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Motivation Schmotivation

Sometimes people ask me how I get motivated. How did you get motivated to lose weight? How do you motivate yourself to exercise? What motivates you to keep eating healthy? And doesn’t the word “motivate” start to sound really weird after you keep saying it over and over again? Motivate, motivate, motivate.

The only answer I can come up with is, “Screw motivation.” If I waited until I was motivated to do my dishes, I’d have plates stacked up on my counter so high that I couldn’t open the microwave. Which I currently do. I’m never motivated to do my dishes. Yet I turn on the faucet and break out the dish soap anyway. It’s not because I want to have fun with bubbles, it’s because I have to. How am I supposed to make my morning oatmeal if the microwave has more restricted access than the Mexican border? My only other option would be to go to Goodwill every week and buy more plates, which I’d have to wash anyway. That store is dirty, y’all. I’m never motivated to do my laundry either, but I separate my whites from my darks and run to the bank early on Saturday morning to get a roll of quarters anyway. It’s cheaper than buying new underwear every week.

Maybe the reason so many people wait so long to eat better or exercise is because they are waiting to get motivated. When you hear about people’s weight loss stories you expect to hear about the time they had a huge revelation that kicked them in the fat pants. You want to hear about the time they couldn’t fit in the roller coaster or the time their uncle died from heart disease. But why wait until you’ve wasted $40 bucks on an amusement park ticket or you’re buying huge black pants for a funeral? You know what you need to do, so do it. We often wait for motivation to find us, but we need to go out and find motivation. It’s doubtful that you will get to the bottom of that pint of ice cream and find the message “You need to lose weight” written on the bottom.

Of course, like so many things it’s a lot easier to type about that concept than to actually apply it to life. I use a to-do list program online and there are several items on there that have literally been on it for years. I swear, I’m going to go to Europe before I’m 30 even if I have to sneak into a cargo hold and live in a shipping box for three weeks to get there. I’ve even added the item “Clean up to-do lists” to my to-do list in some circular, self-fulfilling list-making need. It’s hard to get unstuck. But it takes even longer to pull your feet out of life’s sticky gum on the sidewalk if you wait for someone else to come along with some Goo-Gone.

I get so excited when I read on other people’s journals that they are starting new jobs or moving to new cities or taking trips because I know how scary it can be to even think about taking such big steps. But it makes me happy to see people getting unstuck. I might even say it motivates me.

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BB • May 23, 2007 at 10:57 am

Amen PQ! Sometimes you just gotta suck it up and do it anyway even if you don’t feel like it. Because at the end of the day, it really boils down to did you do it today or didn’t you, not, did you think about it a lot.

Congradulations on all your hard work and sucess.


Abi • May 23, 2007 at 11:25 am

The moment I realized that I didn’t need motivation to achieve my goals is when I actually starting making progress towards them.


Debra • May 23, 2007 at 11:51 am

I think discipline is much more important than motivation. It’s a lost idea in our culture for the most part — the idea that one has a duty to be healthy and a good steward of one’s body, the idea that moderation and discipline are important for more than just good looks. I agree that if I waited to be motivated, or just relied on motivation, I’d be out of the game within a week. For me, I think long term success will be built on habit and discipline.


ann • May 23, 2007 at 12:17 pm

What a wonderful post!

Often the initial motivation to throw the desserts out of the fridge is a specific event, but the effect of that always fades with time, and from then on you have to create your own motivation.

One thing I’ve heard other people do, which I copied and found helpful, is to make a list of all the good things about losing a certain amount of weight, big and small, goofy or intense. I used someone else’s list initially, and now have one of my own that I pull out when I’m feeling “to heck with it all.” (One on my mind now – vacationing next week, and not having to worry about spilling out of the airplane seat – I love it!)

Since you’ve lost so much, it would be cool if you could post a list like that sometime when you’re bored or something, and maybe people could add to it.


Chelsea • May 23, 2007 at 1:00 pm

Can I just say… You are my motivation! I happened upon your site today and WOW… You are incredible. I have been battling my journey for years now. Im starting to think I should start a blog or something, cause man, that would keep me going lol.

How do you get over roadblocks.. plateaus and so on?


Debbie • May 23, 2007 at 2:18 pm

I agree with Debra. It’s discipline. No one’s motivated everyday. That’s like waiting for inspiration to do anything. You’ll wait forever. Good post.


Christy • May 23, 2007 at 3:11 pm

Great post!! I was wondering what site you use for your list making — if it is a website. I am constantly looking for new ways to get my “to do list” in order. I am old fashioned with a calendar organizer as I never know when I will want to whip it out and look at my notes/to do’s. I also am from Indianapolis — so hello fellow Hoosier!


Sarah • May 23, 2007 at 3:12 pm

Great post! I’m NEVER motivated to get up and go to work but I do it because I’m a big grown up girl and frankly I can’t live without the paycheck. I try to view exercise the same way… I do it because I’m a big grown up girl who has to take care of herself and I just can’t live without it.


Sarah • May 23, 2007 at 3:13 pm

p.s I added you to my blog roll.


Chris H • May 23, 2007 at 3:45 pm

Ha ha, my husband and I were discussing Motivation just last night! And we both agreed, no one can motivate you to lose weight, it has to come from ones self.. we can be INSPIRED by someone else for sure, but in order to lose weight, or do anything really, the motivation has to be within ourselves, the WANT TO DO IT. I am so glad I wanted to do it!!!! And sure there were quite a few triggers that got me started… there usually is… I just wish I had listened to those triggers a bit sooner. Ah well, I’m getting there! As you are! Wooo hooo.


Heather • May 23, 2007 at 4:09 pm

Awesome post!


Hilly • May 23, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Amen amen amen and great post!!!!

For me, I look at losing weight just like my job – I have to do it each day whether I want to or not. I agree that if I waited for motivation to come, nothing would ever get done in my life.

Funny though – I think that when I was single, that motivated me a bit…hrm.


anji • May 23, 2007 at 5:29 pm

I’m including my URL to this neat-oh site I found a while back. I’m a major-procrastinator, something that came to be relatively late in life due to various things….

But, I found this page to be good, to put “goals” down. I’m a goal orientated person I guess, makes me feel like I can cross something off the list….. like for you, crossing off 200 pounds lost would rock, wouldn’t it?

I’m almost able to cross off obtaining my BA, and by next summer, I can cross off my Teacher’s College…

Other things include achieving specific fitness goals, financial goals, and other personal goals.

I also have going back to Germany/Italy/Europe on my list…

Sometimes being reminded of what I want to do, is a form of motivation…. kind of like that pair of pants everyone hangs on their door for motivation, I use this site to motivate myself…



KP • May 23, 2007 at 5:52 pm

I also agree that it has to do with discipline, and also making it apart of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth. It’s now become part of my daily routine to exercise, which is a good thing. Like everyone, I can sometimes get tired of the tedium of planning meals and counting calories. But most days, I don’t even think twice about exercising. Thank goodness I haven’t thought of it as drudgery, and I hope I never do. I’ve been going strong for almost 17 months now, 6 days a week. Sure, there’s an underlying motivation of losing weight, I suppose. But what I think is fantastic is feeling good, moving my body, gaining muscle, and experiencing how powerful and strong I can be.


Cris • May 23, 2007 at 5:59 pm

On point again, you magical pastaqueen, you!

I am very much in agreement with you regarding the motivation factor (or lack thereof). Through the years I thought that in order to change I must be struck by lightning, be forced into an experimental lobotomy that goes horribly awry…etc. Not true!

My change is kind of ironic, actually…During the months before I actually starting taking sane and successful steps to losing weight, I had a reckless, devil-may-care attitude. I was miserable enough to stop caring and only then did I, like a zombie, make a healthy move. It’s all a mystery to me and I don’t even care why, because today is all that matters.

It’s been a little over 3 months and I’ve lost over 33lbs.I feel more invested in myself, but not in that urgent, panicky, immobilizing way.

PS: You look freakin’ marvelous! Absolutely marvelous!


Peter • May 23, 2007 at 6:09 pm

Hi there! I haven’t checked in with your blog for a long time, but it is a breath of fresh air, as always. My own weight loss hit a pothole, and I just got back on the wagon.

Anyway, here is the thing I would most want to tell you, at this point in the story of your weight loss. As far as I can tell, it is exactly when one “feels thin,” and borderline self-satisfied, that one is at the greatest risk of letting one’s plans unwind–first imperceptibly, then rapidly.

You’ve lost such an astonishing amount that you must have extra-good ways of dealing with this.

But at least for me, the weight I’ve lost goes right into a halo of satisfaction I can’t help seeing all about me, and then I start to slack off, sometime a little before I hit my goal–since I know that I *could* hit it . . . . and I get lulled into steadily more ill-advised things.

So if I could advise you to treat this moment, right now, as if it were the beginning of your weight-loss program–not its triumphant last few months–and reassess everything that you’re doing, and try to start out innocently again, I would.

In the midst of a successful routine, we get used to sticking with what’s worked before. So as we approach lower weights, our calorie deficit can be in danger of asymptotically approaching zero.

In other words, we surely do learn healthier new habits while losing weight, but that’s not enough: we need to continuously *re-learn* even *healthier* and *newer habits,* right up until we reach the safety of the Land of Maintenance.

A territory on which I will look forward to getting your matchless reports!


PastaQueen • May 23, 2007 at 8:24 pm

Christy – I use Backpack which lets me make lists and write notes. The same company that runs that also has a site called Ta-Da List which is just for lists.


the veggie paparazzo • May 23, 2007 at 8:43 pm

Pasta Q., you should put up a donation link for people to give a dollar or $5 toward your Europe trip, and then you could take it when you reach your goal. There have to be enough of us reading who have gotten enough value and amusement from your blog to give you enough for a trip!


mo • May 24, 2007 at 2:31 am

You are so right. Great timing- the motivation question has been looming for me this week. I think what it bolis down to is that routine trumps motivation- it is so much easier to do what you always do – to not have to think. I think I need to just sit down and plan some new routines.


Jen • May 24, 2007 at 10:01 am



Aunt Annette • May 24, 2007 at 11:03 am

Wonderful analogies! I enjoy every post that you write, Jennette, but some just make me laugh out loud! You are a continuing source of wisdom that belies your youth. Rock on!


psychsarah • May 24, 2007 at 11:41 am

As always with your posts, I read this entry nodding at my computer screen, as it was so bag on! I keep telling my husband that you can’t wait until you feel like going to the gym, you just have to go. (I tell my patients the same thing about getting out of bed and bathing when they are suffering from depression-you aren’t going to feel like it, but when you do it, you’ll feel better!) I don’t always feel like eating what I should (in fact yeserday I ate carrot cake and ice cream!) but most times I do. I like what Sarah said about being a grown-up-you are the only one responsible for what happens to your body, so you can take responsibility for that and be healthy, or you can make less healthy choices-it’s up to you!

I really related to what you said about starting this weight loss thing too. People ask me what got me started, and I have been stumped. I think I just thought one day that I should exercise, and so I began exercising a little bit. That went well, so I started eating better. Slowly I learned more and kept doing more, and 85 pounds have gone away. It wasn’t like there was a lightning bolt from the sky or anything, it just seemed to be time.

Thanks for being so articulate about these things that I think about all the time but never say as eloquently as you!


Joanne • May 24, 2007 at 11:54 am

This is a wonderful blog. I think it’s even motivating, to me! Oprah (and I hate to invoke her name without knowing how you feel about her but I think she makes a good point) says something similar to what you say about motivation about discipline. She says that people think you can just sit around waiting for the discipline to get up early and go to the gym. But it’s circular thinking, because it *takes* discipline to get up and go to the gym, and then if you do it, you GET the discipline. But the first step, damn it all, is always doing it.

And get thee to Europe! It’s cheaper than staying home, with some of the deals out there!


Patty • May 24, 2007 at 1:58 pm

Somedays when I was in my weight gain back slide, I would think ‘where has my motivation gone?’ But I think it was as others said, discipline. Just do it and then you will get the drive to do it again as again. I like the way exercise makes me feel, well at least after I exercise, and I like the improvements in the body and this in turn makes me want to eat healthy. Well, at least most of the time.

I know, people ask, what motivated me to lose? A lot of little things and just the right time I think.


anji • May 24, 2007 at 2:05 pm

I second the donation idea! I’d totally send you $5 (though, it’s CDN so it’s more like $4.60) but that would TOTALLY buy you a diet coca-cola in Italy! *laughs*

I’m sure other people would do it! It might not pay the whole trip but – it would be good incentive for you! (Though, you would have to share some Europe pics with us!)


VegasGirl • May 25, 2007 at 2:33 pm

OMG!!! I want a pint of ice cream that says “you need to lose weight” in the bottom of it. I’d pay so much for that. HAHAHA

This blog always makes me giggle. I’d totally donate $5 just for all the great laughs you give me =) Of course, if this is truely a “facist regime” you could probably just demand it of us =0p


Kimberly • May 25, 2007 at 6:00 pm

I love the line, “Just Do It”, because for me, yeah, that’s what it takes. Doing it till it’s habitual, then moving on to the next thing. Then falling off the wagon on an old habit, working on it again, and so on. A continuous cycle, but a joyful one. Because being stuck is so much worse.

Love your reflections on this. Just love ’em.


RG • May 25, 2007 at 7:42 pm

I remember you or a commenter explaining the different “kinds” of motivation some time ago: intrinsic and extrinsic, self-imposed and other-imposed (4 types). intrinsic is something you do for the inherent rewards (playing with bubbles) whereas extrinsic is something done for another purpose (to get to the microwave). Self-imposed is if you’re doing it for you and other-imposed is if you’re doing it for someone else.

I’m not sure what my point is, other than that all of these kinds of motivation can “work”. I even think you can be motivated by others, like losing weight for your kids. I suspect that the more types of motivation you can hook into, the more successful you’re likely to be.


PastaQueen • May 25, 2007 at 9:06 pm

Instead of donating $5 to me, just buy 4 copies of my book, okay? It’ll help pay off my advance and maybe land me on the bestseller’s list. Give them to friends, enemies, your dog, whoever :) I’ll even sign them.

RG – That must have been a commenter who said that, but that’s a really interesting idea. Internal forces vs. external forces.


RG • May 26, 2007 at 11:38 am

I found a note I wrote about it (dated 1/3/07):

“idea of stages of incorporating motivations by kennon sheldon; external : because I have to; introjected: because I ought to; identified: because I choose to, and intrinsic: because I want to: extrinsic or intrinsic and internalized or not; follows stages of conscious/ unconscious competence”. I’m not sure if that note makes much sense to you, but here’s a link to an article about the four stages of competence:



the veggie paparazzo • May 30, 2007 at 8:49 pm

I read books by Po Bronson, and with his last book, he had a thing where we could sign up to get the book delivered the day it came out with his signature in it. He stayed up all night signing copies at Powell’s before they shipped. I thought that was pretty awesome.


PastaQueen • May 31, 2007 at 12:46 am

the veggie paparazzo – Is that some sort of hint? :) I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that with my book, but I’m going to try my hardest to make sure everyone who wants an autographed copy gets one.


Kat • September 24, 2008 at 10:18 pm

I totally agree with you on the whole “motivation” thing. Motivation doesn’t get me out of bed every morning to push my heart to 170 for 45 minutes. Sitting here, there is nothing I’d rather do less than go and do just that. But I do it every morning like clockwork. And why? It sure as hell isn’t motivation. Why would I suddenly lose my motivation as the day progresses? That doesn’t make much sense. I love to exercise. I don’t say to myself “oh, if you exercise this morning you can have an extra slice of cake” or anything like that.

If someone were to ask me for advice on good motivators to get out of bed and exercise at 7:00 every morning, I wouldn’t be able to tell them anything useful. I do it because I love it and because t feels good. I guess that’s motivation, but not the kind most people are looking for.

Also, I figure that since I’ve already been woken, I might as well get out of bed and exercise. I could sleep for an extra hour, but that wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying.


Rebecca • January 31, 2009 at 1:00 am

This is such an important post! And one I really needed right about now (thank you, karma). I am eating better, and feeling better about it, but haven’t started exercising. I’ve been floundering around, looking for something I’ll “enjoy” or other motivation (I even tried searching my library catalog for “exercise motivation”), and analyzing why I don’t. Never mind all that, says Pasta Queen. Yes, [s]ma’am[/s] my lady, I say! Do it because I must.

Puts a whole new meaning behind Nike’s slogan.


Karl • February 21, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Hi PastaQueen,

Motivation is internal, and anyone who is doing what they need to do in order to reach a goal is finding their motivation. When we have trouble finding the motivation or when we find reasons to NOT do what we know would be in our best interest, we have lost sight of the goal. To reclaim ourselves and our worth, why not try something that has worked for millions of people?

Whether you contact me (I am licensed by the State of Indiana as a hypnotist/hypnotherapist) or someone else, check out hypnosis. It works!


Chris • March 23, 2011 at 11:21 am

This is probably my favorite post by you, it couldn’t be more dead-on. It’s about recognizing that life sometimes is about doing shit you don’t wanna do, and that excludes getting off the couch and exercising sometimes. Because you know that you’ll like the end results: clean dishes, clean house, healthy body, so on. The act itself doesn’t always have to be one of pure joy (although I do enjoy exercise quite often, not cleaning dishes so much), but it still needs to be an act, not a thought!


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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