Spare Yourself a Ton of Grief

What drives people to overeat? For the most part, stress. Therefore, anything that alleviates stress is worthy of attention. Life is famous for one thing: throwing us into unforeseen crises after the unanticipated emergency. When was the last time even a single day went by without some disheartening dilemma?

Like the photo on this page, stress is just a big box of awfulness, waiting for its chance to drop down and crush us. And yet, we find it all too easy to believe that stuffing a few hundred extra calories into our mouths will somehow alleviate this doom. How we sell ourselves this obvious fallacy is an eternal mystery.

Let’s consider some concepts that will come in handy every single day. The previous post mentioned expectations, but barely scratched the topic’s surface. First of all, an expectation is like a fairy tale for grownups. Imagine a business owner with an ironclad contract in hand, drawn up by an all-star team of cutthroat lawyers, and signed by all the right people in all the right places. Naturally, this executive has sky-high expectations for the results.

And yet, another tycoon can come along with an even larger team of even more merciless lawyers, and blow that first contract right out of the water. It happens every day. Given the right circumstances and the wrong motivations, any contract can be transformed into a mere sheaf of paper, more useful in a toilet stall than anywhere else.

Stress prevention 101

In real life, an expectation is just an imaginary contract, an agreement a person pretends that the world has promised to honor and fulfill. An expectation is an idea about how things ought to be, but life on Earth has shown time and time again that “how things ought to be” is simply not a valid concept. A person may believe all day long that they can jump off a tall building and float, because that’s how things ought to be, but it’s never going to happen no matter how sincere the expectation is. Even if the action were repeatable, it would end the same way every time. In a universe ruled by gravity, expectation is not a viable currency.

Sure, many times things will turn out like we expect, and there is a lot we can do, through preparation and hard work, to make that happen. Our expectation may be fulfilled ten times in a row, or 20 times. But it is never guaranteed. Thinking that we are entitled to have things turn out like we want, believing that our expectation ought to be met, is an underhanded psychological trap we set for ourselves, to give ourselves a justification for bringing home a large pizza and a gallon of ice cream.

What are we dealing with here?

On this planet ruled by human nature, expectation will not even guarantee you a cup of coffee. The more stringent our ideas are about how things ought to be, the more disillusionment we experience, and the more we attempt to eat the resultant feelings. In human interactions, every expectation is a resentment waiting to happen. Each time we hold an expectation about what someone else will say or do, we invite another rebuff. And each time we do that, we secretly, sneakily, grant ourselves an excuse to do something stupid — like gobble down a few thousand calories.

A huge part of stress avoidance is the factor known as expectation management. Bear in mind that your expectations are not pertinent to anyone else. They apply only to you, and any attempt to extend them to others will probably bring disappointment. Of course, the flip side is, that unless you have given your word to deliver a certain result at a specific time, you are under no obligation to fulfill the expectations that exist in anyone else’s mind.

A very useful resolution not only for the new year but for this holiday season we are in right now is to clear our subconscious minds of expectations, and instead listen to others with an open heart and a willing ear.

How about this for an expectation that will never disappoint? “It’s going to be interesting.”

Image by Sergio/CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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