By: Madeleine Ortiz
A few years ago, I booked a vacation to Cuba. I stared at pictures of turquoise waters and old-timey cars for weeks as I counted down the days until departure. When things got boring at work, I would drift off into a daydream of me salsa dancing through the streets of Old Havana, sipping a Cuban coffee as I went. The day before I left, I carefully packed my suitcase, imagining the different scenarios in which I would wear each outfit. By the time my plane had arrived at the airport, I had already lived my tropical vacation in my head a thousand times over.
It wasn’t long before I realized that my fantasies had been exactly that… fantasies. There are many amazing and beautiful parts of Cuba, but just like any other place, there are also rundown buildings, strangers that give you dirty looks, and food that doesn’t taste that great. I never once thought about any of the ordinary things, and I especially didn’t think about the things that might throw my vacation off course. I let my unrealistic expectations of perfection spoil my actual trip.
I let my unrealistic expectations of perfection spoil my actual trip.
In many ways, I’ve had this same experience with my health and weight loss journey. I’d treat the days leading up to the New Year like the days that led up to my vacation. I’d imagine eating only the healthiest food, crushing new workouts, and loving what I see in the mirror so much that I’d buy an entirely new, and highly fashionable, wardrobe. I would never envision an ordinary day where I didn’t feel motivated to exercise or I tried a new recipe that tasted awful. Then, mid-January, one of those normal days would arrive, and I would feel like I let myself down. I’d get disappointed things did not “go as planned” and throw in the towel until I felt ready to start the process over again. It was great to have a goal of getting healthier, but I was lacking realistic expectations of what that would really look like.
Dr. Shiau, founder of the LEAF Weight Management Clinic in Ottawa, says I’m not alone in this idealistic way of thinking. “When we look at expectations for weight loss,” she says, “we know most people want to lose about a third of themselves. And part of it might be because they remember how they were at a lower weight.”
Like me, however, they forget the realities of their everyday life. They might be older than when they first started losing weight, getting less sleep, or on a medication that hinders weight loss, among other things. She encourages those looking to get healthier to set a smaller goal, like 5 – 10 percent of body weight, and plan for setbacks. If you’re not sure what those setbacks might look like, she encourages you to talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional for advice and direction.
So instead of just visualizing your best and healthiest self on only the most ideal days, picture yourself conquering a not-so-fun hurdle on day you might not be feeling super-motivated. Then, when a real roadblock arrives, it won’t feel like a big disappointment , but a challenge you’ve got a plan to tackle. And that’s the real victory…
For more on setting expectations watch this video…
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