Does this sound familiar? Your following a pretty strict meal plan in hopes of losing some body fat. You could only white-knuckle your way through the meal plan for so long before you started sneaking in extras, usually in the form of nuts and nut butter. You toss back a heaping spoonful of almond butter and was immediately hit with a huge wave of guilt.
You tell yourself, “Great, this day is ruined!”, and then proceeded to do what the majority of people do when they fall off their meal plan: swan dive into the pantry for more snacks, blowing the rest of the day to smithereens.
Over the years and even more recently in our Drop 2 Jean Size program, I’ve had many conversations with people just like this who were frustrated by this seemingly lack of control and overwhelming feeling of guilt. Heck I can attest that I have been there myself many times in my own life.
They viewed their success with nutrition and training as either “good” or “bad”, leading them to either feel like a total rock star or a total failure. All it took was a small handful of chocolate or some extra nut butter to make them believe the day was a monumental waste, which then resulted in a landslide of poor food choices for the remainder of that day.
Without exception, they were expecting perfection from themselves, which was a huge mistake.
Whether you are working towards improving your nutrition skills, losing body fat, or getting stronger, how do you set realistic expectations?
Two of the most common questions that we get as a Coach here at Fit-2-The-Core are:
· “How much weight should I expect to lose in ‘x’ amount of time?”
· “How much stronger should I expect to get in ‘x’ amount of time?”
These are fair but tricky questions: we don’t have the answers, because they depend on so many factors.
By learning to better manage your expectations, you can help avoid becoming too emotionally attached to a specific result, and cope better if things don’t pan out exactly the way you envision them.
The One Thing You Can Control
Life is guaranteed to surprise you: it will surprise you in positive ways, and it will surprise you in negative ways. You can have your workout schedule in place, only to see the gym suddenly close for the week due to a burst pipe. You can plan all of your healthy meals for the week, and be surprised by your family paying you an unexpected visit and bringing over pizza for dinner.
When we set expectations, it’s easy to be let down because things don’t systematically happen as we predicted. No matter what happens, however, you can find peace in knowing that you are doing your very best with whichever situation comes your way. This means taking responsibility for your actions when things aren’t going according to plan. If you can’t go to the gym, can you take a walk instead? If you are served pizza, can you enjoy one slice and then eat later when there are different food options available?
The one thing that you can expect and control is that you are in charge of your own actions and reactions, regardless of outside circumstances.
Not Every Day Will Be a Day to Work Towards Your Goal
It can be really easy to expect perfection in terms of nutrition and working out, but the fact of the matter is that not every day will be the right day to work on your goals. Some days are better for focusing on maintenance, and that’s great!
John Berardi owner of Precision Nutrition uses a great analogy,
“When life is dialed up to 10 (you are traveling, your kids are sick, you’re working overtime, your spouse is out of town, your sick etc.) you have to dial down your expectations and goals for that day week or month”.
This expectation can set you up for failure, because not every day can be a fat loss day, or a day where we become stronger, or a day where we improve our eating skills. Know that life will happen, and the most we can do is handle it in the best way we can and come up with a strategy that will fit into the context of your life at any given time.
Put in the Work
This is closely related to what I mentioned above about only being able to control your actions and reactions, but it’s worth mentioning in a different way:
Rather than focusing on expectations, what would happen if you poured all of your energy into simply committing to doing your very best with the hand you are dealt each day? Doing good enough, in relation to what life is throwing at you at any specific moment, adjust your workout, your nutrition and most importantly your mindset.
If you planned a 60 minute workout, 15 minutes will have to do, if you’re stuck in a meeting and all that’s available is pizza, eat one piece and then focus on what you have control over, the next meal etc..
Ultimately, that is all you can control.
When our expectations don’t pan out the way we had hoped, it’s easy to lose sight of the good things. Don’t to let an extra heaping spoonful of almond butter detract from the fact that maybe you ate veggies at all of my meals that day, drank plenty of water, got lots of sleep, and exercised. I see this often, the focus is solely on the fall, not that you got back up on your feet and took control over the rest of your day.
When it comes to expectations, there are a lot of variables at play. This means that we can’t always predict an accurate outcome, which can leave us feeling disappointed. It’s important to refrain from letting expectations steal joy from the experience.
The key is to focus on what you are able to do with what’s available, and commit to do your very best, consistently everyday!