What is inoculation? Inoculation introduces an organism to a nominal threat with the purpose of hardening the organism. Motivational inoculation is a series of challenges (in the form of questions) that help crystallize intrinsic, fail-proof motivation. Here's some motivational inoculation for weight management.
Inoculation 1: What is my stated motivation for this weight management attempt?
Inoculation 2: Have I tried to lose weight for this reason before? If yes, then on what basis do I believe that a reason that wasn't strong enough for me to stick to the plan before would be sufficient this time?
Inoculation 3: Is my reason to lose weight for me or for somebody else? If for somebody else, then what reason will I have to keep on track if my relationship were to change with this other person? What if my relationship ends? What if my relationship stabilizes and he/she no longer cares how I look, how much I weigh? What reason will I use then to stay on track weight-wise? And why am I not using that reason now?!
Inoculation 4: Is my reason for this weight management project situational in nature? Am I trying to lose weight so that I look good at somebody else's wedding? Shine at a school reunion? Get a date? Competitively snub somebody else? Am I trying to impress random minds on a spring break beach? Is my weight management attempt part of my seasonal body-transformation as I get out of the "weight camo" winter clothes into a more revealing wardrobe? If so, what will help me stay on weight management track when the situation changes? And why am I not using that reason now?
Inoculation 5: Is my motivation for weight management in line with my definition of psychological health? Is my motivation for weight management in line with my life-values, my priorities, my spiritual/existential compass? If not, why am I misguiding myself? What would be a motivation for weight management that would express and extend the rest of my life-values and life-priorities?
Inoculation 6: Would I be comfortable making my motivation for weight management public? Would I feel at all embarrassed or ashamed if I had to acknowledge my true reason for weight management? What would be the motivation/reason for change that would help me feel psychologically healthy?
Inoculation 7: Will my reason/motivation last a life-time? If not, what is such reason? What would be an open-ended motivation for weight management? What would be the motivation that would withstand any change in circumstance? List such reasons. Use them.
Ask, ponder, inoculate. Or run the risk of running out of motivational gas...
Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is the author of Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time (New Harbinger, 2008) and of "Present Perfect: From Mindless Pursuit of What Should Be to Mindful Acceptance of What Is" (in press, New Harbinger Publications, in stores in July 2010). He is in private practice in Pittsburgh, PA. For more information visit www.eatingthemoment.com and sign up for Pavel Somov's monthly "Mindful-not-Mouthful" Newsletter