We have a neighbor who regularly brings a chuckle from the family as we drive by his home.  For the entire 16 years we have lived here, his outdoor Christmas decorations don’t go up until 2-3 days before Christmas, then remain well into Spring.  As Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day pass into Easter with everything still up and lit every night, we often wonder out loud why he doesn’t just leave them in place to be ready early for Christmas the following year!

Funny thing about this neighbor.  Ten years ago when our sons were young teenagers, he hired them to rake leaves in the fall, but never got around to paying them.  They diligently put in several long work sessions with no immediate compensation, then waited respectfully for several weeks.  At that point, I started phoning and left messages on his answering machine.  We finally wrote off the debt as a good deed for a neighbor.  One day he finally came over to the house and, thoroughly embarrassed, paid the boys. 

Now, as we pass by his decorated and lit home in February and into spring we laugh as we remember that experience and are reminded of our own areas of procrastination. 

Are there any of us who don’t have things we just don’t want to deal with?  On a scale of one to ten, when one decorates and undecorates for holidays is probably a 0 -1.  Paying a debt is consideraly higher.  Highest for me in the 10+ range are how I treat my family and neighborsand and preparing for the day I return to my Heavenly Father. 

On December 28, three days after Christmas, another neighbor — three doors down from us and less than a block from the man with the Christmas decorations, passed away at 9:30 p.m.  He was 56. The family had enjoyed a favorite holiday meal at their favorite restaurant that evening.  He was sitting in his favorite chair, watching his favorite college basketball play on national TV.  He commented to his dad, sitting beside him, that they had better watch those rebounds … then quietly had a heart attack and died.  When his dad glanced over a few minutes later, he was gone. There was nothing the EMTs could do. No good-byes and no physical pain. 

A loving husband and doting father, he was an accomplished professional with an impressive military resume followed by an outstanding government career in full bloom.  His camraderie and ability to make people laugh were legendary.   His death, entirely unexpected with no significant medical history or warnings from his doctor, has left us all in a state of shock and wonder.  Yes, like many of us he battled an extra 50 pounds and blood pressure.  Yes, he loved smoking his pipe.  But sudden death at 56?  Yes, sudden death at 56.  Though we all know healthy individuals who pass away with the same degree of unexpectedness, at these times we all ask ourselves,  “What about me?  Have I done all that I can do with my time on this earth  — and to make that time last as long as it is supposed to?”

His funeral was held the first Monday of the New Year. His death has impressed all of us with the need for following through on New Year’s resolution to make health a priority in at least the 8+ range. 

As our own houses and lives are quickly returning to a normal state after the holiday. I’m a firm believer that though the New Year officially starts on January 1, the process of getting Christmas put away often takes a week or two, though surely not the 2-3 months my neighbor requires.  It was always interesting to me that when I worked as a Weight Watchers leader, it was not the first week of January that was crazy-busy with new members, but the third week, when their homes and schedules were back to normal. 

Whew!  How good it feels to have life back to normal and ready to focus on our health.  Hopefully the Christmas damage is not too extreme.  The beautiful and most remarkable thing about our bodies is that they, like our Heavenly Father who created them, are eternally forgiving!  You can start eating right, drinking water and exercising today, and be feeling much better with the first pound or two gone in just days with the plan I share below. 

Do you have a plan?  Along with throwing out the holiday stuff in the refrigerator, have you replaced it with healthy foods and lots of veggies?  What are you doing for exercise?

My daughter and I have discovered a jewel of a program called “Eight Minutes in The Morning” by Jorge Cruise.  The remarkable thing about it is its true simplicity in every respect.  The eating program is very similar to Dian Thomas’s plan, and makes healthy eating feel extremely manageable, like her photo essays here at Meridian.

Though all protein is acceptable in this plan, his best recommendations are plant-based.  It includes lots of vegetables, limited fruit and two dairy servings.  Since we eliminated dairy a couple of years ago, I am replacing the dairy options with extra dark green vegetables and one extra lean protein.  He also promotes a small amount of fat, especially healthy fats like olive oil and flaxseed oil to properly fuel the body. 

His exercise plan is very short and simple, based on strength training to build muscle that will burn fat all day long. 

His many before-and-after photo and story testimonials of fit and healthy people of all ages make it even more convincing.  What I like best about it is his focus on getting fit at home without expensive equipment, meetings or foods.  Don’t we all need that!

I printed out his “eating card system” and am finding it to be the best little tracker I’ve used since Weight Watchers had their exchange system many years ago.  It’s just the right size for your pocket or kitchen counter.  I’m using the back of each page to make a short personal journal entry about the day, triggers, victories, etc.  I’ve included a copy for you to print out and use when you CLICK HERE or paste this link into your browser:

Back to my neighbor and his Christmas decorations: We can’t point too many fingers because, as President Hinckley says “We are all inherently lazy.  We would rather loaf than work. It is WORK that spells the difference in the life of a man or woman.  It is stretching our minds and utilizing the skills of our hands that lifts us from the stagnation of mediocrity.”  (Gordon B. Hinkley, “Teachings,” pages 705)

King Benjamin tells us that the “natural man is an enemy to God” That natural man includes procrastination, an enemy to health. This is our year to do all that we can do in our own lives to build increased health, energy and optimism through healthy living — with whatever plan seems reasonably wise and managable.

When my day comes, as it has so recently for my neighbor, I look forward to hearing my Heavenly Father say, “Well done, though good and faithful servant!” and replying with joy, “I have done all that I could do!”  I hope it will be so for you, too!

Carolyn Allen has been providing weight loss inspiration since 1999 both online and in community venues in the Washington, D.

C. area and is the author of
60 seconds to Weight Loss Success.