Thursday, February 26, 2009

Managing Expectations

I thought this year’s walk following Mardi Gras’s Endymion parade would yield the highest found-change amount ever. The great parade is so large and so popular, people camp-out 24 hours early so as to insure a front curb spot. Last year’s loot totaled more than two dollars, surely this year would be even better. Not so, I found a paltry 67¢, not even my daily average. I was very disappointed.

The episode is a timely reminder as to the purpose of this blog. It is a wellness and a weight control blog, not a how-to-find-money while walking blog. Money found is an output of the walk, an important motivational element for exercise continuance, but not the desired outcome. The outcome is the loss of unwanted and unhealthy body fat, not the gain of a few coins for the piggy bank. Thus, this is a good time to talk of the importance of managing expectations.

If the goal is to lose large amounts of weight quickly and dramatically, as was my goal to find a significant amount of money on my Mardi Gras walk, unfulfilled expectations can and often do lead to disillusionment. Constantly reaching for the stars will cause burnout, create frustration, and destroy our drive to obtain any goal including weight loss. In sports, high expectations add unproductive pressure and tension. It is the same with weight loss/maintenance goals. To manage our expectations, we must not lower the goal, but pursue it at a more reasonable pace. Set-backs are a natural part of the process. That is why charting our weight is important. By seeing the slippage on paper, the set-back is defined and acknowledged. Not logging our weight after a binge invites denial and even greater setbacks.

Moreover, we need the help of others as we manage our expectations. Weight loss is a calorie intake/calorie burn issue, not the type of diet issue. Any diet that is low in calories and saturated fats and high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will work so says a new study in the February 25, 2009 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The bottom line, cut about 750 calories a day from what we normally eat. This brings us to the power of other peoples’ expectations. There are two culprits. One is the person that continually and with good intentions temps us with calorie loaded fatty or sweet foods even when they know we are trying to lose weight. We must say to them, “Mom (spouse, best friend, co-worker, etc.) please help me with my goal of losing weight by not tempting me with your wonderful food.”

The second is what Fhona S. Weinstein, Professor of Educational Psychology, Yale University, calls the “power of expectations” in schooling, also called the effects of self-fulfilling prophecies—teachers expect children to pass or fail. Some teach children to fail, some to succeed. Students regardless of their own self-efficacy tend to meet the expectations of their teachers. We are not managing our expectations if we allow others to dictate our success. We will address more of Albert Bandura’s self-efficacy and great social learning theory for weight loss in a later blog.

In the mean time, Mardi Gras is over and I am happy that I maintained my weight “setpoint” of 175/180 lbs. And about that King Cake, adult beverage and fried chicken—it was enjoyed but in moderation, the key to weight loss maintenance. Also, on my next walk following a parade, the MoneyWalker found a whopping $2.91 mopping up after King of Carnival, King Rex, and his crew rolled down historic St. Charles Ave. for another glorious year of Carnival. Hail Rex! Hail Mardi Gras!


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