One of the most difficult things for me when getting started on learning something new or taking that first step toward achieving a goal is calibrating my expectations for how fast I can get there.
I remember trying to lose weight while in college. I downloaded an app to track my calories, and calibrated my calorie goal based on what it would take to lose one pound per week. I logged my food, stayed within my calorie goal every day, and even did a bit of exercising to up my calorie expenditure. Then, at the end of one week, I weighed myself. I did everything I was supposed to, so I expected to lose one pound.
But, I didn't lose one pound. The number on the scale had barely moved. All that hard work... for nothing.
I was frustrated. I did everything exactly as I should have to achieve the results that I expected, and yet, I somehow fell short. I felt so discouraged; instead of accepting the small amount of progress that I had made and pushing ahead, I gave up.
Looking back on this experience, I realize that I gave up because I didn't calibrate my expectations correctly. The app I was using to track my calories suggested that I should lose one pound per week at that particular calorie intake. So, understandably, my expectation was that at the end of that week, I would be one pound lighter. When my results didn't meet my expectations (or even come close for that matter), I blamed myself and discounted any progress that I had made. I mismanaged my expectations, and I gave up because of it.
This is why managing and calibrating your expectations is so important. When I first started my fitness journey around two months ago, I decided to take a different approach. I ignored what the calorie tracking apps told me I should lose every week, and I instead focused on making progress - any progress, no matter how small. I decided that for 90 days, I would be committed to improving my health and fitness regardless of the results I saw. If, after 90 days of giving it my all, I still didn't see progress, then, and only then, I would return to the status quo of ramen and freezer food.
For the first month, I didn't focus on results. I focused solely on developing good habits that
work for me. I set the expectation that after 30 days of changing my health and fitness habits I would see progress - any progress. I wanted to prove to myself that I could make measurable progress, then, I'd calibrate and make more specific expectations from there. I still took measurements and data along the way, but I made it a point to focus on learning and adjusting to my new schedule. After 30 days of eating whole foods, eliminating dairy, sleeping 8 hours a night, exercising, and drinking at least 60 ounces of water I ended up making progress in every measurable metric I was taking!
Now, I focus on refining my strategy and calibrating my expectations. I know what a reasonable goal looks like for me. I think that's one of the best things about going on this fitness journey. I've learned so much about how my body responds to different foods and different types of exercise. You can read as many books as you want, but you don't truly know something until you experience it yourself. And I think this is even more true for fitness and health. Everyone's needs will differ, and while losing weight and toning up is nice, the true value in changing your habits is that you get to know yourself so much better.
My challenge to you: On whatever journey you are about to embark on, set the expectation of progress, first. Then, adjust from there. Acknowledge your progress, and strive to understand what that progress looks like for you!