Skinny Daily Post


Count me among the hundreds of thousands who lost their jobs in the dot com bust. Despite a solid 18-year career with a range of professional accomplishments, when the company I worked for in 2002 hit a financial speedbump, I was jettisoned from my management position with a simple phone call.

The first thing I did was to avail myself of a ‘career coach’ with what little severance money I had. She was a bright, cheerful, positive woman, who charged an astronomical fee and met me for coffee simply to ask me a lot of questions and then tell me that I needed to ‘see this as an opportunity to move forward’ in my career. And that was that, as far as she was concerned.

So I moved on (and shelled out even more money) to another outfit that did group career-counseling sessions for ‘executives in transition.’ We met for six or seven weeks and it was more of the same — imagine the best you can be, practice selling yourself by tapping into your accomplishments and look up, up, up to where you see yourself flying.

I’m sorry, but what a bunch of hooey! So not only was I despondent over being laid off, I felt completely inadequate for not being strong enough to picture the whole scenario as a lucky accident that was affording me the greatest opportunity in my life to create change.

Of course, I understand the THEORY behind all of this. After all, no one ever gets ahead selling themselves short, and it doesn’t help your career path to express to potential employers your desparation, depression or doubt. These counselors weren’t charlatans — they believed sincerely in what they were saying.

Nevertheless, it left me feeling stupid, unaccomplished, and hopeless. In retrospect, I can see that I just wasn’t ready to force myself to look at this misfortune in the way they suggested. More importantly, the vision of success that was I was encouraged to adopt involved a huge change in self-perception, at the very moment when I was most vulnerable and in doubt.

Ironically, what ultimately helped me was to join a self-sustaining group of out-of-work professionals that met each week to develop goals and discuss strategies and setbacks. I knew I was in the right place when one of the ivy-league-educated, talented, charming and accomplished group members broke down in tears one day when explaining how he felt he was letting down his wife and kids.

Now what does this have to do with weight loss?

Well, it strikes me that sometimes, when we read articles, consult experts, and listen to our peers we can be left with the feeling that at the end of the weight-loss rainbow is our happy, amazingly healthy, thin self just waiting for us. We do need, at times, to re-imagine ourselves, to re-invent ourselves and to strive for new goals.

But, just like with my unemployment experience, we also need to create weight management goals and dreams that ‘feel’ achievable and are within our grasp. It just might be too big a task to look at this as our pathway to being thin for life. It could be that our best option is to look at the smallest possible thing we could do to feel like we’re moving forward.

Journal for one day. Try one new exercise. Eat a new vegetable. Drink several glasses of water, instead of soda.

To be fair, my professional counsellors also talked about this kind of mini-goal setting. But they constantly reminded me that the end goal was my fabulous new career that was just out there waiting for me to reach out and grab it. And that always overshadowed my efforts.

Trust me, I want YOU to be your ‘best self’ and to be as slender, healthy and long-lived as possible. And I want you to believe in yourself. You are unique, wonderful and completely deserving of that.

But ‘success’ isn’t about becoming that person. Success is about the learning process — eating better (not perfectly), being more active (not necessarily running a marathon), establishing new eating patterns (not giving up pizza). Success is that first baby step you take. Success is the next baby step. And the next.

So whether you are just starting to approach your weight loss, are currently engaged in losing weight, or have already reached your weight loss goal, keep in mind what true success is all about. I realize that this advice is probably worth exactly what you’ve paid for it, but if my experience is any indication, there’s really nothing wrong at all with dreaming SMALL.

Sweet (small) dreams!

12 thoughts on “Sweet and Sour Dreams

  1. mary jean says:

    Right on, Jonathan!! When I first started this journey, I could not imagine really being able to lose 140#. It was just too big and too scary and I had nothing in my past to indicated I could possible be successful. My then boyfriend (now husband) suggested I start walking a little, so I did. 15 minuted out and 15 minutes back. It was hard and it was all I could do. I remember silently moaning when he said, “small incremental changes over time make a big difference.” I thought it was so corny, but he was so right!!

    Looking back, I see that my entire journey has been those small steps and I bet they will continue to be. It all seems much more doable in little chunks! I am a big fan of dreaming small!!

  2. Laura says:

    Great post. I am also overwhelmed by the long term picture of how much I have to lose (I’m one of those ever trying but not there yet) and can’t even begin to visualize myself thin. So for those that say you won’t lose unless you can see yourself that way, I feel doomed.

    But the small, incremental changes I can (and will) make. Perhaps, one by one, they will add up to what I’ve alway longed for. I just to have thrown in the patience I never seem to be able to maintain on the slow journey.


  3. Debra says:


    Loved this post, not only for the great advice and sensible approach to lifestyle change but for the implication regarding the amazing number of people who charge great sums of money to vulnerable people in trouble — something the “weight loss” industry knows a lot about. It is so difficult to accept that change comes from within and so very easy to be seduced into thinking that someone else has “the answer.” Even after many years of knowing differently, I am still tempted to buy the latest diet advice. Hope springs eternally in my plump breast that someone will tell me I don’t have to change in order to change. But, experience has taught me that I do.

  4. Josie says:

    Sort of along these lines, last night I was feeling bad because I never seem to become great at any of my exercise pursuits. It seems I tend to move from one passion to the next every 3-4 months: walking->swimming->Tae Bo->spinning, which means I never actually accomplish something *great* that others will notice- like run a half marathon, or hike across the state.

    And then I realized, is success measured by how much I can brag/show off my fitness accomplishments? Forcing myself to keep doing something so I can achieve a goal that isn’t at all enjoyable? Or is it about doing what I need to do to keep at this journey?

    Obviously I know it’s the latter, and I’ve decided to no longer feel guity about switching my activities so much. I’ve even come to accept that perhaps this is a natural, cyclical thing I need to do in order to stay motivated, work different muscles and avoid plateaus. My perceived weakness was really a strength. It really is all how you look at it, right?

  5. stretchy says:

    It was hard for me not to keep thinking of the BIG number as I set “mini goals” for myself. But the mini goals acted as a lifeline for me. After losing about half of the weight I needed to, “well-meaning” female family members told me that I was fine, they felt that what I was doing was negative, as women over 40 are “meant” to be heavier. They worried about my “self image”

    I finally had to simply avoid them, because being around them made my weight loss stall–I didn’t gain, but I stopped losing whenever I spent time with them. They were the opposite of a life coach! They were basically saying, stop! enough! Have a bucket of fried chicken already! Be normal! I am the tallest person in my entire family, so they feel I should weigh more based on that too!

    This particular group of female relatives never saw anything vaguely positive in what I was doing, and I was going about it all in an extremely healthy way. They saw it as deprivation and sweat rather than veggies and long walks. They tried to take the joy out of it.

    Small changes DID work for me, and setting mini goals made me feel really good about myself, but first I had to accept the fact that I needed to DO something. The other females in my family never get beyond talking about how they hate being a size 18 or 24 etc.. and they are barely 5 feet tall (and very small framed) They are embarrassed, would never wear a swimsuit or a dress, they wear men’s big T shirts and sweat pants everywhere. But mostly they stay home.

    Yes, I could see myself going down that same path, at home, on the sofa, with candy or other junk food, reading, watching TV…not wanting to go clothes shopping or get my hair done… why bother… They wanted me to join them.

    They won’t take the first small step. Maybe they feel paralyzed by the number of pounds they have gained. They are too tired to walk around the block. They know they are carrying a dangerous amount of weight.

    Losing 10 pounds seems like “Nothing”- “No one would notice”

    Every mini goal reached is something to celebrate.
    Because it means you studied the situation, made a plan, and that you believe in yourself. I’d weigh in and see I lost 3 pounds. in 3 weeks and I’d be OVERJOYED. I chose the slow and steady route. But I did need to be surrounded by supportive reliable people. You have to give yourself what you need.

    (they are still 60-100 lbs overweight and have many health problems)

  6. london slimmer says:

    I once read a diet book which suggested making one incremental change a month, if you have a lot of weight to lose: e.g. in month 1 focus on making your breakfast healthy and within a reasonable calorie range; in month 2, continue doing this, but also try to take a 20-minute walk every day, etc. I must say, I liked that approach. The tortoise won his race against the hare, after all. When I was losing weight, it was excruciatingly slow – I lost no more than 1/2lb a week and often plateaued – but now I’m glad because I think the slowness gave the changes to my body time to sink in and was probably the key to the fact that I’ve been successfully maintaining for several years. Slow but steady wins the long-distance race.

  7. Vicks says:

    “You have to give yourself what you need.”

    This statement is on point Stretchy. I always enjoy your responses. You always have positive comments. I think this is what drives you to continue your new healthier lifestyle. You reject negative and motivate yourself and others.

  8. carol says:

    After a week of not-great food choices, this is exactly what I needed to read today…how’d you know that, Jonathan? :^)

    I’m going to journal some to see what’s causing the internal conflict over what my long-term goals are versus my impulsive “what feels good” behavior and see if I can calm the war within. But I’ll also focus on the next small victory (eating on my food plan for my next meal) and treasure these small but oh-so-essential steps on the path.

  9. carol says:

    stretchy, a quick note: I always enjoy your comments. Thanks for participating here.


  10. Nikhila says:

    One point in your post that really stood out for me was that your most supportive source of change (in addition to yourself) was a community of like-minded folks going through similar difficulties.

    Rcently my sister told me that after 6 months of successfully keeping the weight off, she had regained 20 of the 35 she lost within less than 6 months. She was frustrated, but encouraged that she had said ENOUGH and had rejoined weight watchers. Talking to her and sharing how hard it is to lose the weight and maintain the loss inspired me.

    Hearing her talk about her meetings reminded me that I too derived a lot of positive lessons and support from going to weight watchers. I had been telling myself that I was too busy, the meetings were at bad times, and I could stay on program on my own. But, I realize that if I can’t make an hour to spend time with people who know EACTLY what I’m dealing with and how to support me, how can I make time to really lose the weight?

    Your post just reinforced my decision to go back to meetings and really take charge of my weight loss journey once again. Before this post, I’d even determined a mini-goal of 10% body weight or 15 pounds (and I’m already 5 pounds along pre-rejoining). My BMI weight is only 25 pounds away, but after losing 70 pounds, that still seems too far. Reaching my mini-goal and then worrying about whether to go another 5 or 10 pounds seems easier than thinking about ANOTHER 25.

  11. Priscilla says:

    I love this website! Jonathan, I love how you write. You make me think and I can relate. Stretchy, I always enjoy what you have to say. You are straight-forward and so supportive at the same time. London Slimmer, I find your posts thought-provoking and lovely.

    I enjoy reading what all of you have to say on this website. I don’t usually comment, but I read The Skinny Daily Post every day. I’m grateful that I stumbled onto this website a few years ago. It is always inspirational for me.

  12. stephanie says:

    Another great post, Jonathan. I re-read it tonight, after a flurry of connections in my head that brought me back to your point about making and finding success in the day-to-day, rather than at the end of the far-off rainbow.

    I always saw the “answer” as being a skinny me, far far off in the distance. What I wasn’t ever willing to do, though, was to face the reality of what I was starting with. One of the things I’ve come to realize about my own struggles with weight is that food is exactly what I use to “check out” on the reality of my food issues. Sounds strange, right? But a moment of pleasure on the tastebuds can wipe out an entire day’s worth of awareness about what I’m eating. I could spend another 20 years living in that fantasy world, too. It’s easy to pretend food isn’t a problem, that I’m not really THAT fat, that everything’s just fine. It’s hard, even painful sometimes, to continue to work on myself. So I try to make sure that it’s a little hard every day. Because if it’s hard, then I know that I’m awake.

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