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Many people who try to lose weight often talk about willpower and motivation. Motivational events are a big industry, so many people think:

  • “If only I was motivated, I could lose weight.”
  • “if I had the motivation, I’d go to the gym”
  • If only I was motivated, I’d eat healthily.”  

This is not the same as willpower. Motivation is the need to do something, while willpower is the need to not do something.

  • “If only I had the willpower, then I wouldn’t eat so much cake.”
  • “I need willpower in order to resist the chocolate”

I’m not convinced that motivation and willpower are what’s needed to lose weight! I think it’s about making better decisions. I’ll write more about making better decisions in a later blog.

Motivation, according to NLP, is divided into “towards” and “away from” values.

A “towards” value is when you really want something. “I really want the cake, the chips etc”

An “away from” value is the things you don’t want. “I don’t want to eat salad.” “I don’t want to go to the gym”

If you’re strongly a “towards” value person, then someone trying to sell you something would do well to tell you all the positive features of the item and how your  life would benefit from having it.

If you’re an “away from” person, the discerning salesman would tell you how your life would be lacking if you didn’t own the item. They would use the negatives to motivate you to want to buy the item.

 “Towards” values are usually very temporary, while “away from” are usually  more motivating.

These values are used all the time in workplaces or families to achieve their goals. “If you do as you’re told, you will be rewarded. If you don’t do as you’re told, you will be punished”

Many people with weight issues use “away from” values to move away from being fat. People  who run away from a burning building, will slow down when they feel they’re far enough away. In other words, the motivation, decreases with distance. Initially they’re very motivated to lose weight, then the further away they get from being fat, the weight loss slows down.

Moving away from a problem doesn’t give you a direction to move towards. With weight loss, people who are more successful say, “I don’t want to be fat, I want to weigh 70 kilograms” That is a clear direction, and clear towards value.

Annorexics are of course very good at losing weight. They will say they don’t want to be fat, they want to be thin. They have a very powerful “towards” value as well as clearly knowing what it is they want. What Andrew Austin noticed in his work with anorexics is how families would try and convince their loved ones that they weren’t fat. They’d hold up mirrors or show them pictures of themselves to try and convince them. The anorexic was of course blocking out all information.

 Andrew asked the patients this question, “How will you know when you’re thin enough?” The answers that came back were:

  • “I’ll know I’m thin enough because I’ll have control in my  life”
  • “I know I’m  thin enough because my father will respect me.”

They have inserted values that are not brought about by weight loss. “I’m going to keep losing weight till I’m happy” It doesn’t work that way.

So ask yourself these questions:

*        What are you trying to get away from?

*        Where are you trying to go to in its place?

*        How will you know when you’ve gotten there?

*        What are you going to do when you get there?

The answer has to be measurable and definable:

  • How much weight do you want to lose?
  • How thin is thin enough?

The desired state must always be future orientated. You can’t say you want to weigh what you weighted on your wedding day. That’s going back in time, and it’ll never work. We can only ever move forward from the position we’re in. Our value must be definable and a future orientated goal. We can only always move forward.


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