The Trouble With Expectations…

I sometimes think the psychology of body image is beyond human comprehension; at the academic level, the personal level, and all places in-between.  I truly believe that.  At the very least, understanding what is required to effect change of the human is beyond human acceptance in most cases.

I had an incident last night with a woman who wanted me to tell her what she wanted to hear – not what was real. This is something I have faced many times through the years, and despite my knowledge and experience, I most often come out the loser in the debate.

A woman, a professional educator by trade, asked me some fitness related questions. She is in her early 60s. Like many, she has concerns about body fat, muscle tone, and overall body image. Of course, abs, and thighs were chief among her concerns.

As is often the case, I explained that 80% of the changes she was looking for relate to dietary changes, and not exercise. I explained that, though exercise can influence the shape, density, and strength of the muscles, the loss of body fat is primarily dietary.

She explained that she was a “healthy” eater.

When I asked what she ate for breakfast, she explained that she rarely did. As I began to explore her eating in greater detail, it became clear that she’s an average eater, and certainly not eating in a way that is consistent with reducing body fat.

As the conversation continued, she became agitated that I was not providing what she wanted to hear. As I explained the reasons why should would not see change eating within her current scheme, she exclaimed that it was her body and she knew it better than me.

And that’s where the disconnect usually begins; at the moment when a person wants me to tell them that they can keep eating the way they have been, mix in a few target exercises, and see noticeable changes within a few weeks. This is the impossible dream sold by the billion dollar fitness industry.

The more I explained that effecting change in the human body requires much more than a few special exercises, and mixing in a superfood or two, the more then conversation deteriorated to a point of finality – the agreement to disagree.

As a point of clarification, I classify the woman in question as both slim, and healthy. For being 60 she’s ahead of the game. So not only is the issue of body image at work here, so too are convoluted social expectations; the idea that we should look like something other than who we are at a given time in our life.

Double starfish face...

Double starfish face…

My teaching focus these days is primarily geared toward strength training for utility, and as a form of wellness, though I’m all for helping people who want to look better because I possess that skill set as well. Confidence, like exercise, is a life skill. I will remain forever starfish-faced though, when confronted by people insisting I tell them what they wish to hear. Be well… rc


Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Buffalo Killers.  Enjoy!

12 responses

  1. Oh my goodness some people just don’t get it and already have their mind made up.No matter how you slice it,they have a preconceived notion. Thank you my brother for keeping it real. Black and white,no gray areas.
    Can’t please everyone…….

  2. You nailed it Roy – this is one of my favorite Cohen essays! The topic goes way beyond fitness to all aspects of life. People rarely want to hear the truth even when they come asking for it….

    P.S. I’m skipping the Halloween candy today; I will see immediate results with my body fat – right? 🙂

  3. Great blog post. I have this conversation almost daily with people. They want a magic bullet. Do this one thing and your life will be perfect! Even the idea of a lifestyle change is so hard to explain — almost everyone sees it as a temporary diet of deprivation. I admit, too, there is a grieving period when you realize you are leaving an old lifestyle behind. I loved those nightly nacho feasts, you know…but the consequences of the new lifestyle far outweigh (bad choice of words) the things I’ve left behind as a result. Anyways…great post — love that I’m not the only one who has these conversations with people. 🙂

  4. I know darn well I need to make some changes in my diet. I’ve known that for the past 10 years. However, I know I’m a healthy-ish weight 🙂 and more importantly, my family loves me just the way I am. The way I see it, a little slim down is just icing on the cake. Great post.

  5. YES YES YES!!!! I get this since I get a lot of questions! I also confront this with demos & people needing to tell me what is right or wrong with certain foods although I am in much better shape than they are for my age & any age… 🙂 I get it!!!!!

  6. I enjoy reading your posts, Roy, as I always learn something and your black humor makes me snicker! This entry really resonated with me, since I am post-55 and I used to get sucked into the head game of what a certain age should look like. Then I decided to focus on being healthy, strong, and comfortable in my own skin. But I did need the nudge about diet being 80%… thanks for that!

    • After 300 posts, and nearly 4,00 comments, Mo, this is my all time favorite — because it’s YOU! I appreciate that you lower your standards and read these!

      I always love the pics of you and Raul hiking, camping, and enjoy the outdoor life that so many of you social contemporaries are unable to participate in. Post-55…? You’re ahead of the game.

      Although being married to the worlds best amateur bartender may cut into that 80% diet thing just a smidge…

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