Elusive Motivation


Sociology professor Renata Forste of Brigham Young University researched the reasons why teen obesity causes unhappiness:

After self-image, the second-most influential factor for teens is their perception of school. Compared to other teens, those who are overweight or obese liked school less and felt like they were performing poorly with their schoolwork. Relationships with peers and parents also suffer, and it all adds up to a less happy adolescence — particularly for teen girls.

Okay, it is pretty well known that overweight and obese kids have a rough time of it, out in the world. Pragmatically speaking, it seems as if the desire to escape from misery would be enough of an impetus to stimulate efforts toward change. Why is this so often not the case?

A lot of kids just don’t have any basis for comparison. Maybe they have never had a day whey they liked the way they looked; never known the satisfaction of seeing an “A” at the top of a test paper; never known relationships to be loving or even warm. Currently it is fashionable to disparage the “participation trophy” culture, where everybody gets some kind of recognition. Some say positive reinforcement turns children into brats who grow up to be inadequate citizens.


But how are kids supposed to know there is something better to reach for? Sure, they observe from real life and the media that some people apparently do have more fulfilling lives. It can even seem like everybody and anybody has a better life. But without ever having been introduced to positive feelings, it is harder to aim in that direction. Actual lived experience is influential in a way that nothing can replace.

Chrisetta Mosley, who once weighed almost 400 pounds, said:

For years, I wore my fatness like a wounded soldier wears a Purple Heart — with pride. I owned the look. I dressed it up. I worked the room. There wasn’t a skinny girl who intimidated me. I made sure my hair was laid just right. Nails polished. Outfits coordinated to the tee.

“I’ll show you” and “I have a right to be different” are admirable motivators if you are Joan of Arc or Dr. Martin Luther King. Mavericks who operate from intellectual or ideological conviction often become historical figures and appear on their nations’ postage stamps.

It is more of a struggle to sustain high-minded enthusiasm for excess poundage. Like smoking cigarettes, obesity is difficult to defend.

Registered nurse and certified fitness trainer LaTasha Lewis reports that her adolescent problem was not obesity but being flat-chested. Although her mother made efforts to raise her and her sisters’ self-esteem, Lewis says she bought T-shirts that said “Flat is beautiful” and “Please be patient with me, God is not through with me yet.”

She talks about a chubby young nephew who spent the summers at fitness camp. The nephew’s specific motivation is not mentioned but it might have been sports. By age 15, he was a three-sport athlete at school and hit the 6-foot tall mark with 8.5% body fat, so the moral of that story is, sometimes you just have to wait, and the overweight relative you worry about will get it together.

About impatience, Lewis says:

This area is where a lot of us fall short; we want results now! We want quick fixes. We want the results without the work. We want the blooming flowers without the rain. We want to be on top of the mountain, but we don’t want to climb.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Trio of studies examine obesity in American families,” MedicalXpress.com, 07/18/12
Source: “In between, the past,” Blogspot.com, 11/16/14
Source: “Don’t give up! Your body is still under construction,” Freep.com, 10/04/15
Photo credit: slgckgc via Visualhunt/CC BY

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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