Hi Beth – great post. You really nailed it on the head. Once you take responsibility for what you eat and what you do, there is no stopping you. I still struggle with that, but hope to live that daily. You are a great inspiration!!

  29. Spoonful Of Sass
    March 2, 2011 at 10:00 pm (10 years ago)

    Just found your blog today and holy cow did this post resonate with me! Just yesterday I was talking about my job (a dietitian) and how I wish I was better at motivating and inspiring. But you are so right when you say it comes from inside of you and its a personal decision to make a life change. I just hope that I can be the person to get that thought going in people’s mind and then give them the knowledge to make good choices. You are truly an inspiration and I’m so happy I found your story!

    I’m also on my personal journey to lose a few pounds because that moment of motivation happened to me personally. I’ve started training for a 5K and it’s hard work, but fun and totally worth it when I see my progress. Thanks for being another reminder that you can do anything you set your mind to!

  30. Erin @ A Girl & Her Mutt
    March 2, 2011 at 10:17 pm (10 years ago)

    Thanks for sharing your story with us on a daily basis. You definitely are writing what many of us are thinking.

    I want to be an active old person. To do that, I need to be healthy!

  31. Nicole
    March 3, 2011 at 12:10 am (10 years ago)

    LOVE that: “motivation is not something that happens to you, it’s something you MAKE happen”! It’s so true, we can’t just wait for it to come to us through a magical dream, we have to push, we will struggle, but it feels amazing when it hits.

    You’re so inspiring girl, you’re changing LIVES!

    What keeps me on track is focusing on the future: my hubby, our life, our future kids, my parents’ future, and the fact that we need to stay focused now if we want anything to fall nicely into place later on. Work those bones + muscles hard now, so that when we hit 75 we can still work ’em real good! 😀

  32. Caitlin
    March 3, 2011 at 12:23 am (10 years ago)

    This is such a great post and I think anyone who has ever been heavy or comes from a family with weight issues can relate. I tell people now that you cannot make anyone change their lives and lose weight until they are truly ready to. Like you, I decided I was just tired of being fat – and it took years, but it was my own doing and I had to come to the realization myself that I was the only one that could make the change!
    I think because I have worked hard and lost weight it does make me frustrated when others close to me don’t try or say they have tried everything – it’s hard to wait for someone to come to that realization or turning point on their own.
    Thanks for this post – it’s so honest and I can relate so much!

  33. Shannon (in VA)
    March 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm (10 years ago)

    Awesome post Beth! My motivation for eating healthy started because I was having problems with my tummy. I was constantly having “issues” with my stomach and learned it could be because I was not eating healthy. My diet was very high in sugar, loads of starches and high in red meats. I found out I actually really like healthy foods. I have always loved veggies, just never ate them like I should. Now I rarely eat red meat and really don’t miss it at all. Changing my eating lifestyle has been motivated by me wanting to feel better and has worked wonders.
    My down-fall has been exercise though. I have never enjoyed exercise, and I don’t like exercising alone. I always worry that I’m doing it “wrong” and I feel about as coordinated and athletic as a sloth. Excuses, excuses right? Looking for my personal motivation now….

  34. Monica
    March 3, 2011 at 6:47 pm (10 years ago)

    Truth is sometimes the hardest thing to face. I kept going to the doctor asking why I was nausea all the time and she finally said, “you are too heavy and all the fat is squeezing your organs making it impossible to digest food with ease.” It was surreal to hear the truth.

    Being a wife that lives a very long life, and one day a Mom that is strong and around for a long time motivates me. I am still working to find a motivation for me, but sadly haven’t yet identified it.

  35. Karen@WaistingTime
    March 4, 2011 at 8:10 am (10 years ago)

    “Motivation is not something that happens to you – it is something you make happen.” – Love this!! Too often I was motivated by something else, like a vacation coming up, for example. And then after the vacation that external motivation is gone and so was my drive. I’ve learned I need to do this for myself and not for a trip or anything else.

  36. amybart
    March 7, 2011 at 9:27 pm (10 years ago)

    I love how you said one of your excuses was that moderation was just not part of you. I used to ALWAYS say that about myself! Even now after losing 85 pounds, I still sometimes use that excuse when I’m having a bad day. I have recently starting clinging to Randy Pausch’s (The Last Lecture) quote that says, “The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” That really ties in to this post for me. The brick walls pop up in everyone’s life at different times and we can either accept our misfortune and lay down and die or decide that whatever is standing in our way is not going to stop us…realizing that it is up to you and it IS a choice. Great post!

  37. EmmaE
    April 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm (8 years ago)

    I wanted to touch on the point about your doctor mentioning your weight to you. I have found in talking to my friends that, though we are overweight or obese, our various doctors have said nothing. This is so concerning, as clearly you show that while the motivation to make change is within you, the doctor was part of the spark. I commend your doctor for speaking to you about it, as mine ignores it unless I bring it up (and I’ve got 50 pounds to lose). Keep on working and inspiring us.


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