When women talk about their biggest obstacles to successful weight and health management, we often hear about hurdles like not enough time or knowledge to prepare healthy meals. Or frequent social occasions that involve food. Or hectic schedules, or stress in their lives, or transitions they’re currently going through. The list goes on. But if you’re like many of us, it’s really none of these. Instead, our biggest obstacle is unrealistic expectations.
All the menu planning, exercising, and positive behavior change in the world will not help the woman who has set goals that are impossible to achieve.
Unfortunately, too many of us are that woman–driven, all-or-nothing, compulsive perfectionists
Because of feelings of insecurity or inferiority, or simply because we’ve internalized someone else’s standards, we hold a very limited definition of what it means to be successful. We try to mold ourselves into “perfect” people with “perfect” behavior. The irony is that this strategy leaves us feeling worse about ourselves. The more perfectionistic we become, the less likely we are to adopt these changes long-term.
It’s easy to understand intellectually that healthy eating, physical activity and a balanced lifestyle are key to getting and staying fit. The hard part is ‘doing it’– dealing emotionally with the slow, ordinary, day-to-day process called moderation. Rigid expectations don’t blend well with everyday life. After a while, it’s easy to stop trying.
Often, we identify family and friends as saboteurs to our efforts to take care of ourselves. We’re angry when we realize that, rightly so. But how often do we fail to identify the biggest saboteur of all: ourselves. We set the unrealistic expectations that cause failure.
On the other hand, realistic expectations promote success. Success builds confidence. Confidence creates a feeling of self-efficacy – that we can do it. That makes it easier to maintain a high level of commitment and to accept that changing behaviors takes time and is a less than perfect process.
- Consider starting to support yourself by being moderate.
- Learn to live, breathe, dream moderation because moderation helps you move your life towards balance. That, in and of itself, can be success.
- Know that change is a back-and-forth process that is only perfect in its erratic course.
- Look at mistakes as learning opportunities. Be kind and gentle to yourself.
These common expectations don’t meet the definition of moderate:
- Be the perfect eater every hour of the day
- Eat only low calorie, low carb or low fat foods
- Never overeat
- Never miss an exercise session
- Lose lots of weight rapidly
- Never be challenged by food or specific eating situations
- Have a ‘perfect’ body once you’ve achieved a healthy weight