By Tia Norris, July 2019 Issue.
Let’s get straight to the point: the pursuit of a healthy diet, and related fitness or physique goals, tends to be a hard road for many people. In fact, some might even say it’s an impossible road for them personally (this is only because they haven’t worked with me, yet!). As a trainer, I pride myself on managing my clients’ expectations with the process, and giving them full disclosure on the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to working toward their goals.
Here are some of the most shocking, most uncomfortable, but most important reality checks that my clients (and maybe you) need to hear in order to get realistic about this journey toward fitness:
•Eat when you need to eat. Not necessarily when you want to eat. Most people simply fail to make food (aka, fuel in the tank) a priority throughout their day. They forget and/or neglect to pack meals and/or snacks, they work through what should be meal/snack times and prolong the window between meals for far too long. Consequently, when they actually do check-in with themselves regarding food, they’re absolutely starving and end up either making poor impulse choices or drastically overeating. Does this sound familiar? Make food timing a major priority in your program. Figure out when you’ll need to eat throughout your day, and plan accordingly. Set a reminder on your phone, if needed. And keep in mind that you don’t need to be uncontrollably ravenous in order to eat — for most goals, you can and should eat at regular intervals, sometimes even when you might not feel like you need it.
•You won’t love your food all the time. This means I may not love the taste, texture, temperature, preparation methods, or amount of time that I have to eat that food, or more, about any particular meal or snack. In fact, I’d say that 60-80% of my food throughout the day is less than my favorite! This blows many people’s minds. Now, on one hand, I acknowledge that food can be incomparably pleasurable, and comforting, and can add a spark of joy to our lives. However, we need to draw a line of discipline when it comes to fitness goals: oftentimes, to stay on track, you’ll need to eat something that tastes mediocre, that isn’t hot or cold like you prefer, in scenarios that are rushed or cramped or otherwise less than ideal. Get used to it — become a machine in these scenarios and just do it.
•Extreme measures don’t work! Slow and steady, wins the race. Intuitively, you all already know that crash diets, cleanses, and extreme measures work in the short term but cause significant long term damage. The fact that they work immediately but temporarily is what makes them so appealing, and I understand that. But, if you give a shit about your long-term metabolic health and really your long-term goals (let’s be adults and think big picture, here), I don’t think I need to get up on my soapbox and preach about something that most people already, deep down, know to be true. Do the work, be patient, play the long game. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
•You won’t like it every session. Aim for about 60% enjoyment for most goals. For most people, if you at least like (not even saying love) ⅗, or 60%, of your workouts, you’re doing really well. For higher volume programs, lower that standard to ⅖ or 40%. Expect to have to grind through a few of your workouts per week — it’s normal! You may have one or two standout workouts that you feel great about and can say you love, but those are the exception to the rule. To think that you’ll be sliding down rainbows riding a golden unicorn every workout, is a fantasy. Get to work and suspend your emotions on the hard days.
•Every single fitness program in the world involves strength training. You can’t get around it — so learn it and learn it right. Even on the extreme end of the cardio spectrum as an Ironman triathlete, I still need to do some strength training. Dancers lift weights, yogi’s lift weights, senior citizens lift weights — and you will also need to. Weight training offers benefits like muscle retention, bone density maintenance, active mobility work, a myriad of mental benefits, and more, that cannot be replicated in any other fitness modality. Make peace with the weight room and learn it correctly — and incorporate it weekly at least two times a week for most goals.
•Take care of your body, like you would a car or any other machine. It’s mind boggling for me to hear the level of mistreatment that the average person does to their body. Here you are, in this incredible machine that carries you throughout your entire life, it has the power to do literally anything in the world, and is your most precious possession, but most people neglect to do even the basic maintenance on themselves. You couldn’t drive a car for 100,000 miles with no maintenance — machines need to be taken care of. Massages, good sleep, you get it. You cannot push your body, fuel it with garbage, and otherwise neglect it and then expect it to perform for you.
I’m a big fan of knowing the exact truth and the harsh realities when I’m working towards something. Know that you’ll have to do many things that you don’t want to do, when you don’t want to do them, for longer than you want to do them — and that’s normal.
Anything worth having won’t come easily.
Readjust your expectations and keep moving forward!