Have you experienced frustration when trying to get healthier, lose weight, and gain strength? If you say yes, you’re telling the truth! On bad days, that frustration can tempt you to stay inactive. On worse days, you may feel hopeless and want to give up entirely.
What’s at the heart of the struggle? What separates people who are successful in reaching their goals and those who give up?
I’ve found time and time again that it comes down to mindset.
Humans are creatures of habit, and we often think of habit exclusively as things we DO. But the doing starts with thinking, and we may not even be aware of the reflexive thoughts and assumptions that are holding us back from reaching our optimal health.
These unrealistic expectations, aka “failure mindset” are poison to your health and goals.
What the failure mindset looks like:
- Wanting the 6-12 month result NOW
- Not accepting obstacles and missteps as a given, and not having a contigency plan
- not having a plan for fuel opportunities (meal/snack times and social gatherings; EG deciding ahead of time when you will and won’t splurge on a treat)
- thinking “on the ‘Biggest Loser’ show, contestants drop double digit pounds a week so I should be able to” (sadly, almost ALL former contestants gain some, all or more of their weight back)
Unrealistic expectations look like:
- going to the gym for a week or two then quitting when you don’t see an immediate difference (this happens en masse every January)
- making an unplanned unhealthy food choice and saying “I screwed up so screw it” for the rest of the day/week/month
- by the same token, an “all-or-nothing” mindset. Work out 5 days a week or none; never eat sugar again or eat way too much of it; be either thin or fat, healthy or unhealthy. Neither approach is sustainable.
The biggest danger of unrealistic expectations is that they set you up for failure by robbing you of the very consistency needed for great results. Save yourself from the failure mindset with honest awareness.
Here’s what to expect on the way to your goal:
- A marathon, not a sprint. Good health is for life, not just 2 weeks or months or years from now. It takes time to develop the mindset and the lasting healthy habits that follow.
- Freeing yourself from the scale. A scale is but a few pixels of an entire picture. It’s a tool that can show some progress, but blood work results, energy level, body composition (lean vs. fat mass) and movement quality are all fitness components MUCH more important than that number.
- Mis-steps happen. A mis-step is simply an unplanned detour from the path to your goal(s). Everybody has different ones depending on what the goal is. If your goal is to eat greens every day of the week, and you miss six days, figure out where it went wrong; typically either your goal is unrealistic, or you’ve missed some opportunities (EG you were busy and didn’t have time to go to the market and buy arugula or what you had went bad). The antidote is to decide on and implement a plan. How can you improve next time? What will you do to improve next time?
- It’s uncomfortable. Getting back in shape isn’t without discomfort, and not just the physical aspect. You’re becoming more aware of your body, but you’re not yet where you want to be health-wise, and that’s an uncomfortable space to live in. It won’t be sunshine every day, and you’ll have good days, worse days, and best days. When it feels like it sucks, you’ll recognize that it’s part of the process and free yourself to keep going toward success.
I want you to treat yourself kindly when you make choices out of line with your goals…and then get right back up and take control of your health!
Do couple of stretches, a few pushups, or take a mindful deep breath. A small action re-orients your path. Call a supportive friend or text your trainer. Drink water. Eat a vegetable at your next meal. Figure out a healthy behavior that you can do, do it, and feel better.
Be honest. Be present. The most important moment of your life is the very next moment. Be in that moment and turn toward what you really want.