If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, get in shape, or eat better, you probably start the journey with high expectations and lofty goals. It’s great to have big goals and expectations for yourself but we all know that we don’t always reach those goals. If you’re like me, you start out doing really well with your goals like cutting out all junk food or hitting the gym every day of the week, but as time goes on, you lose motivation and you start going back to your old habits. This is often the result of an all or nothing approach to nutrition and fitness, which usually sets us up for failure.
Part of being successful on your health and fitness journey is setting realistic, attainable expectations for yourself. Society doesn’t help with this and it’s easy to feel like you’ll never be good enough. When you go to the grocery store, you’ll see racks on rack of magazines promising that “you’ll lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks” or “get 6 packs abs with these 3 moves”. Most of us know of that stuff is bullshit, but we want to believe it’s possible. Realistically, it’s not healthy to lose more than 2 pounds a week. If you’re losing more than that, it’s less likely you’ll maintain the weight loss.
Have you ever seen the television show, “The Biggest Loser”? These incredibly obese people live at a private ranch with their own personal trainers and work out for 7 hours everyday and have all the food they need at their disposal. They lost 100’s of pounds and had a huge transformation. But most of them ended up gaining all the weight back and then some after the show ended. Why is that?
Unrealistic expectations can completely wreck you, physically and mentally. Part of setting realistic expectations is being self aware. When setting goals for yourself, you need to ask yourself a couple questions. First, ask yourself what is really important to you. Is it important for you to have six pack abs or do you just want to lose some fat around your midsection and feel stronger? Often times, we think the epitome of health is having a perfectly chiseled body, but that’s simply not the case. Health can look many different ways because we are all different. Not everyone wants to look like a bodybuilder and that’s okay.
The second question you need to ask yourself is, what am I truly capable of? If you know that you’re not going to wake up at 5 am to work out every day, then don’t set that expectation for yourself. Be realistic with yourself and make a point to work on your self awareness. The reality is that there is no deadline or end to the health and fitness journey so you have no reason to be impatient with the process. Enjoy the process, learn what works best for you, and know that ups and downs are part of the journey. Taking care of yourself shouldn’t be torture or unattainable. Do what feels good for you whether it’s lifting weights, running, belly dancing, lacrosse, or my personal favorite, punching people in the face. There are no rules and we have to reject the all or nothing mindset. Find the balance in the middle.
Part of why those contestants on “The Biggest Loser” failed was because they weren’t capable of maintaining that lifestyle once they got home to real life. It wasn’t realistic in any way and it didn’t teach them how to live healthy in the real world. Plus, losing such a large amount of weight in such a small amount of time can wreak havoc on your metabolism. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to fat loss.
If we set too high expectations and then fail, we start to doubt ourselves and then we give up. If it’s too hard to maintain or we don’t enjoy it, then we will fail. There is no one size fits all approach and things don’t always go as planned. What works for one person might not work for another so don’t be ashamed if your process is different than someone else’s. We all want to feel strong and healthy and be comfortable in our bodies and the path to get there is unique for each person. If you constantly find yourself beating yourself up for not meeting expectations, take a step back from everything and really refocus your priorities.