Daring to Hope

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Daring to Hope

As December fades away, people look toward the fresh, new year and dare to hope. We hope for a better year than the one that is now almost done. We hope for better health, more wealth, improved relationships, and fun and relaxation squeezed in as much as possible in the 365 days to come.


Hope is what leads us to make New Year’s Resolutions in spite of the years of not sticking with them long enough for them to create real, lasting change in our lives. But there is that one person we know who has done it; someone who has changed everything by just deciding to do it? How did he lose that weight and keep it off? How did she quit smoking once and for all? How did they pay off all of their debts?

Let’s just take one example, fat loss, and see if we can find the answer. First we have to look at why we haven’t yet stuck to the resolution to lose the fat.

The Past

It’s Complicated

The “experts” tell us the hated formula for losing weight: just eat right and exercise and the pounds will fall off. The trick is in knowing what it is to eat “right”. And what exercise is the most likely to help that diet work best? Diets vary from very restrictive to very complicated. Do you want to starve or micromanage? What seemed so simple is so complicated that we lose hope. But hope set us on this path; let’s hang on to it.

It’s Hard

It’s hard because often we see no result at all for weeks or months. Sticking to a diet that doesn’t move the scales is hard when we never doubt that pounds measure progress. Our society has a stubborn belief that the scales are the best way to measure progress, but the there are so many better ways.

It’s hard because, as we get closer and closer to our goal, the more we ease up on the diet plan – more cheating, less care. And so we stop losing, or worse, gain some back. The plateau of weight loss is discouraging because we had seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and it feels like we’re going backward. ­­

It’s hard because there are events that challenge our resolution: birthday parties, vacations, promotions and holidays, as well as injuries and sicknesses. These life events can make us loosen our grip on health goals, because they just don’t seem important in the moment.

It Sucks the Fun Out of Life

Let’s face it: diets are no fun. We start the diet and exercise plan to reach a goal with the idea in the back of our minds that it is only temporary. We plan to do this thing, hit our goal weight, and get back to life as usual.

Somewhere in our minds we know that “life as usual” is what got us to this size in the first place. We know that to make lasting change, we must change our “life as usual” to be something very different from what it has been. But the thought of forever giving up our favorite foods is just too much to bear, and so we tell ourselves that we can diet and exercise our way to a healthy weight.

There is a better way. I promise you.

The New Year

We need a plan that is simple, doable, and keeps the fun. I propose a simple plan that you can stick to for life, that will give you the results you love, but let’s you keep your favorites in moderation.


There is nothing simpler than just one rule: Eat real, nutritious food at least 90% of the time. Notice that it isn’t 90% of your calories, but 90% of the time. So 1 out of 10 meals can have cheats in them. Let’s talk about “real food” and “nutritious”.

Real foods are things that your great-grandparents had back in their day. If it was food in 1910, then it’s probably real food. Examples are fruits, vegetables, and chicken legs.

Nutritious foods have more than just calories; they have vitamins, minerals, and/or proteins, and those aren’t added as “enrichments”, they are natural to the food, like vitamin A in carrots, or iron in spinach.

For an easy test, go to the grocery. Almost everything in the aisles isn’t real food or is not nutritious, so stick to the outer rim of the grocery for the most part. Go into the aisles with caution, and only get what you went to get on purpose.


The first thing you must do is ditch the scales. Grab a friend you trust, get out your tape measure and a fresh notebook, and have your friend take your measurements. Measure everything and write it all down.

Next, if you have health issues that you see a doctor for, get a copy of your last lab results. Better yet, get new labs done. This might be a good idea even if you have no known health issues. Put the copy in your notebook alongside your measurements.

Last, take pictures, print them out, and tape them into that notebook with the measurements and lab results.

These, along with the fit of your everyday clothes, will be your new measures of success. You can add other items of interest like sleep quality, energy levels, and motivation if you’d like. These are all good measures of health.

One more thing …

Seeing progress helps us to stay committed to our resolution, but another important step is to write down your reasons for making the resolution in the first place. Be emotional about it; be honest; write it all down. The more honest emotion you can attach to your reasons, the more compelling it will be when you are tempted to go back to “life as usual.” Of course, you write this in your notebook alongside your measurements and photos.

Keep the Fun!

Because you know that your favorite foods can fit into the 10% of the time part of the rule, you won’t hate this diet. And there’s a bonus: once you hit your goal, you can go to 80/20 instead of 90/10 to keep your size and health within range. And, you know that it’s easy to switch back to 90/10 after holidays or vacations until you’re back to size.

Forward with Hope

Your goals are your roadmap; know where you’re going and why you want to go there. Beginning with your destination in mind; set SMART goals:

Specific and Measurable: forget the scale; the measurements in your notebook are what you want to change, so be specific. Add things like pant size and tasks like climbing stairs or playing hoops with your kid.

Achievable: you won’t be an Olympic gymnast in a year; so go for cartwheels, lifting and carrying, fitting into jeans, or getting rid of “fat clothes.”

Relevant: fit your goals to your heart-felt reasons for making this change. Goals that most closely match your reasons will be the ones that you stick with and achieve.

Timed: your goals need deadlines, so your plan should take you one Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant step at a Time.

Keep your roadmap in sight at all times. It is the key. You can do it. Dare to hope again; make 2018 your year of change.

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