Expectations vs. Reality



As an eternal optimist, I tend to go into all situations expecting the absolute best outcome.  This has served me well in many, many ways and I would never want to change that outlook. However, experiences in fitness have given me what I like to call a cautious optimism, and what M likes to call “finally, somewhat of a grasp of reality from a freaking Disney Princess.”


Clearly, my parents are to blame.  I was raised by two loving parents who encouraged me to go after my dreams and convinced me I could do anything with some hard work and a good attitude. Probably part of it is due to the fact that I’m a millennial, thus an entitled narcissist. Either way, I have some issues with realistic expectations.


Like camping.


It’s not that I don’t like the outdoors—it’s really the opposite of that.  I love a good outdoor workout. I’m extremely fond of front porches, especially when I have a glass of wine to go with them.  Beaches? Wait just one second—let me grab a bikini and some sunblock and baby, I’m there. Parks are delightful—in fact, I just returned from the park by my apartment. I can play catch all day, man.


Then my fiancé— I mean HUSBAND (how long does it take for that to sink in?) talks about going camping. At first, this seems like a great plan, but then we start talking details. My expectations and his reality are completely different.


You see, my friends can attest to the fact that my childhood ideas of outdoor frivolity were a bit skewed. My grandparents own a motorhome, and I don’t just mean one of those little pull-behind-your-truck, I’m-just-a-tent-with-some-mesh-walls kind of a deals. I mean, like something that Mick Jagger rolled around in with all those girls that dropped their panties at the mention of a rock star. And, you know, Keith Richards and the other two guys. 


Imagine my astonishment when I’m invited to a Christian music festival at the age of 10 (They do exist. Imagine Bonnaroo, but replace the pot and shrooms with Surge, Swedish Fish and WWJD bracelets) and discover that not all camping involves king-sized Sleep Number beds and DirecTV. And definitely no private shower and restroom facilities. How did they expect me to do my hair in butterfly clips and rock my Limited Too threads in this squalor?


Suffice it to say, I’ve had to readjust expectations many times since that day. The hardest of all these readjustments was when it came to my fitness expectations. There is absolutely nothing worse than having your hopes dashed to the ground by reality. 


When I began training, I expected immediate results with very little sacrifice on my part. Obviously I was going to don my most adorable outfit and go run for a bit on a treadmill and leave looking like Zoe Saldana’s hot white sister.  Somehow this did not happen! What?!?!


A major part, for me, of becoming more fit is the education that led to more reasonable expectations. Remaining ignorant surely wasn’t going to help me get results, neither would believing every single thing on the Internet or in the latest bestselling diet. Learning how my body worked, what nutrients actually DO, and the different functions of each aspect of a training program were imperative to my success in learning to become healthy.  If you have no idea how anything works, then there is no basis for an expectation at all, and a high likelihood of disappointment.

I’ve since then read TONS of books and articles claiming the best training programs and diets. Bodyweight only training, Crossfit, Tabata, HIIT, Running manuals, P90x with all its muscle confusion, yoga, Eat Stop Eat, The Skinny Rules, Paleo–I love them.  They may as well be the next Nora Roberts novel. The problem is, I was so incredibly confused! There were so many conflicting opinions! 

My best advice for wading into these waters? Ask a trainer that you trust and do some experimentation. It’s actually pretty fun to try all sorts of new things and learn different opinions.  Some are wacky and sound crazy, and more often than not (in my experience) that tends to mean that they are wacky and crazy. But before I leave you floundering, I wanted to add one more tip.  


I am obsessed with this girl, Molly Galbraith.  She’s legit. Her blog is crazy good and her story is inspiring. If you’re looking for a springboard to jump into this world of living healthily, I think she’s a great place to start. I’m always looking for experts to learn from, and I have gotten so much out of reading her stuff.  Since I am totally not an expert and am just an eager novice, it’s been so incredible to read from someone who just makes SENSE. 

How about you? Any training programs that you are obsessed with? 




Run…squat…jump…good girl, Aly! Want a treat?

You must be juice fasting. Are you eating Paleo? Total body cleanse? Are you vegan?  Raw food movement? Have you tried the three-day diet? Did you know that if you drink nothing but cayenne pepper, lemonade, and maple syrup you’ll immediately turn into Beyonce?

After I slimmed down to my current size, the number one topic discussed with curious friends, family and colleagues was my diet. Actually, I’d say 90% asked about diet, 10% asked about what I was doing as far as working out goes.

What was I eating?  Did I consume evil carbs regularly?  You bet. I can’t live without carbs… or chocolate…or meat. My weight loss did not coincide with some big life-altering diet secret.  Rather, a new mindset for how I thought of and treated food brought about weight loss.

I’ve always had a problem with authority.  I view it is a person who tells me what I can and can’t do.  This I blame on the fact that I am a middle child. Listening to someone because they happen to be “in charge” is not a good enough reason for me if I don’t subscribe to what they are saying.  The trait isn’t all bad, and has actually helped me to achieve goals out of pure defiance.

For instance, my eighth grade English teacher, God have mercy on her current students, told me that she just didn’t believe I “had what it takes” to be a journalist. Had I peaked in middle school, as was clearly her experience, she was probably correct.

 Her words stuck with me and originally prevented me from choosing that major as a college freshman. Fast-forward a few years, and her face was burned in my mind as I opened a highly esteemed Washington, DC newspaper with a familiar byline.  I get enormous satisfaction from defiance of those whose words I do not respect.

This is how I feel about a diet. Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t eat? I’ll eat what I want thankyouverymuch.  You don’t know me!  As petulant and childish as that sounds, it really does go through my head. I needed a new plan—a plan to which I could wholeheartedly subscribe.

So here it is… my big secret—please share with all your friends!

Eat well to support your training; don’t try to make up for unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits by training.

 So many days I catch myself falling back into a habit of thinking, “I can eat this half pound bacon cheeseburger because I have a killer workout planned later.” Have you ever tried to push yourself in the gym after eating a half-pound bacon cheeseburger? … And maybe some sweet potato fries…and a couple bites of pie. And a beer. Ok, two.  You’re sluggish, unfocused, queasy, and probably had to run to that gross gym bathroom a couple times to deal with that rock in your stomach.

Roll over. Shake.

Changing a mindset of food as a reward for good behavior was a big adjustment for me as well.  You know when you’re teaching a dog how to do tricks and they get a treat if they do it right? I would do that with fitness goal success, which is pretty amusing and ironic. Achieved a new level of fitness goal? Have some cheesecake. Yeah, good plan.

Considering food and its purpose made it easier for me to choose the right thing for my body.  There are no mandated lists of food I can and can’t eat, which makes life much easier. Food is now an energy source, not an evil fattening beast that must be contained. I also have gotten into the habit of eating small meals (really, it’s more of small grazing snacks) pretty much every two hours, not because it’s part of some big diet plan, but because I’m hungry and need some energy.  

That’s the thing about food—when you stop obsessing about every calorie you’re allowed to eat and not allowed to eat, and think about how what you’re eating affects your body, it’s way easier to make a better decision.  Then the weight starts coming off, not the other way around.  Full disclosure: Sometimes, my body does want the cheeseburger. And you know what? I enjoy every last bite.