Helping Patients Reframe Their Goals Around Healthy Weight Management

Helping Patients Reframe Their Goals Around Healthy Weight Management

This time of year, health tends to be in the front of mind for many patients and clients. They share resolutions and aspirations to fit into a special dress, run a half-marathon, cook at home more often or make yoga part of their regular routine.

So how can you support them without focusing solely on the scale – and boost their motivation to increase their odds for success? Shift the conversation from “what” to “why.” When discussing health and fitness goals, inquire about the motivation behind the goals, which can provide valuable insight into how committed someone is to change.

There are five general types of motivation, according to the Self-Determination Theory. Here’s a rundown, from the most to least helpful:

Intrinsic regulation: Change comes from within, and it’s happening because someone desires this change for themselves. The change feels fun, rewarding and/or relatively easy or worth the effort.

Ex: They eat a Mediterranean diet because it tastes good. They go to the gym because they love how they feel after a workout.

Integrated regulation: These new habits are part of who they are. They can’t separate this new “thing” from the rest of their life.

Ex: They like when someone calls them a yogi – and they feel like one. They enjoy the ritual of shopping for fresh vegetables at the farmers market each weekend.

Identified regulation: They might not “love” the change (yet), but it’s getting close.

Ex: They keep going to the gym because they know it’s doing good for their body and mind, even if it’s still a struggle. They keep making new healthy recipes even when they’d rather order takeout. 

Introjected regulation: They do something because they feel obligated or want to avoid feeling guilty.

Ex: They are cooking this way because their daughter pressured them to change their diet. They go to yoga because they feel guilty for not using the membership they paid for.

External regulation: They’re doing something to earn a reward or to avoid punishment.

Ex: Their provider told them they might need a procedure if they don’t change their habits. They are trying to win the office healthy living challenge.

When a patient or client shares a health goal but seems to be motivated by external factors, encourage them to take some time to consider their “why.” If they can modify their goals to align with their values, lifestyle and other aspects that support intrinsic or integrated regulation, they might be more inclined to adhere to the new habits – and ultimately create lasting change.

February is American Heart Month. While body weight is only one metric of health, modest shifts toward a healthy weight can support the cardiovascular system.*

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