Have you ever picked up a glass to take a drink of what you think is water, only to find out it is something else? You immediately spit out the foreign liquid, not because it actually tastes terrible, but because it wasn’t the taste you were expecting.You may like the taste of that beverage and even choose to drink it on occasion, but when you drink it expecting something else, it’s a different experience. It’s not the beverage or the flavor that is the problem, it’s your expectations.
Expectations are the single biggest cause of unnecessary suffering for my clients on their weight loss journey. I want to help you see how adjusting your expectations can change not just your experience, but your results as well.
Adjusting your expectations
Notice I said adjust your expectations, not let go of, or abandon your expectations. I want you to have goals. I want you to develop and aspire to a future you that is an expression of your best self. But, I want you to do all of that realistically, compassionately, and wisely.
Expectations are predictions your brain is attempting to make based on its past experiences and what it thinks “should” happen.
Notice the word “should.” Whenever you hear it, it’s a signal that we are arguing with the reality of what is. Byron Katie teaches that whenever we argue with reality we lose 100% of the time. Yet, we spend much of our lives trying to win the argument anyway.
Expectations and predictions live in your imagination. They haven’t happened. Your brain just made them up. They may be based on facts or evidence from the past, but they are still conceptual and therefore optional to buy into and to believe.
Expectations that sabotage weight loss
The number one expectation that causes trouble in weight loss is our expectation of how long the process should take.
My program, for example, is six months. That’s not because all weight loss takes six months. It’s a completely arbitrary number that I chose because I liked the idea that it was a half of a year, so that my clients can learn how to lose weight while they live their lives.
However, so many of my clients set a completely unrealistic expectation that they should reach their goal in the six months.
When my clients believe that they should reach their goal of losing 50 pounds in six months, and then two months in they’ve only lost 10 pounds, they think they’re behind, or that they are not being successful enough. They begin to feel panicky and anxious.
Think about when you feel panicky because you are believing you are behind. What do you do? Most of the time, we take frantic action doing a little bit of everything, but nothing well or we take extreme measures to try to make up time.
This does not bode well in weight loss. Extreme measures are not thoughtful. They don’t raise consciousness or increase learning or skill. Quick fixes are not lasting ones. Panic is counterproductive fuel.
We think having high expectations about how long weight loss should take will motivate us, but it ends up sabotaging us. We need to adjust this expectation.
Everybody’s weight loss timeline is different
What if I told you that it was scientifically proven that losing 50 pounds was guaranteed to take two years? What would you think at month two when you were down 10 pounds? You would think, “Wow, I am killing it. I’m already 10 pounds down, only two months into this process. My body loves losing weight, I am totally going to do this. My success is inevitable. I’m going to crush this goal. This feels totally doable.”
You would feel amazing, motivated, excited, proud, committed, strong, and relaxed. Those feelings are the kinds of fuel that drive you to want to plan, execute, experiment and keep going until you get to your goal.
The truth is everybody’s body and weight loss timeline is different. There’s no accurate predictor of how long weight loss should take for you. It takes as long as it takes. If you only lose 0.2 pounds a month, you will still get to your goal if you keep going.
When we expect a short timeline or we are in a hurry to lose weight, it’s only because we are believing that it is better there than here. Certainly, there will be things that feel better there than here. You’ll be more comfortable in your physical body and have more energy, but you’ll still be a human with sorrow, pain and frustrations no matter your size.
Progress is better than perfection
Another expectation that causes trouble is our expectation that perfection equals progress. Let me explain with an example.
I had a client who subscribed to the idea that the only way to lose weight was to be “perfect,” which for her looked like eating only green things, never going through a drive through, and cutting all sugar out of her life immediately.
This is classic diet thinking and it is only effective for a very short period of time. It doesn’t take into account where you are now. It isn’t looking at what you are currently eating and why. It doesn’t consider your desires, your current capacity to feel, or your current coping strategies. By ignoring all of that and completely changing only the food, we set ourselves up for overeating in the near future.
That is what was happening for her. She was creating and executing a “perfect plan” full of “perfect foods” for a few days, and then eating all the “wrong” things for a few days, and then back to “perfect” for a few days. You can imagine how much actual progress was happening with this strategy. Her weight loss was up and down and no real movement towards her goals was made.
Perfection isn’t realistic, and therefore isn’t effective.
I recommend that my clients meet themselves where they are and make a realistic plan that includes food that they will actually want to eat. We start with small changes.
Set yourself up for success by adjusting your expectations from perfection to progress.
When to adjust your expectations
So how do you know when your expectations need adjusting? The feeling is the signal. When you notice yourself feeling frustrated or disappointed on your weight loss journey, it’s a pretty solid sign that there’s an expectation that might need some adjusting.
When you hear your brain offering you thoughts with “should” in them, that is a hint that there’s an expectation that could use some adjusting. You are likely arguing with reality and you are going to lose that one every time.
- Why am I frustrated or disappointed?
- What am I expecting right now and why?
- What am I believing should be happening and why?
- What if I’m wrong? What else could be true?
- How would I feel if I believed something different?
- What would I do if I believed that instead?
Be gentle with yourself. Have compassion through this process. Set realistic expectations. Make reaching your goal inevitable by finding ways to love your journey.