This is Part 2 in a 10-Part Series on Common Obstacles to Losing Weight and Getting Fit.
In this second part of our series we’re going to discuss two extremely common weight loss and fitness saboteurs – setting goals that are unrealistic or flat out impossible to achieve, and being impatient. For a lot of people, these two issues often go hand in hand. If you’re in too much of a hurry to improve your body, the odds that your goals are achievable are slim to none. Patience and realism may not be much fun, but they’ll vastly improve your likeliness of success.
2 ~ You’ve set unrealistic goals for yourself
If you’re like many individuals who embark on a weight loss and / or fitness regime, you’re eager to reach your goals in the shortest time possible. Truth be told, you want those excess pounds gone now! Of course, there’s no magic wand to simply wave them away and replace them with sleek, toned muscle, so you decide to set some goals for yourself. That’s all fine and good since clearly defined goals will help ensure your success.
However, this is where you can easily get yourself into trouble and set yourself up for failure – and a major crash and binge disaster at some point (or several!).
You know those extra pounds didn’t accumulate overnight. Your muscles didn’t shrink and lose their firmness over the course of a few days. It likely took at least several months and perhaps even several years for your body to reach the point it’s at right now. So it’s going to take some time to reach your weight and fitness goals, especially if you have a substantial amount of weight to lose or are severely out of shape. Think of it as somewhere between a 5K run and a marathon as opposed to a 100-meter sprint to the finish line.
Having an unrealistic time frame isn’t the only way to set yourself up for failure. You may also have unrealistic goals in terms of your desired body shape, size, or fitness abilities. For example, if you’re a large-boned, 5’10” female, getting into a size 0 pair of jeans probably isn’t a realistic goal no matter how diligent and disciplined you are.
Setting unrealistic goals is one of the quickest ways to end up discouraged, disappointed, and mad at yourself. Your futile attempts to reach them can trigger an onslaught of self-defeating and harsh self-talk. Those negative thoughts and emotions can put a serious dent in your self-esteem, not to mention your belief in your ability to succeed. All the motivation you mustered at the beginning can quickly plummet, especially if you blame yourself for failing and not having enough willpower instead of recognizing the real culprit in your lack of success – lofty but impossible goals. If you don’t step back and re-evaluate, you’ll be tempted cancel your gym membership and drown your frustration in deep-dish pizza with extra cheese!
- Before you start, take some time to seriously consider if your goals are truly achievable and realistic – for you, not for someone else or for a younger / fitter version of yourself. For example, while it may have been easy to drop 10 to 12 pounds a month when you were 25 years younger (with a faster metabolism and more muscle mass), a goal of 5 or 6 pounds a month may be more realistic at this point in your life.
- Review your goals with someone you trust and who, preferably, knows you well, such as a close friend or family doctor you’ve seen for years. Someone who knows both your personality and your history can help you determine if your goals are reasonable versus a nice fantasy (e.g. looking like a malnourished Victoria’s Secret model – ever – but especially after giving birth to 4 children!).
- Break big, long-term goals into smaller, short-term goals. Let’s face it; running a half marathon in 2 hours or losing 100+ pounds can seem like a Herculean task, especially when you’re just starting your journey. But when you break those goals down into much smaller, short-term increments – and reward yourself as you hit each milestone – reaching your ultimate goal will seem much more doable.
- Keep in mind that your goals don’t have to be set in stone. Don’t be afraid to be flexible and tweak them as needed. For example, if life throws you an unexpected curve ball (e.g. you tear a ligament), you may need to temporarily adjust your workout regimen and allow some extra time to reach your goals.
3 ~ You’re too impatient
Unless you’re the very rare exception, you want to lose those excess pounds and whip your body into shape as quickly as possible. Chances are, you’ve fallen for at least one fad diet or other weight loss gimmick (e.g. carb-blocking pills or strict cleanses) that promised rapid results with minimal effort or without sacrificing your favorite foods. There’s a reason over-hyped diet books and fat burning supplements are part of a multi-billion dollar industry! So if you’re feeling impatient, just chalk it up to being human.
But while impatience is normal when it comes to improving our bodies, it’s a mindset you need to change if you want to be safe, stay healthy, and get results that are sustainable and (hopefully) lasting.
As mentioned earlier when talking about having unrealistic goals, you need to remember that those excess pounds didn’t accumulate overnight. You didn’t wake up one morning only to discover your body had suddenly become flabby or soft. It happened gradually. And getting to your desired weight and level of fitness needs to happen gradually as well. Trying to do either too fast will set you up for failure – at least in the long run.
When you try to lose weight or improve your fitness level too quickly, at least one of four things will likely occur:
- The deprivation you experience will probably cause you to quit long before you reach your goals
- You’ll lose some weight but end up gaining it all back – and those pounds you lost will bring along some new friends
- You’ll injure yourself and have to limit or forgo your workouts for a period of time
- You’ll get frustrated that you’re not getting results as quickly as you’d hope and jump to the next fad diet or over-hyped fitness trend
Fads, gimmicks, and the pursuit of rapid results simply aren’t good routes to take.
- Take some time to carefully evaluate your plan for getting fit and / or losing weight. If you’re considering a fad that promises unusually fast results (e.g. losing 20 pounds in 10 days), it’s probably best to steer clear and consider a slower and healthier approach to reaching your goals. You do want lasting results, right?
- Write down all the potential benefits of reaching your goals by making positive, long-term lifestyle changes. Use these to keep yourself motivated when you find yourself feeling impatient.