More often than not, when dreams come true, there is no huge fanfare. There is no parade, no party to commemorate the event. In some cases emotions range from indifferent to severely disappointed. If you think I’m a party pooper, I ask you to think about something you really wanted that wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Maybe it was a vacation that you were really looking forward to. The brochure showed a tropical beach with clear blue skies and attractive, smiling couples happily galloping through the water’s edge. But when you got there, it didn’t look much like the brochure. There were clouds for most of the day, there was definite photoshopping of the ocean colors and the only people walking down the beach were creepy old men in Speedos.
This expectation versus reception issue (EvR) plagues even the best of us. It takes a trained mind to be able to honestly notice and be thankful for a realized dream. Fitness goals are usually so poorly defined that when you actually attain them, what you see is nothing like what you expected. For instance, a person says she wants to lose 10 lbs because apparently, magic will commence the second she hit the new weight. So she goes on the South Bronx Paradise Diet and loses a total of 12 lbs in less than 2 weeks. But when she looks in the mirror she doesn’t see the difference. Why? Because the person she was expecting to see was a much more specific goal. The person she became is 5’4, 117 lbs and 24% body fat. The person she wanted to be was 5’4, 117 lbs and 15% body fat. See what happened? If you don’t ask for what you want, you’ll be annoyed and confused when you don’t get what you want.
I often get people who tell me “I need to lose about 10 lbs.” or “I want to gain about 15lbs of muscle”. My immediate response is “How do you know?” It’s not that I’m trying to be adversarial, but it’s in everyone’s best interest if they understand from the get-go what they actually want instead of spitting out random numbers that sound good in their head. I once had a gentleman years and years ago say he wanted to add around 10 lbs of muscle in a ridiculously short time (approaching spring break does horrible things to people’s sense of temporal possibilities). I mistakenly tried to help him pack on the mass but needless to say he came nowhere close to his goal. I don’t think it mattered to him since he got plenty of drunken girls to comment on how big his biceps were (at least according to his embellished stories), but I learned that it is a disservice to the client and to the entire fitness industry to allow people to hold onto unrealistic expectations.
Here’s a few ways to deal with slow changes and how to recognize that your dream has come true:
- Use a tape measure: Ignore, throw out or burn your scale. Use a tape measure and your clothes as a realistic gauge of your appearance. You may gain a couple pounds, yet lose body fat in the process. If your mind is fixated on total weight, you’ll miss the fact that you’re getting healthier and more defined.
- Quit checking the mirror 37 times a day. That’s putting unnecessary pressure on yourself to shape-shift overnight. If a stubborn area of fat hasn’t vanished in the last 12 hours, quit looking at it. Keep exercising and eating properly and check it in about two weeks. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
- When you do look at yourself, pretend you don’t know who you are. Don’t see yourself as the high school football player version of you, or the post-childbirth version of you, or the “I used to be in such good shape” version of you. See yourself as a stranger and be honest in your appraisal of what “they” look like. No favorites, no enemies.
- Punch your clock in the face (punintentional). You may have a cruise to go on or a wedding to attend in 4 weeks, but what about after that? Are you aiming for a short term fix or a lasting, lifelong relationship with healthy living? It’s very likely that the image you have in mind for an event 1 month away will actually take 3 to 12 months to achieve. Don’t get upset when the expected results do not occur according to your social calendar.
- It may sound like fitness blasphemy, but understand that looking a certain way may not be worth the changes you have to make in your lifestyle. If you refuse to give up certain things, or start doing other things, then accept the way you look and feel as a consequence of those actions/inactions.
Results dealing with exercise occur slowly. Even when they happen relatively fast, they’re not instant. Be patient, know what you want and accept it when you get it.
Look for an an evolution, not a revolution.