Weight Loss: Where Does Self-Discipline Begin and Where Does Motivation End?


Self-discipline and motivation are two disparate ideas that do not always overlap.

I have realized this well in the past while. Today it is three months since I decided to completely change my eating habits.

At the beginning of this journey (although it’s kind of strange for me to refer to it that way), the motivation was a lot. I enjoyed my small piece of meat and one tomato because I was motivated to see the kilograms roll off. And so it happened.

Today I am 23 kilograms lighter and in the past month I have really realized how self-discipline and motivation are actually different from each other.

Yes, there is definitely more weight I need to lose, so the motivation hasn’t disappeared, but it takes a lot more self-discipline to say no when we drive past Burger King or the beckoning sushi restaurant.

It’s just a South African thing, isn’t it? We say thank you with food, say goodbye with food, celebrate with food and (perhaps unfortunately?) reward ourselves with food. It takes a lot of self-control to look the other way and not reward myself with a chocolate when I reach a goal.

I remember one day early this year just thinking: Oh well, can’t I have more self-control? Need more self-discipline? The struggle kept me up in the evenings. I was quite angry with myself if I ate too much again or said yes to that extra glass of red wine.

In addition to the weight loss, I hope that I can cultivate a lasting self-discipline. One will not always feel motivated to turn down the piece of cake, but discipline is the thing that will keep your eyes focused on the goal.

Look, I’m not saying you should always turn down the piece of cake, but let’s be honest with each other – sometimes that piece of cake isn’t what your body needs.

One of the first things my doctor told me when I started this program was that my brain had lost the ability to identify when I was full. So I often really only ate when I wanted and often also food that actually made me feel sick afterwards.

It happens so often that as women we complain especially to each other about our bodies, eating habits and self-control. And then it always comes from somewhere: “You only live once, enjoy the food.”

What happens when that one moment of enjoyment is fleeting?

Is weight loss about those size 10 pants you want to fit back into, or about your kids who you want to play outside and run around with? About the sundress and your legs that should look nice in it, or to avoid regular doctor’s appointments, medication and a battle with high blood pressure and cholesterol?

That was where I was. I had to make the choice between a healthy future and another plate of sushi, piece of cake or glass of red wine.

This ties in with something else I realized. Rolene Strauss recently spoke with RNews about milestones and what comes after and something particularly stuck with me: What happens when you reach your goal?

Okay, I have a goal in mind – I’d like to lose 45 kilograms. What happens when I get on the scale and see that I finally got it right? What do I do after that?

Do I just go back to a lifestyle of pasta and chocolate every night?

This is why self-discipline carries more value than motivation, because motivation is fleeting. Self-discipline is what will remind you that you lost weight to be healthier.

So yes, sometimes you’re going to eat that piece of cake and you’re going to enjoy it, but other times you’re going to say no. And that’s okay.

  • This column series is made possible by Slender Wonder.