Minimum Accepted Dose

My absolute best post of the week is written by Nik from SmootFitness – this is so important to read for anyone attempting to achieve any sort of goal.
We all get overly-excited and giddy when we start something new, however it really is so important to set goals that you actually CAN achieve.
Enjoy the read and do check out Nik’s website for more great articles.

consistency-the-key-to-success

Here’s what happens when 99% of people start a fitness routine:

  • They choose a goal.
  • They start to formulate ideas for how they’re going to achieve their goal.
  • They create an overambitious plan for achieving their goal.
  • They quickly realize their overambitious plan isn’t sustainable (because of physical and/or mental limitations, schedule conflicts, or both).
  • They get frustrated at their lack of ability to stick to their overambitious plan.
  • They give up.

Here’s how that would look in a real-life setting:

  • Nick, who has never exercised before, decides he wants to lose body fat.
  • Nick decides that in order to lose body fat, he’s going to have to eat less food and increase his activity level (via strength training and/or cardio).
  • Nick, who has a busy work schedule and two kids at home, commits to performing six days of strength training each week along with four days of cardio (some of the cardio is done on the strength training days), and cuts out all carbohydrates.
  • Nick tries this for two weeks, and realizes that all of his free time is being spent at the gym (as opposed to being spent with his kids). He’s constantly tired, irritable, and his work performance tanks because what’s left of his mental energy (not much) is being split between his craving for carbohydrates, and all the reasons he’s coming up with for why he should quit this asinine routine.
  • Nick sticks it out for two more weeks.
  • Nick gets burned out, starts despising the gym, and decides getting lean isn’t worth the sacrifice he currently has to make.
  • Nick gives up.

Everyone’s situation is different, but some iteration of this happens to most people who embark on a fitness journey, for one reason:

Most of us have an “all or nothing” mindset.

Instead of training three days per week, we shoot for six.

Instead of dropping our calories by 500, we drop them by 1000.

We’re constantly pushing the envelope of what we’re capable of, and although this isn’t inherently a bad thing, believing that success is dependent upon maintaining this “all or nothing” mindset IS bad because – unless your life revolves around fitness (most peoples’ don’t) – most of us can’t maintain that level of intensity for very long.

Why?

Because, LIFE.

Life is unpredictable.

And this unpredictability forces us to have periods where we can go “balls out” with superhuman levels of effort, and periods where we have to “slow down” and display average levels of effort.

Because of this, I’ve started implementing what I like to call the MINIMUM ACCEPTED DOSE.

This concept isn’t new.

In fact, it’s not even mine (I stole it from coaches much smarter than me).

Here’s how it works:

  • You sit down and come up with goals just like you normally would.
  • Once you have your goals, you come up with an “ideal” plan, or the plan you’re going to follow when life’s running smooth.  This is the maximum “dosage” of work you can handle, and it will allow you to progress toward your goals as quickly as possible.
  • Then, you create an “acceptable” plan, or the plan you’re going to follow when life throws a curveball.  This plan is the minimum “dosage” of work you’ll accept, and – although it won’t progress you towards your goals as quickly as possible – it will still allow you to continue making progress until you’re able to return to your normal routine.

Here’s a real life example:

  • My current goal is to lose 10-15 pounds of body fat.
  • My current “ideal” plan is to:
    • Strength train 3-4 days per week
    • Perform cardio and/or movement training 2-3 days per week.
    • Eat in a 500-750 calorie deficit, allowing me to lose 1-1.5 pounds per week
  • My current “acceptable” plan is to:
    • Strength training 2 days per week.
    • Perform cardio and/or movement training 1 day per week.
    • Eat at maintenance, where I don’t lose any weight, but I also don’t gain any.

Why is having that second plan so important?

Because it makes you adaptable.

And the more adaptable you are, the easier it will be for you to stay consistent.

Remember, at the end of the day, consistency is king when it comes to reaching your goals, fitness related or not.

Effort without consistency means nothing.

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

FOOTNOTES
  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.

Why you should make your bed every morning

Another excellent post from NerdFitness – ‘How you do anything in life is how you do everything in life’.

Why You Should Make Your Bed Every Morning

Why You Should Make Your Bed Every Morning

Have you heard the story about Van Halen and Brown M&Ms?

As the story famously goes, 80’s rock band Van Halen (feel free to listen to “Right Now” while reading this article) had a line in their incredibly detailed contract from their tour in 1982 (the list of things they expect to have at every concert) that required they have a bowl of M&Ms in the green room… and there were to be NO brown M&Ms in that bowl.

vanhalenrider

For years everyone assumed that was just a crazy band making crazy demands (like in Airheads), simply because they could. In fact, there was a show in which they found brown M&Ms in their bowl and reportedly refused to play and trashed the dressing room!

What a bunch of asshole rockstars, right?

Maybe not. 

It turns out, there was a calculated method to this madness, and it might make you think you need a brown M&M clause in your life.

 

How you do anything is how you do everything

do it right

In Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth’s autobiography, he talks about why his band had the brown M&M clause in their band’s rider:

“Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through. 

The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes …” This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.” 

So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl … well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem.

Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.” 

You see, within this “insane” rider was a clause to find out if the venue they were playing at ACTUALLY READ THE CONTRACT! They knew that if there were brown M&Ms in that bowl, the venue and its employees didn’t read the contract and/or didn’t take it seriously… and thus there were likely other issues that could result in an accident on stage or poor production.

It was the brown M&Ms that gave them this cue – this tip off… resulting in the rumor/legend of crazy Van Halen.

Being familiar with this story, Nerd Fitness has actually added something like this to nearly every step of our hiring process when we are looking to add people to the team (we’re up to 10 full-timers now).

Within the application process, we’ll say something buried in the requirements that says, “oh by the way, the 3rd word in your email to us should be ‘penguin.’” 

You’d be surprised how many people don’t follow directions!

So why do we do this, quickly sorting a huge amount of the applications?

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

I want you to try carrying this over to your life.

Do You Make Your Bed Every Morning?

unmade bed

Have you seen the movie “Fat“?

Although it’s a work of fiction, it’s the most realistic “mockumentary” I have ever seen. Towards the end of the movie, as the main character struggles with taking control back in his life, with everything spiraling out of control, he takes one simple action in the morning:

He makes his bed.

I understand this is a movie. And I understand that making a bed has nothing to do with choosing to eat more vegetables, or exercising regularly, or overcoming a serious food addiction. However, I couldn’t help but smile while watching this scene, because I make my bed every morning too.

You see, “how you do anything is how you do everything.”

When you feel like your life is out of control, that you’re getting played by outside forces and there’s nothing you can do to dig out of a hole, try making your bed as the ONLY habit you’re focused on.

I make my bed every morning. I don’t do it just because it makes my room look neat and clean. I do it because:

  • It’s a daily reminder that I am in control of my life.
  • It shows me I don’t need anybody’s permission to change my life, and that it’s my personal responsibility.
  • It gives me a win, and it helps build momentum.
  • It sets my day up in the right way: I can already say I’ve accomplished something!
  • When I get back to my bed at the end of the night and I’m exhausted, it’s not a disaster.
  • It makes me feel better. A clean room and a clean desk mean I’m less anxious at home and while working.

As U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, a Navy SEAL for 36 years, explained in his University of Texas commencement speech

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack — that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task — mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

You see, the strictness related to making one’s bed would translate to how they go about doing other, more important tasks in their military lives, many of which have dire consequences if not followed perfectly – following rules of engagement on the battlefield, covering your fellow soldier, etc. In those instances, if you don’t follow protocol strictly, people die.

How you do anything is how you do everything. If you focus on laying a perfect brick you can build a cathedral, and likewise, starting with a perfectly made bed can have a ripple effect on the rest of your day.

Try It For A Week

week calendar

I want you to try this for a week: make a commitment to make your bed every morning. 

Prove to yourself that you have control, and that you can build the habit. Afterwards, go back to NOT making your bed if you choose, but if you’re like me it will likely be something you start to do because you enjoy it. It improves your life.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Set a calendar reminder on your phone for 5 minutes after you wake up that is titled MAKE YOUR BED.
  • Hang a post-it note on your bedroom door that says MAKE YOUR BED.
  • Have a friend/somebody at your work do the make-your bed challenge. Add accountability: Miss a day? $50 donation to a political candidate you hate.
  • Add a reward – Complete a week of making your bed? Reward yourself with something small that furthers your momentum: a new pair of running shoes, slightly ‘too small’ pants, or a new book to help you level up your life.
  • Create a free character on Nerd Fitness, and make a “MAKE YOUR BED” Quest.

Who’s in?

Thanks again for an excellent article Steve

“Let Me Lose 10lbs First…” Why This Train of Thought Doesn’t Work

Today’s post is from lavackfitness.com – please visit them for some very insightful articles that go far beyond ‘just fitness’.

“Let Me Lose 10lbs First…”

Have you heard yourself saying this?

If you’re a trainer, have you heard a client say this?

This leads me into a recent conversation I had with a new member. Everything looked like it was going in the right direction towards getting this client on board with working towards their goal, but we hit a little roadblock.

They want to get started on their own, with the little bit of knowledge I just provided them with. Will this person be successful? From personal experience, this person is successful 15-25% of the time. I don’t blame them for taking this path to be honest, it’s not easy to admit that you need help or that you can’t do something on your own.

“We all know what to do”, is a false statement I often hear with new potential clients who really don’t know what needs to be done in order to reach their goal.

Even if you do know what to do, it is often the lack of action that creates the problems at hand. Not following through with what needs to be done in this example is a contributing factor on why the individual is in the position they are in.

So we currently are dealing with two groups of people:

Those without the knowledge looking towards reaching their goal.
Those with the knowledge, but lacking action towards their goals.
Unfortunately these two groups make up a vast majority of the population. These are the folks that need help reaching their goals because a very small percentage successfully meet the outcome they envisioned.

So let’s break down each group: their reasoning, the possible outcomes, and how to create a positive atmosphere for success.

Group #1: Those Without the Knowledge Looking To Lose Weight

Reasoning and How to Deal with It:

With this group, I typically hear people saying something to the extent of, I’ll workout on my own and drop a few pounds to get the hang of things and then come see you. I want to make the most out of my sessions with you.

While I love that they want to make the most of their sessions, the problem here is that when a lot of these individuals have it in their mind that they want to lose 10, 15, 20 pounds, they never reach that number in a timely manner. From there it leads to being discouraged and giving up, so I never actually meet up with these individuals. Well, that sucks, they had the best intentions but fell short.

The problem here is that the best intentions don’t mean anything if the proper actions are not put into place.

With all the conflicting information out there, it is hard to tell what actually works and what doesn’t work. This is the most important aspect that needs to be known – what you are doing, is it an effective strategy to reach your goal?

If we are dealing with putting our retirement plan together we don’t do it ourselves do we? No, we hire an accountant.

If we have to have our car engine fixed, we don’t try to do it ourselves do we? No, we hire a mechanic.

So why is it that when it comes to health and fitness, people are so quick to not seek out the professional opinions of people whose sole purpose is to help you reach your goal?

If being successful was purely just about finding the right exercise and nutrition program that works for you; we wouldn’t have the issue with obesity that we currently have here in the United States, and even expanding further into many other first world countries.

While finding an exercise and nutrition program are the heart and sole of successful weight loss, it is the mental side of things where problems typically arise. Adherence to whatever program you are participating in is key. This is where having accountability to another person can be very beneficial to see progress. Lets face it life happens and things can easily distract you from your goal, especially if stress enters the equation.

calorie-balance

Too many people enter a diet looking at which supplements to take, organic vs. non-organic, and when to eat but tend to overlook the more important aspects of diet success – calorie balance and percentages of macro-nutrients.

Focus on eating healthy, get to the gym and workout. These two major keys to success are full of many smaller components. This is where seeking the advice from a professional can be beneficial.

If you’re reading this and looking to make changes, but haven’t had luck on your own, seek the advice of a professional.
If you’re a trainer, leverage the fact that you are the professional. You’re good at what you do, so educate your client about the fact that getting into shape is a little more than “just eating right and exercising more.”

Group #2: Those With the Knowledge, but Lacking Action

While I briefly touched upon this group within the contexts of Group #1, it’s important that we mention this lack of taking action on it’s own. I’ve met plenty of people who have all the education needed to be successful. They have a good amount of knowledge with both, nutrition and training. Are their methods the best possible methods out there which will yield the quickest results? Maybe not, but their information will in fact yield results.

So why do these people never reach their goals?

Could it be paralysis by analysis? I believe for some people this is definitely the case. Some people get in their own way of their goals because they are always searching for the “best program”. The issue here is that you’ll never be satisfied and always feel you could find something better. Some action is better than no action. If this is you, start a program, change what works and get rid of what doesn’t.

If the above doesn’t apply to you, what is preventing you from being successful?

I get that life is busy and it’s easy to toss to the side “optional” aspects which are going to be difficult. Changing your nutrition and/or exercise habits isn’t easy, hell changing any habit isn’t easy. Your body doesn’t enjoy having to change. Any amount of distraction can easily push aside what needs to be done.

This group needs to get out of their own way. Stick to a program and change will occur.

Behavioral changes is the key to success for this group. It’s easy to have the knowledge but applying the knowledge into a structured manner that allows you to be successful is the sweet spot.

This is where you need to ask yourself what behavioral changes do I need to work on in order to actually reach my goal?

It may take a bit of searching and not be apparent at first but if you have the knowledge but not getting any progress, your problem doesn’t lie with finding the next best program. You need to address the lifestyle/behavioral changes or else you’ll continue to hop from program-to-program with no real results coming from any of them.

It’s not the program that is the problem, but rather other issues within yourself.

Get Results. Seek Help. Join Lean, Strong & Confident: A Healthier You.

lavackfitness.com

Stop Apologizing for Your Goals

Today’s incredibly motivational post is written by Pete Hitzeman from breakingmuscle.com. Please visit their website for a wide range of well written articles. 

Stop Apologizing for Your Goals
Pete Hitzeman
Coach and Assistant Editor (US)

It seems like it’s birthday season at work. You worked hard to limit the damage through the holidays, and the endless carry-ins and banquets and family gatherings. You even stayed on track through Super Bowl Sunday, the second biggest feast day on the modern calendar. You thought you were in the clear, finally able to focus on your nutrition and body composition goals without undue influence from those who, to say the least, don’t share your priorities.

Then Gertrude in accounting had a birthday. Gertrude is 71, and everyone loves her, and everybody brought in food. And there was this huge, photo-printed cake with a picture of her when she was in her twenties on it, and the next thing you know you’re eating Gertrude’s left cheek off a tiny “Happy Birthday!” plate with a spork. With every bite of cheap icing, you can feel your goals slipping months further into the distant future.

The next Tuesday, it was Stan in IT. Friday was Cheryl from HR. Your boss’s birthday is next week. So. Many. Cakes.

Stop apologizing for your goals.
You don’t owe anyone an explanation about your lifestyle. Do what’s right for you.

It’s Not About the Cake

If you’re honest, you don’t even like cake that much, especially the cheap cake that tends to show up at corporate birthday parties. It’s the social pressure that has you sporking it into your mouth. It’s the frustration of having to explain, every time you decline some kind of food or engagement, why you aren’t just going along with everybody else. It’s the bizarre cultural construct that states if you don’t eat the cake, you’re not sharing in the celebrated person’s joy. In effect, turning down the cake becomes a rejection of people, an insult to friendship, not just an effort to maintain nutritional balance.

Some days, you can pull it off. You stiff-arm Betty Crocker right in the face and keep on track, and you’re proud of yourself. But more often, the pressure becomes too much, and you cave. While you pretend to enjoy yourself in the company of people who wouldn’t understand your goals if you handed them a coloring book that explained them, you’re counting in your head the number of burpees required to account for this nutritional transgression.

Be Who You Are: An Athlete

Why do you put yourself through these mental and emotional gymnastics? You don’t owe anyone an explanation. You’re an athlete. You’ve worked hard for a very long time to become that, and now it’s as much a part of you as the freckles on your arms or your hair color. Do you apologize for having freckles? Do they require some sort of embarrassed explanation if somebody notices them in public?

The lifestyle choices you make to support your athletic goals aren’t anyone’s business but your own, and possibly your coach’s. If people feel threatened by your ability to stick to your plan in the face of abundant temptation and social pressure, that’s on them.

When you order a salad at a steakhouse, or decline a night at the bars with your buds because you have to be up in the morning for a training run, you’re setting yourself apart. You become a psychological “other,” and humanity loves nothing better than to denigrate those who are unlike themselves. Worse, the reasons you are different will expose a whole lot of envy and insecurity on the part of those who pressure you to abandon your goals. At best, they’ll chide you. At worst, they can get downright nasty.

The moment you wake up and decide that you’ve had enough is your chance to make a change.

But you didn’t start training to become like everybody else. Quite the opposite: you were like everybody else, and that’s why you started training. For whatever reason, you decided you’d had enough of being counted among the nearly 80 million Americans who are considered obese. You were tired of being winded just walking up the stairs to your apartment. You hated what you saw in the bathroom mirror, and you decided to do something about it.

Your co-workers have a goal of winning their fantasy football league or watching every episode of Survivor. You have a goal of a bodyweight clean and jerk or a six-minute mile.

That change in mental priority, and the accompanying change in lifestyle, makes you different – and better. It has improved your life, widened your circle of friends, given you new abilities and confidence. Those are things to be proud of, not to shy away from just because they’re not the easy, popular thing to do at the office.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

C. S. Lewis famously said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” With respect to Mr. Lewis, that’s a bunch of bovine excrement. Doing the right thing with no eyes on you is child’s play. The real test of integrity is doing the right thing when everyone is watching and expects you do to something different.

Don’t apologize to anyone for sticking to the goals and plans you have for your health and fitness. Dropping that inch from your waist, shaving that minute from your 5k, or putting those 20lb on your back squat require exactly the hard sort of integrity and dedication which are so uncommon in polite society. And those traits are nothing to be sorry for.

Photo 1 courtesy of J Perez Imagery.
Photo 2 courtesy of CrossFit Impulse.

Do You Deserve It: The Ugly Truth About Getting the Body You Want

Some tough love today! This blog is written by Andrew Ferreira from Showmestrength.com – let me know what you think.

Wolf urine.

I can buy that on Amazon and it can be on my doorstep in two days.

Now I’m not sure I could find some good use for some wolf urine but before you write me off like some kind of weirdo, stay with me for a second.

It’s Tuesday night and I’m sitting in a Harvard Square Starbucks.

I’m surrounded and through some weird osmosis probably inspired by the level of weirdness and hipster that only a place around my great institution could provide.

While wolf urine could be a hipster staple (I won’t judge), it is not the point of my thought experiment.

Rather, it is to illustrate just how much is available to us at the click of a button. Forget ipods, flat screen TVs, and girlfriends, I can buy fucking wolf urine on the line from the biggest on the line retailer.

Anything and everything is available to me at a moment’s notice.

It’s one of the benefits of living in the age of consumerism where we are sold something every minute every day of our lives.

The problem with the age of consumerism is that we are not just sold goods, we are sold ideas too – many of which feed our primitive brain that wants success now.

Need evidence for the short-term wiring of our brains?

Salt, sugar, fat.

Beyond tasting awesome, those are the foods our brains are programmed to seek out and devour because they provide high short-term survival value.

We’re Sold False Ideas

The effects of food are evident in the obesity epidemic and America’s growing waistline but the short-term reach extends past food. Think about the recent best sellers in business and entrepreneurship.

The 4 Hour Work Week and The Lean Startup come to mind. Selling the notion of efficiency is fine but it’s the idea framed within the title that prompts me to reflect – work less, outsource, and build systems so you can sloth around on a beach all day sipping pina coladas.

Will Durant, one of the great thinkers of our time, said, “A nation is born stoic and dies epicurean.”

As a society, we’ve become obsessed with getting more out of doing less.

With the advancement of science and the rise of charlatans like Dave Asprey, bio-hacking is the next logical cultural progression.  But should it be able to displace the virtues that breath life into great achievement?

Have we not become exactly what Durant has said would destroy us?

A nation fixated on the fulfillment of pleasure, whose identity has forgotten what it means to be stoic in the face of accomplishing something meaningful – in this instance, maximizing our health.

In the attempt to satisfy our epicurean ethos, we’ve been sold an idea – the wrong one – about health and our body.

From New York Times’ Bestsellers about dropping 17 lbs in 10 days to Dr. Oz promoting raspberry ketones as the next fat loss cure, in the age of consumerism, we’ve been programmed to buy a lie.

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Not Exactly War & Peace

Smart marketers have capitalized on the realization that humans are addicted to the dopamine rush that comes with being sold short-term success plans.

We feel good when we go on 10-day juice cleanses or when we type in our credit card information to buy the latest weight loss cure that’s reached the top of the bestseller charts. We see a means to a short-term reward, and we’re all in.

Our default instinct as humans is to run from pain and to pleasure.

Why do we fail in maximizing our health and getting the body you want?

Because we’ve been using a lottery approach to try and be successful.

Every time we try the latest cleanse or buy the book full of skewed science and superfluous claims, we’re taking another spin of the wheel hoping for the right combination of numbers to pop up.

We wake up everyday hoping that we came across the latest secret to solve our health quandary while not having other areas of our lives suffer.

People in our consumer driven society are more likely to buy the new turbo fat burner Starbucks sells alongside their pumpkin spice latte than they are to put in the blood, sweat, and tears necessary to make necessary changes.

We are continually offered the mirage of health at the click of a button and most of us take it every single time.

A New Approach

The age of consumerism isn’t going anywhere and lamenting upon the uphill battle that we encounter on a daily basis in order to achieve our health goals is a tireless exercise that does not need to be further expounded upon.

The cards are stacked against us, now what?

Charlie Munger, self-made billionaire whom Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have called the smartest man alive, said, “To get what you want, you have to deserve what you want? The world is not enough a crazy enough place to reward undeserving people.”

Everyone wants. To want is to be human. We all want the granite abs, Schwarzenegger biceps, and the ability to fit into college skinny jeans for the ladies out there.

But do you deserve it?

To lose 100 lbs, you have to deserve to lose 100 lbs.

If you want a better body, stand naked tomorrow morning in the mirror. What do you see? This isn’t an exercise to lower your self-esteem or to guilt you to take action.

No, be objective.  Give yourself an honest assessment.

What you see doesn’t reflect failing to know the ins and outs of carb cycling, the sensationalized demonization of saturated fats, or the knowledge base to perform metabolic resistance training.

There are a million workout programs out there.  There are even more diet plans.

They all will work.

Quick aside on the nutrition front, have you attempted to master the basics first?

Have you been limiting processed foods?  Keeping the sugar overload and fried food at bay?  How often do you exercise and/or train?

This isn’t rocket science.  It’s not even about the science.  Bad science has gotten tons and tons of people ripped over the years.

Do the Work

There is a caveat of course.

The truth is if you haven’t showed up everyday and put in the work, any work, you haven’t tried yet.  You may want to look like the guy on the cover of Men’s Fitness, but you don’t deserve anything yet.

Get off TNation and bodybuilding.com.  Get off Show Me Strength.  If you’ve visited a fitness site more than half a dozen times, you know more than enough.

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Wake up.  Fail.  Show up again tomorrow, fail.  Improvement isn’t linear.

If you’re not failing everyday, you’re not trying.

This isn’t about being efficient.  Our whole lives have been hacked with shortcuts; it’s time to take the circuitous route.

The one filled with pain, suffering, and failure.  The one that’ll take a lot of blood, sweat, guts, and tears to overcome.

The one that will build a process that’ll feed a lifetime of success.

Pain today or the pain of regret tomorrow.  Either way, there is no avoiding pain.

Do all of that and a year from now when you stand bare before yourself, what will you see?

Someone who has earned what they wanted.

How Amy Gave Up Perfection and Lost 116 lbs

The proof is in the pudding: consistency, NOT perfection is how you will achieve and maintain great results.
Looking for some inspiration? Please read this post from Nerd Fitness!

How Amy Gave Up Perfection and Lost 116 lbs

Amy lost 116 lbs in 13 months.

That might sound like a big, daunting number. Amy certainly felt that way once. She had no idea how to go about losing weight, had tried and failed before, going in half heartedly:

I would cut my portions or eat salads for a week but I really did’t have the information to lose weight in a healthy way. I also thought I had to be perfect. If I ate a cookie, or if I missed a workout – I just gave up.

In the quest to get healthy, sometimes it’s simply about finding a way to go workout when the situation isn’t perfect (it’s too hot, it’s too cold, you’re tired, you’re busy…) or eat right when we really don’t want to.

Amy’s path forward embraced the realistic, sometimes reluctant heroism of heroes like Deadpool or Wolverine.

“It isn’t ever going to be perfect – no one is perfect. The way I eat today isn’t perfect but it’s a helluva lot better than the way I used to eat. I tried things, and some of them worked and some didn’t so I kept what worked and changed what didn’t until I got to something that worked and I could live with for the rest of my life. Don’t be afraid to try, you can always make changes as you go. In fact, if you never have to make any changes, you are probably doing something wrong.”

Let’s learn a little bit more about how Amy lost the weight, got in shape, and transformed her life in the process.

Amy’s Beginnings, Your Beginnings

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Two years ago in the summer of 2014 Amy was experiencing some hip and knee pain. Her doctor told her that it was bursitis in her hip, either caused by overuse or from being overweight.

“He was kind enough to let me figure out which one of those reasons might apply to me,” Amy recalls.

Like most of us, it wasn’t that Amy was oblivious. She actually had problems with a herniated disc when she was 18 and had surgery at 25. In her late 30s talking to the doctor, she knew that carrying that extra weight was doing her no good.

“But it was a moment of awakening,” she remembers, “to be told I was damaging other parts of my body, too.”

No matter what change we have been thinking about making, there’s usually a difference between knowing it intellectually, and feeling it deeply enough in your bones to get started and stick with it. This was Amy’s: “I started wondering what I would be like in another 10 years and how much damage was I doing to myself.”

Amy’s Unsure Start

Amy Before Photo with dog

When we decide to get started on the quest to get healthy, there seem to be a lot of pitfalls. One of the big ones, as we call it, is collecting underpants. That’s what we call reading and reading and reading, and using the information-collecting-phase of your process as an excuse never to get started.

This was one area where Amy never had any problems. In the fall of 2014 when she decided to get started, she just started with what she thought she needed to do: eat less. But, she didn’t exactly approach it in the most skillful way. Here’s Amy:

“You can imagine that if I was starving all the time eating my regular portions, I was really starving cutting down my portion size. This did not work. My husband has a friend named Mike and he said if I ever wanted to know how to get in shape I should talk to him, so I did. He is into strength training and he knew how to get in shape, lose fat and build muscle. So I picked his brain and he told me that when it came to losing fat, nutrition was the key. He also suggested strength training to help maintain muscle.”

Amy’s new fitness adviser explained the importance of protein, how macronutrients worked, and introduced her to strength training.

But this didn’t happen right away. Amy did what she had always done, and she struggled for over a month until she tried something different. That’s when things really seemed to pick up:

“From there I started doing a ton of internet searches looking for information on protein and nutrition and strength training…. that is how I found Nerd Fitness. The first thing I read were the Rules of the Rebellion and I remember thinking, “Ok, these people are cool!” I just started reading all of Steve’s blogs and absorbing as much information as I could. I loved the idea of making permanent changes because I knew what I was doing wasn’t getting me anywhere and I really wanted to change my life. I was willing to make the commitment, I just needed to know what direction to take to get started.”

How Amy Got Healthy

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Amy, congrats on your success, and thanks for shining a light on the path you took. I’d love to hear more about how you went from being totally confused when it came to nutrition, to the superhero you are today.

In the beginning, I was at a total loss for what to eat. At first I just reduced my portions but was still eating the same processed foods. This didn’t work at all. I had read Steve’s article, “How to Not Suck at Losing Weight.decided to make small sustainable changes in my diet. But I couldn’t help to be at a loss sometimes: If I didn’t have cereal for breakfast, what else was there? Everything I ate was processed or a starchy carbohydrate. I had to spend some time at the grocery looking in the produce department and trying to come up with something other than a salad as a way to incorporate more vegetables into my diet. It was also tough to let go of soda, and sugar in general. I really thought I wouldn’t be able to live without my soda or sweets. I transitioned from it slowly though.

How did you make the transition?

I went from eating my sugary cereal in the morning to eating Cheerios (not perfect but it worked while I transitioned) and I drank my whey protein shake.

I started bringing my lunch to work.

I swapped the potato chips for carrot sticks and the soda for unsweetened tea.

I started eating healthier vegetables at dinner instead of the white potato.

I made little changes every couple of weeks. There was something Steve had written about how hard it is to get rid of an old habit and how it was easier to establish a new habit and crowd out the bad one. That’s what I started doing. I just started adopting more and more good habits until there was no more room for the bad ones.

When I started I was counting calories, and eventually got sick of it (one extreme downside to this method is that you never get to stop thinking about your weight or what you are eating – you are always planning and calculating – bummer). So, I decided to go “modified” Paleo with the strategy above. The transition took a couple of months. I still eat dairy and I do eat a sandwich for lunch during the week, but the majority of what I eat is meat, vegetables and fruit.

Wow, what a journey. It’s great to see how you took gradual steps over the course of many months just to sort out certain aspects of your diet. When we see progress photos or inspirational photos on Facebook, it can feel like we’re just expected to become an overnight success. You’ve really shown how the real work is in the trenches, day in and day out.

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Love the focus on diet, but what role did exercise play?

Because of my back and hip issues, I was worried about injuring myself. So, I set the goal of eating healthy every day and doing at least 1 physical activity everyday.

Because I didn’t know what my physical condition/pain level would be on a daily basis I didn’t want to tell myself I had to exercise for a set amount of time or miles, etc. If my back was hurting and I wasn’t able to workout for an hour, I didn’t want to consider myself a failure.

My goal was just to do one thing, even it was just stretching… it was one positive step in the right direction. I just made a promise to myself that I would do the most I was physically capable of doing everyday so if I knew in my heart that I was in pain and all I could do was stretch or walk for 5 minutes, I was a success. I started off very slowly with strength training and bought the seated elliptical to accommodate my back issues.

I found out though that the more I did the more I was capable of doing. I didn’t always feel like working out though. Steve had written an article about if you get dressed to exercise, you’ll do it. After dinner every night I would change into my workout clothes. I was sore and tired but I would get dressed, and then I would end up on the elliptical.

Wow, you not only were determined, but incredibly smart and kind to yourself. It sounds like a winning combination: the grit to stay with it, and the self-compassion to give yourself a break when you need it. What did you work up to?

Well, I actually put 8 miles on my elliptical regularly for 6 months straight. Which I know is a lot and not for everyone, but for some reason, my body was loving it. It was almost like my body had just been waiting for me to use it. By this time it was summer, both my elliptical and strength training progressed, and I was able to get outside so I started to ride my bike and play tennis. This is when I started doing Steve’s beginner bodyweight workout. With my back issues, I found that I did better with bodyweight workouts and resistance training than using free weights. I have also found that doing push-ups (I started that with Steve’s 30 push-up challenge) have been great for my back as well (I’m up to 100 push-ups 3 times a week).

I still don’t keep a set schedule for exercise – my goal is to just do something physical that I enjoy everyday. Because I’m no longer in pain, the exercise is fun, and I have a lot more options to choose from. This past spring I even went on a hike for the first time in my life. I hiked in a state park with my husband. We ended up hiking about 6 miles. It was an awesome experience and I was really proud of myself.

We always talk about how when you level up in a video game, you see your experience move forward right before your eyes, giving you the motivation you need to keep moving forward. Did you use any technique to track your progress?

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At first I tracked my progress by weighing myself daily. My mood really rose and fell based on that number but after awhile I noticed patterns of when I would gain and lose and remain the same. It helped to desensitize me because I knew that there would be fluctuations and that I always started to lose weight again. Steve wrote an article about how the scale can lie and it’s a good idea to use measurements and take pictures so I started doing that. It really saved me, because there were times when I felt I wasn’t making any progress and I was able to look at my pictures and see how far I had come, and it gave me the motivation to keep going.

It sounds like there was a separate, complete learning process in every area, from diet to tracking. What was the most important one?

The most important change I made was my attitude. I didn’t need a diet; I needed to change my life. I knew I wasn’t healthy. I felt miserable, and I was missing out on life. I originally wanted to lose over 80 lbs to be at a weight that was considered healthy. I mentally couldn’t face that number so I decided on 80 lbs as my goal. I focused on my two daily goals and only told myself that I needed to move forward. Using my two goals each day (making healthy nutrition choices and moving my body), things took care of themselves. In 13 months I lost 116 lbs.

The stress of dieting and getting healthy can often be an impediment, leading to doubt and all sorts of bad decisions. How about your support network? You had an early fitness adviser, what else?

I had a wonderful support system of family and friends. Everyone was cheering me on, and so happy for me. In the beginning I didn’t want to share what I was doing with anyone because I was afraid I was going to fail. But it’s hard to make life changes on your own, you need support. I felt like everyone at Nerd Fitness had my back too. There was always an article I could relate to or read posts and I knew I wasn’t alone. When I joined the Rebellion, I felt like I was finally in a group that had the same goal for their lives that I had – I just want to be the best version of me that I can be.

Congratulations on your success. What’s new these days? Anything you’ve been doing that you didn’t’ do before? Any other changes you’ve noticed in yourself?

Tennis! I used to play and haven’t been able to play in close to 20 years. I started playing again last summer and have been playing this summer as well. One of my goals is to start playing in tournaments again.

I have a lot more confidence in myself. I am stronger and more capable than I ever gave myself credit for. When I’m faced with challenges now, I know I can handle it. I also am a better problem solver. I was constantly having to evaluate what I was doing and how it was working and coming up with ways to get around obstacles and challenges. Now when I set out towards a goal I know I can get there.

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Okay, nerd cred time: Star Wars or Lord of The Rings?

Star Wars (the original trilogy)

Yes! Favorite Video Game?

Donkey Kong

Favorite quote?

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible’.” – Audrey Hepburn

perfect Really is The Enemy of good

Amy Tennis

Don’t give up. You only have to get it right once. Don’t beat yourself up about the past; that was yesterday and you don’t live there anymore.

Dumbledore Amy

In the Nerd Fitness Rebellion we have hundreds of heroes like Amy. Sometimes this can feel daunting, like walking into a gym and seeing a “level 50 version” of a character. But just like Harry and Luke, Frodo and Katniss, these are just ordinary people, who took one step after another.

They didn’t start with all the knowledge required. They didn’t start with a love of fitness. Amy certainly didn’t start with a love nor ability to do miles upon miles on the elliptical or the ability to rock a bodyweight workout.

Instead, they asked, “What’s first?” And they got started. They took action right away, and sometimes they made mistakes. So they made some changes, and they kept going.

Amy made tiny changes to her diet over time. She gave herself a huge break when it came to fitness, but was also her own toughest coach: she had to do something every day.

She built a system that was both determined and forgiving.

And she had smart systems in place to help her keep going. She used photos to track her success, and learned to stop freaking out so much about the normal fluctuations of the scale. She built a team of allies to support her along the way.

These systems helped to keep her on her path, but ultimately it was her own decision to keep figuring it out that led to her success.

There’s a million corny quotes about the importance of failure and getting back up. But that only matters if we get started in the first place. Whether that’s a commitment to join the Nerd Fitness Academy, or just testing out the Beginner Bodyweight Workout – start!

Our heroes stumble along the way. That’s why their stories are so darn impressive. So get started. Stumble. And figure out what’s next.

Do you have any questions for Amy?

Stop by and leave a note of congratulations!

-Taylor