Many have unrealistic expectations when it comes to a health, wellness, or fitness program, and some don't believe that they can achieve better health. There a few crucial things to think about when it comes to setting realistic health goals.
Think Long-Term and Sustainability
One way to look at health is...
What is sustainable, is attainable.
When I think about my health, I'm always thinking long-term, and I'm focusing on longevity. When I start a new supplement, diet, or exercise program, I always ask myself, "Is this something that I can keep up with long-term, and will it increase longevity?". If what I'm trying does not seem sustainable, then I rarely even bother with it.
There's really no point in putting time, energy, and money in to something that isn't even possible to keep doing long-term.
Limiting beliefs are beliefs that prevent us from reaching our goals. For example, a husband and wife with 3 kids who both work 50 hours a week believe that they will never be able to eat healthy again, because they think they don't have time to cook healthy meals at home. Their mindset if so focused on not having time, that they completely disregard ever being able to eat healthy, and therefore, never eat healthy. Often the case, is that sometimes we have to let go of something that doesn't suite our current needs, in order to free up time to do other things that matter more to us. But as long as the husband and wife believe that they don't have time to eat healthy, they will never get over that hurdle and actually eat healthy.
Ok, so you've decided that this is the year your going to "get healthy". Your going to exercise 5 days a week, which includes lifting weights 3 times a week, doing yoga, and jogging. Your also going to cook every meal, except maybe eat out once a week. This is all great and everything, but this is a lot for most people. For a few people, sometimes it's better for them to just dive headfirst, but for the majority, it's a better idea to start small. Instead of exercising 5 days a week, why not start with 2 days a week, or even 1 day a week? Instead of cooking all of your meals in the beginning, why not start with cooking half of your meals? Once you adjust your busy schedule and get in to the swing of the things, then increase how many days you exercise and eat healthy, home cooked meals.
The reason I say this, is because many people get overwhelmed and find that it's way too much to exercise 5 days a week and eat home cooked meals everyday. Some people believe that in order to be healthy and fit, they have to exercise like crazy and eat healthy meals all of the time, which is ludicrous. It takes less effort than most people think. Many people quit after the first week or month of doing some crazy program, because it's not sustainable. I believe most people would more easily find a balance and stick to a healthier lifestyle if they simply started smaller.
Obstacles - The BIG 3
There are so many obstacles that can get in the way of getting healthy.
Here are The BIG 3 that I believe are the most crucial to overcoming:
We have to make time be take care of ourselves.
Making time to cook and/or exercise will require us to spend less time doing other things. Hopefully, it's as simple as not spending time on Facebook, but may require something more significant.
How long do you watch TV? Do you play a lot of video games? Do you plan out your errands each week? Is it possible to not work so much? Should you get a different job in order to take care of your body? Can a family member watch your kids while you food prep?
I don't want anyone to give up something that is actually making them healthier. Sometimes watching TV is really healthy for someone, because it's relaxing and helps ease the mind (for some people, me included). However, you have to really figure out what is more important in your life, and only you can figure that out.
Healthy can be expensive, if you aren't careful.
In terms of groceries, you're already buying food for yourself, so I recommend looking at how much you are currently spending on food and restaurants, make a budget, and try to stick to that. Eating at restaurants is significantly more expensive than buying the healthiest, organic food. There are ways to save on groceries, such as buying frozen fruits and vegetables, and shopping at certain grocery stores.
In terms of exercising, if you are struggling with money, than I highly recommend not wasting money on a gym membership, unless that's the only way you will/can exercise. It's quite easy to exercise at home, and it's free.
Health coaches, nutritionists, dietitians, fitness instructors, and doctors are all expensive. While I will always recommend you see someone if you are sick, be careful not to get sucked in to the trap of believing everything they say. I've spent A LOT of money on naturopaths, doctors, tests, procedures, and all kinds of stuff, and basically got very little in return. Do research, see what the views are of the healthcare professional you wish to work with, and again, start small with them. Most will want to run a ton of tests, and see you every few weeks or whatever. Start small with tests, see if they have helped people, if they believe that they can help you, and see if it seems right for you before you spend a ton of money. You won't regret taking the time to verify costs with insurance or thinking about the tests before you get them done.
Energy is a big one, particularly for those who are ill. If you're ill, it can be very hard to conjure up the energy to cook and exercise. My view on this, is that if you are ill, you have to make time to relax, so that you have energy to take care of your health.
Save your energy for when you need it.
The same goes for people without chronic health conditions. If you don't have the energy to take care of yourself, you need to look at your schedule and figure out how you can make more time to relax.
Don't Compare Yourself To Others
This was a big one for me. I spent a lot of time in my early 20s reading men's bodybuilding and health magazines, watching Youtube videos of people who were seemingly fit and "healthy". When I got ill at the age of 25, I then proceeded to compare myself to others who are healthier than I am. I never felt like a failure, but it did negatively affect a part of me. I spent a few years when I was sick, trying to lift heavy weights and put on muscle, which just made me feel like crap. My body simply could not handle the stress of lifting heavy weights with high intensity. Yet, I proceeded to do this for quite some time, because I wanted to look bigger and more muscular.
What you see in magazines, on TV, or on Youtube is often not a real representation of what's attainable anyway. Those dudes are often (not all of them) consuming a ton of stimulants and supplements, as well as steroids. In magazines, both men and women's photos are edited to the point that its literally not even possible to have a body like that, or it's like the rare <.05% of the population or something. They look through hundreds of photos just to pick out the best looking photo, and then proceed to edit it to make the stomach smaller, arms bigger, abs more defined, etc. I believe that this is more common knowledge now, but the point is, if you don't have the best health, it's ok to look to others for inspiration, but don't compare yourself to them. Don't put yourself down because you don't have perfect health. You should only focus on the long-term, and become a healthier you.
Do What Works For You
This goes along with not comparing yourself to others, because we are all different. Our genes, our microbiome, our current health and environment etc., all play a role in determining what is going to work for us. Don't do high intensity bodybuilding workouts if you get sick and nauseous for 3 days after, don't eat boiled chicken breast or legumes because you believe they are healthy, but you hate the taste of them. Find out what works for you, and stick to that. There's really no reason to do anything else.