"Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack." - Brandon Sanderson
We all start off with a dream, an idealized image of who and what and how we expect our bodies to be once we reach the embodiment of our full potentials. Whether we are picturing ourselves as strapping men with ripped muscles and pecs firm enough to bounce ping pong balls on, or buxom women full of hourglass like perfection, it is important to recognize the difference between “Great Expectations” and great expectations.
"Expectations are dangerous when they are both too high and uninformed." - Lionel Shriver
If we are trying to lose 20 or 30 pounds, the inherent effects on our bodies from being a little overweight are nominal. Our skin likely retains a significant amount of elasticity, and our bodies already have whatever curves or angles are already going to be built into them. A great expectation would assume those same basic outlines will remain roughly intact. A “Great Expectation” would redefine our genetics and turn a pear-shaped body into an hourglass, or an apple-shaped body into a vee.
If we are trying to lose 50 to a 100 pounds, the physiological effects will not erase pre-existing tears in our flesh. If one has stretch marks now, a great expectation would be that those stretch marks will be less pronounced once we have lost the weight. A “Great Expectation” would be that the stretch marks would miraculously disappear or somehow be absorbed by our bodies as we shrink in size.
If we are trying to lose 100, 200, 300 or more pounds, the effects on our bodies are much more significant. We’ve wounded our flesh. We’ve stretched it out significantly from its otherwise normal proportions. A great expectation would be that we’ll have lost enough weight that we no longer have sleep apnea, that our blood pressure and cholesterol levels are healthy, that we no longer feel labored by walking on flat surfaces, and that we would not break into a sweat from sitting in a room without a fan pointed directly at us during normal weather conditions. “Great Expectations” would include not having excess skin, the idea that we will have suffered no ill physical effects from having abused our bodies for years – sometimes for decades – at a time, and skipping to “mah loo” in a bikini with no signs of wear and tear, stretch marks, or scars.
"That was the thing about the world: it wasn't that things were harder than you thought they were going to be, it was that they were hard in ways that you didn't expect." - Lev Grossman
I’m bringing this to the fore, because I have been aware for more than a year that many of those whom I once looked to for guidance on the road to good health and personal fitness were far ahead of me on their journeys, and then slipped and fell by the wayside. I do not think it is because they lacked the will or the “spark” to succeed. I do not think they lacked any sort of mental or physical capacity for success. It is my personal belief that they were confronted with the certainty that they had set so many “Great Expectations” of what the world for them would be – how their bodies would appear – that when it became evident the goals could not be reached, they turned away from their original objectives and returned the familiar comfort of larger forms.
I have not once heard anyone who succeeded in losing a significant amount of weight say that it was difficult: Take in fewer calories than you burn, and you will lose weight. That is the fundamental principle of weight loss. Know that. Apply that. You will lose weight. I have often heard those who have successfully say that they did not really understand how to navigate the world in their new bodies. Dating was complicated. They were concerned about revealing themselves physically – their stretch marks, surgical scars, etc – to potential romantic partners, and (all too familiar to me) they often did not recognize themselves in mirrors, and they did not feel emotionally prepared to confront the future which lay before them. When our dreams become a reality, what else do we have to look forward to?
"You are your own worst enemy. If you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself and others, you may find the happiness that has always elude you." - Lisa Kleypas
But, these are navigable issues. These are opportunities for growth. When man reached the moon, we did not forsake the stars. We created new dreams, and forged new realities for ourselves. We’ve touched planets and stretched forth our reach beyond Pluto. We can – and need to – remember that we are ever-evolving, and we need to continue to adapt to whatever our own personal Truths are.
For some, this will mean saving up for surgery to remove the looming spectre of loose skin. If you are somehow blessed as a genetic aberration who does not require that surgery after losing a significant amount of weight, you’ll have a lot of money to spend on a trip to Europe or Australia or Africa or …wherever you want to blow $10,000.00 celebrating the successful liberation of your own inner awesomeness.
For others, this will mean recognizing that while you did not turn into a beautiful super model, you are blessed with significant improvements to your overall health, and you are able to achieve many other dreams and live much longer and more meaningful lives – made all the more precious for the added time you’ve purchased for yourself with your loved ones.
“Great Expectations” have their places. In the Arts and Sciences, “Great Expectations” often lead to extraordinary wonders – the Parthenon, for example – and extraordinary accomplishments – such as the construction of the Hubble Telescope. But, when it comes to reclaiming our lives – and our bodies – “Great Expectations” need to be set aside. We need to set realistic and tangible goals. We need to plan for our successes, and sometimes rueful results that will be attached to having reached one of the most meaningful objectives any of us have ever set.
I believe that if we are pragmatic in our goal setting, we open the door for multiple forms of success. We can reach a healthy weight for our respective ages, heights, builds, and genders. And, we can plan for the most likely unpleasantries. That is power. If we know what will come that we do not desire, we can include that in our preparations. If loose skin is our concern, we can begin saving up to have it surgically removed. If deflation of breast tissue is a concern, we can plan to have that surgically corrected. If scars are an issue, they can be surgically minimized. If we do not recognize our faces, we can stare at our new visages in a mirror until it becomes more familiar to us. We can talk t our families and friends, and let them reassure us – in ways we often cannot reassure ourselves – that whatever our changes, we remain loved and appreciated.
Success is planned for. Failure rests on a wish. If you wish to fail, make no plan for success. If you plan for success, failure is no longer an option. Success becomes inevitable.
I will sometimes stumble, but, I know that I have set enough great expectations, to achieve every goal that I have set. I may have to change the action steps or the time table, but I can do anything I set my mind to. Each of you can set great expectations for yourselves, and overcome any obstacles you choose to face directly and persistently. You’ve generously shared my journey and expressed your conviction that I can succeed in these endeavors. Your successes are now on my list of great expectations for my future. I want to see you all at the finish line, Ladies and Gentlemen!