It Always Has to be About You…Doesn’t it? It sure Does!

motivation hierarchy

New research shows that it’s not just the amount of motivation that you have for weight loss, but maybe the type of motivation, too.

Researchers at the University of Kentucky and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looked at autonomous and controlled motivation for weight loss.

Autonomous motivation would be personal, internal reasons.

Controlled motivation would include feelings of pressure and guilt from the outside.

In the study, those with greater weight loss success had more autonomous motivation by week 4.

What we’re learning is motivation can mean different things and bring about different outcomes.

Think of motivation as a hierarchy, starting with none, moving up to externally-focused motivation, and ultimately reaching intrinsic (autonomous) motivation which is when, “activities are done for the interest and enjoyment they provide,” according to researchers Kirk Brown and Richard Ryan.

Intrinsic motivation is the “gold standard” and is linked to creativity and higher well-being note Brown and Ryan. Extrinsic motivation is driven by something outside of the activity itself: a requirement from someone else or a reward for doing the activity such as a grade.

With this, it’s important to remember that if you started trying to get to a healthier weight for external reasons, it’s not too late to bring that motivation inward. Think about how weight loss has or will affect your own wellbeing, happiness and quality of life.

Remember that ultimately, you are doing this for you. This type of driving force might just take you further than you ever imagined.


Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2004). Fostering healthy self-regulation from within and without: A self-determination theory perspective. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.). Positive Psychology in Practice. pp. 105-124. New York: John Wiley & Sons. (retrieved 1/16/11.)