Setting Realistic Expectations
Have you ever started a new workout routine or diet and had an idea in mind of the results you would get? Most of us would put our hands up and say yes to this. In some cases those expectations are met and it's great, but sometimes the reality of our results isn't quite what we thought it would be.
Lowering your expectations
How often have you set yourself big health or fitness goals only to end up feeling disappointed? Exercise programs, special diets, social media 'fitspo' images, organic kitchen makeovers, cleanses, superfoods, detoxes... these all hold so much promise that it's understandable to have big expectations when we start out.
We set ourselves a series of rules around what we're doing. 'I can only eat 'x' calories to be healthy', 'I must weigh 'x' kilos otherwise I'm overweight', 'I must do an intense exercise session 'x' times per week to be healthy', 'I shouldn't eat sugar/baked products/pasta' etc.
The rules may be fine for a while, but when they get too difficult (because they usually do), we start to justify why we're no longer sticking to them - 'I exercised a lot today, I can have that extra serve', 'Eating healthy is too expensive', 'I'm too tired to exercise'. And then before we know it we've stopped following our rules completely because once we hit an obstacle it's a lot easier to throw in the towel than to navigate the problem.
There are so many factors that can affect our ability to stick to a healthy fitness, nutrition or wellbeing plan, that following your 'rules' verbatim may be just too difficult. It's important to cut yourself some slack!
Try lowering your expectations even just a little bit - both of your body to change, and of the programme or other methods you're using to magically work - and check out these strategies to help you move forward.
Focus on the 'wins'
Whenever we start making changes to our fitness or health habits, it can be useful to pay attention to the things we are achieving - no matter how small - rather than the things we aren't achieving. For example, if you had the idea that you wanted to lose a certain amount of weight and you stuck to your fitness programme and ate healthier foods than you had previously been doing - regardless of whether you achieved the weight loss you envisioned, ask yourself these questions:
- Did you get stronger?
- Did your fitness improve?
- Did your energy levels improve?
- Did your body benefit from more vitamins and minerals?
It's easy to focus on the big end goal that we didn't achieve, but look at how many useful things happened during the journey (and if you continue to do them consistently they will probably lead to your goal in the end anyway!).
You don't have to be perfect!
Striving for perfection is unrealistic on an ongoing basis, so if this is what you're aiming for it's automatically setting yourself up for failure. Allow yourself some flexibility and give yourself permission to be imperfect. Do your best to stick to your meal plan, workout routine etc. with what's available to you, and know that the occasional deviation from it won't completely derail your efforts!
Substitute ingredients for ones that are as close as you can get. Do a different workout that still gets your body moving. Allow yourself a rest day so you can do a fulfilling workout the next day. Have some healthy takeaway options in mind as a backup when you don't feel like cooking.
This is how you will get through holidays, special events, tiring weeks, social occasions, life changes, forgetting to do the grocery shopping, and all the other things that can easily interfere with a routine that we've set for ourselves.
It's not always going to be exciting or easy
Getting into healthier nutrition, exercise and wellbeing habits isn't necessarily going to be exciting! Sometimes it will be routine, boring, or even difficult. It's up to you to recognise whether it's just something you need to do - like brushing your teeth - or whether you need to change up what you're doing (typically if it's extremely boring or difficult!).
BUT... that said, the more you practice healthier habits, the easier they will get. Kinda like learning to ride a bike. So tough it out for a while and check in with yourself; if things aren't working for you, then it's time to change what you're doing.
Want to know what it really takes to get results?
Most people have a good idea of what a lifestyle of healthy nutrition and regular exercise looks like, but the problem lies in making it happen on a daily basis.
Practicing healthier habits isn't about perfection; it's about consistency and flexibility - showing up and making the best out of whatever you have in front of you. Know that as long as you're giving it a go most of the time, you're on the right path. You just need to keep it up.