Collage of words related to Wellness with text overlay: Managing Expectations When It Comes to Wellness Changes

Managing Expectations When It Comes To Wellness Changes

Lose up to 4 dress sizes in 30 days!

We’ve found the Fountain of Youth!

Gain 600% more muscle in 7 weeks!

Lose it fast, lose it forever!

Have you ever seen these claims in the ads you see online, in magazines, or on TV?

We don’t really believe this nonsense do we? Wait…..DO WE???!!!

What if somewhere, deep inside, we DO think we should see these kinds of results when we’re making wellness changes?

We know better, but with all these quick-fix messages we get all the time, sometimes we can have expectations we’re not even aware of.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when my friend Kit from Kit Dunsmore’s Blog wrote about having unrecognized expectations with her nature journaling. She talked about how those expectations led her to think that every time she journaled, she should “be amazed” and started to feel anxious when she wasn’t. She went on to say, “Without realizing it, I was telling myself I was failing.”

This reminded me of how often we do the very same thing with our wellness improvement efforts.

How many times have you started a new diet or exercise program, and when you didn’t get immediate results, or the results you expected, you, like my friend Kit, told yourself you had failed?

What happens when we feel we’ve failed? We usually give up.

Sometimes we start with expectations we’re not even aware we have. Other times, we go in with unrealistic expectations. Either way, we may be hurting our chances of long-term change.

One key to being successful with long-term change is to manage our expectations. I don’t ever want to discourage anyone from dreaming big; in fact, I encourage it. But if we’re going to make that big dream come true, we have to be realistic about what it’s going to take to get there.

Person sitting on the end of a pier facing mountains across the water with text overlay: "If you align expectations with reality, you will never be disappointed." Terrell Owens

When we go in with unrealistic expectations, it can backfire on us. So how do we manage them?

Managing Expectations When It Comes To Wellness Changes

Know what your expectations are.

It’s important to spend some time figuring out exactly what we expect to gain from the changes we’re making. We do this by setting goals and breaking down the steps we have to take to reach them. Going through this process can help us take a realistic look at what we want to accomplish and what it’s going to take for us to get there.

Take a look at the trade-offs we may have to make to get where we want to be.

We need to have a realistic view of what we’re willing to trade in order to reach a particular wellness goal so we can decide if that goal is worth the trade-offs we have to make to reach it.

We need to have a #realistic view of what we're willing to trade in order to reach a particular #wellness #goal so we can decide if that goal is worth the #trade-offs we have to make to reach it. Click To Tweet

For example, many people want to to have very low body fat, but don’t realize what it takes to get there. If we want to be lean (somewhere around 13-15% BF for men and 23-25% BF for women), we may have to plan our meals around specific macro nutrients at each meal, exercise consistently, 30-45 minutes per day, sleep at least 7 hours a night, and perhaps, give up some social events.

The lean range above is a healthy body fat range, but so is 15-20% for men and 25-30% for women. This requires fewer tradeoffs and may be much easier to obtain and maintain than a leaner physique. As I said, this is a healthy body fat range and does not require as many trade-offs.

Be realistic when setting expectations.

Don’t forget that there’s plenty of middle ground between “extremely unwell” and “perfectly healthy.” For most of us, especially those of us who live with a chronic illness, being “perfectly healthy” is an unrealistic expectation.

On the other hand, doing things that help us be as well as possible is completely realistic. Remember, our overall wellness has many dimensions, and there are small things we can do to improve both individual dimensions and our wellbeing in general.

Give yourself time – don’t try to rush the process.

Taking a realistic look at the work we have to do can be a little daunting. I used to tell my clients all the time, “Just remember, you didn’t get here overnight, so you probably won’t get to where you want to be overnight either.” Giving ourselves a realistic timeline and focusing on the process rather than results can help us avoid burnout and feeling we’ve failed if we don’t see results right away.

Focus on the process, not the finish line.

We need to have the finish line established; otherwise, how will we know where we’re going? BUT when we focus entirely on the finish line, it can derail us because it might look like we just have too far to go.

Focusing on the process — the behaviors we have to do consistently to get where we want to go — helps us feel successful when we’re able to build consistency with them. And let’s just face it — it’s a whole lot easier to focus on eating 5 servings of vegetables today than it is to focus on eating 5 servings of vegetables every day for the rest of our lives.

Aim for progress, not perfection.

Nobody can do everything perfectly all the time. We don’t expect perfection from others, and we shouldn’t expect it from ourselves. Rather than aiming for perfection, let’s aim for “a little bit better.”

This could look something like meditating one day a week if we haven’t been meditating at all or going to bed at the same time each night rather than “I have to get 7 hours’ sleep each night” initially. We can always add on to small behaviors once we get consistent.

It’s great to aim high and set stretch goals for ourselves. What we don’t want to do is set ourselves up for feelings of failure or disappointment. Managing our expectations can help. Knowing what our expectations are, looking at the trade-offs we may have to make, being realistic, focusing on the process and aiming for progress instead of perfection can help us set those goals and make steady progress toward them.

It's great to aim high and set stretch #goals for ourselves. What we don't want to do is set ourselves up for feelings of #failure or #disappointment. #Wellness #ManageExpectations Click To Tweet

Have you ever found yourself falling victim to those unrecognized or unrealistic expectations when it comes to your wellness goals? How did it affect you? What did you find helpful in dealing with them? Please share!

Blessings,

~Terri

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Person sitting on a dock looking at mountain across the water with text overlay: Managing Expectations When It Comes to Wellness Changes

Sources:

The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition, 3rd ed, 2019, John Berardi, PhD,CSCS, et. al, Precision Nutrition, Inc.

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/cost-of-getting-lean-infographic

8 comments

  1. Well said, and you make such an important point. How we think about what we are trying to do really affects what we are able to do, especially if we haven’t recognized our true expectations. I need to remember that living with a chronic condition, I am never going to be completely well. But I can be better than I am and that difference greatly affects the quality of my life. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

    1. Thank you so much Kit, and thank you for reminding me about this with your fabulous post! You make such a great point about being cognizant of our chronic conditions and their effect on areas of our wellness, but realizing there are still things we can do. Sending hugs your way sweet friend!

  2. This is great! It’s so true about setting yourself up for failure. Those ads are ridiculous, but so many people need to grasp for something to believe in, wen they really only need to believe in themselves and be patient. xo

    1. Thank you so much Sandy! I guess we all just really want to believe there’s that ‘magic pill’ out there that’s going to solve all our problems. As you said, though, if we’ll just be patient and believe in ourselves, we can be successful. And of course, we need to realize that it’s not just about seeing results quickly, but doing things that help us sustain those results over the rest of our lives. Sending hugs!

  3. I’m just checking out Kit’s post now (a new blog to me I think so thank you for sharing it!). I know I’m rather behind on blogs but I always look forward to reading your posts, Terri, and this is no exception. I’ve found adjusting to reality and managing expectations to be another tricky one that’s a continual work-in-progress. I think I have a tendency to get frustrated quite easily, feeling that I ‘should’ be able to do more than I can. Of course if our goals aren’t realistic and manageable, and our hopes, ideas, expectations of life and everything in our day to day aren’t on par with what’s likely to happen, that we end up resentful, frustrated, disappointed, and generally more fed up by it all. We need to remember that life with fibromyalgia was made for the expression that ‘slow and steady wins the race’! xx

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Caz! I know what you mean about being behind on blogs — sometimes I feel I’m in a perpetual state of behind-ness when it comes to that. I guess that’s what happens when we follow a bazillion blogs, huh? I’m glad you’re checking out Kit’s blog; I think you’ll really like it. I always enjoy her posts so much. You just did a fabulous job of summarizing the whole issue with needing to manage our expectations: “Of course if our goals aren’t realistic and manageable, and our hopes, ideas, expectations of life and everything in our day to day aren’t on par with what’s likely to happen, that we end up resentful, frustrated, disappointed, and generally more fed up by it all. We need to remember that life with fibromyalgia was made for the expression that ‘slow and steady wins the race’!” Sending hugs your way sweet friend!

  4. Such a telling post Terri. You know, I think for all of us, when we’re trying to get more healthier, we’re susceptible to believing a new miracle drug, a fantastical device or a dynamic trendsetting routine if it gets us to where we want immediately. There is no magic potion in a bottle. Your post is common sense that we should all acknowledge. If we want to do something right, especially for our health, we need to do research and take the slow and steady course that’s proven.

    1. Thank you so much Mark! I agree that we can be susceptible to those “quick fix” schemes when we’re trying to get healthier, lose weight, etc. I think it’s because, honestly, our emotions get involved and kind of take over. We know there’s probably no such thing as that “magic potion in a bottle” you referenced, but we get reeled in by clever advertising. Hope you’re staying safe and well dear friend!

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