The Domino Effect: How to Create a Chain Reaction of Good Habits

A similar theme as i posted a couple of week ago, James Clear writes about the domino effect: how one good habit inspires more! Please have a look at his website for more terrific articles.
By James Clear    |    Behavioral Psychology, Habits, Productivity

Human behaviors are often tied to one another

For example, consider the case of a woman named Jennifer Lee Dukes. For two and a half decades during her adult life, starting when she left for college and extending into her 40s, Dukes never made her bed except for when her mother or guests dropped by the house.

At some point, she decided to give it another try and managed to make her bed four days in a row—a seemingly trivial feat. However, on the morning of that fourth day, when she finished making the bed, she also picked up a sock and folded a few clothes lying around the bedroom. Next, she found herself in the kitchen, pulling the dirty dishes out of the sink and loading them into the dishwasher, then reorganizing the Tupperware in a cupboard and placing an ornamental pig on the counter as a centerpiece.

She later explained, “My act of bed-making had set off a chain of small household tasks… I felt like a grown-up—a happy, legit grown-up with a made bed, a clean sink, one decluttered cupboard, and a pig on the counter. I felt like a woman who had miraculously pulled herself up from the energy-sucking Bermuda Triangle of Household Chaos.”

Jennifer Lee Dukes was experiencing the Domino Effect.

The Domino EffectThe Domino Effect

The Domino Effect

The Domino Effect states that when you make a change to one behavior it will activate a chain reaction and cause a shift in related behaviors as well.

For example, a 2012 study from researchers at Northwestern University found that when people decreased their amount of sedentary leisure time each day, they also reduced their daily fat intake. The participants were never specifically told to eat less fat, but their nutrition habits improved as a natural side effect because they spent less time on the couch watching television and mindlessly eating. One habit led to another, one domino knocked down the next.

You may notice similar patterns in your own life. As a personal example, if I stick with my habit of going to the gym, then I naturally find myself more focused at work and sleeping more soundly at night even though I never made a plan to specifically improve either behavior.

The Domino Effect holds for negative habits as well. You may find that the habit of checking your phone leads to the habit of clicking social media notifications which leads to the habit of browsing social media mindlessly which leads to another 20 minutes of procrastination.

In the words of Stanford professor BJ Fogg, “You can never change just one behavior. Our behaviors are interconnected, so when you change one behavior, other behaviors also shift.”

Inside the Domino Effect

As best I can tell, the Domino Effect occurs for two reasons.

First, many of the habits and routines that make up our daily lives are related to one another. There is an astounding interconnectedness between the systems of life and human behavior is no exception. The inherent relatedness of things is a core reason why choices in one area of life can lead to surprising results in other areas, regardless of the plans you make.

Second, the Domino Effect capitalizes on one of the core principles of human behavior: commitment and consistency. This phenomenon is explained in the classic book on human behavior, Influence by Robert Cialdini. The core idea is that if people commit to an idea or goal, even in a very small way, they are more likely to honor that commitment because they now see that idea or goal as being aligned with their self-image.

Returning to the story from the beginning of this article, once Jennifer Lee Dukes began making her bed each day she was making a small commitment to the idea of, “I am the type of person who maintains a clean and organized home.” After a few days, she began to commit to this new self-image in other areas of her home.

This is an interesting byproduct of the Domino Effect. It not only creates a cascade of new behaviors, but often a shift in personal beliefs as well. As each tiny domino falls, you start believing new things about yourself and building identity-based habits.

The Rules of the Domino Effect

The Domino Effect is not merely a phenomenon that happens to you, but something you can create. It is within your power to spark a chain reaction of good habits by building new behaviors that naturally lead to the next successful action.

There are three keys to making this work in real life. Here are the three rules of the Domino Effect:

  1. Start with the thing you are most motivated to do. Start with a small behavior and do it consistently. This will not only feel satisfying, but also open your eyes to the type of person you can become. It does not matter which domino falls first, as long as one falls.
  2. Maintain momentum and immediately move to the next task you are motivated to finish. Let the momentum of finishing one task carry you directly into the next behavior. With each repetition, you will become more committed to your new self-image.
  3. When in doubt, break things down into smaller chunks. As you try new habits, focus on keeping them small and manageable. The Domino Effect is about progress, not results. Simply maintain the momentum. Let the process repeat as one domino automatically knocks down the next.

When one habit fails to lead to the next behavior, it is often because the behavior does not adhere to these three rules. There are many different paths to getting dominoes to fall. Focus on the behavior you are excited about and let it cascade throughout your life.

Read Next

  1. “Want to Change the World? Start by Making Your Bed” by Jennifer Lee Dukes
  2. The phrase, the Domino Effect, comes from the common game people play by setting up a long line of dominoes, gently tapping the first one, and watching as a delightful chain reason proceeds to knock down each domino in the chain. I thought up this particular use of the phrase, but I’ve seen others say similar things like “snowball effect” or “chain reaction.”
  3. Multiple Behavior Change in Diet and Activity: A Randomized Controlled Trial Using Mobile Technologyby Bonnie Spring, Kristin Schneider, H.G. McFadden, Jocelyn Vaughn, Andrea T. Kozak, Malaina Smith, Arlen C. Moller, Leonard H. Epstein, Andrew DeMott, Donald Hedeker, Juned Siddique, and Donald M. Lloyd-Jones. Archives of Intern Medicine (2012).
  4. Quote from “BJ’s note” posted on September 21, 2015. It is worth noting that BJ has some fantastic ideas on behavior change on his site, many of which have influenced my thoughts including his idea that “behaviors travel in packs,” which is similar to the core argument of Domino Effect.


Another day another FAD diet, super food or ‘fat loss’ secret pops up into the media…
JMax did an excellent job at narrowing it down to 10 ‘commandments’ – blowing all FADs out of the window!

It’s the time of year we are all looking to get shredded.

To get shredded, you have to put the work in. This includes work in the weight rooms and in the kitchen with your nutrition.
To obtain that lean shredded physique that we all want takes time. It will not happen overnight. We can’t wake up one morning and expect to have a sculpted six pack. Although how great would that be! But do not fear! We’ve got you covered. Below are 10 commandments that we believe will give you the best possible chance of getting shredded if you take action and apply them. We have no doubt that if you follow these commandments, and lift some heavy things about 3-4 times a week, you will get the shredded physique that you’re after.

If you want to get shredded, here’re 10 simple nutrition commandments to follow.

Commandment #1 – Thou shall create a calorie deficit.
We are going to start with the basics.

Calories are the MOST important factor when it comes to determining how much weight we put on, or how much weight we lose. This sounds extremely simple, but if you want to lose weight or fat, you HAVE to eat less.

It still absolutely amazes us that people say that calories do not matter when it comes to fat loss. People who come out with this blanket statement are flat out disagreeing with the first law of thermodynamics. Energy cannot be destroyed or created, only transferred. Saying calories don’t matter when it comes to weight/fat loss is like saying a engine does not matter when it comes to driving a car. Your number one priority when it comes to getting shredded is making sure you are in a calorie deficit. If you don’t get that right then nothing else will matter! Cutting out gluten, wheat, dairy, and sugar does not get you shredded. Ensuring that you are in a calorie deficit for a prolonged period of time will get you shredded. We are not just talking about being in a calorie deficit for a couple of days. You need to make sure you’re in a calorie deficit for the week and weeks that follow. Consistency is the name of the game! A calorie deficit is where you consume less calories via food and drink than you burn through various metabolic pathways. To find out how many calories you need to get shredded, and how to find out if you’re in a calorie deficit, click here.

Commandment #2 – Thou shall consume adequate protein.
The Greeks had it right when it came to protein.

The word protein comes from the Greek word “proteos,” which means first one or most important one. Who is going to argue with Zeus and the rest of the Greek Gods?

They were absolutely right when it came to protein. If you want to get shredded you have to make sure you are consuming enough protein for various reasons.

Because we are in a calorie deficit and we are involved in resistance training, we are breaking down a lot of protein in the muscle. It is therefore vital that we consume enough protein through our diets to offset this breakdown of protein. We need to protect our muscles like newborn babies. Eating enough protein will make sure we do this.
A diet higher in protein will help with your satiety levels, meaning it will keep you fuller for longer. Because we are eating less calories, this will help keep hunger in check.
A final point, protein has the highest Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) out of all of the macronutrients. As you can see in the table above this will contribute to how many calories you burn a day. So if you are eating more protein in a day, this will help with your overall calorie burn for the day. It’s a win-win situation.
How much protein? This is the million dollar question. There have literally been hundreds of studies throughout the years determining protein intakes for athletes, people involved in regular resistance training, and for people who are in a calorie deficit. In a study by Phillips and Van Loon they suggested that anywhere between 1.8 – 2.7g of protein per kg of body weight may be optimal for athletes training in a calorie deficit. However, this study did not take into consideration already lean individuals. Leaner individuals may require even higher intakes of protein. A recent review by Helms et al found that a higher intake (between 2.3 – 3.1g/kg) to be superior. This study was based on already lean individuals. This makes a case that the leaner you are, and the more training experience you have, could mean you need higher intakes of protein. To read this full study click here. You can’t go wrong with starting your protein intake between 0.8 – 1.0g per lb of bodyweight. You can then tweak this number depending on your progress.

Commandment #3 – Thou shall not cut out carbs.
One common theme we see is that when people are looking to get shredded they will go on some crazy low carb diet.

This does not work in the long term. Remember our goal is to look lean and shredded.

We don’t want to look like we have just finished school. For this to happen we have to train with moderate to high intensities with weights. So we must drop calories, but we still must train with weights to get that shredded look we want. Our bodies preferred fuel source for this type of exercise is glycogen. It is easy for our bodies to use glycogen for energy, so we can smash it in the weights room. Having high levels of glycogen in the liver and muscles will keep workout performance high in the gym, which is what we want. After a few days of really low-carb dieting, it is more than likely that your workout performance will suffer. Your glycogen levels are severely depleted. At this point, you will probably struggle to bench 20 pounds. Additionally, research has shown that as long as they are in a calorie deficit, people lose fat equally well whether they are doing high-carb or low-carb approaches. By following a moderate to high carb approach, you can still have good, productive sessions with the iron. Which means you’ll be losing body fat but protecting your muscle mass.

Commandment #4 – Thou shall consume enough fibre.
We all know that fibre keeps us regular.

But it is also an important tool when we are looking to get shredded. One of its main benefits is that it helps control our satiety levels, keeping hunger at bay.

We have established with Commandment #1 that you will be eating less calories than you are used to in order to get shredded. So it is extremely important that we do the best we can to control hunger, and make sure the meals we do have keep us fuller for longer. That way we are not reaching for the Krispy Kremes! A great way of doing this is to make sure that we are consuming adequate fibre. The absolute minimum you want to aim for is about 25g a day. You can do this quite easily by including foods such as oats, wholegrain breads, and different pulses such as beans into your daily diets. Also be aware you can consume too much fibre. This can cause stomach discomfort such as bloating and constipation. So as a maximum try not consume more than 20% of your carb intake from fibre. For example, if you are consuming 300g of carbs a day, try not to consume more than 60g of fibre a day.

Commandment #5 – Thou shall eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
My granddad always used to say, “Eat all your greens up- it will make you big and strong.”

I should have listened to him more often. Fruits and vegetables should be included in your diets if you’re looking to get shredded.

Firstly they contain hardly any calories per serving. You can eat a high volume of these sorts of food and you will still have plenty of calories left for the day. For example, 100 grams of blueberries has roughly 70 calories in it. 100 grams of broccoli has about 40 calories in it.

Secondly, they will help you avoid nutritional deficiencies. Energy levels, strength, endurance and our moods all rely heavily on us getting enough vitamins and minerals in our systems.

The research shows that getting adequate micronutrients in our diet through food alone is extremely hard! A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition analyzed 70 athletes’ diets. Every single diet was deficient in at least 3 nutrients. Some were missing up to 15! Combine this with the fact that we are already consuming less calories per day, and it becomes extremely important that we make sure we are consuming enough fruit and vegetables.

Simple ways of nutrition to get shredded
If you’re looking to build muscle and get shredded, fruit and veggies need to be a mainstay in your diet.
Commandment #6 – Eat fat in MODERATION!
Since the turn of the millennium, high fat diets have become more popular than Justin Bieber!

Everywhere you turn, in every single article you read, they are praising the high fat diet. They describe how it is the magic pill to get us all shredded and turn us superhuman.

You see statements like:

“Eat fat to burn fat”

“Build 10 pounds of muscle with high fat diets”

“Eat good fats to get lean”

The world truly has gone high fat mad! But like most things in this industry, we take something that can be really beneficial and overdo it. Yes fat is an extremely important macronutrient for us to include in our diets. It has many essential functions in the human body, most of them revolving around hormone production. The research says that we should include some fat in our diets for general health properties. But what everyone seems to forget about fat, no matter how you twist it, is that it always will be the most calorie-dense macronutrient. It has 9 calories per gram. That is over double of what protein and carbs have. Both protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram. When you’re looking to get shredded you will need to be in a calorie deficit. You should be eating less calories. If you’re obsessed with fat, it is very easy to overeat on! I found this out in my early 20s. I was obsessed with getting shredded, and I still am to some extent. But I was drawn in by the popularity of high fat diets, eating nuts, oily fish and avocados at every meal. Not to mention chucking coconut oil in my coffee at every chance. I was 100% overeating on calories and that is why I never got shredded. Remember- this study proved as long as you are in an overall calorie deficit you can lose fat whether you go low fat/high carb or high fat/low carb. If your calories are in check you will still lose fat. But what I will say is that you can include more volume of food if you go high-carb and get a dream pump during your weight sessions. As for how much fat to eat, we go with the recommendations of the nutrition guru himself Mr. Alan Aragon. He recommends a range of 0.3 – 0.7g per pound of bodyweight for fat intake. If you love carbs and you perform better on them, go with the lower end of this range. If you love fattier types of food such as steaks, cheese, and full fat milk then go with the higher end of this scale.

Commandment #7 – Take a flexible approach
Ah the great debate of the decade- clean eating vs flexible dieting (or IIFYM).

This war has been raging for years. I have experienced both sides.

Between the ages of 20 – 25 I was an avid “clean” eater, sticking to only a handful of foods. I only ate the classic bodybuilding foods- chicken, turkey, salmon, brown rice and broccoli. You get the idea. My food selection was very small indeed. What this lead to was the classic binge eating, especially at the weekend. You see if you restrict, restrict, and keep restricting yourself, there will come a point down the line where you will break. It will be an all-out warfare on food and you will be reaching for everything. My avid clean eating approach made me develop an unhealthy relationship with certain foods. When my cheat day came it was a free for all of these foods, which caused me to go way way over on my calories for that week. Flexible dieting will give you the control. You can include a wide range of foods that you enjoy, as long as they fit your calorie allowance. Now flexible dieting has gotten a bad rap over the years, with people posting hordes of junk food with their six packs on Instagram. I will state right now that flexible dieting is not an excuse to eat junk all day. You still base the large majority of your food intake on unprocessed whole food sources. For a more detailed look at flexible dieting, click here.

One study showed a strong correlation that people who followed a more flexible approach to their diets had lower levels of depression and anxiety. They were less likely to overeat and had a lower BMI. From a personal point of view flexible dieting has given me far more control over my food and food choices. When it comes time to get shredded and drop calories, it doesn’t really bother me as I still know I can include foods I love in moderation.

Commandment #8 – Turn up the volume on low calorie foods.
We all love eating big meals.

When we train hard, we want to eat some big meals to help us recover. But when it comes to getting shredded, we need to be a bit more tactical with our meals.

What I mean by this is you cannot have a full plate of steak and chips at every meal, because you would probably go over your calories very easily for the day. So what we would recommend is to choose foods that have a very low calorie count per 100g or per serving. We are talking about foods such as salads, fibrous vegetables, and leafy greens. You can literally fill your plate or bowl up with these sorts of foods and they will not take up many calories. These sorts of foods are great for filling you up and keeping hunger at bay, because they contain a lot of fibre and micronutrients. Plus from a mental point of view you naturally feel fuller because you’re eating these huge portions. You automatically think that you are full. But you’re not really consuming many calories. So again it’s a win-win situation. Next time you are out food shopping make sure that you fill your trolley up with these sorts of foods.

Commandment #9 – Control your environment.
Now we are not saying you have to join Greenpeace or anything.

But controlling your actual food environment could have a big say in how shredded you get. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” could be of huge help to us in our quest to get shredded.

Now I am a huge fan of flexible dieting and I absolutely believe you should include foods that you love and enjoy in moderation. But if you’re looking to get really lean, it is good to have as much control as possible over your food choices. I am talking about trigger foods. For example, a couple of weeks ago I started a pretty aggressive cut. I knew that I had to stop buying certain foods, just so they were not in the house. For me, foods like granola, certain kids’ cereals, ice cream, and bagels were all off the shopping list! Now there is nothing inherently wrong with these foods if you fit them in your calories for the day. But as soon as I start eating these types of foods I find it hard to stop. They are all pretty calorie dense, so they contain a fair amount of calories per serving. A few servings of this and a lot of calories have gone in an instant!

Another useful tactic you can use is hiding your favourite foods. Put the cookies to the back of the cupboard, and put the Ben & Jerry’s in the outside freezer. Instead have the low calorie foods we spoke about readily available. Make sure there is plenty of fruit and veg in the house and invest in some low-calorie snacks that you can munch on. These sort of tactics give you full control and give you the best possible chance to get shredded.

Commandments #10 – Track your food intake.
We want to give ourselves the best possible chance to get shredded, right?

Then why not use all the tools at our disposal? I have so many conversations with people in gyms, who are looking to get shredded.

They say to me, “I just can’t lose weight” or “I’m not getting leaner.” When I ask them about calories or tracking food intake, their face just goes blank. The normal response I get back is,

“Oh I don’t need to track. I just eat clean.” We come back to the old “clean” eating. Clean foods still have calories in them and you can still overeat them. If you’re not tracking your food intake at all, then you are going into your shredding phase blindfolded! With apps such as My Fitness Pal and My Macros+ it is extremely simple for us to track our food intake. We get all of our clients to track for a certain amount of time, even if it’s just for a couple of weeks. It is such a underrated tool that can teach us about portion control and calorie awareness in certain types of food. If you’re looking to get shredded, give yourself the best possible chance to succeed and track your food intake.

The Mind-Boggling Bullshit of Health and Fitness

Nia Shanks ranks very high on my ‘favourite fitness bloggers’ list.
Do have a look on her page for a range of well written, educational articles.
Today: she’s telling it like it is. I wish i would have written this article myself, please share with everyone that needs this!

The Mind-Boggling Bullshit of Health and Fitness

mind boggling bullshit of health and fitnessIf there’s an industry plagued with profuse amounts of bullshit, it’s health and fitness. Know what it is so you can avoid it and spend your time doing what actually works.

While there’s more bullshit than I can list here, these are some of the most common culprits.

(Would you rather have the audio version of this article? Download it from iTunes.)

The Expert

A trainer at your gym says you need to drink special pre- and post-workout concoctions if you want to get results and, you’re in luck, because he just so happens to sell them. It’ll only cost you $100+ per month, but it’ll totally be worth it because you’re gonna look fantastic. Ahh, the stench of bullshit is hanging in the air.

Detoxes and Cleanses

Someone tells you to jump-start your regimen with a detox or cleanse because they’re just the best thing ever and who cares if you feel like death the entire time because you’re going to lose several pounds really quick. Bullshit.

James Fell handled this one nicely in this meme …

james fell

Super Supplements

Someone promises a supplement will drastically increase your results. Steamy bullshit. Look, if powdered unicorn farts provided magical powers or could rapidly increase your results without side effects, I’d gobble that stuff down and tell you about it too. But, until then, let’s stick to what science has shown to be beneficial. Eat real food and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. I don’t care if that’s banal advice; it works. Thissmoothie recipe fits the bill perfectly, and I drink it almost every day.

Suffer to Succeed

Someone claims you have to sacrifice, suffer, and deprive yourself to build a better looking body; that eating well and working out has to become your entire life. This too is bullshit. Health and fitness isn’t nearly as complicated as some make it seem. You just need to do the right things consistently (refer to 5 Health and Fitness Principles That Don’t Suck after you finish this article); you don’t have to live in the gym or tote tupperware with you at all times.

This Means War!

The language used to describe workouts and diets is getting ridiculous. Someone proclaims that their workout program will make you a battle-ready warrior or superior specimen of the human race and their diet will make you bulletproof. So much bullshit. Doing a workout is not a heroic act and is not comparable to a battle or war. Seriously,we’re just working out. We’re picking things up and putting them back down repeatedly. Regardless of how “hard” you’re going, you’re doing it in a safe environment, and probably even in crisp air conditioning. When you’re done you get to go home and binge watch your favorite show on Netflix.

You can get stronger, improve your quality of life, increase your self confidence, change the appearance of your body, and experience other benefits from strength training, but your moral fiber or value will not improve from a workout program or certain eating style, no matter how hardcore it seems. Anyone claiming otherwise is about to drop a load … of bullshit.

Better Do This. Better Not Do That.

The absolutes stating “women should always do A, B, and C” or “women should never do X, Y, and Z” are bullshit. Do you know what women (i.e., you) should do? Whatever the hell you want. What makes you happy. What makes you feel great. What makes you the best version of yourself.

Want to lift heavy things? Do it, woman! Want to take cardio classes that leave you sweating profusely because you enjoy it? Go get it, girl! Prefer to be active in fun ways that have nothing to do with structured exercise? Have at it.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to do anything, nor do you owe anyone an explanation for why you do what it is you do. Do what you want, and own it.

Magical Solutions

Words like “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary” get tossed around frequently when describing quick-fix fads and gimmicks. Anything that claims you don’t need to change your lifestyle when you use their product or makes too-good-to-be-true promises is a load of steamy dooky. (But we’ll continue to wait patiently for the powdered unicorn fart capsules.)

OMG Everyone Is Stupid

It’s quite amusing to see certain workout styles becoming more of a cult than a fitness routine. Any group that puts down other people who don’t work out or eat the way they do has problems. I once heard a woman comment, “Oh my gosh can you believe she’s eating corn? It’s, like, a GMO and not even a vegetable!” Clearly she found herself superior to the target of her comment since she refuses to let corn pass her lips (well, at least this week; I’m sure she’ll be on a different diet the next: “What? You’re not drinking coffee with butter in it?!”).

How you eat is your business and if someone judges you for it, they’re an asshole. What a bunch of petty bullshit that we live in a world where people think they’re superior because they eat or work out a certain way. Any group claiming to be better than others because of their health and fitness lifestyle has eaten too many of their own bullshit sandwiches; don’t let them serve one to you, even if it’s organic and non-GMO.

Heroes are admired because of their actions; not their eating or workout regimen.

It Worked For Me So It’ll Work For You!

Just because someone had success with a particular diet or workout program doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you. As a personal example, I once did the whole Paleo and low-carb thing (and made my wife go along for the ride too since I do most of the cooking) and ended up with a total cholesterol over 400. My wife, on the other hand, was in the low 100s. We literally ate the same things, but my body responded drastically different.

The lesson: listen to your body and monitor what’s going on. Change as needed. Do what works for you. One-size-fits-all molds are bullshit. Know your body and be your own guru.

The First Rule of Dieting: Tell Everyone You’re Dieting

I get it. We’re women. We’re constantly sold the idea that we should always be dieting. Constantly be trying to lose fat or improve our shape. We should relentlessly try to prevent the aging process. We need to make our tits perkier and our butts more voluminous. It’s no surprise that food and dieting is a popular topic of conversation. This is bullshit. We don’t have to always be dieting. We don’t have to constantly try to manipulate the appearance of our bodies.

We are more than a physical shape, age, or any other number or label (i.e., numbers don’t define you). We can choose to get off the carousel of diets and self-hatred. We can choose to eat well and move our bodies because it makes us feel good and to get stronger and to improve our health and quality of life. Fat loss and a more rounded backside, however, can just be side effects.

You Can Look Just Like Her

Anything promising to make your muscles “long and lean” or says you can look like someone else is, once again, a heaping pile of fresh bullshit. You can’t control your genetics (mostly) and you can’t manipulate a muscle to make it “long and lean.” Your bones are a set length. The origins and insertions of your tendons can’t be changed. And the “lean” part has to do with body fat. If you want to look lean, build muscle and has less body fat. Period. There’s no magical trick or program to make this happen. Proper, progressive strength training and simple nutrition does the trick (more on this below).

The Villain

Diets that blame a macronutrient (e.g., fat, protein, carbohydrates) or food group (e.g., dairy) for hindering your fat loss efforts is bullshit. Calories matter. Food quality is important. Moderation is possible. But there’s no mysterious villain to blame for the rampant obesity problem, and looking for one is a waste of time. No one thing is to blame, and no one thing is the solution.

Trust Everyone. Trust No One.

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t believe everything you read, but not everyone is a charlatan. Find the people who know their stuff, and learn from them. You can usually sniff out who’s a bullshit-Jedi and who has noble intentions. For me, when it comes to nutrition, I trust people like Leigh Peele, Alan Aragon, Georgie Fear, andPrecision Nutrition; they take what they do seriously and know their shit. Follow a few people who are experts in your areas of interest, and learn from them. And keep an open mind and ask questions along the way.

There are mounds of additional bullshit, but hopefully you get the idea.

The Bullshit Free Zone

We called out some of the blatant bullshit in the realm of health and fitness. So now the question is: what should you do? Know this:

  • Short cuts don’t exist.
  • You can’t alter your height, limb or torso length, and most other characteristics determined by your genetics; it’s not about trying to look like “her”; it’s about being the best version of yourself.
  • Strict diets are not sustainable long-term.
  • Exercise is not punishment.
  • Bullshit gimmicks prey on your insecurities (and even create new ones).
  • There is no magical pill, powder, or supplement; your best bet is to eat real food with ample amounts of fruits and vegetables. Some of the finer details are up to you.
  • You don’t have to be miserable or deprived.
  • Stick to the basics: eat well and perform three total body workouts per week, for starters.
  • You’ll reap far greater results doing the good things consistently than haphazardly doing something deemed perfect.

Want to determine if something you overheard is bullshit? Run it through the three-S test. Is it Simple? Is it Sustainable? Is it Sane? Those are three important criteria a health and fitness regimen should meet, but they don’t sell books or magazines or get lots of likes. If it sounds too good to be true or bat-shit bonkers crazy, it likely is.

Why Eating Clean Is Not Enough.

Another excellent post by Gareth Hayden
New clients will tell me all the time ‘I eat clean’ – yet they seem lost on why they aren’t receiving the results they’re seeking. Gareth does a great job on explaining WHY.
Thanks Gareth!


Why Eating Clean Is Not Enough

Many people seem to think that simply eating “clean” will produce the muscle growth and fat loss results they’re after.

And that “bad” foods will keep them from losing weight or slow their progress.

The common ideology is that there are bad foods which should be avoided (or at least limited) and good foods that you can eat.

Now before we go any further, let’s first propose the question…

What Is Clean Eating?

There are a lot of terms and guidelines thrown around of what people consider to be “clean eating”.

And depending on who you talk to – the definition of what is clean is variable.

For a typical bodybuilder – brown rice, oats, and sprouted grain bread are deemed clean. But talk someone who follows a paleo eating approach, and these foods are off limits because they avoid grains at all costs.

The thing is — there really is no way to define what’s clean and what isn’t.

Everyone will have their own definition.

And although I don’t like to categorize them —  for arguments sake we will say ‘clean’ foods are generally characterized by some form of the following:

  • single or minimal ingredients
  • grown in the ground, or from the land, air, or sea
  • minimally processed
  • natural or organic


On the other hand, ‘bad’ foods might be characterized by:

  • lots of ingredients
  • highly processed
  • man-made, or a once natural food that’s been modified in some way

Clean Eating Can Still Make You Fat

I’ve heard many people claim they eat clean or “healthy”, but still can’t seem to lose weight.

Truth is, you can eat all of the healthiest, most nutritious foods in the world, and still get fat.

How’s this possible, you ask?

Because calories and overall energy balance – not specific foods, are what control whether you gain or lose weight.

Allow me to illustrate…

Take the following foods, for example:

  • Grass fed beef
  • Organic free range eggs
  • Gluten-free bread
  • Natural fruit juice
  • Avocado
  • Coconut oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Almonds

All very good, nutritious, healthy foods right?

Well yes – this is true. But most are also very high in calories.

And if you eat too many calories from healthy foods, you’ll still gain weight.

Many people really fail to grasp this concept. They seem to think that as long as a food is “healthy”, it is good for them.

But it depends on the context.

Remember, if you’re not creating a consistent caloric deficit, it doesn’t really matter what you do… you will not lose fat.

So if you think you’re eating ‘healthy’ and still can’t seem to lose fat, you’re probably just eating too many calories.

Where Clean Eating Is Flawed

The basic premise of clean eating often promotes simply selecting “healthy” foods to make up your diet, and doesn’t account for calories.

The real problem lies in the lack of accounting for calories.

Most people are so concerned with supposed food quality, that they end up completely disregarding food quantity.

People make this basic fundamental mistake, and don’t see the progress they want and expect to make.

And they don’t understand why.

They simply look at the foods they’re eating and consider them healthy choices — without understanding how they fit into the overall diet as a whole.


Instead of looking at foods as either clean or dirty – we need to look at the overall diet as a whole.

We know that:

Calories matter–

On the surface, calories determine whether weight will be gained or lost.


The breakdown of those calories also matter.

When we think in terms of body composition – macronutrient balance is critical.

If you were to just focus solely on hitting calories with no regard to macronutrient breakdown, this would lead to inferior results.

For example:

  • Fall short on protein and you wont be able to support the building and retainment of lean tissue.
  • Consume too little carbs and your training performance is likely to suffer.
  • Too little fats and you’ll negatively affect hormonal balance and testosterone levels.


You cannot overlook the importance of getting proper nutrients for optimal health and performance.

If you’re new to macronutrients, you can check out my comprehensive guide here.

It’s Not All About Food Choices

What matters more — The calories you consume, or the specific foods you eat?

Hopefully it’s clear by now, that it is not just your food selection that determines whether your diet is healthy or not.

Obviously using some common sense, we can recognize that some foods may be better for health and performance than others.

Food “quality” is important, but quantity is much more important.

Let’s compare two people.

One person consumes a wide variety of wholesome, nutritious foods while including some, typical “junk” foods, within his/her macronutrient goals –they will lose weight as long as they maintain a caloric deficit throughout the week.

The other person eats “cleaner” foods, but eats too many calories throughout the week – but they will still gain weight, despite what looks like a “healthier” diet on the surface.

The truth is — it’s really not necessary to cut out any specific foods when trying to lose fat.

Because fat loss is not dependent on how healthy or clean you eat.

What’s much more important is the overall number of calories and macronutrients that you consume at the end of the day.

Also Read: A Beginners Guide To Flexible Dieting

Shifting Your Focus

A lot of nutrition really comes down to a numbers game.

If you have a definitive goal – whether that is to bulk up and add muscle or lean down and lose body fat – you need to be tracking and managing your food intake and net energy balance with at least reasonable level of accuracy throughout the week if you want to see real, consistent, and predictable results.

If your goal is to build muscle, you’ll need to consume a slight surplus of calories (more than you burn each day).

Also Read: How Many Calories Per Day To Build Muscle

If your goal is to lose body fat, then you’ll need to create a caloric deficit by burning more calories than you consume each day.

Also Read: How To Set Up A Diet For Fat Loss (A Comprehensive Guide)

It’s really as simple as that.

Sure there are other smaller details that go into planning a nutritional plan for optimal results:

  • Specific macronutrient combinations
  • Meal frequency/timing that makes adherence easier
  • Food sources that make up the bulk of your intake which you actually enjoy eating

The thing is though… none of those things matter if your energy balance is out of whack.

This comes back to the 80/20 rule, which applies to many things in life.

To put it simply – with nutrition and fitness, there are things that really matter, and a lot of crap that really doesn’t.

Unfortunately, the most important things are often overlooked, simply because they sound ‘boring’ and aren’t as marketable.

We need to learn to work hard at the right things.

And ignore the bullshit.

Is Tracking Food Intake Really Necessary?

Depending on how serious you are about attaining your goals, you may not be prepared to go all-in and track everything down to the last detail.

And that’s fine. It’s probably not necessary for a lot of people.

If you’re just looking to get in better shape, you can probably get away with simply sticking to what you consider healthy, high quality foods the majority of the time and eating a bit less.

Most traditional “healthy foods” are not as calorically dense, so sticking to these kind of foods means you won’t take in as many calories at the end of the day – making it easier to maintain a caloric deficit. It has nothing to do with the healthy foods containing any special, powerful fat burning properties, but simply the fact that you’ll likely take in less overall calories without having to track anything.


However, if you’re not happy with the results you’re currently getting and really serious about taking control of your body, then it’s time to start tracking your intake with a reasonable level of accuracy.

Proper nutrition tracking is not as difficult as it is often believed to be and I’ve covered that in a comprehensive guide previously:

==> How To Count Macronutrients (A Comprehensive Guide)

Wrapping Up

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not advocating that you should just eat junk food. Your diet is still going to be composed of what are considered healthy foods.

But if you completely ignore energy balance, and simply wing your diet and eat what you deem to be “clean” or “healthy”, then don’t expect to see significant progress in terms of muscle growth or fat loss.