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Six expectations to adjust around diets and healthy eating

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Online marketing and social media have set a pretty high bar when it comes to living the ultimate healthy lifestyle.

While most of it comes with good intentions, these wellness images and messages have essentially created a generation of people with a bunch of high expectations that we can never meet. Which makes us feel like crap!

And rather than kindly encouraging ourselves that the reason we’re miserable is because our expectations are too high, we berate and belittle ourselves, laying all the blame on the fact that we’re lazy, willpower lacking humans that obviously can’t cut it in the wellness world.

It seems, however, that we’re gluttons for punishment because the allure of the wellness world doesn’t let up and we continue to try to attain ‘health’ but ultimately fail. And at no point do we think to drop the high expectations that we’ve put on ourselves and find a fresh approach.

The truth is, these high expectations are holding you back from actually achieving the health you want.

Here are five high expectations that need adjusting down a notch—or 10.

Your idea of how quickly you should lose weight

Yes, I know Stacey from accounts lost 40kg in five months but she didn’t lose just body fat in that 40kg and she’s not likely to keep that weight off long term.

True fat loss takes time. At a maximum, you can really only lose, on average, 0.5kg fat per week over a sustained period of time. And, an individual’s weight can fluctuate up to 2kg a day due to other, non-fat reasons, so any fat loss you achieve from sticking to a calorie deficit can be masked by these weight fluctuations for 2-3 weeks. Unfortunately, most people have given up by then, claiming that it’s not working.

It is working. Your expectations are just too high.

Your ability to make food decisions

When you wake up Monday morning, bursting with the motivation for starting a new diet or healthy eating pattern, you’re so high on determination, that you over-estimate your ability to make healthy food decisions, at every meal, for the rest of your life.

Now, suddenly, you expect yourself to choose fruit and vegetables for snacks, instead of Dare ice coffee and a choc chip muffin. You’re now completely immune to the smell of BLT and chips that your colleagues are eating at lunch, and you’re also ditching Friday night takeaway…

Not to mention the oodles of other poor food habits that you’re suddenly going to break…today.

Unfortunately, because you get to the end of the week not meeting these goals, you’re now stuck in a self-pity party because you suck at changing everything about your eating habits all at once.

Mondays may feel like a magical thing, except that they’re not magical. You just have high expectations.

Your idea of realistic food organisation and meal prepping

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met that embark on a ‘healthy eating’ program that has them cooking a brand new, often complicated recipe at every single friggin’ meal of the day.

Apparently, spending hours in the kitchen at any one time, creating matching bulk meals in plastic containers and a stocked fridge pretty enough for Instagram is the key to healthy eating. Except that it’s not.

This kind of expectation requires you to be motivated enough to cook and prep food all the time. To not waiver or falter. No laziness aloud.

This is ridiculous, because unless you’re taking some kind of anti-lazy potion (which I’d like to know about, please) then you need to account for the fact that some days you are not going to want to cook. What are you going to do then?

People regularly tell me that they can only eat healthy when they’re organised. “Great!” I say. “How often are you organised?” “Oh, not often, I usually can’t be bothered.”

If this is you, then your idea of being organised is not helping you. I know why you can’t be bothered. Your expectations are too high!

How much food your body needs to survive

Did you know that your body needs much more than a green smoothie and a tin of tuna to get through the day? Yes, that is correct—you need to eat MORE food than that!

When we become weight conscious, if we’re not following a specific program or if we don’t want to actually think about what we’re eating, we just shove our heads into the sand and just go: “I’m just going to eat less.” And then we cut it allllll back and eat much much less than we need.

The result of that? You’re starving, miserable and prone to bouts of binging and overeating, which is, in fact, meaning that overall, you’re now eating too much! Phew!

Just to be clear—you’re not a disgusting, sugar craving crazy person doomed to Tim Tam slavery. Your expectation of how much food you need to eat each day to achieve your goals and be consistent is just unrealistic.

Your reaction to stress

When life is going well and things are feeling good, it’s easy to stick to your healthy expectations. Combine this with the ‘magic of Monday’ and it’s easy to feel invincible.

What has been a lifelong battle with emotional eating and self-sabotage now feels like a distant memory. You feel determined! For some reason, this new diet and this new Monday feels different. It feels better.

Except that it’s not different and it’s not better. That new diet is still asking you to change everything all at once, probably in a restrictive way and stress (shame, rejection, guilt, disappointment, fear) always pops up eventually and still feels just as crap and impairs your decision making ability, rendering some healthy behaviours completely impossible.

And unless you have tried and true coping mechanisms to help you manage it, stress will always derail your healthy efforts if your expectations are too high.

You’re not a terrible person because you eat your feelings. Or because feeling sad makes you want to skip on exercise for the day. Your expectations are just too high.

Change is harder when you’re stressed, and you’ve got to have the awareness and kindness to give yourself grace if you’re facing a difficult day.

What if you did things differently?

I know the idea of following a particular program that promises the world is alluring. I know that some Mondays you wake up and you genuinely feel like this time you will stick to it—but you won’t! It always ends the same.

If you want to genuinely change your eating habits long term, you need a different approach. I do realistic, sustainable, individualised nutrition. If you’re keen on this kind of support, my program is for you.

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