The Best Measure?  Small Pleasures!
By Carolyn Allen


Several weeks ago I mentioned planting flower seeds as a fun way to watch and compare the experience of slow, almost imperceptible little changes that happen as we intentionally make small, positive health choices.  The alyssum seeds I planted when I wrote that article are already blooming, the marigolds starting to develop little buds and the zinnias are coming along nicely. 

Although they’re hardly in full bloom and I’ve added some store-bought annuals to fill things out, each stage is most acceptable and enjoyable.  Isn’t it amazing what six weeks can do?

Six weeks puts us to mid-July. Will the scale and your clothes say you’ve planted and nurtured some seeds of change? And the days and pleasures in between – well, they are to be cherished too!

Today’s Quote:   “Pleasure doesn’t just come in slabs or chunks or big thick increments of time.  It also arrives in hints, whispers and slow installments.”  (SARK)

So often we want to determine weight loss success in measurable pounds, inches and clothing sizes.  My calling in the Nursery (and currently as the Sunbeam teacher) gives me much joy and perspective into these faulty tools of success.

One Sunday morning Stephanie, then just over two, arrived to Nursery feeling sad and anxious about her mom leaving – very unlike her sweet, independent little self.  Although we had put her favorite shopping cart toy front and center where she could see it and the others were happy to see her, she surprised us all with her reluctance.

shopper iStock Ellison.

With her mother’s soft encouragement and a little time, at last she took a deep breath, sighed, pointed her little body in the right direction and resolutely walked over to the toys. 

“She’s decided to be happy!” I said to Janet, my friend and co-worker. “Yes, she has,” she replied.  “It’s taken me my entire life to learn that one. Until I contracted and beat cancer, I always thought things had to be perfect before I could be happy.  Boy, was I wrong!”

(You may be interested in Kitchen Table Wisdom by Dr. Naomi Remen. It is a tender, life-changing collection of healing stories about people whose battles with cancers provided the keys to personal peace and inner joy.)

Although today we’re not dealing with the genuine trauma of either cancer or coping with the next few hours without our moms, we do have the daily dilemma of how we’ll treat our bodies.

When we decide – and often! – that eating and living healthfully is a happy thing, not a punishment at all, with many small pleasures to treasure along the way, then there is peace, followed by wise choices, followed by measurable success, on many levels! 

There will rarely be the “perfect” time to live our programs, so we might as well take the lead from little Stephanie by taking a deep breath and pointing ourselves where we need to go.

Try these little pleasures on for size from those who are winning the losing game by pointing themselves in the right direction, one little healthy choice at a time.  If you don’t feel this way yet about these statements, well just remember, “As a man thinketh, so is he!”

  • “A real apple tastes better and feels better in my system afterwards than a piece of apple pie.”
  • “I love that feeling when you’re first waking up.  Lying in bed my stomach feels flatter, and I am starting to be able to feel my ribs.  I get excited remembering that I’m really doing it with a new day before me!”
  • “The guilt is gone! I’m proud of what I’m putting in my mouth, and comfortable with what anyone watches me eat.”
  • “I am starting to have a lap where my little ones can sit, instead of beside me.”
  • “There are more choices from my current closet so I can get ready for work faster.”
  • “Carrying laundry baskets up and down the stairs doesn’t leave my heart pounding!”
  • “I love seeing the towel wrap further and further around my body after a shower.”
  • “I can put my wedding rings on again.”
  • “My headaches are going away.”
  • “I made a cute dress for my daughter instead of snacking in the evenings!”
  • “Real mayonnaise and ice cream taste slimy and icky.  Big step forward!”
  • “My son is so excited with my desire and success.  It means more to him than I ever imagined.  It’s worth it to see the look on his face as he hugs me and notices that there’s less of me.”
  • “Having lost even 15 pounds made a huge difference in how my body healed after emergency surgery.”
  • “My thighs have stopped quivering when I lower myself to the potty now that I’m down 20 pounds.”
  • “Anyone looking in my grocery cart will know that health is a priority for me.  That’s a neat feeling!”

To personalize these thoughts a bit, a lovely woman I’ll call Sandy shared her story recently with me.  Though she’d been at a healthy weight as a child, she’d spent her late teen and adult years heavy.  The birth of her one son, now a young teenager, catapulted her weight issues.

One morning she woke up, and it was time to end the excuses.  It wasn’t a Monday or January 1.  It was simply “time.”  For years she’d tried and joined different programs.  It wasn’t hard to find a healthy one that would work when she decided to really follow it as a lifestyle.  She decided that she was going to have fun and show off her progress all along the way instead of waiting until the end.

There were new earrings for each 5 pounds.  New tops for every 10 and jeans (or slacks) for every 20.  Whether or not it appeared to anyone else that she’d lost weight, she made sure there was something to reward her losses.  For the big ones: 25, 50, 75, she set up some big incentives:  At 25 pounds, a great haircut.  At 50, a teeth-whitening. At 75, a session with an image consultant and professional help with her make-up.  And she followed through on them!

And in addition?  She discovered a joy for cooking and satisfaction in healthy, natural recipes that fulfilled not only her appetite, but also her need to be creative.  She discovered that a salad with some black beans for lunch (rather than a candy bar) gave her the focus to deal with a stressful boss, or a difficult parent-teacher conference.  She found beauty in her neighborhood that she’d never noticed as she began to walk further and further each evening after dinner.  She relaxed at parties, letting go of being “the clown” as her self-confidence increased.

And on and on it went – 1,000 small pleasures to seek, to earn and to enjoy.

For people who think that a healthy eating plan requires weeks or months for results to show, nonsense!  Our spirits are lighter immediately when we get going, and the small pleasures of small losses measure up in every direction, including those that matter far more than inches or pounds.

Oh, it’s a decision to be happy.  Thank you, little Stephanie!  Thank you, Janet!  Thank you, Sandy!

Today’s Empowerment :  “I am joyfully experiencing many small successes as my body and spirit respond to the healthy things I am providing for myself.”

Today’s Recipe: Shake ‘n Bake Chicken Skillet Dinner

This goes together in a snap.  A large side serving of cooked greens or cabbage makes it fit for royalty.

Shake ‘n Bake Chicken Skillet Dinner
(Serves 4 at 310 Calories Each)


  • 1 (1 oz.

    ) envelope onion soup mix
  • 4 (4 oz) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 can reduced fat/reduced sodium cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4 tsp.pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked instant rice
  1. Put half of onion soup mix in a zipper bag.  Add chicken and shake to coat.  Heat a large nonstick skillet.  Spray lightly and brown chicken, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove chicken and set aside.


  2. Add water, cream of mushroom soup, and remaining onion soup mix to skillet. Sprinkle with pepper and bring to a boil.  Stir in rice and top with the chicken.  Cover, reduce heat to low and cook 8 minutes, or until chicken is done.


Each serving is 1 piece of chicken and 3/4 cup rice.

(1.5 g Fiber; 310 calories; 3.5  g Fat; 36 g Carb)