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Motivated or Obsessed? What’s the Difference


Even the most “perfect” weight loss program won’t work without one key factor: being motivated. If you aren’t at least a little into what you’re doing—choosing healthier foods, going for an evening walk or other healthy decisions—you just won’t do it. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, some researchers call this type of positive motivation “passion.”

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Positive Passion

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We’ve all met someone who is into health and fitness in this passionate way; they’re into it and they talk about it! And they seem to enjoy their new lifestyle. It’s the kind of lifestyle change that many people who start losing weight are striving to achieve. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has defined this kind of passion as something that is “significant in their lives, something that they like, and something at which they spend time on a regular basis.”

This type of passion for an activity is called “harmonious passion,” and it’s the good kind. You enjoy the activity—in this case, eating healthy and exercising—and you’re motivated to do it and in control. You may read about weight loss strategies, look for healthy new recipes or chat with others about exercise routines. However, you have the ability to stop. Your passion for a healthy lifestyle is in harmony with the rest of your life.

Obsession

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A passion to be healthier may seem like a positive quality. However, there’s a potential dark side to passion: Obsession. This isn’t the kind of “obsessed” that characters in teen comedies feel about their crush. It’s the kind of passion for an activity that’s out of your control. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, your passion may be an obsession when you start prioritizing your new activity over other important things in your life. It typically develops when there is some sort of internal or external pressure connected to the activity. “Obsessive passion” creates conflict, both with others in your life and within yourself. You also might begin to feel like you need to punish yourself for not indulging your passion or for not being “perfect.”

Perfection is another pressure that can get dangerous: When the idea of doing something “perfectly” is based on a self-created idea of what perfect means for you, it may be healthy. However, it can be dangerous when you’re motivated by society’s ideas of perfection, says research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The pressure to eat or act “perfectly” can actually lead to disordered eating, even if that obsession seems “healthy.” According to the journal Eating and Weight Disorders, orthorexia nervosa is a relatively new disorder focused on “clean eating.” It is typically associated with people who score highly on a desire for perfection and shares similar qualities to other eating disorders.

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Are you Motivated or Obsessed?

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Being motivated to get healthy is great. However, letting that motivation turn into an obsession can dangerous. So, check in with yourself: Do you get more pleasure or pain from your weight loss journey? If you’re making sacrifices in your life to achieve your weight loss goals, are they big sacrifices that can have negative consequences? Or small ones that still allow you to thrive? Do you feel like you can take a break from your weight loss program for a day or two?

If you’re ever feeling like you can’t control your drive to eat healthy and lose weight or that your weight loss plan has started to infringe on important events and appointments in your life, talk to your doctor. You should also speak with your physician if you feel like you need to punish yourself for not eating “perfectly.” Passion is crucial but keeping it—and you—healthy is far more important.

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