Fear Setting

We’ve been having an amazing summer so far, filled with Spanish, math work, reading lessons, library trips, and visits with my grandmother. Summer is also the time of year when the girls and I go in for our annual medical checkups. I never imagined that both my doc and the pediatrician would have news that would impact our kitchen adventures.


My oldest daughter who has always been on the crazy tiny side (official medical term) of the growth chart, has basically fallen right off of it. Now, this isn’t wildly surprising as my sister and my grandmother never saw 5 feet tall, however, my daughter is also what I would call a “crackertarian.” She is incredibly picky about food and despite our best attempts mostly subsists on simple carbs. When the doctor saw the growth chart, she insisted on a few blood tests and a bone density scan. Everything came back within normal ranges, but the doctor encouraged us to get her on a veggie and protein packed diet before puberty starts in full force.


A week later, I received a call from my doctor. My A1C (blood glucose) is the best it has ever been, but for the first time in my life, my cholesterol is horrible! Thanks, genetics and being on the down slope of my thirties! So, it’s incredibly important that I quit bouncing between fad starvation with marathon cardio sessions and simple-carb-fueled slothfulness and get myself on a regular workout schedule along with a healthy diet. Here comes the tricky part: sustainability.

I have already run through the terrible cycle of deprivation of “fun” food leads to depression leads to exhaustion leads to quitting my workout routine leads to more depression leads to binging on “fun” foods. Thankfully I recently learned an incredibly helpful exercise to do when contemplating a big life change. It came from the latest TedTalk by Tim Ferriss. I am an unabashed fangirl of this “life hacking” guru whose book 4 Hour Body was my first foray into popular fitness. In this (very brief– you have time) talk, he discusses something he applies frequently to his life. Instead of “goal setting,” it is called “fear setting.” It involves listing the failures you imagine and then allows you to create a way to combat and correct those potentialities ahead of time. Later you list what your chosen change might bring to your life even if you were only partially successful, as well as what you would miss out on by not making the change.


I’ve already used it for a big life decision that I recently made (and will probably be sharing within the next year), and found it immensely beneficial, so once I realized that diet and exercise needed to be my top priority, I jumped right into “fear setting” my game plan. I’ll share a couple of my main fears and responses. I may tweak this as necessary, but for now it seems like a pretty solid look at my known weaknesses as well as the pros of jumping in with both feet and the cons of never getting started.

Fear Setting: Diet and Exercise

What if I… Prevent Repair
Feel too exhausted to get out of bed in the morning
  • Take your meds
  • Get enough sleep
  • Go to sleep and wake up every day on the same schedule
  • Make the next good choice: “One day at a time; one choice at a time.”
    • Just get out of bed
    • Just put on gym clothes
    • Just get to the gym parking lot
    • Just walk into the gym
    • Just do 5 minutes on the elliptical
  • Go for a walk around the block
  • Commit to go to the gym in the evening instead
  • If you really can’t get there; go in the morning and add 15 minutes to your cardio
Feel stressed and crave ‘comfort food’
  • Decide on replacement comfort food ahead of time
    • Sunbutter on a spoon
    • One piece of bread
    • Fruit
  • Drink a full glass of water first
  • Go for a walk around the block instead
  • Do a round of tai chi instead
  • If you cheat, drink a full glass of water with apple cider vinegar
  • Commit to doing an extra 20 minutes of cardio the next time you are at the gym
  • Keep healthy snacks with me at all times
  • Make sure to get enough protein at every meal
  • Eat regular meals
  • Stop what you are doing and eat a healthy snack NOW
  • Adjust how much you eat at your next meal to get full

What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?

  • More energy
  • Less depression
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Controlled blood sugar
  • Opportunities to use my personal trainer certification
  • Ideas to help others who might also be struggling with their health
  • More flexibility
  • Less injuries
  • A slimmer, more muscular physique


What might be the cost of inaction?

  • A heart attack– like your dad, uncles, and grandfather
  • Stroke– never to be the same again physically or mentally
  • Deprive my girls of a mother
  • Deprive my husband of his wife
  • Worsening depression
  • Additional anxiety
  • Continued weight gain
  • Further exhaustion
  • Increased effects of age exterior and interior
  • Less energy to play with the girls
  • Medical procedures that are not going to be pleasant


I feel pretty motivated when I have it all written out in a list, and have something that I can refer to in moments of doubt and disillusionment to remind me why this is a Very Important Thing. Here’s to balance and sustainability, and to a long, happy, healthy life with those whom I love most!


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