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Exercise & Fitness

The missing rewards that motivate healthy lifestyle changes

March 17, 2016

About the Author

photo of Srini Pillay, MD

Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

Srini Pillay, M.D. ( is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry (Part-Time) at Harvard Medical School. After graduating as the overall top medical student in South Africa, he completed his residency in psychiatry at McLean Hospital—Harvard’s largest freestanding … See Full Bio
View all posts by Srini Pillay, MD


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Janice Tollini
April 21, 2016

That is a fascinating article. Thank you so much for sharing! It also makes sense in an intuitive level. My boyfriend has no desire to eat healthy or to exercise, while I do it for the sake of my health and overall well-being, not to fit into a smaller size. I can’t wait to tell him that my insula is larger than his!

Chris Maloney
April 21, 2016

Great article Dr. Pillay, thank you for sharing!

Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

With that said, we are social beings, organized into small groups (typically a family unit), how can we use your work to harness the power of small groups to help change society?

For example, 70% of the population is overweight, 80% of medical costs are behavior related, etc. I feel these stats are the result of bad family (not necessarily individual) habits, traditions, beliefs, lifestyle, etc. – how does your work with individuals apply to families/small groups? Would love to hear your thoughts, thank you again!

March 22, 2016

Now this is what I call motivation! Yes I agree that there are two types of motivation, one for a greater cause and the other is self-serving. Whenever I feel that E-rewards I always feel that I can do and achieve anything. Thinking that I should improve myself to create a better me, I can’t help but think now about the new workout and diet that I read from consumerhealthdigest. I’m literally smiling right now. Thank you so much Sir Srini Pillay for this wonderful post.

Cecilia Wong
March 21, 2016

It took me a long time to realize how to make me happy was to not think about me – but about others.

Roo Bookaroo
March 21, 2016

A sense of purpose is paramount.
This is how Mary Shelley (1797-1851, published her novel “Frankenstein” in 1818, at age 21) phrased it:
“Nothing contributes so much to tranquilizing the mind as a steady purpose — a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye”
All her life, she was motivated and driven by a “steady purpose”, even though that purpose could change radically, following the various critical events of her tumultuous existence.

Linda Grant
March 18, 2016

Cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, choice of foods….these are all addictions. If you have an addictive personality then I feel you need to have something real to bring you back to earth. My kids did it for me with smoking. It’s okay not to care what other people think about you, but when it comes to your kids….they live what they learn. Important to remember….you are the role model.

Kara M.
March 17, 2016

As a female in todays society I can relate to the idea of constantly wanting to improve my body figure, but as a college student I can also most definitely relate to the lack of motivation to work out and eat healthy after a stressful day of classes and work. Your article is beneficial for both men and women trying to accomplish a long last positive change for their bodies! Being a health science major I learn about the proper way to treat your body physically, but until your article I was never introduced to mental aspect of E-Rewards. Learning about what truly keeps a person motivated long-term was a very interesting read, thank you!

Srini Pillay
March 18, 2016

Glad that resonates Kara. Societal pressures are so different from inspired health. The latter is what flourishing is all about. You’re already way ahead for realizing the disruptions that stress can bring. Spread the word whenever you can. It helps to be reminded of this.

Srini Pillay
March 17, 2016

Really glad that this resonates. And especially glad to have a community of thinkers who are dedicated to thinking about this. Thank you.

Justin F.
March 17, 2016

Very useful for all. I fully agree and will pass it on!

March 17, 2016

Great read-thank you!

Barbara Marie
March 17, 2016

One of your best articles, Dr Pillay!
Thank you for the insights, the exercise and the examples. My intention is to once again flourish by reshaping those six areas of my life. I’m seeking to know my intrinsic sense of purpose because I like rewards of any type… E-Rewards included.

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