This year, I planned an alone trip for my birthday. It happens to fall on a Saturday, so I’m taking a long weekend, and I’m going to spend it doing exactly what I want to do, every second of it.
I’m going to be living my perfect day, including sunshine, water, sand, palm trees, novels, naps, cold beverages, maybe a massage — just letting the day come to me, moment to moment. Just pure unadulterated me time
The problem with the ideal
My ideal day, however, looks nothing like my actual day-to-day. If I lived my ideal day every day, I would not have a home, clothes, food, or relationships. My ideal day, if you notice, does not include me working, doing dishes, driving carpool, or paying bills.
It does not include planning for the future or preparing for it.
It’s all about right now. Super awesome for a weekend. Not realistic for my life.
I could and do, bring elements of my ideal day into my day-to-day life, but I don’t live my ideal day every day.
We often get the message that this is a problem, that we should be doing what we love and loving what we do.
Well, I say that’s crap that has created a lot of unnecessary suffering in our lives.
I think that’s part of the reason why we spend so much money trying to escape. We’re under the impression that the ideal — that things are not supposed to suck, and we’re supposed to love working hard, and also things are supposed to feel easy — is real.
Think about some of the most satisfying days or accomplishments you’ve had in your life.
Did they feel easy?
Were they fun the whole time?
Did you love every minute of the journey?
My answer in my life is no freaking way.
They all required hard work, pain, and sacrifice. There is not anything in my life that I’m proud of that someone just gave to me, or that just fell into my lap, or that was easy.
I’m proud because I worked really hard, and I had to give up things. I had to sacrifice and say no. I got to show myself what I’m capable of and what is possible, and the value of hard work and not quitting.
A poisonous sentiment
This ideal sentiment that it should be easy and I should love it the whole time has become a little poisonous, in my opinion.
That’s not real. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. We know that because it’s not how it is.
We have this mixed-up idea that if it feels hard or challenging or not fun, or we’re not happy the whole time, that something’s gone wrong, and we need to fix it.
We make it personal. Everyone on Instagram seems happy about the journey, and it seems easy for them, so we make it mean that something must be wrong with us.
So that gets us in a lot of trouble in our minds when we buy-in. It leads us to quit or not be present for the process because we are so distracted by how we’re not enjoying it and so focused on the ideal.
There will be some of that joy, fulfillment, and enoughness if you choose it and some more challenging and sucky and not fun things.
In other words, reality.
Reaching your weight and health goals won’t make you a magical unicorn that doesn’t experience suffering anymore. Sorry, you will still be a human at the end of this — and on to the next thing. That’s real.
Valuing the journey
I think it’s important to note that in most cases, working hard and being able to be right where we are is where we find the fulfillment, rather than when we are in a rush to get away from where we are to the ideal we are striving for.
You may be thinking, “That sounds like some enjoying the journey ideal garbage,” but it’s not even about enjoying the journey.
The idea in and of itself infers that we are supposed to be happy all along the way, even when it’s hard, or that the parts that suck and are hard should still somehow be fun.
Instead of trying so hard to enjoy the journey the whole time, we should try to value the journey.
We want to acknowledge the suck and not try to run away, look for its usefulness, notice how it is beneficial, not so it can feel more fun and feel better about it, but so we can experience our real lives while they are happening.
Ideal versus real
Let’s think about some examples of the ideal versus real in weight loss.
The ideal version of what it will look like goes something like this:
- I plan my food carefully and easily.
- I wake up with the desire to follow that plan, and that desire remains all day.
- I carry out the plan with a smile, and nothing deters me from wanting to do this.
- If something like a pesky craving tries to deter me from my perfect plan, I just smile, and I tell that silly craving to go away, and it does.
- I skip to bed completely satisfied, happy, and certain that I am becoming more and more of my future self in every moment.
I don’t think this is that far off of the ideal that most of us want to believe is possible. I hear my clients all the time coming to me feeling super discouraged and distraught that this isn’t what they are experiencing. They are tied to this ideal and not willing to see what’s real.
The real version of what it looks like looks something like this:
- I plan my food some days but not all days.
- Often I have a plan. I don’t want to follow it, especially in the afternoon/evening when I want some relief through food.
- I crave what I restrict.
- I judge myself for craving things.
- I wonder why I can’t just stop eating food I crave, and I go to bed feeling bad about how it went today, right?
Meeting in the middle
I don’t think this is how it has to go. There are ways to meet in the middle of ideal and real versions, but acknowledging your ideal expectations and the reality can be a good first step.
What’s your ideal version of how it’s supposed to look, feel, and how long it’s supposed to take?
What’s your reality?
Be transparent with yourself here.
So how do we meet in the middle of these two perspectives? How do we value our journey and balance being where we are with the goal we’re headed for?
Three steps to valuing your health journey
I love some concepts in the book Mini Habits for Weight Loss by Stephen Guise.
1 – Your primary goal is not weight loss — it’s behavior change
We are trying to choose what we want most more often than deciding what we want in the moment and have that become our default behavior.
We’re using the scale as a measure to gauge how our behavior is impacting our progress, but not as a measure of our success.
If the primary goal is behavior change rather than weight change, the weight change results from the behavior change.
If we’re focused on changing our behavior, that will help the focus remain on what we are doing in the present.
2- The end goal is not the strategy
For example, if you want to stop drinking soda, you want to find strategies to help you do that, rather than just focus on not doing it. Direct resistance is not always the easiest strategy, though it’s often the first one we try.
Other strategies might be:
- Limit it until it is eliminated
- Substitute a different, comparably enjoyable beverage
- Require yourself to drink a full glass of water before drinking soda
- Pause for 10 minutes every time you have a craving for it to allow the craving just to be there, and consider more consciously if you want to choose to drink it.
These are all ways to meet in the middle of ideal: not drinking soda, and real: drinking nothing but soda.
3 – You Are Training.
What is your current perspective of what you’re doing on your weight loss journey? How do you describe it?
Are you trying to stop being so out of control around food? Making sacrifices to lose weight? Do you feel punished? Does this feel temporary?
Do you describe it as mostly failing, hard, impossible, or a huge undertaking? These perspectives won’t lead to losing weight and becoming future you.
Instead, we want to focus on what we are doing. We are training our bodies and brains to be different than they are now, which takes time and effort.
As Guise shares in the book, what does anyone successful do to get where they are? They practice their craft until they succeed.
If you don’t like your current weight, but you like your current lifestyle, you’ve got a choice to make because your lifestyle is your weight.
Your perspective on what you are doing daily on your weight journey will change how you show up for it.
Questions to ask yourself
What behaviors are you changing that will result in weight loss?
What’s the end goal and a strategy you’ll use to get there?
What does your day-to-day training look like?
Meet in the middle of ideal and real, and you’re on your way.
This kind of thought work is invaluable on your journey to losing weight for life. If you’re ready to get started, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.