Nerd Fitness » Blog http://www.nerdfitness.com Level up your life, every single day. Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:30:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Spice Up Any Meal. Literally. http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/31/how-to-spice-up-any-meal-literally/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/31/how-to-spice-up-any-meal-literally/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:30:36 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25688 This is a post from NF Rebel Chef Noel.

Remember those diagrams of the tongue that you learned about in school? They told you the tongue tasted different flavors depending on the section. The back tastes bitter, the front tastes sweet, and the sides taste salty and sour.

1. Bitter 2. Sour 3. Salt 4. Sweet

Most of us now know this is wrong. Your whole tongue tastes all flavors, and it’s not just your tongue! The roof of our mouth and your nose help out too! In fact, there are more than just the four flavors we learned about in school.

There is another lie that has been circulating the fitness world for years. It’s a lie that says healthy food is boring and bland. It drives me crazy. And in this nerd’s opinion, it’s one of the most damaging lies told about getting healthy.

We know diet is 80% of the battle when it comes to achieving our health and fitness goals. And when we tell ourselves eating healthy food is boring, flavorless, and downright gross, we put ourselves on the fast track to failure! Just like exercise can and should be fun, cooking meat and veggies should be delicious.

Just like the squat and deadlift adhere to the 80-20 rule, today we’re going over some basic skills that will allow you to see maximal benefit for minimal effort.

How? Simple flavors. Think of these like the compound movements of cooking.

Here are 6 fool proof spice combinations to help you level up your cooking skills, explore the world with your tongue, and (hopefully) get you out of your food rut!

The Core Six

Pascal_Pirates

Tons of rebels looking to level up their cooking have asked about re-creating their favorite dishes from around the world. I’ve got good news for you! It’s not as difficult as most people think.

Regional dishes taste the way they do because they are made from the spices and ingredients local to that community. Your ancestors didn’t need Super Processed Stir Fry Sauce™ to make dinner. They used whole foods to create delicious dishes, and we’re going to do the same. 

Here are 6 simplified spice combinations that you can use to take your healthy meals from bland to bold. Each is measured for a pound of food:

spices

  • Mexican: 1 Tbsp (15ml) Chili powder, juice of 1 Lime
  • Greek: 1 Tbsp (15ml) Oregano, 2 tbsp (30ml) Olive Oil, 2 tbsp (30ml) Lemon juice
  • Italian: ½ Tbsp (7ml) Oregano, 3 cloves (½ tsp/2.5ml powdered) Garlic, ½ tbsp (7ml) Basil, 1 can diced Tomatoes
  • Indian: ½ Tsp (2.5ml) Cumin, 1 tbsp (15ml) Curry, ½ tsp (2.5ml) Coriander
  • Chinese/Japanese (this makes a marinade or stir fry sauce): ¼ tsp (1ml) Ginger, ¼ cup (59ml)Tamari (coconut aminos or soy sauce), 2 Tbsp (30ml)Rice Vinegar, 3 cloves (½ tsp/2.5ml powdered) Garlic, dash red pepper flake, 1 tbsp (15ml) Sugar (honey)

 Bonus flavors! 

  • Thai (this makes a marinade or stir fry sauce): 1/2 cup (118ml) Coconut milk, 1/4 cup (59ml) Tamari (coconut aminos), 2 tbsp (30ml) Fish Sauce, 1 Tbsp (15ml) Green or red curry paste, handful fresh chopped Cilantro

For the complete set, add these to your shopping list(herbs and spices are dried): 

  • 2 limes
  • 2 lemons
  • Can or jar of diced tomatoes
  • Coconut aminos or soy sauce
  • Rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • Chili Powder
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Red Pepper Flake
  • Garlic Powder (or fresh bulb of garlic, your choice)
  • Curry powder
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Ginger powder

If you go to the store and buy these 15 items, you’ll be set to make a wide variety of dishes from all over the world. These spice combinations can be used for chicken, fish, eggs, beef, or pork; roasted, sauteed, steamed, or microwaved veggies; stir fries, and more!

For a very minimal monetary investment and one trip to the grocery store, you can have a different dish from around the world every day of the week!

Spices in action!

Okay, you’ve got your spices. Now how do you put them to work? Glad you asked!

We’re going to take one of your favorite recipes and put your new spices to the test! Grab one of our many recipes and take one of the above spice combos and put them together.

My suggestion is that you omit the suggested spices from the original recipe posts and replace them with the ingredient measurements above. Remember, the above suggestions are by the pound, so if you’re using two pounds of chicken or veggies, double the spices!

Here are just a few examples of how you can these spices for almost any dish:

  • Roasted veggies – Anyone up for some Mexican chili lime or Indian curry spiced veggies?
  • Chicken Stir Fry – Try the Asian spices out to level up this classic!
  • Shepherd’s Pie - Indian curry shepherd’s pie sounds like an unexpected and delightful combination.
  • 7 Ingredient Fish and Veggies – Eliminate the spices from the original recipe and try an Asian twist!
  • Lettuce Wrapped Burgers – Make some Italian spiced burgers, and top with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and fresh basil!
  • Scrambled Eggs and Veggies – Try a different spice combo on plain old scrambled eggs each morning this week to see how the flavors differ!
  • Easiest Chicken Ever – Toss the chicken in some Greek spices, lemon, and olive oil instead of the spices prescribed in the original recipe.

After a while, you’ll learn which spices you like in a dish and which ones you can live without. Maybe you like cinnamon in your curry or maybe you can’t stand the taste of ginger. That’s totally cool! Your food is YOURS!

Soon you’ll be able to spice your dishes without having to measure them every time. Be sure to use your nose and mouth to smell and taste what you’re making as you go! (Unless it’s raw meat. Never taste raw meat.)

Tips to master the core spices: 

enigmachck1_Spices

So you’re heading to the store, or you already have your spices. Awesome! Here are some tips to make shopping and cooking a little bit easier.

1. Does buying individual spices and mixing them sound intimidating? The spice companies make this easy for us. Check out the spice aisle in your grocery store. Lots of companies make pre-mixed spices for regional dishes:

  • Italian Seasoning
  • Greek Seasoning
  • Herbs de Provence
  • Taco/Fajita seasoning
  • Curry powder
  • Chinese 5-spice powder

To experiment with these, buy a couple and try a new one every time you cook something. Put it on something basic like eggs or baked chicken so you can begin to taste the difference between spices from different areas of the world.

2. Salt and pepper don’t do the same job. Salt makes your food taste MORE like what it is. It enhances the flavors of the food that are already there. If you over-season with salt, of course it will make your food taste salty, but that’s not salt’s function in the culinary world.

If you’re feeling adventurous and have a little extra cash, buy some fancy looking sea salt. There’s Hawaiian pink sea salt, fleur de sel, coarse sea salt, fine sea salt. There’s even weird stuff like truffle salt, grey sea salt, and black pyramid salt!

The best advice for pepper is to buy whole peppercorns and a pepper grinder. They even sell disposable ones with peppercorns already in them at the grocery store. You don’t have to get fancy. This is what I have. Fresh ground pepper makes all the difference in the world. If you like pepper on your food, this is the way to go!

Sometimes the most simple combination of coarse sea salt and coarsely cracked black pepper is all I use to season a steak, and it’s freaking delicious. Never discount simplicity.

3. Buy a pre-stocked spice rack. I might get some flack for this tip from seasoned (pun intended!) cooks. But when you’re first starting out, instead of buying all your spices individually, sometimes it’s nice just to have it all done for you. Spice racks are relatively cheap, they give you a lot of spices and herbs that you may not have thought about picking up at the store, but you’ll be glad you have it when a recipe calls for paprika and voila! You already have it!

Admittedly, spices and herbs that come in a pre-stocked spice rack from a department store may be older and therefore less flavorful, but it’s better than having no spices at all!

4. Get acquainted with acid. By acid, I mean vinegars and citrus juices. You’ll be amazed at how much adding a little bit of vinegar to a plate of sauteed veggies or your paleo spaghetti sauce makes it pop.

Acids brighten the flavors in your food and help minimize some of the bitter flavors in certain foods (like dark leafy green veggies). An acid can also help you bring down the heat if you added too much red pepper flake to a dish.

5. Fry the spices first. This is called “blooming” your spices. When your oil is heated in your pan, add your spices to the oil first and mix them around for 3-5 seconds, then add your veggies or meat or whatever you’re cooking in that oil. This is a quick and easy way to deepen and intensify the flavor of your spices.

Spice it Up

Steven_Feather_Bored_Spaghetti

We’ve all heard people say eating healthy food is boring and bland. If you ask me, the people who are telling you this are doing it wrong.

When we force ourselves to eat the same foods over and over (like plain baked chicken and steamed veggies with minimal seasoning), it can deplete our willpower bar if we crave more flavors and variety.

Companies design Frankenfoods to make us crave the sugars and chemicals they’ve created, so they can profit off of us indefinitely. How can we fight against that? By mastering the art of using spices and sauces!

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring. Armed with these basic concepts and combinations you can defeat cravings and actually enjoy and look forward to your healthy meals!

So, what flavors are we missing?

Are there any other spices in your cabinet that you have NO IDEA what to do with? Let us know in the comments! Maybe we can help!

-Noel

PS: We’ve recently added more recipes and meal plans (including vegetarian) to the Nerd Fitness Academy! If you haven’t joined us yet, come on and check it out – we got over 11,000 members so far in there that would love to join!  

###

Spices: Gavin BellWikipedia: Tongue Map, Boring: Strevo, Pirates: Pascal, Bored Spaghetti: Steven Feather, Spice Jars: enigmachck1

]]>
http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/31/how-to-spice-up-any-meal-literally/feed/ 26
How to Cut and Roast Vegetables http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/19/how-to-make-roasted-vegetables/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/19/how-to-make-roasted-vegetables/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 14:39:42 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25566 This is an article from NF Rebel Chef Noel.

Last month we covered a recipe that was a bit more advanced for our rebels that love a challenge. This month, we’re getting back to basics and doing something super, duper easy.

My favorite way to eat vegetables is to roast them. The reason I love it is because they get somewhat sweet and crunchy, you can prepare a bunch of them at once. Oh, and did I mention its super easy? Pretty much all you have to do is cut them, toss them in olive oil and spices of your choice, throw them in the oven, and wait.

Now, I said we’re getting back to basics here, so for those who are experienced cooks, this might be more information than you need. If that’s the case, close your computer and bang out some push ups! If you’re new to cooking, then we’re glad to have you.

We’re going to be taking this back to pre-level one. Level 0.5.

Let’s get started!

Roasted Veggies: Ingredients and Equipment

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_001

Basic Roasted Vegetables
Total Time: 45 – 50 min
Serves: 2-4

The great thing about roasted veggies is that you can use whatever veggies you prefer. Here’s what I used:

2 Bell peppers

1 Head cauliflower

1 Red onion

4 Button mushrooms

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

Equipment needed:

  • Aluminum Foil (optional) – For lining your baking sheets. This makes cleanup easy peasy.
  • 1-2 Baking Sheets – Flat baking sheets (like the ones you make cookies on) are best. You can use a cake pan, casserole or baking dish with higher sides, but it’ll trap more moisture and make your veggies mushier rather than crisp and roast-y.
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) measuring spoon
  • Large Bowl
  • Spoon or spatula for mixing

Instructions:

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (204 C). Since this is cooking level 0.5, let’s talk about what this means for a second. Preheating means setting your oven to a certain temperature and letting it heat up while you’re getting your ingredients ready.

We may not have readily available hover boards or food hydrators just yet, but we are living in the future. As long as there is nothing spilled in the oven and you don’t leave anything inside it when you turn it on, your oven is safe to preheat ahead of time. It will regulate itself by turning the heating coils or burners inside on and off as needed to maintain the correct temperature.

2. Wash your veggies. Just rinse them with cold water to remove any dirt. Also remove any stickers they might have on them at this time.

3. Cut your veggies. The best advice I can give you is to cut all your veggies to about the same size. This way, they cook at the same rate.

FOR BELL PEPPERS:

Start by cutting the top off of the pepper. This allows you to grab the innards and seeds before slicing it further.

After you have cleaned it out, place the cut part down on the cutting board and slice the pepper in half.

From here, you’ll have two relatively flat pepper halves to cut into bite sized chunks.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_002

Toss your cut peppers into your mixing bowl.

FOR ONIONS: 

For roasting, we want relatively larger chunks of onion. If we dice the onion like we did for paleo spaghetti, the pieces of onion will be too small and they’ll burn before the larger pieces of vegetables are cooked. This is no bueno.

So, start by cutting the top and bottom off of the onion. This will make it easy to peel later on.

Then cut the onion in half so that you have a flat surface to work with.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_003

Cut it in half again to quarter it.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_008

Now we can take the peel off easily.

Roasted_Vegetables_005

While you’re at it, go ahead and separate the layers of onion and toss them into your mixing bowl too.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_006

FOR CAULIFLOWER (OR BROCCOLI):

Most cauliflower comes with the leaves and part of the stem still attached. Go ahead and remove that. Just pull it off with your hands.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_025

Once you’ve cleared most of it, take a knife and cut off the rest of the stem.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_010

Now you have a thing that looks like a white brain. Sweet. Cut that sucker in half so that you have a flat surface to work with.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_026

Now cut it in half again to quarter it like we did with the onion.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_011

Next, we’ll cut some of the middle stem out of the inside of the cauliflower. Place the knife near the stems of the florets, angle the knife away from you, and cut the middle piece out. You can cut this into a couple small pieces and roast it too if you like.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_012

Now use your hands to tear apart the large chunk of cauliflower into smaller florets.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_013

FOR MUSHROOMS: 

When roasting, I like to cut these into quarters. Bigger chunks are less likely to burn. Simply cut them in half.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_027

Then cut the halves in half. Remember to place the flat, cut side down on the cutting board when cutting your veggies. This will keep them stable and make it less likely for the knife to slip and cut you.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_028


4. Put all your veggies in a bowl
and drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil over them.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_014

Use a spoon or spatula to mix.

5. Line your baking sheets with aluminum foil. You don’t have to do this, but dishes are a big obstacle to cooking for a lot of people (including myself). Covering your baking sheet with foil makes the clean up so much easier (just toss the aluminum foil once you’re done!)

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_017

6. Dump them out onto a baking sheet or two. For this many veggies, I used two baking sheets. Spread the veggies out on the baking sheets so they’re not piled on top of each other and so most of them are not touching. If they are piled on top of one another, they will steam rather than roast.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_018

7. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and any other preferred spices. Just salt, pepper, and olive oil is simple and delicious.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_020

8. Place them in the oven for 30-45 minutes. Check every 15 minutes and stir them up with your spatula so that they get roasted on all sides. This is what they should look like when they’re done. A little crisp and toasty (and brown) on the edges, and they’ve shrunk from releasing water.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_021

Pull them out and pack them up for later in the fridge or serve immediately. You can use roasted veggies as a side or even serve them cold, tossed in with salad to make the flavors a little more interesting.

Noel_Roasted_Vegetables_023

There you have it: your basic veggie roasting lesson! Roasting vegetables has been a go-to method of cooking for me since I first started cooking for myself, it’s my absolute favorite way to cook and eat plants.

When we’re dedicated to making positive food choices, we can get into a routine of eating the same things for every meal. Steamed spinach, microwaved broccoli, raw carrots… As much as we don’t like to admit it, all that stuff can get boring after a while, and being bored can deplete our willpower bar. Trying a new method of cooking can help! And I promise, if you’ve never roasted vegetables before, if you do it right, you won’t regret it.

Bonus Veggie FAQ round!

Here are some questions and answers you might have about this method of cooking veggies. Don’t worry! I had a lot of questions like these when I first started cooking too. Through some experimentation and a lot of cooking fails, I’ve managed come up with some answers for you. Let’s hope this helps. And if I didn’t cover your question here, feel free to ask it in the comments!

Can you use frozen veggies?

YES! Some folks prefer buying frozen veggies. In many cases, they are cheaper and keep for longer amounts of time. That’s totally cool. Defrost them under some water,  pat them dry with a paper towel, and follow steps 4-8!

I don’t like [insert veggie here]. What else can I use? 

You can roast almost any vegetable. The only ones I would suggest staying away from are the leafy greens. Those are best steamed, sautéed, or mixed into soups! Here’s a list of some of the veggies that lend themselves well to roasting:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Squash (acorn, butternut, etc.)
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Beets
  • Mushrooms (button, portobello, crimini)
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Fennel
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant

Basic roasted veggies are boring. How do I make it more interesting?

I’m glad you asked. Here are some suggestions:

  • Change up the fat. Olive oil is a basic fat that most people have lying around the house, which is why I always suggest it. You can also use ghee, rendered bacon fat, coconut oil, lard, butter, or duck fat if you can get your hands on it (I hear it does magical things for roasted veggies).
  • Use different spices. Check out the spice aisle at your local grocery store. Most places have pre-mixed spices (Italian seasoning, Greek seasoning, Herbs de Provence, etc.). Even Old Bay, taco or fajita seasoning or a chicken or beef spice rub would work. Grab something that sounds tasty to you. Like always, check the labels to be sure there’s nothing weird like MSG or gluten in your seasonings.
  • Toss in an acid after its done cooking. Red wine, balsamic, or sherry vinegar are good choices. Don’t underestimate the power of plain ol’ lemon or lime juice either!

My veggies turned out mushy and gross! What did I do wrong?

I’ve mentioned the two most common veggie roasting mistakes already in this article, but let’s go over them again in case you missed them.

1) You put too many veggies on the tray at once. If they’re overlapping and piled on top of each other, they’re gonna get soggy. Veggies release a lot of moisture when they’re cooking and if they’re piled on top of each other, they’ll steam instead of roasting and end up mushy.

2) You used a tray with high sides. Instead of a cake pan, try a cookie sheet. It’ll trap less moisture.

So, what other questions or troubles do you have when it comes to roasting veggies?

What are some of your favorite roasted veggie combos?

Are there any other or basic cooking skills would you like to see?

Let’s hear it in the comments!

-Noel

###

]]>
http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/19/how-to-make-roasted-vegetables/feed/ 43
Meditation: Building the Superpower You Didn’t Even Know You Had http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/16/meditation-building-the-superpower-you-didnt-even-know-you-had/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/16/meditation-building-the-superpower-you-didnt-even-know-you-had/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 14:40:24 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25483 This article is from NF Team Member Taylor

There you are, settled into your life, in the deserts of Tatooine.

You’ve gone about your life just like everyone else – school, a job, and the regular habits and cycles that come along with it. But what you don’t know is that there’s something missing in life, that’s actually inside of you – something waiting to be awakened.

And then one day everything changes – you purchase a few droids with a secret message, the Empire destroys your home – and before you know it, you accept your destiny and begin to train. Your powers develop, and soon you become a freakin Jedi.

This was Luke Skywalker – just a regular joe Luke, with something powerful inside him waiting to be discovered and cultivated.

Now, what if I told you that in a very real way, we’re all like Luke – we all have something inside us that goes unnoticed and thus uncultivated – day after day.

I’m not talking about Superman strength or Spiderman genetics. Though that would be amazing. Like the superpowers in Chronicle, this ability starts off almost nonexistent, and can be grown like a video game character.

“This is my theory though, is that it’s like a muscle. That’s why I think we’re getting stronger, you know? Cause we’re working ‘it’ out.”

And it doesn’t take a disaster to strike for you to be set on your path. So few people cultivate it, let alone masters it. How do we build this superpower?

Meditation.

The Problem

office

Think of this superpower like the power of X-men’s Mystique, but for your mind. Instead of the ability to alter your appearance to meet the challenges of any given situation, meditation allows you to alter your mind to conquer the day.

When we are on our commute and someone is a jerk, we get angry. We don’t seem to have a choice in the matter – we just GET ANGRY. When a friend says something stupid, or something wonderfully intelligent, we react. There is no deliberation, no Council of Elrond to decide how you should feel and respond.

That’s just how our brains work. Daniel Kahneman, in the famed Thinking Fast and Slow, proposed we think about thinking in two ways.

  1. System 1: Fast Thinking – automatic, frequent, emotional, subconscious.
  2. System 2: Slow thinking – deliberative, effortful, infrequent, logical, conscious.

System 1 is responsible for most of what you do every day. This fast thinking does so much on your behalf, that you may not even realize it. In fact, system 2 doesn’t kick in until you are tasked with something like solving a riddle, filling out a tax form, or walking at a pace that is unnaturally fast.

Another social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, describes these systems with a different metaphor: a rider on an elephant, in The Happiness Hypothesis. As he explains, he selected this metaphor to demonstrate the power of the elephant (fast thinking), and the powerlessness of the rider (slow thinking). While the rider might feel in control, at the top of the elephant with reigns in hand, it is truly the elephant that is running things:

The rider’s inability to control the elephant by force explains many puzzles about our mental life, particularly why we have such trouble with weakness of will.

Meditation: The Science

science

Meditation is simply the practice of learning how to pay attention. It’s not something magic. It’s not a cult or a religion. Meditation is just a mental exercise to strengthen your mind.  Learn from Ron Swanson – meditation can and should be done by everyone. What do CEOs, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Gates, Oprah, and even Wolverine himself all have in common? They meditate!

Meditation is supported by a huge body of scientific research, and has been shown to help manage symptoms and reduce risks for almost every bad thing out there, including:

It’s not a panacea, but hits the bad stuff pretty darn far and wide. Dan Harris summarizes just some of these benefits.

At the end of the day, our goal here is to give you the tools to live healthy and happy life. And it turns out, at any given time almost half of us are lost in thought unrelated to what’s in front of us. And when we are mentally wandering, we are significantly less happy.

As Matthieu Ricard explains in his TED Talk – when neuroscientists looked at his brain while meditating, he scored “off the scale” in activity in the brain related to happiness, compassion, and altruism. And isn’t happiness what we’re all chasing?

How to Meditate

Ready to give this a go? Okay great! Head on down to your nearest Monks-are-us, grab a few robes, and then head over to the barbershop for a quick head shaving. Kidding! There’s not a single thing you need to have to start other than your brain. If you’re reading this right now, chances are good you still have it.

To start, pick a time in your day you can regularly designate as time to meditate. It should be a time you can find a quiet place, without distraction or interruption.

As a beginner, you don’t need to meditate for long. Just five minutes a day is a great place to start. Too much? Try TWO minutes. The important part is the building of the daily habit. Before we begin, I wanted to give a shoutout to both Calm.com and Headspace. These websites and their apps can help guide you through meditation as a beginner, and come recommended from some Nerd Fitness Team Members.

The meditation practice I’m going to describe for you below is a basic mindfulness practice. There are many different styles of meditation, but every style of meditation is about cultivating attention and awareness. Be sure to set a timer before you begin.

  1. Find a place to sit that allows your back to be in an upright position. You don’t need to sit cross legged, but you can if you wish. A chair or sitting against a wall also works well. Feel free to use a cushion under your bottom to help your posture and make yourself more comfortable. The goal is a posture that helps you stay alert, but is still comfortable. You can meditate with your eyes open or closed.
  2. As you begin, take several deep, slow breaths to gather concentration. Inhale deeply, filling your lungs to the brim. Then slowly exhale. Follow your breath carefully with your attention through this process.
  3. After a few breaths, or when you feel your concentration has settled, begin to breathe naturally.  Keep your attention on the breath at a specific point, most commonly with the rising and falling of the chest, at your nostrils, or at your abdomen. Follow your breath from the moment it begins to the moment it ends. Use your breath as an anchor; notice any sensations in your body, but always return to the breath.
  4. When you get lost in thought, simply return your attention back to the breath. Bringing your attention back to the breath is a central part of the process –  think about it like performing a repetition.  Each time you do this you are rewiring your brain – no different from doing a repetition in strength training. So, don’t feel guilty or beat yourself up. Just return to the breath!

This is where we recommend most beginners start – think about this no differently than starting with just the bar before adding weight, when learning to squat. Feel free to jump into a guided meditation to guide you through this step, here.

However, if you’ve been meditating for a few weeks and have built up some concentration, move on to step 5:

5. True meditation is neither holding focus on the breath, nor avoiding thought. Rather, meditation is about noticing what you notice; if you notice a thought arising in the moment, simply notice it, and let it pass. If you feel the the pressure of the seat on your back, let your attention focus on this pressure. If you hear the sound of the wind outside, let your attention and focus settle on the sound. The important part is to stay mindful throughout these actions. Notice what you notice, rather than forcing your attention back to the breath or losing yourself in thought.

Again, use your breath as an anchor – something to be returned to after you notice various sensations or thoughts. Because holding your attention on a variety of phenomena can be difficult, some people find the practice of noting to be helpful.  This guided meditation guides you through both breathing and sounds, while this meditation guides you through thoughts as well.

Beginners often find it difficult to stay aware when thoughts arise, and find themselves noticing they have been thinking only after being lost in thoughts for several minutes. If you find yourself unable to observe thoughts without getting lost in them, spend more time simply keeping your concentration on the breath itself as described in steps 1-4.

Again, if the above sounds intimidating, start with a guided meditation. Guided meditation are great to incorporate into anyone’s meditation practice, and certainly when the mind is especially restless.

The Superpower of Control

candle

The superpower meditation builds is the ability to be at the character selection screen, for any given situation, at any given time.

You see, because of how our brains work, it can be hard to exert a level of control in our lives – from our response to a social interaction, to changing fundamental aspects of our life. 

When something happens, we just react. That’s system 1. There’s no conscious deliberative process when a cute girl/guy walks up to you, or some car cuts you off in traffic. It’s no surprise that we often feel frustrated with our reactions after-the-fact.

Imagine the ability to replay the events, and always act with a calm and collected demeanor, delivering the best response you have to offer. That’s what meditation can help do for you.

I’m not talking managing an emotion, or suppressing a thought. This is not “serenity now, insanity later.” This isn’t about dealing with things AFTER you get angry or sad, but the power to actually change both how you feel and how you respond.

That is true power.

Neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor uses anger as an example: physiological response from anger can only last 90 seconds. Yet, as humans, we can stay angry seemingly FOREVER. Why? We are doing it to ourselves, by rethinking the thought and redoing the physiological response over and over. If you’ve ever gotten angry and let it fester, feeling more and more angry after, you know what she’s talking about. As she explains, we all have a superpower within us, but most of us surrender it.

Or as she puts us, we surrender our neurocircuitry:

“We are neurocircuitry. Your neurocircuitry is YOUR neurocircuitry, and you do not have the ability to stimulate and trigger my neurocircuitry without my permission. You cannot make me angry, unless I stick my trigger out there for you to pounce on and stimulate my neurocircuitry. If I give you the power to stimulate my neurocircuitry, then I have given you my power. And I give you my power, then I become vulnerable to you…”

This isn’t just helpful for our daily interactions, but for big life changes too – like cleaning up your diet or finally building that habit of exercise.

Through meditation, you can learn to focus your attention where you choose. As you begin the practice, you will start to notice your thoughts and feelings more consciously, and let go of the ones that aren’t useful to you. You will start to reforge the character of your choosing.

Meditation as a Practice

notebook

Now that you know how to meditate, you need to understand one final thing.

The kids in Chronicle had it right: you have to train this power like a muscle. Even if you have a good day or a good week in the gym, you need to be at it for months and months, and then STAY at it, to live with the benefits for a lifetime.

You are training your body to change. No different from squatting incrementally more weight, you are training your brain to get stronger. Just like squatting, you won’t see profound benefits after a single session. Instead, you will level up after weeks and months of consistency.

Just like squatting regularly builds muscle, meditation literally builds gray matter in your brain. Soon enough, that “automatic mode” or elephant we talked about enough will begin to change too (literally rewiring your brain). Just like groceries will slowly begin to feel lighter, so to will you gradually notice the benefits of meditation.

So before you dive in, you need to be in for the long haul.  Just like rule 2.

It might feel intimidating now to think about, but just like with diet and exercise, once the habit is established, you won’t even notice. Once you become someone who goes to the gym regularly, that’s just who you are now. Once you become someone who meditates for five minutes a day, that’s just what you do.

Be happy, be mindful

stones

We all know the story of Luke Skywalker, not because he had this power within him and chose to walk away from it, but because he seized the opportunity to understand the Force. Don’t be the Jedi who is walking away from your potential.

As a kid, I always thought that comic books had it backwards – the superpower found the superhero (I’m looking at you Spiderman), rather than the other way around. What if we all had the potential to develop our power, and only the true superheroes do? Now that would be awesome.

That’s what meditation allows us to do.

Not only does meditation boost your health in a range of tangible ways, but more importantly, it helps us to enjoy the here and now. You might call this loving the game, or enjoying the process.

Today we’re issuing a meditation challenge: Commit to meditating every day, for two weeks straight (using an app, website, or guided meditation if you wish). It can just be for five minutes. Or two minutes. The important part is establishing the new habit.

What questions do you have about meditation? What are your experiences? Struggles? Victory?

-Taylor

###

photo source: Stew Dean: Armillery Sphere

]]>
http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/16/meditation-building-the-superpower-you-didnt-even-know-you-had/feed/ 52
Are Your Beliefs Sabotaging You? http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/12/why-self-limiting-beliefs-are-bs-and-how-to-crush-them/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/12/why-self-limiting-beliefs-are-bs-and-how-to-crush-them/#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2015 14:14:42 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25132 “It’s fine, but I could just never look like that.”

“I could never deadlift 400 pounds.”

“I just suck at singing/learning languages/math.”

Today I’m gonna talk to you about prophecies. No, not the cool ancient kind that foretold of some epic badass saving the day. Though I do love those prophecies. But rather, the ones that can either set us up to level up our lives, or doom us to a life of “that’s just how I am.”

Oftentimes, it’s ourselves who choose to sabotage our mind and goals.

Other times, we let other people set our expectations for ourselves. 

We all have these things about ourselves that we think “that’s just how I am.” We tell ourselves it’s been that way since we were kids, or there was a moment when our confidence was shattered, our path was altered, and suddenly these things we think about ourselves become true.

Today you learn why these prophecies are redonkulous. 

self-fulfilling prophecies

scroll

Maybe we got cut from a team as a little kid and thus determined “I’m not good at sports.” Or we tried a musical instrument and were told to practice outside because we weren’t very good.

For whatever reason, we often encounter seemingly insignificant moments that drastically alter our mindset for decades. Here’s what happens:

  1. We hear we’re bad at something, or have a bad experience with something.
  2. We avoid trying again, because we are shying away from the potential for more pain of that experience.
  3. If we do try again, we try half-assed, so we can point to that and say, “See? It didn’t work.”
  4. We never get better at said activity, because we never practice it.
  5. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the book The Talent Code, author Daniel Coyle argues talent isn’t born, it’s grown. But why do we often see specific people who seem to have more talent or get further and do better? Aren’t great athletes just destined for greatness and it’s obvious who has talent and skill and who doesn’t?

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, would tell us a resounding: No! In one example, Gladwell found that most professional Canadian hockey players are born in the first few months of the year. Why is this important? Are these months producing scientifically engineered better players? Nope.

Because these kids are a few months older than their peers, they tend to mature slightly faster, MAYBE giving them a slight edge in hockey skill or size as kids. So, these players tend to get selected for special teams early on as a kid, and thus they practice more. Over time, a gap is created, a self-fulfilling prophecy comes true. They practice more, and the gap widens further.

For these hockey players, their self-fulfilling prophecy is that they’re better at hockey, and thus they go on to become better at hockey.

How about this!? In 1964, a Harvard Professor named Robert Rosenthal ran a study where he told grade school teachers he had a special test that could predict which kids were about to experience a dramatic growth in their IQ. After the kids took the test, he chose several children from each class totally at random and told their teachers the test predicted those kids were on the verge of an intellectual “bloom.” What happened?

If teachers expected greater gains in IQ, the kids gained more IQ. Rosenthal found that the teachers gave the students who were expected to succeed more patient instruction and more positive feedback. And in turn, the self-fulfilling prophecy came true!

What does this mean for you?

Prove it wrong One time.

self-limit-beliefs

I’m going to tell you the story of a man named Danny O’Shea.

Spending his entire life in the shadow of his older brother Kevin, Danny became the football coach of a ragtag bunch of kids who had no clue how to play. Unsurprisingly, his older brother also coached a group of kids, except they were well-trained athletes.

When Kevin’s team had to play Danny’s team, Kevin motivated his team by telling them about the one time he beat his old brother in a bike race down Cherry Hill. That one single instance in which the outcome was different was enough to motivate these young lads to think, “hey, all it takes is one time,” and it lead them to an improbable victory.

This is the story of “Little Giants,” a movie that I remember fondly and refuse to go back and watch again in case it’s terrible.

But man, what a speech Rick Moranis gave:

It’s one thing to say “I am a confident person,” but if you don’t do anything about it…you’ll stay the same ole wallflower.

It’s one thing to write “I’m going to be rich and famous” on your dream board (or whatever the self-help gurus call those things), but without action and the willingness to die on the treadmill, you’ll never get there.

If you decide to break the self-limiting belief of “I’m just a fat person,” absolutely nothing will get done if you simply repeat this mantra while sitting on your couch eating cookies.

Identifying the new self-fulfilling belief is step one.

Frodo had a self-limiting belief that he could never get to Mordor… and then, step after step, day after day, he proved himself wrong… and freaking WALKED to Mordor. Become Frodo, and keep an eye out for EVERY tiny victory along your journey, no matter how hard you have to scrape, fight, and claw for it. Consistently remind yourself of those victories, and keep them at the front of your mind, to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that YOU decide on..

All of this to say that you actually can change your fate. It will require hard work, consistent persistence, determination, and the ability to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, for that’s where growth happens. 

change and grow

self limiting beliefs

People can change, and do change. Nerd Fitness exists today because of that fact.

From Joe to Anthony to Saint to Bronwyn to Anne…I’ve seen thousands of people change as a result of this community. I’ve seen people transform physically, mentally, emotionally, and professionally.

Hell, Staci was overweight and smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, and now she’s a full-time member of Team Nerd Fitness, and can deadlift 400 pounds. Who she is now is nothing like who she used to be. But everything started with a single victory that allowed her to prove to herself that she WAS the superhero underneath.

My friend Benny Lewis “couldn’t learn languages” until he stopped accepting it as an excuse. What did he do instead? He turned this prophecy on its head, and gave himself permission to suck early on. With each small win, it gave himself more confidence to try more often to learn and to speak, which made him better at learning, which made him better at languages. Now, Benny is “the guy” who speaks 10 languages fluently and helps other people learn to do the same.

In each of these stories above, they all had ideas about who they were, what they sucked at, and what they could never do. With enough small wins, they were able to change their prophecy – a step towards the “I’m actually pretty damn good at …”

My self-limiting beliefs and how I crushed them.

Never Deadlift 400

I remember reading that comment above on a YouTube video of mine and thinking “shit, he’s right…I’ll never get that strong. I just don’t have the genetics for it.” That’s right, the guy who teaches you how to bust through plateaus and not listen to haters actually started listening to internet trolls!!

“I’ll never get really strong” was my self-limiting belief for years. I love strength training, but I never thought I’d get actually strong. Sure, maybe “strong for a skinny guy” – but really strong? And then, day after day, week after week, month after month, I proved myself horribly wrong.

Over the years I’ve managed to turn the prophecy on its head, but as I realized in the below text exchange with my friend Anthony Mychal (who’s been coaching me remotely), I still have some prophecies to change!

Steve Anthony ConversationI had my mind focused on one day deadlifting 405 lbs since starting my training, feeling like it was light years away. I’m getting strong as hell, and week after week my self-limiting belief was getting REAGAN SMASHED. Now when Anthony says “you’re gonna pull 500 pounds,” it completely shifts my belief to what I’m capable of.

One time.

Rope course

Depending on what people around you expected of you as a child, or what you have expected of yourself all your life, you have been subtly guided to who “you” are.

That’s why today I want to hear about ONE self-limiting belief you have. It can be fitness related, it can be about some part of your life you hope to change, whatever. What’s one thing you’ve essentially decided is a fact about your place on this planet?

And then I want you to share with me ONE time, one moment, in which the opposite of that ‘fact’ is true for you. I don’t care how small of a victory it was, or even if it was a partial victory. What’s one moment you can look back on and say, “Hey, that was totally unlike ‘me’ – but I did it!”?

  • Lost weight and kept it off
  • Was the life of the party
  • Sang a note on key
  • Learned a new skill that didn’t suck
  • Approached a guy/girl, and didn’t fall on your face
  • Went on vacation and did NOT get derailed on your fitness journey

Once you identify the cracks in the wall of this belief, you can start attacking it. Small victories, more confidence, momentum, bigger victories, even more confidence, and so on.

Leave a comment with one belief you’re breaking, and one small victory in the past you can point to. We’ll give away a free NF shirt to a random person that leaves a comment, because I want you taking action!

-Steve

PS: Along with “I’m never going to be really strong,” I’m also currently battling this one: “I’m just a terrible singer.” I’ve been working hard on a plan to break this particular belief and also complete something that scares the crap out of me. The benefit of living in Music City! Epic Quest update coming soon :)

###

photo source: Kenneth DM: Scrolls

]]>
http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/12/why-self-limiting-beliefs-are-bs-and-how-to-crush-them/feed/ 182
Why Exercise is the Least Important Part of the Equation (And a Camp Nerd Fitness Update!) http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/09/why-exercise-is-the-least-important-part-of-the-equation-and-a-camp-nerd-fitness-update/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/09/why-exercise-is-the-least-important-part-of-the-equation-and-a-camp-nerd-fitness-update/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 14:11:20 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=23963
“But Steve, I don’t like to exercise.”

I sat down with a friend recently who had decided he wanted to lose weight, but struggled with getting started. He explained why: the idea of exercise was absolutely miserable to him – he had visions of running on a treadmill for hours, or going into a sweaty gym and feeling incredibly uncomfortable around people who were already in shape.

I looked at him and smiled and said, “Okay, then don’t exercise. Let’s deal with that a few months from now.” He replied with a face that looked something like this, and asked how I could possibly not recommend he start exercising if he wanted to lose weight.

My reply was simple: “I’m not interested in getting you to lose the most weight as quickly as possible. I’m interested in helping you get healthier, permanently.”

If you’re someone who has decided you want to make a change in your life and that you need to lose weight, I’m here to tell you why exercise should NOT be the first change you make.

Least Effort, most Results

veggies

The 80-20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, states that for a lot of things, just 20% of the changes are responsible for 80% of the results.

Well, it turns out losing weight is a lot like the Pareto Principle. When we try to lose weight we try to change everything at once. We buy tons of gizmos and gadgets, we start exercising 7 times a week, vow to sleep more, start taking supplements, and stick to that juice-only diet we saw on TV.

It’s no coincidence one of the Rules of the Rebellion is this: you can’t outrun your fork.

This is why losing weight is like the Pareto Principle: If you want to lose weight, the food you eat will be responsible for 80-90% of your success or failure.

Let that sink in for a second.

Not only are you wasting time by putting your focus on all the other stuff, but no matter how much you exercise, you cannot out-train a bad diet. In fact, exercising is a tiny fraction of how our body’s burn calories in comparison to just existing. If you are a 35-year-old man who weighs 250 pounds at 6 feet tall, you burn roughly 2300 a day simply by existing. That’s right: sitting on a couch, working at your desk, eating, sleeping, etc., will burn 2300 calories thanks to all of the processes your body goes through on a daily basis.

If you run/walk a mile, you burn approximately 100 additional calories. So, run 5 miles a day, burn an extra 500 calories. But grab a 20 oz. Gatorade and a low-fat “healthy” snack afterward, and you’ve just undone your work and more. What I’m saying is trying to out-train a bad diet can feel like a losing battle (because it is!).

If you want to lose weight, consuming fewer calories is a great place to start. The best way to do that is by consuming good, healthy, whole foods. I’m talking about minimally processed, nutritionally dense foods to help you stay energized and satiated throughout the day.

Exercise is an Additive Change

lego exercise

Tim Ferriss, one of my yodas,  recently made a great point on his podcast: “Exercise is an additive habit, whereas diet changes are substitutive.”

What does that mean? Well, if you want to start exercising, then you probably think you have to do the following:

  • Spend money to sign up for a gym.
  • Remember to pack a gym bag.
  • Change clothes from regular clothes to gym clothes.
  • Get off the couch and go exercise instead of watching more Netflix.
  • Spend time exercising instead of doing other things.

All of these changes are new habits that need to be added to an already hectic life. If you have a spouse, kids, job, friends, etc., finding time for yet another commitment is not only daunting, but seemingly impossible. It’s why everybody gives up on their New Year’s resolution of “exercise more” after a few weeks. Because we are trying to ADD a new habit, we are depleting our willpower every day and trying to do way too much too soon and thus we give up when things go wrong.

Instead, adjusting a diet is a substitutive habit change: we HAVE to eat anyways! We already do it every day. 

We are not adding anything particularly new to our daily routine, we’re merely substituting what we’re eating or how much of it we’re eating. This is why it seems much easier to reduce the number of sodas from 5 to 4 a day than to start cooking home-cooked meals each night. Or why it might be easier to swap out french fries for a healthier side, compared to convincing yourself to get out of bed at 6 AM to go running.

So, what does this mean for you? Well, we need to make a series of small substitutions to gradually return to a proper baseline for what “normal” is. That means:

  • Properly sized portions.
  • More vegetables
  • Less processed foods
  • Minimal calories consumed from sodas/fruit juices/etc.

If we can start to slowly make changes in that direction, we can start to make progress and see small, consistent results.

But I can’t possibly give up…

soda

When people say they are going on a diet, they give up certain foods for a period of time until they reach a certain weight, and then they go back to eating those things (and most likely put the weight back on).

We are not going on a diet. Ever. What we are doing is making fundamental, permanent changes to how we fuel our body.

I hear you already: “But Steve, I could never possibly give up [delicious but unhealthy food]!” You don’t have to! What I am saying is that we simply need to adjust the average number of healthy decisions you make when it comes to eating food each week.

My friend, Leo Notenboom, recently dropped a boatload of weight by upping his average number of healthy decisions weekly. He never eliminated anything he truly wanted to eat – he simply made sure it was balanced out by a much healthier decision before or after.

So try this instead: Don’t cut anything out. Either make a commitment to make a certain number of daily healthy decisions, and up that number each week. Or identify the crappy stuff in your diet, and instead of cutting it out, just cut it down.

You can still make a drastically unhealthy decision like eating an entire pizza and a case of beer on a weekend watching football, but in order for your “average” number of healthy choices each week to be better than before, that needs to be counteracted with a weeks’ worth of really great choices.

Again, we are not chasing fast weight loss. We are chasing PERMANENT weight loss and PERMANENTLY improved health.

diet first, then exercise

food

If you are 10 or 100 pounds overweight, the first place you need to look is with your diet.

Make small changes, increase your average number of healthy decisions each week, decrease the amount of crap you eat, and start to show yourself progress. Once your changes become the new normal, it’s time to shift the milestone marker again. Consistently adjust your reach to be outside of the current comfort zone – that’s where growth happens, and that’s how you become a superhero without any boss fights.

Slow. Consistent. Progress.

If you are going to get started with exercise, it needs to be as small of a hurdle to get started as possible, and then you need to complete that task as consistently as possible.

Are you starting to see a pattern here?

Consistent persistence.

If you hate exercise, but you need to lose weight…put that aside. Get started today by making one healthier decision with your nutrition choices, and try to do the same thing tomorrow.

After a few weeks, adjust!

If you know somebody who HATES exercise, how would you get through to them to improve their health without being miserable?

-Steve

PS – Our final spots for Camp Nerd Fitness 2015 are now available!  We’ve already sold over 230 of our 300 spots, and they’re filling up fast, so grab one if you’re interested in joining us this fall! It’s gonna be epic

###

photo source: Nick Nguyen: food, Martina TR: vegetables, poolie: soda, Nick Royer: Pushup, Chris: Workout

]]>
http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/09/why-exercise-is-the-least-important-part-of-the-equation-and-a-camp-nerd-fitness-update/feed/ 62
Is Diet Coke Bad For You? What About Artificial Sweeteners? http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/04/is-diet-coke-bad-for-you-what-about-artificial-sweeteners/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/04/is-diet-coke-bad-for-you-what-about-artificial-sweeteners/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 17:08:08 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=24699 There’s one question we get asked probably more than any other:

“Is Diet Coke bad for you?”

The second most popular question: “What actually happened at the end of ‘Interstellar’??” has yet to be answered.

Back to Diet Coke. I get why this has caused so much confusion and debate. We all know sugar is worse for us than Darth Vader, so Diet Coke, with NO sugar, has to be better for us. However, we’ve also been told Diet Coke is packed full of chemicals like aspartame that do all sorts of awful stuff…which would then make Diet Coke worse for us than Jar Jar Binks, right?

What’s the truth? Does the lack of calories in Diet Coke help us? Do the chemicals and other additives make it a horrible beverage choice? I’ll tell you soon, after a word from our sponsors.

Just kidding, we don’t have any sponsors. Although I wrote about this subject six years ago, it’s time to revisit the topic: Is Diet Coke bad for us?

The answer is…maybe.

Diet Coke doesn’t make you fat…

Coke case

Diet Coke does not make you fat…directly.

As pointed out in this exhaustively extensive article from my friends over at Examine.com, Diet Coke and other zero-calorie beverages do not inherently cause weight gain:

“There are no studies that indicate any long-term health risks from drinking diet soda. Diet soda (defined as calorie-free carbonated beverages sweetened with aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium, or other non-caloric or minimally caloric sweeteners) is not harmful to health, well-being, or body composition.” 

We’ve already covered in a previous article “Is a calorie a calorie” that consuming fewer calories is the first step in a process to losing weight. Consuming a Diet Coke compared to drinking a regular Coke means you are consuming significantly fewer calories per day. If you consume multiple Cokes per day, switching to Diet Coke could result in thousands of calories less consumed each week.

There’s been quite a big discussion out there about the effect of artificial sweeteners on how our bodies react, specifically with insulin resistance and things of that nature. However, this study suggests that artificial sweeteners don’t play a significant role in the secretion of insulin, compared to the consumption of regular sugar.

So what gives!? What’s with all of those studies and things we’ve heard about where people who GAIN weight while consuming diet soda? Although Diet Coke isn’t directly responsible for weight gain, it’s no innocent bystander either!

…But it’s No Saint either.

coke mirror

Diet Coke and diet sodas are kind of like the getaway driver in a bank robbery. Sure, they didn’t technically rob the bank, but they are guilty by association.

The reason we’ve heard diet soda can cause weight gain can be explained with this study:

“Although overweight and obese adults who drink diet soda eat a comparable amount of total calories as heavier adults who drink sugary beverages, they consume significantly more calories from solid food at both meals and snacks,” lead study author Sara Bleich said in a press release. “Diet soda is not making people fat,” Dr. Chris Ochner, who researches obesity prevention and treatment, said to CBS News. “Eating too many calories is making too many people fat.”

Diet soda might not CAUSE weight gain, but it is correlated with being overweight and unhealthy – people who consume diet soda often assume they are making healthier choices about their beverage (which they are), but as a result are consuming MORE food calories than they expected.

This is why you often see three Big Macs and a large fry accompanied by a large diet coke. Or why people get upset when they gain weight on a gluten-free diet, even though their diet is composed of gluten-free cookies, cake, muffins, pancakes, and pasta. These folks are missing the point!

Although we know correlation does not prove causation, it appears diet soda is causing OTHER issues beyond simply increasing our waistlines. Specifically, it can cause us to underestimate how much food we are eating, or lull us into a false sense of healthy security when it comes to consumption. And from a behavioral and habits perspective, it keeps us needing something “sweet” in our lives.

There’s other thing I’d like to mention about diet sodas, as this is something that has become SO mainstream it’s almost taken as a fact….

what about aspartame?

coke back

If I told you “aspartame causes headaches and cancer,” you’ll likely respond in one of two ways:

  • What’s aspartame?
  • Of course it does.

If you don’t know what aspartame is, it’s an ingredient in Diet Coke that replaces sugar – it’s 200 times sweeter than sucrose so only a small amount of it is used. However, it’s been widely regarded by the public that aspartame is a cancer-causing agent and should be avoided at all costs.

What’s the truth here?

It turns out, aspartame’s association with cancer is much cloudier than you’ve heard.

For starters, there may be some truth to the rumor that aspartame can cause headaches for some people, though not nearly enough studies have been completed to prove this definitively and a placebo effect might be in place due to aspartame already being seen as the villain.

As far as aspartame causing cancer, this has also never been definitively proven.

Back in 1996, a study suggested there might be a link between the increased chance of developing a brain tumor and the consumption of aspartame, but this was proven false.

Also, a study in 2005 saw an increased risk of cancer development in rats who were fed aspartame. However, the results were inconsistent, and these rats were fed an equivalent of hundreds of cans of diet soda per day.

Finally, “NCI examined human data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study of over half a million retirees. Increasing consumption of aspartame-containing beverages was not associated with the development of lymphoma, leukemia, or brain cancer.”

Note: this is not an endorsement of aspartame, but simply an attempt to shed some light on a controversial subject. If you are concerned about aspartame consumption, avoid it.

We’re confident that aspartame becomes a non-issue anyway. Why?

what does Nerd fitness say?

Water

Our advice can be simple and straightforward: Don’t drink soda! It’s terrible for you. Sugary beverages (soda, fruit juices, etc.) can lead to weight gain, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and a host of other issues. If you drink soda now, try drinking less. A twelve pack of Mountain Dew every day is NOT a good habit for you. But you don’t need to change overnight. Try 11 tomorrow.

However, as we know drinking a lot of alcohol isn’t good for you either, be smart about how much and what you drink to make sure you don’t derail your healthy lifestyle. If you are jonesing for a soda, choosing a diet soda over a regular soda is a good start. Life is short, and if a single Diet Coke is going to make your day a bit happier and stave off a worse decision, go for it.

However, we don’t recommend you just replace soda with diet soda, and not change anything else (and expect to see drastic changes).

I want you to think about WHY you are consuming so much soda, be it regular or diet:

If you are consuming soda for the caffeine content, switching to diet soda is a tool to get started. Read up on our thoughts on caffeine here, but you’d be much better off with black coffee and green tea.

If you are consuming soda because you’re addicted to sugar, then we have a much bigger habit problem to deal with….but it can be dealt with.

We’re interested in permanent, antifragile solutions, and Diet Coke is a temporary hack to a much deeper-rooted problem: your source code when it comes to sugar or caffeine addiction. By fixing your code at the source, you can start to wean yourself off of sugary beverages and artificial temporary solutions.

Long story short: we want to create long-term healthy systems that have us eating healthy foods and avoiding liquid calories. This is about building good strong habits, and keeping ourselves making healthy happy eating choices.

Although swapping out soda for diet soda is a solid step in the right direction, the true solution is retraining and rewiring our body so we don’t need to chase that sugar fix; we can slay our addiction to sugar entirely.

tl;dr – Soda is legitimately terrible for you. Sugar is Darth Vader. Diet soda can be a stepping stone between sugar addiction, the need for sugary beverages, and FREEEEEDOM.

What are your experiences with diet soda? Did you use them as a tool to help you lose weight? Or did you struggle with weight loss until finally dropping diet soda out of your daily consumption as well?

Leave it in the comments!

-Steve

###

photo pin: Sarah Korf: nutritional information, Ryan Hyde: Water, Mike Mozart: Diet Coke, Laura Lewis: mirror, Mike Mozart: Diet Coke

]]>
http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/03/04/is-diet-coke-bad-for-you-what-about-artificial-sweeteners/feed/ 89
How to Make Curry Stuffed Sweet Potatoes http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/02/26/how-to-make-curry-stuffed-sweet-potatoes/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/02/26/how-to-make-curry-stuffed-sweet-potatoes/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:59:54 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25417 This is a guest post from NF Rebel Chef Noel.

How many times have you stood in the kitchen in front of a pile of ingredients and thought: “I have no idea what I’m doing”?

Believe it or not, I feel this way a lot. (Don’t tell Steve!) About 90% of the time, I eat the same meals over and over again: cans of tuna with smashed avocado, scrambled eggs and bacon, baked chicken breasts and broccoli, lettuce wrapped burgers and baked sweet potatoes, etc..

Unless I’m whipping up a new recipe for The Rebellion, I rarely try anything new. When I’m tired, cranky, and hungry, I don’t want to have to think too hard about where my next meal is coming from.

Sound familiar?

We’ve had a few requests from you awesome Rebels asking about adding Asian-inspired cuisine to your cooking repertoire. I have a feeling that a lot of us nerds are into Asian food — I know I am. But we don’t get to eat it often because it’s packed with sugary sauces, processed thickeners, and in general, stuff we know works against us in our quest to get strong and stay healthy.

So today, we’re going to try some Indian flavors.

Francisco M Taj Mahal

Indian food fascinates and intimidates me. Garam Masala? Curry? What are these spices and where do they come from? This is something I was never introduced to growing up.

For me, this recipe was 100% new. Something I never even thought about cooking before. If I can do it, you can do it. Trust me.

In fact, it’s a lot like Steve’s Chicken Stir Fry recipe – a level 1 recipe.

Curry sounds like something fancy, exotic, and intimidating to make in your own home. But honestly, the only thing that may appear to pose a challenge is gathering the spices. They’re things that might sound a little weird, but I’ve been to a couple of different grocery stores, and to my surprise, they were readily available. If you can’t find one or two of them, that’s totally fine. Just replace it with a little extra curry powder!

A quick note to all you Indian food connoisseurs out there…because I have never cooked or eaten much curry in my life, there are likely a few top secret spices and tricks that I’m missing out on to make the Best Curry Ever. If you aren’t an Indian-food n00b like me, please feel free to share your tips/tricks/super secrets in the comments!

Ingredients and Equipment

Cook Time: 30 min
Prep Time: 10 min
Serves: 4

Noel_Chicken_Curry_022

2 chicken breasts (about 1lb or .45kg) – Boneless and skinless is good! We’ll be cutting these into 1″ cubes.

4 large sweet potatoes

1 yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced – These are the little guys inside the big bulb (or 1/2 tsp [2.5ml] pre minced garlic).

2 tbsp (30ml) olive oil – We’ll use 1 tbsp to stir fry the chicken and the other 1 tbsp to stir fry the veggies and spices.

1 tbsp (15ml) curry powder – Find this in the spice aisle. Pro tip: Spices are often organized alphabetically.

1 tsp (5ml) coriander – Also find it in the spice aisle.

1/2 tsp (2.5ml) cumin – Again, spice aisle.

1/2 tsp (2.5ml) cinnamon – You guessed it… spice aisle!

1/8 tsp (.61ml) red chili flakes – You are becoming well acquainted with the spice aisle, aren’t you?

1 can (14.5ml) tomatoes – Look for a BPA-free can or a box!

1/3 cup (79ml) coconut milk – I use the kind in the can. You can usually find this in the ethnic or Asian foods aisle.

1/8 tsp (.61ml) salt

Equipment:

Frying Pan

Spatula or Spoon – for stirring while cooking

Knife

Cutting Board - plastic is best for chicken, but any kind will do. Also, make sure to sanitize your cutting board and knife well after cutting raw chicken on it!

Bowls – for measuring your ingredients

Measuring cups

Measuring spoons

Instructions

1. First we’re going to cook the sweet potato. The fastest way and easiest way to do this is to cook it in the microwave. Poke it with a knife or fork several times (careful not to poke your hand), place it in the microwave, and if you’re lucky, your microwave will have a button that says “potato”. Push that one and hit “start.” If not, cook the potato for 5-8 minutes.

Noel_Chicken_Curry_006

When the potato is done, it’ll be super hot, so you can leave it in the microwave for now. Okay, now let’s get down to the real cookin’!

2. Prep all your ingredients! A lot of people who are new to cooking are not great at multitasking in the kitchen. This is okay! The more you cook, the better you’ll get at it! If we prep our ingredients before we turn any heat on, we’ll have everything ready so that there’s less of a chance of burning your food, ruining your meal, and giving up cooking for all of eternity. So, consider steps 3-5 prep steps.

3. Cut your chicken into 1 in to cubes. Your chicken should look about like this when it’s done:

Noel_Chicken_Curry_002

4. Dice your onion. (Refer to paleo shepherd’s pie for a refresher on how to dice an onion).

Noel_Chicken_Curry_003

5. Measure out the rest of your ingredients. That means spices, garlic, and coconut milk. Open your can of tomatoes. If you’re using carrots and cauliflower, cut these up as well. Also, measure out your peas.

Chicken_Curry_023

6. Now it’s time to turn on the heat! Pre heat your frying pan for about 5 minutes.

7. Pour 1 tbsp (15ml) olive oil in your pan and let it heat up. This takes about 10 seconds.

Noel_Chicken_Curry_001

8. Dump all your chicken in the pan (if your pan is small, you may want to do this in a couple batches).

Noel_Chicken_Curry_004

Stir fry the chicken until it is cooked through. This will take about 15-20 minutes. The outside of the chicken will look toasted brown and you wont see any more pink in the meat. “Stir fry” just means cook on high heat in oil, stirring frequently.

Noel_Chicken_Curry_005

9. When the chicken is browned, remove it from heat and set aside.

Noel_Chicken_Curry_007

10. Place your pan back on the heat and pour your second Tbsp of oil in it. Tilt the pan to coat. (It’s okay if you don’t clean the pan before you do this).

Noel_Chicken_Curry_008

11. Add your onions and stir. If you’re using more veggies, now would be a good time to add them.

Noel_Chicken_Curry_009

Let them cook 3-5 minutes until translucent. They also might look a bit yellow because they’re picking up all the leftover chickeny flavors. This is totally fine and definitely delicious.

12. Now, add the garlic, tomatoes, spices, and coconut milk. Stir well.

Noel_Chicken_Curry_013

13. Return the chicken to the pan, mix it in and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is warmed through. Add about 1/4 cup (59ml) water to the pan and stir if the the liquid is evaporating quickly. (You probably won’t have to add water if you put a lid on the pan while it’s simmering.)

Noel_Chicken_Curry_014

14. Remember that sweet potato from earlier? It should be cool enough to touch now. (If it’s too cold, warm it up for 30 seconds – 1 minute more.) Take it out of the microwave and cut it down the middle.

15. Spoon some of the chicken curry into the middle of the sweet potato and serve!

Noel_Chicken_Curry_017

And that’s it! Looking to change it up a little? Try one of these variations!

  • Want more veggies? I suggest 4 carrots, 1/2 a head of cauliflower, finely chopped, and 1 cup (236ml) of peas. Broccoli or eggplant would probably also be great.
  • Crave more spice? Add some more red pepper flake, a dash of cayenne pepper, or 1/2 of a jalapeno pepper, minced!
  • Want even more flavor? Use fresh ginger, grated (I use a cheese grater. Be careful with your fingers! You can also mince the ginger with your knife if you don’t have a grater.
  • Don’t feel like pouring it in a sweet potato? You can whip up some cauliflower rice. Or for less hassle, just roast or steam your cauliflower, and serve the curry along side that.
  • Make it vegetarian! Replace the chicken with a can of chickpeas – drain and rinse them first. Toss them in at the re-warming stage of this recipe.

Adventure for your taste buds!

JD Hancock

To be honest, I was pretty stressed about this recipe because I had never made anything like it before, but I’m super happy that you guys requested that we try something new together!

You reminded me that cooking new things is awesome! As Steve tells us, sometimes we need to do stuff that scares us!

Doing something new in the kitchen can certainly fit that bill.

Here are some tips to help you get over that fear:

  • Find some recipe websites or a good cook book that you trust. (I like Nom Nom Paleo and Civilized Caveman Cooking!) If you know their recipes are high quality, there’s a good chance your dishes will come out tasty every time!
  • Pay attention to what you’re doing. Give your meals 100% of your attention (or as much as you can).
  • Read the recipe at least once completely before you even touch the ingredients. This prevents you from accidentally skipping steps or doing things in the wrong order. Know what to be ready for!
  • Have a back up plan. The other day I totally messed up a super simple chicken and veggie stir fry. (Even experienced cooks have trouble!) Luckily, I had a back up plan so I wasn’t stranded without food. Even if it’s something simple, make sure you always have a back up when you’re trying something new so you aren’t frustrated, stressed, and starving if something doesn’t go perfectly.

What do you do to get over your fears in the kitchen?

What is one of the things you’re most proud of having accomplished when it comes to cooking? 

-Noel

###

PS: We’ve been adding these recipes and a few dozen more to our Nerd Fitness Academy, which has recipes, meal plans, workout plans, and the ability to complete quests and missions and level up as you get healthier. Check it out!

Photos: Taj Mahal: Francisco Martins, Adventure TimeJD Hancock

]]>
http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/02/26/how-to-make-curry-stuffed-sweet-potatoes/feed/ 45
Already Gave Up On Your Resolutions? Congratulations! Here’s Why. http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/02/23/already-gave-up-on-your-resolutions-congratulations-heres-why/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/02/23/already-gave-up-on-your-resolutions-congratulations-heres-why/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 14:32:47 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25226 Remember those resolutions you made last month?

Me neither. I’m sure you woke up, hungover on January 1st, with visions of yourself one year from now…a changed person. “This year, things are going to be different!…”:

  • I’m going to floss every day!
  • I’m going to exercise 5 days a week!
  • I’m going to eat better!
  • I’m going to play the piano more often!
  • I’m going to sleep more!

Here we are, 8 weeks after January 1st. So, how are those daily habits going? Which ones are you still on target with, and which ones have you already abandoned?

If you’re like most of the world, you’ve probably abandoned all of them! And you’re probably taking it personally, thinking things like:

  • Ugh, I’ve failed again.
  • What is wrong with me?
  • Another year of broken promises.

Yeah, it sucks when you feel like you’ve let yourself down. Even worse, if you decided to make a grand declaration on January 1st on a blog or social media to your friends/family/coworkers, you probably feel like you let them down too.

But, you see, I only have one thing to say: “CONGRATULATIONS!”

Congratulations because from my perspective, you have simply found a method that does NOT work for you. Like any level-headed scientist, you do not get personally offended when your hypotheses don’t pan out. You analyze the data, and then pick a new hypothesis to test.

So, your previous hypothesis:

ChangeAllTheThings

…did not work. Perfect!

Now, purely as part of your process, you can cross off “change everything about my entire life at once” as a method for you. Or maybe you tried to change just a few things, but didn’t put the right systems in place to set yourself up for success. Or didn’t understand habits. Or didn’t put your focus in the right place.

So, next time, change something. Maybe it’s a big thing, like only changing 1 thing instead of “all the things.” Or maybe it’s a small thing: try a cutting out junk food a little more slowly this time. As we say here on Nerd Fitness, we don’t care that you failed, or that your character died in battle. It happens!

We need you back in the game, and we need you to RESPAWN as quickly as possible. We don’t die. We respawn.

gamers dont die

The faster you can cross methods that don’t work off the list, the faster you can try something new and see if that works.

Allow me to present a few alternative hypotheses:

  • I’m going to change one thing today, and focus on that one thing for the next 30 days.
  • Instead of starving myself and hating my existence, I’m going to focus on eating one better meal each day.
  • Instead of running myself ragged on a treadmill like a gerbil, maybe I’ll try exercise that I actually enjoy instead?
  • Instead of telling myself I’m going to floss EVERY day, maybe I’ll build the habit of just flossing ONE tooth every day. That’s it.

We all struggle when we try to make new changes. We stumble and bumble and fumble our way until we find the exact path that works for us.

Remember, life isn’t a sprint, or a marathon. It’s a Labyrinth (David Bowie not included). 

Hell, it’s taken me seriously 12 years to finally find a sustainable path to consistent strength and muscle gains…and I DO THIS FOR A LIVING!

So stop beating yourself up, stop taking it personally, and most of all, stop sucking the same way each time. It’s not working! Remember, “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

Get back in the game. Hit start, respawn, and rejoin us.

We’re waiting! Post your respawn message here in the Message Boards and get back after it!

Today is the first day of a new 6-week challenge, a perfect day to try out your new hypothesis of doing less but getting more accomplished.

Continue? 10…9….8…7…

-Steve

###

photo source: Carol Vanhook: New Years

]]>
http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/02/23/already-gave-up-on-your-resolutions-congratulations-heres-why/feed/ 44
How to Make Friends as a Grown-Up http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/02/19/how-to-make-friends-as-a-grown-up/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/02/19/how-to-make-friends-as-a-grown-up/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 14:38:16 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25036 Note from Steve: This is a guest post from my good friend Lindsay Miller, who’s already written about how to deal with the anxiety involved in approaching people and how to be better at small talk.

Today we’re going to talk about the next step: making friends as a grownup! If you’re a shy nerd like me, it can take some real effort – which is why we asked Lindsay to give us her best tips on how to level up our social circle game – Take it away Lindsay!

Being a little kid was kind of the best, wasn’t it? Between mandatory nap time, pajamas as acceptable formal wear, and an abundance of chicken tenders, kids have a lifestyle that can only be called “ideal.”

But all that great stuff aside, there’s one aspect of childhood about which I’ve become even more nostalgic lately: making friends.

About a year ago, I moved to a new city where I knew approximately none people. This is the fourth time I’ve made such a move, but only the first where I didn’t have school or a job to provide scores of people who were contractually obligated to interact with me. Starting from scratch was a daunting prospect, but with a bit of inspiration from some wee humans, I figured out a few things along the way that helped me… and might help you, too.

Today we’re going to learn how to make friends like we did when we were little.

How do you level up from mere acquaintances to actual buddies?

There’s a lot that we big kids can learn from the smaller versions of ourselves, but let’s start with three main lessons:

Lesson 1: Play in the right sandbox

Sandbox

Kids know what they’re into.

Spend five minutes at a playground and it’s clear:

  • the daredevil is happily flinging herself across the monkey bars while she pretends not to hear her parents’ admonitions
  • the future members of the Rebellion are wielding lightsabers cleverly disguised as tree branches
  • the dreamy introvert is spending peaceful creative time under his favorite tree.

Ask your family what you were like as a kid and they’ll tell you: there was probably stuff you liked, stuff you didn’t, and not much in between.

So why, as adults, do we so often do things that we know we don’t want to do? I’m not talking about life necessities like bills and laundry – or horizon-expanding experiences like traveling alone or learning a new skill.

I’m talking about going to a crazy dance club when we’d really rather be at the premiere of The Avengers, or joining a monthly networking group when all we want to do outside of work is talk about anything but work. Think about where you’ll be happiest, most at ease, and have the most to say—then go to there.

Much of the time, when trying to meet new people, we’re encouraged to “just get out and do stuff!” As we consider which things to go “get out and do,” let’s listen to the little kid inside of us and stick with what we’re into. This dramatically increases the chances of us meeting true friends, and decreases the chances that we’ll be miserable in the process.

Careful readers will notice that this is exactly the same principle behind Steve’s suggestion of the best workout planthe one you’ll actually stick with! 

Whether we’re getting in shape or making new friends, it shouldn’t feel like work or torture. And it doesn’t have to. In fact, a group of nerdy strangers who met up for Camp Nerd Fitness last year might normally tell you that they suck at making friends. Turns out, they just needed to be in the right atmosphere:

camp costume party

While “playing in the right sandbox” would be my advice to you at any point in history, there’s truly never been a better time to make it happen than today.

Wherever you live and whatever you’re into, a group or con of likeminded people is often just a few clicks away. Check out meetup.com or websites/social media covering local events for some ideas that strike your fancy.

Seriously – we’re nerds! Let’s use technology to our advantage.

Lesson 2: Ditch your filter

Steve Ostrich

Something else that’s evident fairly immediately with kids is that they lack the little gatekeeper between brain and mouth, which occasionally informs us, “I SHOULD NOT SAY THIS THING.” 

My niece demonstrated this in an especially salient manner on a recent family trip, when she pointed to and verbally addressed “the baby in [my] belly.”

Two things I should quickly mention:

  1. I was in a bathing suit at the time
  2. I was not then—nor am I now—pregnant.

Having not received the reaction she expected, she quickly followed with, “That’s okay! My belly sticks out, too!”

TO BE CLEAR, I’m not suggesting that line as a go-to method for making friends. But it’s illustrative of something I do recommend, which is saying the things that other people don’t—or won’t—say.

Take for example the following two scenarios, set at a volunteer event:

convo1

Or what about these, set at… say, Camp Nerd Fitness:

convo2

The reference to “doing the thing” both frames your upcoming request and slightly distances you from it. It puts the semi-awkward act of exchanging contact information up on stilts for a second, leaving you and the person you’re talking to down on the ground together, pointing up at it and chuckling.

While it’s additionally true that there’s a confidence level involved in telling rather than asking, it could just as easily be posed as a question: “What if… instead of just saying goodbye and never running into you again… I do the thing where I get your email and reach out the next time I hear about something fun going on?”

So often we let little connections lapse and fizzle out because each person assumes that the other would reach out if they wanted to… so then neither one does… and then the other doesn’t, either.

Be the one who does. Do the thing!

In my post about small talk, I described the disarming power of quirkiness. The same principle totally applies here. We get so used to the rote, scripted nature of human interaction that when someone dares to shake things up—to say the (nice!) things other people won’t—it’s guaranteed to capture people’s attention.

If this feels like way too assertive an approach for you, here are some lines that are a bit more passive, but still employ the same disarming tactic:

  • “Nice talking to you! Before you go, I’m always down to check out a new music venue or restaurant. If you’re ever looking for a partner in crime, count me in. Wanna be all fancy and exchange info in case we ever have an extra ticket for something?”
  • “You too! I’m new here so I don’t always know all the cool things going on, but I’m an excellent wing(wo)man and I promise not to embarrass you too much if you ask me to join trivia or game night. I might even help you win. Shall we do the thing where we exchange contact info?”

If your reaction to these scripts is, “Ha! They’re weird, but I can dig it,” then give them a shot. If you’re instead thinking, “I still can’t muster up the courage to say anything to someone, let alone these out-of-the-box things, AND THUS I REJECT THEM,” then maybe your style will be to go to the same meetup a few weeks in a row just to scope things out a bit first… eventually working up to smiling and saying hi, and then saying to them the following week, “Hey, I see you at these meetings a lot and figured I should introduce myself. I’m Lindsay.”

But you should probably change that last part. Unless your name really is Lindsay.

[Steve’s note: I had to use this very tactic last weekend to make some new dude friends here in Nashville! A group of us were hanging out and I wanted some new friends, so I just asked for numbers for the next time we’re all getting together for beers. It might feel weird, just ask. Use your 20 seconds of courage!]

Now that we’re playing in the right sandbox and saying the things that others won’t, what else can little kids teach us about forging friendships?

Lesson 3: Mind your Ps and Qs

handsdhake

The lessons we first learned as children about the importance of being considerate are just as relevant to us today, perhaps even more so.

After all, as adults, we’re in charge of our own social schedules, and there’s much more competing for our time. This means every time a potential friend puts you on his or her calendar, he or she is actively choosing and prioritizing you over lots of other stuff. That’s a precious gift, and it should be treated as such!

Be a good friend:

  • Show up on time.
  • Silence and holster your cell phone.
  • Hold the door open.
  • Offer the seat with the better view.
  • Applaud like hell after any and all karaoke performances.

Those five things honestly get you 92% of the way there.

Remember that the sandbox in Lesson 1 works both ways: Are you considering their likes and dislikes when you hang out? You might be indifferent between jogging and cycling, but how does your friend feel? Perhaps you notice they have some difficulty with conversation or they’ve told you they’re shy. Maybe they prefer small groups, or talk-free activities like movies or paintball?

This doesn’t mean that you have to grill him or her with 30 probing questions before every potential hangout, or that you should put your own preferences on the backburner completely.

It’s just a gentle reminder of one of the ways in which we can build a new friendship: “Hey, I don’t take you or your time for granted.” Other examples include offering to give them a ride, listening to and remembering the stuff they talk about, and neither sneezing nor coughing directly in their face.

A little bit of consideration goes a long way, and sets a wonderful foundation on which to build together. In the early days of friendship, not every hangout will be a non-stop festival of laughter and merriment.

But something as small as demonstrating respect for people and the time they’ve chosen to share with you is often the difference between pleasant hangouts that never happen again, and those that blossom into deep, lifelong friendships.

If you are trying to make new friends, say yes to every opportunity that comes along at the beginning – if you consistently say no, they’ll stop asking. Conversely, continue to invite people you hope to become better friends with! What’s that? just thinking about all of this gives you social anxiety? Ramit did a fantastic job writing about social anxiety cures last week.

The game of life

Life

We’ve covered a few tips that will help us embark on new friendships, but I want to share a few thoughts on why I chose this topic in the first place.

In response to my two previous guest posts, I’ve been touched to receive some mail from readers at loveanddatingadvice@gmail.com. Some of these were indeed about love and dating, but the other most common theme has been plain ol’ friendship and the challenges associated with finding it as an adult—particularly for those of us who are not super comfortable in social settings.

Thrillingly, I’ve also gotten to hear from people who have put some of these suggestions to work and have seen their lives improve as a result.

Wait a minute. Challenges… attempts… successes… improvement? This is a classic level-up story! How cool to see that as Rebels level up their physical fitness, they also begin to uncover other dimensions of fitness—social, emotional, romantic—that they feel motivated to attain.

And how important to remember that whatever our current challenges are, whatever our goals or struggles, other people are feeling the exact same things. Who knows, your future best friend might be one of them!

What do you think?

What strategies have you employed to make new friends? What do you most struggle with? 

-Lindsay

Check out Lindsay on Twitter @RellimYasdnil or send questions/comments at LoveAndDatingAdvice@gmail.com.

PS from Steve: Just a reminder! Make sure you are signed up for the Camp Nerd Fitness interest list. We are going to send out event info and booking details soon, and we don’t want to leave you out!

###

photo source: Jason Tester: Life, Anders Sandberg: Beach, David Mulder: Legos, dhendrix73: Handshake

]]>
http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/02/19/how-to-make-friends-as-a-grown-up/feed/ 63
Strength and Honor: Why a Strong Nerd is the Best Nerd http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/02/16/strength-and-honor-why-a-strong-nerd-is-the-best-nerd/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/02/16/strength-and-honor-why-a-strong-nerd-is-the-best-nerd/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 15:12:13 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=24892 “Strength and Honor.”

Young or old, big or small, being strong is the best attribute you can give yourself. Just as Maximus Decimus Meridius tells his army in the movie, Gladiator, there’s a true sense of honor that comes with being strong.

It’s no surprise that six months later, when I was cut from the high school basketball team – mostly because I sucked, but also because I was weak – I signed up for a gym membership to get strong. Maximus taught me there was honor in strength, and I wanted it.

Thus began my torrid love affair with strength training. Here I am, twelve years later, more enamored with being strong than ever before.

Whether you’ve never done a push up or you live to deadlift, you plan on running a marathon, or you simply want to be a better parent to your kids, being strong is the best gift you can give yourself.

It needs to be part of your existence as a nerd, and I am going to tell you why.

Strength lets you take back control

hulk

“I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect.” – Henry Rollins.

As Nerd Fitness began, a friend shared an article with me by the musician and fitness fanatic Henry Rollins. I think I read it three times straight, and have re-read it monthly ever since.

Iron and the Soul” is one of the best, most amazing things I have ever read when it comes to fitness, and I highly encourage you to take 5 minutes now to drop what you’re doing and read it.

I’ll wait :)

Done? GREAT. Although strength training is the best tool we have that can help us transform physically, it’s the mental challenges and changes that come along with strength training that truly make it an absolute staple for human existence.

Strength training teaches us about ourselves. What we’re capable of. Where our weaknesses are. What we can overcome with persistence, practice, and patience.

If life is great, or if it sucks, it’s easy for us to blame it on anything and everything – and most people do. Strength training teaches us that obstacles and set backs are merely things to be overcome.

And let’s be honest – we’re all nerds - we’re were the ones that got pushed around at school, on the playground…and maybe even still today in the office! We don’t really fit in, and although we’re taught as children to think for ourselves, why does it feel like being ourselves is frowned upon once we grow up?

Welp, you know who else is weird?

Thor.  That’s right. THOR.

You know who doesn’t fit in?

Katniss Freaking Everdeen.

You know who feels like he probably doesn’t belong?

Captain EFFIN America.

Yup, these people are weirdos who don’t belong among regular folks. They’re also badasses and super strong. They’re also in charge of their own destiny, and I know that goes hand in hand with being strong.

Strength training teaches us that we alone are in charge of the results we expect to get out of life. Nobody can lift the weight for us; there’s nobody to blame if we don’t get that job, and there’s no excuse that can change what’s happened.

Once we understand that our transformation is 100% in our hands, we can get to work picking ourselves up by our bootstraps and being better. 

It’s easy to feel like the deck is stacked against us – that everything is going wrong –  that we have lost control and things are falling apart. My best advice for you is: Get strong.

Everything that has gone wrong might not be your fault, but it is your responsibility – so focus on fixing one thing in your life that you have 100% control over.

Strength Changes YOU and your outlook on life

wonderwoman

In every success story we’ve ever shared on Nerd Fitness, there’s something amazing that happens when the person gets strong.

As they developed strength, they started to build confidence.

And once they proved to themselves that they could transform their physical situation, they started looking at other areas in their life that they wanted to fix. Full of confidence and a sense of personal responsibility, they get to work on fixing other parts of their life or attacking challenges they never thought they’d be able to:

  • Saint got in shape for his wedding, then changed jobs and built his own app company – designing our entire Paleo Central app!
  • Staci got in shape and got strong, and now works full time for Nerd Fitness.
  • Anthony dropped 200 pounds, and then moved cross country, took his dream job and started dating after years of lacking the confidence to try.
  • Bronwyn lost a ton of weight, and now competes in freaking powerlifting meets!

In every situation, a Nerd Fitness Rebel focused on fixing one thing: getting stronger and eating right. As a result, they built momentum and then asked themselves “What’s next?” Strength training become a part of who you are – not a 90 day plan, but a LIFE plan. So, it’s no surprise it was easy for them to adopt and apply those same principles to any other obstacle in their life.

“I got a little bit stronger and more confident each day; why don’t I try that same tactic with [aspect of my life that I want to improve]?”

Strength training will change you at the most fundamental level. Just as it changes how your cells deal with energy (“use to build strength” vs. “store as fat”), so too will it change how your brain attacks obstacles.

Get strong, and old roadblocks start looking like mere speedbumps.

Strength Makes Life Easier

barbell

A strong nerd is a healthy nerd.

No matter what activity you are trying to accomplish today, be it strenuous or mundane, being strong will make it easier, guaranteed. Strength training improves how our muscles, joints, tendons, and bones all operate more efficiently with each other.

  • Carrying groceries in from the car and up a flight of stairs? Do it in one trip.
  • Wrestling with your kids in the back yard? Give them piggy back rides without worry.
  • Playing ultimate frisbee? Jump higher, run faster, stay injury free.
  • Is it “business time“? Leave your socks on, and go for longer.
  • Running a marathon? Strength training will help you stay injury free, improve your time, and give you an extra boost on ‘heartbreak hill.’

As we pointed out in our article about becoming antifragile (my favorite concept of 2014), our bodies work with a “use it or lose it” system. When we don’t strength train and push our muscles and bodies beyond the comfort zone, they get complacent and actually atrophy.

When we use our bodies and muscles regularly in increasingly challenging ways, previous exercises that used to tax us are suddenly no challenge:

  • If you’re used to deadlifting 250 pounds, then helping a friend move a couch will be a cakewalk (sorry for mentioning cake).
  • If you regularly do pull ups, then hanging from the jungle gym with your kids will make you look like super mom.
  • Hike regularly with a backpack up mountains and hills? Going for a walk with kids in a stroller will be a walk in the park (especially if you are walking through a park).

Seriously, almost everything we do suddenly becomes more enjoyable, and less strenuous as a result of strength training. Strength training improves fundamental human movements, like sitting down in a chair and getting up (squats), or bending down and picking something up (deadlifting). It’s everywhere!

The only bad part? Your friends will now be 100 times more likely to ask you for help when they need to move.

Strength Will Transform Your Appearance

barbell woman

“Appearance is a consequence of fitness.”

As I formulated the idea for what would become Nerd Fitness years ago, the movie 300 took over the internet and everybody wanted to know how the actors got in such great shape for their roles. It turns out they trained as if they WERE warriors, focusing on intense strength training with a disciplined diet.

The man who trained them, Mark Twight, said what has forever shaped how we view health and physique here on Nerd Fitness: “appearance is a consequence of fitness.”

From that moment forth, how Nerd Fitness helped people get healthy was built around this foundation:

A strong body is a body to feel confident in.

We care about helping people get strong, because we know what happens to bodies that become strong – they transform, Optimus Prime style, into something that helps build self-confidence, momentum, and pride.

The best part about strength training? It teaches your cells how to deal with calories differently. If you just eat less, your body will start to pull from muscle along with fat to fuel itself. When you strength train, your body uses extra calories to rebuild those muscles, encouraging them to stay strong.

On top of that, strength training can help fix your posture! Pull those shoulders back, stand tall, look people in the eye. It’s amazing what this can do for how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you.

Strength training is the reason why these NF rebels altered their appearance (Click on their pictures for their stories):

Staci Nerd Fitness Before/After

JoeBeforeAfter1

saint transform

Before After Anthony

Athena Progress - Front

Yes, beauty is on the inside. However, strength training can help transform you both inside and out. Not only that, but it can freaking make you smarter too.

Strength keeps you younger, longer

ben before after

Age is only a number.

We all assume that as we get older, our cells deteriorate and thus we feel older. However, there’s plenty of science out there that suggests our cells deteriorate from lack of use, and thus we ‘get older.’

If for no other reason, strength training needs to be part of your future because it will keep you younger, healthier, more alert, longer.

Strength training can help negate the effects of OsteoArthritis.

Strength training helps with older folks with dementia.

Strength training helps keep you healthy by preventing falls, accidents, and other common issues as you age.

Do you think Willie Murphy feels 77-years old as a powerlifting grandma?

Do you think Gandalf feels like a 2,000+ year old wizard as he’s twirling his staff and kicking the crap out of orcs? hell no!

Age is only a number, and you are only as old as you feel:

we are designed to be strong

punch

There’s a lot of great things that have come with the advancement of society – however, now that our survival is no longer tied to our strength, it’s no longer something ‘required’ of us.

But we are genetically designed to move. To be active. To be strong. It is IN our DNA, and it needs to be awoken if you want to become the healthiest, happiest, strongest version of yourself.

Plus, it’s in our nerd-DNA. Did you know strength training makes us smarter nerds? Memory benefits.  Less anxiety and improved cognition. Improved test scores.

I don’t care if you start with just a few push ups and squats getting up from your couch. The sooner you start strength training, the sooner you can reap the benefits and retake control of your future.

I strength train because I want to find out what I’m capable of. I want to know how strong I can become. I want to set an example for all other Nerd Fitness Rebels. I want to prove to myself that with enough time and focus, anything is possible.

I strength train because I believe it’s my responsibility to become the best version of myself. Anything less than that is unused potential and a missed opportunity, and I have no desire to look back upon an existence unlived and say “what if?”

I plan on living a long time, and I know that the best way to live a long healthy, happy life, is to be strong, and push myself to become stronger. I can’t wait until my next workout.

Your turn. Why do you strength train? Leave your comment below and share it with the community!

-Steve

###

photos source: James Jordan: Superman

]]>
http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/02/16/strength-and-honor-why-a-strong-nerd-is-the-best-nerd/feed/ 46