Okay. So a lot about making healthy lifestyle changes depends on a changed mindset. This is probably the number one reason people give up–their mindsets about their different circumstances as a result of their (new and improved good) choices are plopped in the “negative” category. I talked about one way of trying to counter this negative mindset in a previous article.
While my previous post addressing this issue was mostly about maintaining an attitude of “plenty”, this post will be about the perception of challenge. How difficult is this change? This is where many people will chime in and say something along the lines of, “This is probably one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do!”
Okay. Let’s stop right there. This is the point when you need to stop for a bit and dig deep. Is it difficult? That’s the question that needs to be answered thoroughly for us to move forward successfully. There are also a number of questions that should branch from this main one–“In what way is this difficult?,” “Are there different degrees of challenge that depend on changeable factors?”
Here are my thoughts on this. First and foremost, unrealistic expectations are your worst enemy when it comes to challenges. When you go into a situation telling yourself, “I got this!” or “This is definitely something I will achieve!” in the wrong tone, you might just end up disappointing yourself. Too much confidence with little awareness of what the challenge entails is setting yourself up for failure (of course, too little confidence is no good either).
That being said, I want to emphasize this–a change like this is NOT EASY. Don’t let others make it seem like it comes naturally and easily for the “right kind of people”. What happens is this. In the beginning, you are doing awesome and you’re pumped to finally be making great changes. You’re speeding! You’re cruising! You’re in full force! But then, you start to experience some difficulties and hiccups along the way… and you look around you and see others who aren’t (keep in mind that this is an illusion, as at every given point, there are successes and failures happening simultaneously). Then you ask yourself, “What is wrong with me? Why can ____ do it, but I can’t?” At that point, you’ll throw in the towel, saying, “Ah, this isn’t me. This just isn’t in the cards for me.” If you paint something as being easier than it really is, you will not be equipped with the mindset, approach, and support you will need to face your challenges, and you will resort to a perception of isolation (e.g., “I’m the only one who can’t get this right!”) or a fixed mindset (e.g., “Other people seem to be able to do this more easily, but people like me can’t really do it right.”) Let me just re-emphasize the illusion concept. While you are experiencing struggles (which is okay and completely normal!), you look around and throw a laser focus at all the successes happening around you. While this could be inspiring in some situations, it could also lead you to think you are the only one not getting it or that you are not fit for this. Here is the truth about the illusion. When you observe a seemingly seamless stream of successes, you are really witnessing bits and pieces of people’s best. What person will post negative things that happen? Some do, but this isn’t the norm. What ends up surfacing is a bunch of half-truths. Struggle is a part of any big change, but for some reason, people don’t like sharing these experiences quite as much, if at all. When you come across these struggles, embrace them and realize they are not a sign of weakness or “unfittness”. Don’t think that in order to be successful, you can not hit any bumps in the road. The key is gathering your toolkit of support and strategies and figuring a way to get back on the road so you can move forward.
Finally, I wanted to end with this note. Making significant dietary changes is very difficult at first–but it actually ends up making your life easier! You have to first learn what things you can and can not have (I recommend you focus on what you can have). From that point, you realize you have eliminated a lot of options. Having too many options can actually make things overwhelming. In a way, being able to eliminate a lot of items ultimately saves you time and decision-making capacity. The most difficult and time-consuming part is figuring out what you can have. Once you have chosen the safe players, you know your go-to routine. You know exactly where to go in the store, which items to pick out, what foods to make. Dishes will start out simple (don’t expect gourmet dishes every night starting out). But in time, you will increase your repertoire of food options. Changing your diet in the context of lifestyle change is like any other skill or area of expertise you acquire. It takes patience, commitment, and lots of practice, but the effort will pay off in time.