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Achieving Your Health Goals Part 1: Manage Your Expectations

Over the years I've worked as a Wellness & Nutrition Coach, I've had the privilege of witnessing the ebbs and flows of countless health goals – and I've noticed a recurring theme that deserves a deep dive. This series is brought to you by my urge to uncover with you the patterns that have led many of my amazing clients, and even myself, to stumble on our health goals. Keeping it real – we've all been there, chasing after those seemingly unattainable expectations and falling short of our goals. Wondering why this just "never stick" or we just "can't" get on top of our health.

Well, I hope this series brings you some enlightenment on some (easy to fix) mistakes that you might be making, and get you back on your wellness game!

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Unrealistic Expectations... What are they?

One of the major roadblocks to successful health goals is setting overly ambitious or unrealistic targets. Enthusiasm is great! But, aiming too high too soon can lead to frustration and disappointment. When you, naturally, fail to achieve an unrealistic health goal, your emotional response can be demotivating and may cause you to abandon your efforts altogether! In the end, you may see minimal or no progress, leading to feelings of discouragement.. making it even more difficult for you to get anywhere. Physically, pursuing unrealistic health goals may push you to engage in extreme or intense routines or diets.. putting excessive strain on your body & increase the risk of injuries, fatigue, or burnout. Instead, focus on setting attainable short-term objectives that align with your long-term vision. Celebrate each small victory as they lead to significant progress over time. Which is definitely a lot easier said than done. However understanding why we tend to fall into these patterns can help us learn and grow away from them.

Why Unrealistic Expectations Happen:

  1. Social Media and Advertising: In today's social media-driven world, we're bombarded with picture-perfect body images and fitness ads that honestly seem too good to be true. These images are often edited and curated to appear as flawless beauty and instant fitness transformations. And we do know that, but it's easy to forget in the moment! And we end up setting sky-high expectations for ourselves, thinking we should achieve similar results in no time. This just sets us up for disappointment and frustration. We may feel like we're falling short or not doing enough, even when we're putting in the effort. It's like comparing our real-life journey to a picture-perfect highlight reel. Instead of getting caught up in the illusion of quick fixes and instant transformations, it's essential to remember that these images often don't reflect reality. Real progress takes time, dedication, and a healthy approach. Setting more achievable and realistic goals that suit our unique circumstances is the key to long-term success.

  2. Comparison to Others: The comparison trap is a psychological phenomenon where we constantly compare ourselves to others, often leading to feelings of inadequacy or envy. Comparing oneself to friends, celebrities, or social media influencers who seem to have achieved their health goals can lead to unrealistic standards. Again, thanks Social Media! We see "everyone" flaunting seemingly perfect health and fitness, and it's hard not to wonder why we're not measuring up. But here's the thing: everyone's journey is different, and comparing yourself to others isn't a fair game. Sure, those influencers may have reached their health goals, but they might be working with different resources, time, and circumstances than you are. It's like comparing apples to oranges, and it can lead to setting unrealistic standards for ourselves. It can be hard to tell if you're falling into the Comparison Trap but, honestly, taking a break from Social Media is great for anyone. If you think you might be struggling with this, maybe consider taking a break from it and noticing if you feel a difference.

  3. Fad Diets and Quick Fixes: You've probably seen it all over the internet – those trendy fad diets and flashy quick-fix solutions that promise lightning-fast weight loss and jaw-dropping transformations. They're like a siren call, tempting you with the allure of quick results. But here's the scoop: these fad diets and quick fixes might seem like a magic potion, but they often leave you feeling unsatisfied and let down. Sure, shedding pounds at warp speed may sound appealing, but the truth is, these approaches are typically not sustainable in the long run. They can lead to a rollercoaster of emotions when the promised outcomes fail to materialize. It's like a crash-and-burn situation, leaving you feeling disappointed and questioning why it didn't work.

  4. Misinformation: Picture this: you're navigating the vast sea of health and wellness information out there, but instead of finding clarity, you're swamped with conflicting advice. It's like a whirlpool of confusion that leaves you feeling uncertain and overwhelmed. The result? Unrealistic expectations that can take you down a risky path. Information overload is a REAL thing! With so many voices claiming to have the "magic formula" for health and wellness, it's easy to get caught up in extreme or unproven methods. You might dive headfirst into a new diet or wellness trend without fully understanding the potential risks and limitations. But here's the truth: not all that glitters is gold. Just because something is popular or trending doesn't mean it's safe or effective for everyone. What works for one person may not work for you, and what's safe for one may be risky for another.

Steps to Avoid Unrealistic Expectations:

  1. Set Realistic and Incremental Goals: Focus on setting small, achievable goals that align with your long-term vision. Break down larger objectives into manageable steps, celebrating each milestone along the way (this is key!). Think about it like this: you wouldn't expect to go from never working out to trying to climb Mount Everest overnight, right? The same goes for your health goals. Setting realistic targets that you can manage within your abilities and timeframe is the key to making real, sustainable, progress. Now, it's all about being SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Nail down those specific goals that align with your bigger picture, and measure your progress. Keep those objectives achievable and relevant to your unique journey. And don't forget to set deadlines – it's all about that timely hustle. When you can tangibly see that today you did ONE more sit-up than you did yesterday, you can genuinely acknowledge that that's progress. And having an awareness and celebration of that progress - no matter how small - boosts your motivation to keep going! It's all about sustainability.

  2. Educate Yourself: Knowledge is power, and in the world of health and wellness, being accurately informed is like having a super powers! But, with a sea of information out there, it's so easy to get overwhelmed. Skip the hearsay and hit up reputable sources that are backed by science and evidence. Think of it as sorting the diamonds from the pebbles – you want the good stuff. Reach out to the pros in the field – healthcare professionals, nutritionists, coaches. They have already done the research for you and they can present it in a way that's manageable for you to understand and implement. And don't be shy to ask questions – you're not alone! Chances are, if you have a question about something, someone else has already asked it. And you deserve to know!

  3. Focus on Health, Not Just Appearance: First, get really clear on why you truly want to work on your health. For some, it honestly might be because you want to look better in a dress. And that's fine - because guess what? You look better in a dress when you are taking care of your health. It's not because you're skinnier. When you are taking care of your health, it shines from the inside out! And you deserve to love how you look. But the key here, is re-framing those thoughts in your mind. Thinking that you just need to lose X amount of pounds, or fit in a certain size, can be really damaging to your mental and physical health. So start thinking about your wellness as GAINING HEALTH. What exercises feel good and powerful to YOU? What foods feel nourishing and satisfying and give you energy? PS: I know this is not easy. Talking with a health coach can be really beneficial especially here!

  4. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself and recognize that setbacks and slower progress are a normal part of any journey. Avoid self-criticism and adopt self-compassion, acknowledging that everyone faces challenges and that you are doing your best. Setbacks and slow progress happen to the best of us. Instead of beating yourself up over these bumps in the road, it's time to show yourself some love. Be your own biggest cheerleader, your number one fan. When things don't go as planned, give yourself a pep talk like a true champ. No harsh judgments, just understanding that everyone faces challenges – even the health gurus out there. Let go of that self-critic – ain't nobody got time for that negativity. Know that you're giving it your all and that your best is always enough. This journey is about growth, not perfection.

  5. Avoid Comparison Traps: Cut back on content that sets unrealistic body ideals on a pedestal, and opt for accounts that spread positive vibes about health and wellness. And, sorry to say this but, "content" isn't JUST social media. It's the mainstream media that you consume, it's the people you surround yourself with, the books you read, everything! Think of it like curating your "feed" – you want to surround yourself with people, follow accounts, watch movies, listen to music, that inspires and uplifts you. Skip the ones that leave you feeling like you don't measure up, and focus on the ones that promote a balanced and realistic approach to well-being. So yes, taking a break from social media or re-vamping your feed is one step. And, also, have you taken a look at who you surround yourself with? I want to see people that support you, no matter what you look like or how you're doing on your health goals. They love you for YOU.

  6. Seek Support and Accountability: Creating a strong support system and accountability crew is crucial for your health journey. Share your goals with supportive friends, family, or join like-minded communities. Surround yourself with people who understand and encourage your efforts, keeping you motivated and on track. Having a place/community to share your progress, challenges, and successes openly, is a level of support that is not only crucial but just something you don't have on your own! Engage actively in the community, attending events and supporting others. I think people tend to see health and wellness as a really individualized aspect of life, and while that is true, it doesn't have to be isolated! Having that support when times get tough, having accountability to keep going, and plus, bonding and making new friends and relationships will bring so much joy into your life and make you want to continue on this path.

  7. Stay Patient and Persistent: Remember that sustainable changes take time. Stay committed to your plan, even during challenging moments. Be persistent and trust that your efforts will yield positive results over time. Follow the steps above to help you stay patient & persistent! Consistency is the backbone of persistence, so create a daily routine that aligns with your goals. Track your progress to see how far you've come, gaining motivation to keep going. Seek support from your community who can offer encouragement during challenging times. Surround yourself with a supportive network to make the journey feel less lonely & overwhelming. Stay flexible and be open to adjusting your approach if necessary, as life is going to happen, as it does, and inevitably you will have to reroute. Learn from setbacks, using them as learning opportunities rather than roadblocks. Above all, stay inspired by seeking motivational content and celebrating your achievements along the way. Remember, it's not about perfection but about showing up consistently and moving forward, knowing that with each step, you're progressing towards the destination you desire.

By approaching health goals with realistic expectations and a holistic mindset, you can cultivate a healthier relationship with yourself and your well-being. Embrace the journey, and remember that every step towards better health is a step in the right direction.


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Steph Genco, plant-based wellness & nutrition coach for women.

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