One Surprising Method Will Bring the Mountain Closer

Most overweight people feel a lot of shame.  Feeling proud of myself for something to do with food is definitely not typical.

I suppose that pride aspect is part of the reason I like to start a new diet.  I feel virtuous about all I'm giving up.  Shedding those first few pounds feels like a reward for how "good" I've been on the diet.

But once the water weight is gone, and weight loss slows, or maybe even stalls, I stop feeling like there's anything I can be proud of.  I haven't lost the dress size I vowed to lose; I haven't even lost 10% of my body weight.

I know I'm not alone in this.  So how does anyone keep from giving up?

Mt. Shasta in the distance

Here's the problem.

The sad truth is that every big goal has a point at which we feel that we're making no progress.  It feels like the goal isn't getting any closer.  It's like walking toward a mountain on the horizon that seems as if it's receding into the distance. 

Trent Hamm, founder of The Simple Dollar, talks about this exact feeling.  He equates paying off his five-figure credit card debt to losing 100 pounds.  Both goals are gigantic.

He says the trick is to start looking at your individual steps rather than staring ahead at the mountain in the distance.  In other words, you can't think about conquering the mountain.  You can't focus on the big goal.  The only way to make it is step by step.  

Step by step and day by day

To succeed at any big goal, we need to build daily habits that inevitably march us toward it.  For example, if you want to lose weight, you might ask yourself:

  • Did I eat several fruits and vegetables today?
  • Did I eat whole grains rather than processed grains today?
  • Did I avoid sodas and sugary snacks today?
  • Did I do even a few minutes of vigorous exercise today?

If your goal is to pay off debt, you could ask:

  • Did I stay on my budget today?
  • Did I keep from using credit cards today?
  • Did I find a way to save money today?
  • Did I give thanks for what I already have today?

Or if your goal is to permanently declutter, you may ask:

  • Did I remove at least one or two unneeded items today?
  • Did I refrain from impulse buys today?
  • Did I sort and discard mail, receipts, newspapers, magazines, freebies, etc. today?
  • Did I tidy up and put possessions away where they belong today?

Focusing on that huge ultimate goal might make you just want to give up and eat a pint of ice cream (or buy something you don't need).  But when you're successful in those smaller daily habits, applaud yourself.  Think about tomorrow's challenges tomorrow.

Easier said than done, I know!

So when you do think about your ultimate long-term goal, you need to bring your own values and dreams to the process.  It's too vague to say "I want to lose weight," or "I want to fit into my skinny jeans again," or even "I want to improve my health."  You need to make your goal personal.

Fiona Ferris, author of Thirty Slim Days: Create Your Slender and Healthy Life in a Fun and Enjoyable Way,* suggests crafting a specific vision of your thinner self.  Conduct an imaginary interview with your alter ego, asking these questions:

  • What's in your pantry?
  • What's in your refrigerator?
  • Which physical activities do you enjoy?
  • What do your clothes, hairstyle, and skin look like?
  • What are the many non-food pleasures in your life?
  • Which foods (that were formerly "binge" foods for you) have you successfully given up?  How did you do this?
  • What are your favorite healthy foods that you eat all the time?
  • How do you feel about being thinner?
  • What was your biggest challenge, and how did you help yourself overcome it?
  • What advice do you have for people who want to lose weight and keep it off?  What's your biggest tip for success?

Or imagine if you asked your debt-free self these questions:

  • How much do you have saved in an emergency fund?
  • What other goals are you saving for (a trip, a new car, etc.)?
  • What's your favorite way to save money?
  • What are you most thankful for?
  • What are the many non-shopping pleasures in your life?
  • Which items (that were formerly "binge" purchases for you) have you successfully given up?  How did you do this?
  • How do you feel about being debt-free?
  • What was your biggest challenge, and how did you help yourself overcome it?
  • What advice do you have for people who want to get out of debt?  What's your biggest tip for success?
  • What else has changed in your life since you paid off your debts?  Do you work fewer hours, pursue a hobby you never thought you could afford, travel more, give more to charity, contemplate early retirement, or something else?

* This blog is reader-supported. If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

Imagining the answers to these questions gives you inspiration and ideas as you continue toward your goal.  When you "visit" your successful self and see health, confidence, and a high level of life satisfaction, you actually see the long-term payoff of all of your hard work – something real to be proud of.

It brings the mountain just a little closer.

Updated June 2023


  1. I have lost 50 pounds and become a millionaire by unconsciously following these steps. 25 years ago, I was working 3 jobs, getting divorced from a very abusive husband, dealing with downsizing to a condo with half the square footage. I was exhausted, my hair was falling out from stress of the unknown. I went from living on over 4 acres of wooded land with wildlife to an urban setting. I actually don’t know how I did it and stayed sane. If someone would have told me I would be retired with a pension and a substantial nest egg when I moved here I would have been clueless about that could happen. I was able to slowly educate myself and take daily steps to inch along to reaching those goals. Now I am grateful that I saved clothing that I am able to wear again and donate to others in need. I am decluttering at a slower pace than I would like, but weekly I am discovering items I had forgotten and can now utilize in my retirement as my needs have changed in this pandemic. I have to disagree with the organizing rules that say if it wasn’t used in a year to get rid of it.

  2. Hi Plynjyn, and thank you very much for your comment. I’m so glad to hear that your choices paid off. It’s a good illustration of that proverb, “The best time to start a big project was years ago; the second-best time is today.”


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