Nerd Fitness http://www.nerdfitness.com Level up your life, every single day. Tue, 26 May 2015 14:51:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Lost at the Grocery Store? Introducing the Nerd Fitness Pantry. http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/26/lost-at-the-grocery-store-introducing-the-nerd-fitness-pantry/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/26/lost-at-the-grocery-store-introducing-the-nerd-fitness-pantry/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 14:48:31 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25955 This is a post from NF Rebel Chef Noel.

You ever get to the store and think to yourself, “I have no clue I doing here”? 

It’s okay. We’ve all been there. Buying food can be totally overwhelming. Every aisle is packed with different brands, fresh and frozen foods, and packaged and processed crap.

We’ve all wandered up and down the aisles wondering: What’s healthy? What types of food will last the longest? What tastes good? Which items are the best bang for my buck? And let’s not even mention what choices we need to make to put together an actual meal.

We don’t want you to feel overwhelmed or waste your time and hard earned money on stuff that sucks. A negative experience at the grocery store can leave a bad taste in your mouth (zing!) and discourage you from going back and developing a key skill to keep yourself healthy and strong.

That’s why we’ve decided to simplify the whole process. It’s time to introduce the Nerd Fitness Pantry.

What is the Pantry?

Zelda_Skyward_Sword_1014_04

Think of the NF pantry as your arsenal of weapons and supplies you keep with you on your journey.

These items are mostly nonperishable (or at least can be stored for some time). Some of them have a higher cost up front, but will likely last you a while and will be instrumental to leveling up your paleo cooking game.

Each item you’ll be gathering on your grocery store mission is like a tool used during questing for one or more purposes. Think of coconut oil like the hook shot in Ocarina of Time: it’s going to take some effort (and real-life rupees) to obtain, but after you have it, you’ll be using it all the time.

Others items are like potions, great to keep around in case of emergency (like if you didn’t have time to cook before work).

A dragon slayer would never head into battle empty handed, so why would you attempt to tackle your diet goals blindfolded with one hand tied around your back? If you try to do that, you’re gonna have a bad time. This list of items will make sure you’re heading out on your quest fully prepared to deal with any hunger dragons or low blood sugar goblins that might cross your path.

Let’s be honest, life often gets in the way of our efforts to be healthy. Stocking up on a strong paleo pantry is the best way to consistently eat healthy, and to protect yourself against bad days.

Press Start!

kattebelletje_pantry

The first step in setting up a healthy/paleo pantry is cleaning out your old pantry. Womp womp. This will probably be the least fun part of the job, but once you get over the cleaning hump, it’s smooth sailing.

Turn up your favorite record, grab a trash bag and a donation box, and let’s get started.

If you’re anything like me, you might have a TON of unhealthy food in your pantry. That’s okay! Getting rid of all that stuff will be a HUGE step in the right direction.

1) If you have food that’s expired, make sure to toss it out. I know it feels wasteful to throw a dozen cans of expired cream corn away, but if you didn’t eat them before they expired in 1987, you’re never going to eat them. Be honest with yourself.

2) If you have unhealthy food items that aren’t expired, you can donate them to a local food bank. This is an opportunity to help others in need AND make yourself stronger! Double hero points!! If you’re not sure how to donate, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a directory where you can find a food bank in your town! 

Now, many of us aren’t alone in our living situations. Maybe you live with a bunch of other people, like a significant other, family or roommates, and you share a storage space. Before diving in alone, ask your house mates if they might want to pitch in and help go through the food in the pantry. If your roomie is also interested in improving their health, setting up a new pantry can be beneficial for everyone involved!

However, if your house mates aren’t interested, ask if you can clear one shelf, cabinet, or other space for just your stuff. Having unhealthy food items in your kitchen might be tough willpower-wise (not being able to force yourself to have to go all the way to the store to buy Oreos when you’re feeling weak) – but trust me, it IS doable! If you have your own designated space where just YOUR stuff is being stored, it can help keep your willpower bar in good shape!

Remember: Only the stuff on your shelf is food. Everything else is poison. Or lava. Probably lava.   

Stocking Your Pantry

1-5 design grocery signage

Here begins the list of items you’ll want to gather to stock your pantry. Before you look at this list and get overwhelmed, these are only suggested items (quick-reference cheat sheet located at the end of this section!).

If you see things on this list that you don’t/won’t eat, don’t buy them. Buy from this list as the items will fit into your life.

Since we’re thinking about our pantry as a weapons arsenal, it makes more sense to gather items you’re going to use regularly. If you’re a warrior who specializes in melee weapons, it makes more sense to purchase a battle axe next time you’re at the market rather than a quiver of arrows if you don’t use a bow.

Level 1 of the pantry are items we strongly suggest you purchase in case of emergency. If you have these items with you, you’ll have a WAY higher chance at sticking to your diet goals.

  • Canned tuna or chicken: Keeping cans of tuna in your pantry is awesome because they’re a quick protein packed snack that you can put together in less that 5 minutes (mash it  with avocado) or toss your bag if you don’t have lunch prepped for work. If you’re weary of tuna, they also make canned salmon, but that can be significantly more pricey.
  • Cooking oils (choose one):
    • olive oil – If multiple oil options intimidate you, just pick up some olive oil and don’t look back. It’s good for dressings and adding to vegetables. However, olive oil is not great for cooking at high temperatures (searing, sauteing, or stir frying) since it has a low smoke point 325-375°F/165-190°C. For that, pick up some vegetable oil!
    • coconut oil – Many stores give you the option of choosing either “virgin” or “refined” coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil will be less processed, but it will have more coconut flavor. Refined coconut oil is processed, which means it has little to no coconut flavor (cooking veggies and meats in virgin coconut oil is not ideal for folks who don’t like the flavor of coconut. If this is you, choose refined coconut oil!). Coconut oil also has a low smoke point of 325-375°F/165-190°C.
    • ghee – Ghee is butter that has the heat-sensitive milk proteins cooked out of it. This means not only does it have a high smoke point of 482°F/250 °C, but it is also nice for people who are sensitive to dairy proteins and lactose.
  • Spices: You will want to add some flavors to your pantry. Check out our spices article.
  • Emergency protein: When you get used to cooking and doing food prep regularly, you’ll be in the habit of rotating meat in and out of your freezer according to what you’ll be eating that week. In the beginning however, it’s nice to have a bag of frozen chicken breasts or a couple of steaks, pork chops, hamburger patties, or fish handy, just in case you don’t make it to the grocery store. Honestly, I’ve been doing this for a couple of years and I’m still not great at prioritizing my time. Nobody’s perfect. That’s why we plan ahead. You’ll thank your past self for thinking of future you ahead of time!
  • Frozen Veggies: This is an in-case-of-emergency food. Choose your favorites! I like to keep brussels sprouts in my freezer, because I LOVE this recipe. Steamfresh veggies are a favorite among Team NF. Easy to prepare and grab on the way to work. If you’re a veggie prep newbie, frozen veggies might be your gateway to learning to include vegetables at every meal.
  • Nut Butter(s): cashew or almond. Makes for an awesome snack (make ants on a log or dip apples in it) when you’re craving something sweet or crunchy. It’s also a good addition to some sauces (thai curry or “peanut” sauce).
  • Sweet potatoes – did you know you’re not supposed to keep these in the fridge?

Had a rough day? Just heat up some veggies or slice and roast some potatoes, and eat alongside your emergency protein. Quick, easy, delicious. That’s level 1 – the basics.

Level 2 includes some additional items great to keep around, many of which are going to be essential in any basic recipe you put together:

  • Nuts (choose your favorite)- Walnuts, almonds, cashews, or pecans are all good choices. Nuts are nice to have around the house for an emergency snack, or to add to your cooking.
  • Canned/jarred/boxed tomatoes (diced): – Look for bpa-free cans. Tomatoes are a staple for a variety of different dishes. Whether you’re making curry, soup, or paleo spaghetti, it’s nice to know you have tomatoes on hand.
  • Tomato Paste: Tomato paste adds an extra umami kick to dishes. We use it in paleo spaghetti, shepherd’s pie, and sometimes even tacos. It’s generally pretty cheap and comes in cans or a resealable squeeze tube.
  • Boxes of beef, chicken, or vegetable broth: Again, awesome for when you’re making soup, a roast, cauliflower mash, marinades, etc. It’s also good for warming up and drinking when you’re not feeling well. Bonus points if you make your own bone broth and freeze it. Knowing you have some on hand when you need it is priceless. Just be sure to check the labels.
  • Coconut Aminos – I grew up putting soy sauce in everything: soups, sauces, marinades, stews, on rice…later I found out I was allergic to soy. Bummer, dude. Coconut aminos are a great alternative to soy sauce, especially if you’re keen on making Asian dishes. Admittedly, it’s significantly more expensive, so I’ve learned to use it more sparingly now. Coconut aminos are also generally gluten-free, which is nice for those of you who have allergies to gluten (soy sauce is not GF, sadly). Just be sure to read the label.
  • Cans/boxes of coconut milk: Awesome for adding creaminess to recipes, mashed “potatoes” (cauliflower or sweets), cream sauces, in coffee, smoothies, etc. Basically anything you would use milk for, replace with coconut milk.
  • Vinegar (choose one): Acids are a staple for adding complexity to dishes as well as cutting heat and bitterness. They also allow you to make a simple dressing for salad and vegetables and interesting asian sauces.
    • balsamic
    • red wine
    • apple cider
  • Mayo: Some folks are obsessed with paleo mayo. If this is you, please explain the obsession to me. Apparently it makes delicious sauces. The best way is to make it yourself, but if you’re not into that, the best brand I’ve found is Lemonaise. They use cage free eggs to make it. Unfortunately, it also contains canola oil, which is not ideal, but when you’re buying more processed foods, sometimes we have to compromise.
  • Lemons or limes: Another acid option for adding to cooked and raw veggies, sauces, and even baked chicken or fish. Adding lemon to still or sparkling water can also be pretty refreshing if you get tired of regular ol’ water.

Bonus items:

Now, we know this list is pretty paleo-focused, but not all of us Rebels are strict paleo. That’s totally fine. If you’re just beginning your transition, paleo-ish, vegetarian, or following an 80/20 system, here are a few items you can add to your pantry that will help you out too!

  • Canned beans - Yep, we’re cool with legumes. Especially if you’re a vegetarian. They’re pretty darn protein-dense (though carb-heavy) for a plant-based food.
  • White rice - Some of us need more carbs to hit our macros and help us build muscle. Those of us who are working out a lot (crossfit, frequent heavy lifting, HIIT) might need more carbohydrates to keep up with our activity level and keep our body fueled for the next workout. White rice is super cheap, easy to keep on hand, stays good pretty much forever, and is quick to cook and add to any meal.
  • Quinoa - Another grain that packs some significant protein. If you’re a vegetarian, quinoa is something easy to make that you can keep on hand. Similar to rice, it’s pretty shelf stable.
  • Protein powder - this includes whey, egg, hemp, etc. If you’re looking to pack on muscle, sometimes eating 100% whole foods is a full time job. Adding protein shakes into your diet can help you get enough protein to build muscle and strength.

Remember, these items have been hand selected by our super hero team to give you a solid, healthy base to work off of for almost any meal. Need a snack? Grab some carrots and nut butter. Looking for a quick, no fuss meal? Grab a couple cans of tuna and a bag of frozen steamable veggies. Dinner in less than 5 minutes flat.

You can download our quick reference sheet pictured below, HERE! (right click save as).

nf pantry-02

Stock up!

hjl_emergency

Remember, you don’t have to buy these things just because we tell you to! Question everything! If there’s something you don’t think you’ll need or you don’t like, don’t buy it.

If you have questions about something alternative at the store, use our Paleo Central app to figure out whether or not it’s suitable for your paleo pantry.

Remember, this is your every day arsenal as well as your emergency supply. Keeping a clean, well-stocked pantry and freezer not only keeps you from having your trigger foods in the house, but you’ll always know you have a healthy snack at home (or something to grab on the go) and you’ll be able to keep track of the basic foundational ingredients for recipes that you have at your disposal on any given day. If you have these 15 items in your home, I guarantee you can whip something up for dinner without having to think too hard.

What items in your pantry or freezer can you not live without?

Are there any items you couldn’t find in the store or things you’re not sure how to use? Let us know in the comments!

-Noel

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Photos: hjl: in case of emergency, Zelda Informer: items and gear, kattebelletje: decluttering pantry, hoyvinmayvin: general store, i5_design: Grocery Produce Signage

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How Steve the Software Architect Dropped 110 Lbs http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/21/how-steve-the-software-architect-dropped-110-lbs/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/21/how-steve-the-software-architect-dropped-110-lbs/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 14:30:04 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=26196
When Steve hit 305 lbs on the scale, he was so upset he told himself something had to change.

He had always wanted to lose weight, but couldn’t get himself over the hump to actually make change. And then things took a turn for the worse: he got divorced. When his (now ex) wife left the house, something clicked inside of Steve:

“I was bored. I was sitting at home doing nothing, depressed, eating my feelings as usual. I kind of just said to myself, ‘well, you have nothing better to do, might as well work out or something’.”

So, in March of last year Steve went online and ordered an elliptical. After convincing his poker buddies to help him move a 400 lb box of elliptical parts into the house, he got started transforming his life.

After discovering the Nerd Fitness Advanced Bodyweight Workout, Steve incorporated strength training into his cardio routine, and changed his physique, his mentality, and his outlook on life.

Starting at an XXXL, Steve now wears a medium shirt. He’s down 110 lbs (and now gaining muscle!), and dropped his waist from a size 46 to a 33!

Here’s how he did it.

Steve’s Story

Steve before and After

Steve: Hey Steve, other than having the coolest name in the history of names, what do you do?

I’m a software architect for my day job; I write code and play video games at night, and I build and race drones as a hobby! #nerdpower

Steve: Nice, I love the nerd-cred built right into your job. So, tell me about the old you. What did an “old Steve” day look like?

The old me would eat out every day for lunch, have pizza most nights for dinner, and never exercise. I would then game all night on the computer…because consoles suck.

Steve Before

Steve: Whoa whoa whoa, let’s keep consoles out of this! So, tell me about the moment you decide to change.

It really came to me when I saw that number (305), and I was going through a divorce. I also realized that I needed to be there for my daughter, and I probably wasn’t going to be around for a super long time weighing in at 300 lbs+. I knew I had to change.

Steve: What was your diet strategy while you dropped all of this weight?

During my journey my diet switched slowly, and I feel like that was very key for me. To give you perspective, I was a fatty who loved his pizza (and still do). I was eating it 4-5 times a week, maybe more. And if it wasn’t pizza, it was something else that wasn’t healthy at all. I’d say my daily caloric intake then was 4000+ calories with zero exercise.

After a month of running, and no diet, I said what the heck, maybe I should track all these calories. I had lost 15 lbs and thought: well, if I can do that much without a diet, what would happen while dieting too?? So I downloaded My Fitness Pal, and started to track my calories and weight. Tracking my calories with an app helped me adjust my caloric goals, and I learned what portions were.

I bought a food scale, and started reading and doing research on better foods to eat.

I slowly changed my diet.. very slowly. At first I removed a lot of breads as they had a lot of calories. Then I added more fruits and veggies.

Steve: Small changes, not going overboard; sounds like a strategy we can get on board with! What about your diet strategy these days?

Today, an average day looks like:

  • Protein shake in the morning after working out, then maybe some fruit, but not a lot.
  • A greek yogurt as a snack at 10am.
  • For lunch I have a lean protein, usually grilled chicken (6-8oz), with brown rice(1 cup), and a steamed veggie (1 cup), like peas or broccoli.
  • At 3pm I have a snack of almonds (1oz).
  • Then at dinner I have another lean meat like steak(filet, 6-8oz), chicken, pork, or turkey, with a veggie.

I’ll also tell myself, “If you can eat pizza every day, you can eat chicken and brown rice every day.” I have 1 day a month where I get pizza, thin crust of course!

Steve: Love the level-headed approach! So, tell me about your workout routine – how did you start?

One of my biggest struggles was that my running caused my legs and feet to hurt SO bad, I could barely walk. Still, I got on the elliptical every morning no matter how bad. The chaffing also took a toll on me, but did not stop me. My friend Cat suggested hot epsom salt baths at night. Since my workouts were in the morning, I rested well with those baths, and they helped my legs hurt not as bad a lot!

For the chaffing I went on Amazon and bought some running shorts with a dry liner – saved me!! I never took a rest day for six months straight when running on the elliptical!

Within a few months I was doing 40 mins. / 4 miles.

Steve: Wow, so you stuck in there. That’s awesome. Then what?

After 5-6 months in, at poker, I asked my buddy Mike if I should start strength training – he’s the fitness leader for the Detroit Border Patrol. Needless to say he’s ripped and knows how to work out. He sent me an email with an old blog post on Nerd Fitness about your advanced bodyweight workout. The next day I ordered a pull up bar. Hah, I knew was crazy, because I couldn’t even do one! So I started with the under-table rows.

Ever since, it’s been a 3x’s per week of the Nerd Fitness workout, then a run every day when not nerding out. While I never took a rest day when running on the elliptical, I take a rest about once a week now.

You saved my life and have changed my body shape because of this workout, THANK YOU!  My Nerd Fitness workout evolved to become:

  • 5 min run for warmup
  • Then three circuits of the following:
  • 12 1-legged squats (each leg)
  • 25 squats
  • 20 walking lunges
  • 30 step ups (super fast)
  • 10 pull ups (pull up bar)
  • 15 dips
  • 10 chin ups (pull up bar)
  • 10 bicep curls (using cables)
  • 10 overhead tricep extensions (cables)
  • 12 push-ups
  • 1 min plank

Nerd Fitness really has given me an awesome muscular base, my arms and legs feel and look so strong, it’s awesome. I’ve always been overweight so this is all new (and awesome) to me.

Steve: Congrats man, I’m super excited for you and proud to feature you on here. What was the toughest change for you to make?

I’d say the hardest part about all of this was waking up early an extra hour each day. I don’t get much sleep because my commute is 1 hour long, so sleep is very valuable to me!

Steve: How did you track your progress? How often did you weigh yourself?

I tracked my progress using the MyFitnessPal app on my phone (I’m an Android guy). I weighed myself daily, and learned quite a bit about my body by doing that. Some days I would gain 2-4 lbs for no reason, but the next day would drop 5 lbs. It was kind of making me crazy, but at the same time I’m a detail oriented person, so I liked it in a way.

The app also shows a 3-month graph, so I saw a downward slope, so that brought my sanity back in line, hah.

Steve: That long term trend definitely trumps the day-to-day fluctuations, which many people struggle with. Good stuff, my man. Did you use any other measurements?

My waist! I watched it go from a 46 inch waist to a 33 inch waist today.

Steve: That’s awesome, brother. So, what would you say was the most important change that helped get you there?  

Diet, diet, diet. I changed it very slowly, but you cannot out-workout a poor diet.

Steve: Sounds like a rule of the Rebellion to me! What about your support system? 

Steve

When I first got started (on the 5th day) I got the idea to email and tell all my close friends what I was doing. This started a trend, I emailed them daily with how far and how much I ran – this kept me accountable! My friends would ask if I ran had I forgotten to send an email.

Overall, I mostly leaned on a couple of super close friends.

Steve: What would you tell somebody in your situation right now to help them? Somebody who’s tried and failed but ready to try again?

Download a food tracker, track EVERY calorie, and slowly change one thing a week or month, at whatever pace you’re comfortable with. Don’t make excuses, don’t be afraid to fail or fall off track, but you MUST pick yourself back up and continue to try; it will happen if you put your mind to it.

Steve: What are you excited to do now that you weren’t physically able to do before? Any activities in particular?

Before NF I wasn’t able to do a SINGLE pull up or chin up! I can now do 3×10 of each of them! I joined softball this year, and I’m WAY more athletic and competitive than last year. I’m planning on starting hockey again. I just need some skates.

Steve: Has anything besides your physical appearance changed?

Mentally and emotionally, I am so much happier in all regards. When I was fat I had a lot of pent up anger…a lot of people don’t realize this but fat people are not treated the same as skinny people – in fact we’re treated horribly. You also realize this difference and for some (like me) it starts to build up anger or frustration from it. Over time it can weigh (hah) on us mentally and emotionally.

Steve: That’s awesome Steve, thank you for sharing your story. Okay now on to the important stuff: Jason Bourne or James Bond?

Jason Bourne.

Steve: Favorite video game of all time?

Quake 2, capture the flag mod.

Steve: Any nerdy passions or pursuits?

I build, fly, and FPV race drones/quad copters. I also program in my free time on personal projects. And lastly, I play a lot of CS:GO.

Steve: Woah, that video is awesome. The next Iron Man in the making. So, on the topic of superheroes… if you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be, and why?

Time Travel. I would totally like to see what the future looks like, and also visit and re-live important dates in history! Not to mention, Back to the Future is one of my favorite trilogies!

Steve: Quote to live by?

“Don’t eat yellow snow.”

Why Steve Was Successful

Steve Flying

Steve dropped five shirt sizes, dropped over 100 lbs, and most importantly, built long-term habits to keep him healthy. It wasn’t easy, but Steve managed to keep the weight off, and find the next bigger and better challenge to keep him moving forward.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons he was so successful:

Small diet changes: Steve understood rule 4 of the Rules of the Rebellion: you can’t outrun a bad diet. That’s what he tried to do – for a long time! Eventually, he got his diet in shape and his transformation accelerated dramatically. In fact, he calls this his most important change.

But he didn’t change overnight. Instead he started to educate himself on how to eat healthy. While he was doing that, he made a number of small changes immediately. Taking your calories from 4,000 to 1,800 (as Steve eventually did) can be a dramatic change for your body – so don’t do it over night!

Steve kept himself accountable through his support system. He had daily emails with friends with updates on his workout that day. And since he was working out every day, it definitely kept him accountable. His friends would know if they didn’t get an email that day, and would actually ask about it!

If you don’t have a real life support system, join the thousands of Rebels supporting each other right here in the free Nerd Fitness Community. Participating in challenges and finding a buddy or two to keep you accountable can be the difference between success and falling off the wagon.

Careful progress tracking: Steve learned a lot about food, calories, and portions by tracking his weight and calorie intake. If you’ve never paid attention to calories in your life, tracking calories can be an important tool to learn what’s actually in the food you are putting in your body. Steve started by removing bread, and slowly reduced his consumption to meet his goals.

He used tracking apps, so if something wasn’t working, he had an enormous amount of information to tell him what he was doing wrong. Instead of struggling to lose weight and following that wonderfully ambiguous plan of eating “less” food, Steve guaranteed his success by measuring his progress.

Steve was consistent: When he wasn’t doing his strength workouts, Steve was running, without fail, daily. Losing weight doesn’t require working out every day, but it does require consistency. Steve was able to create a workout plan to keep him on track. He created a habit he could stick to (every day he had to do something).

If you don’t want to run every day, then great – don’t do it! But if you want to succeed you do need to do something consistently. The best workout really is the one you stick with. Stop failing with workouts you hate, and find something you can stick with for months.

Start Today!

Start

The most important step Steve took was the first one. Almost a year ago, Steve could have made a different choice and NOT gotten started.

But he did get started. And today, instead of looking back with regret and wishing he started over a year ago, he can look back with pride and accomplishment, ready for the next challenge.

The most important thing is to get started. Right now. Not tomorrow – TODAY!

Are you starting over? EVEN BETTER.

Hurry up already and respawn – the world needs you.

-Steve

PS – We just secured 4 more kick ass coaches for Camp, and – good news! – there’s still time for you to snag one of the last few bunks.  In addition to the arsenal of awesome trainers previously announced, you’ll get to learn from the best:

michelleMichelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo – We swung for the fences (and promised her my first born child), but we are thrilled to tell you that Michelle Tam from  is fired up to teach you all about approachable Paleo cooking for you and your family!  We are HUGE fans of Michelle’s, and can’t wait to be inspired by her right alongside you.

maddieMaddie Berky of Mad Wellness
 – In addition to Michelle, we’ve invited Maddie to teach you cooking and nutrition basics to build  your solid food foundation.  Maddie is a Health Coach and Nutrition Educator who believes in aligning your mind, body, and plate to empower you to become the very best version of yourself.

jonathanJonathan Mead of Move Heroically - Jonathan a total bad ass who can’t wait to start hanging from branches like Tarzan with you.  Seriously. Primal movement and strength are his specialty, so get ready to level up your movement diet in addition to your food diet!  Your body is your vehicle through this world, and he’ll teach you how to navigate with purpose!

kategKate Galliett of Fit for Real Life – Kate will not only help you with mobility, strength training, and body awareness, she’s full of advice and tips to recover from and avoid injury – allowing you to be fully strong, functional, and prepared to tackle anything that comes your way (figuratively, that is.  Though…maybe literally too).

Camp is shaping up to be the most incredible weekend of the year.  What are you waiting for?  Get your name on one of the last 19 bunks before it’s too late!

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Why Having to Start Over – AGAIN – Is Great http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/18/why-having-to-start-over-again-is-great/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/18/why-having-to-start-over-again-is-great/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 16:11:58 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=26179 I received an email a few months back from a NF reader that made me smile:

“I am going back to square one. I noticed the only habit that I changed and stuck with was drinking tons of water.

Have you ever started playing a game and get a few hours in and go “man I wish I knew these controls/tips from the beginning”? So you restart and the game just feels easier from that point on. You start finding items that you missed before.

I’m restarting my journey now that I have a better idea of the controls.”

This resonated with me, because when I first played EverQuest (similar to World of Warcraft), the first character I created was terrible. It took me forever to level up, I assigned my stat points poorly, I died frequently, and I slowly crawled my way up to the more difficult challenges

When I started again playing as a new character, I FLEW through the first 30 levels: I understood the controls, how the game worked, and what needed to get done; it was much easier the second time through!

The same is true for any boss battle you first encounter in any game. You struggle to learn the patterns, you lose most of your health, but then you crack the code. When you face that boss again later, you win easily.

Getting in shape is no different. Every time we try to get fit and fail, we learn a little bit more about how the controls work. Maybe we lost a few pounds with strategy A, but failed with strategy B. If we go to the gym for a few weeks and give up, when we come back next time we are familiar with the inner workings, and don’t need to get over the fear of exercising in a public place like the first time.

Each time you start over, you’re getting closer to that point of making things stick.

It turns out that this strategy might actually be crucial in giving us the motivation to push forward.

Capitalize on the Momentum

Xbox

Wharton Professor Katherine Milkman highlights the behavior in her “Fresh Start” study:

The study showed that Google searches for the term “diet” (Study 1), gym visits (Study 2), and commitments to pursue goals (Study 3) all increase following temporal landmarks (e.g., the outset of a new week, month, year, or semester; a birthday; a holiday).

We propose that these landmarks demarcate the passage of time, creating many new mental accounting periods each year, which relegate past imperfections to a previous period, induce people to take a big-picture view of their lives, and thus motivate aspirational behaviors.

Long story short: there are specific points in our life (January 1st, birthdays, a Monday) when we say “okay, today is the day that things are going to change.” And it helps!

When we decide to start anew on a particular day, something powerful can happen. We can look at today as the first day of the rest of our life – everything else that has happened up to that point is in the past, and was indicative of our old selves.

Instead: Today, moving forward, this new version of us will behave differently.

The new version moves forward, levels up, and makes decisions differently than the old version of us. As the study highlights though, these fresh starts have a limited effect – it doesn’t last forever! That’s why what we do when we’re filled with this power-up is so important!

How to Start Over

gamers dont die

When you next come to your “Today is a new day” moment, there are some great steps you can take to guarantee you make a tiny bit of progress towards permanent awesomeness:

1) Separate yourself from the Old You. Today you are somebody different. I don’t care how poorly you made decisions yesterday; that was the old you. Change can happen in an instant, and it can be sustainable. So instead of thinking “I’m going to fail again,” you can think that today there’s nothing keeping you from achieving the health and fitness goals you’re chasing. Why not today?

2) Capitalize on the momentum. Willpower and momentum and inspiration are running high during that first week of “NEW ME!” – so use that to your advantage. During this week, begin to make any changes that will help you permanently.

  • If you sign up for a gym membership and 50 personal trainer sessions NOW, then a few weeks from now when you’re ready to start slacking, you’ve already pre-paid and set up your appointments, etc.
  • Can you use your 20 seconds of courage to sign up at a Dojo for martial arts? Or sign up for a race?
  • Can you use this week to clear out your cabinets of all your old junk food and buy lots of healthy replacements?
  • Can you go out and buy new workout clothes?
  • Can you take the time to schedule all of your workouts in your Google calendar with specific dates and times?
  • Can you follow through on ONE thing for 7-10 days, proving to yourself you can change? Like completing a morning mile walk. Crush your self-limiting beliefs!
  • Try a six week challenge.The current challenge ends next week and a new one will begin!

During the week when you are excited to exercise and excited about change, do as much as you can to seek out permanent wins. If your excitement starts to wane, then you’ve at least taken steps towards a permanent change that can carry over to weeks of low motivation.

3) Fail differently. Now, this next attempt might not be the one that sticks either, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you try to change differently this time. After all, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. So try something different! Take different types of classes. Try blogging your results. Track your calories. Go full Paleo. Change one thing.

Change something.

Aim for Perma-healthy

Mario Win

Here at Nerd Fitness, we don’t want you to reach health perfection for one week and then “go back to the way things were.”

I’d rather you find a balance of permanently being pretty damn healthy and pretty damn happy.

As you are declaring “today is Respawn Day!” – wear it like a badge of honor. You are starting over. You are now somebody different than the person who tried to get fit last time.

Anything is possible.

You are learning the controls. You are studying the boss battle patterns.

And you are getting back in the fight.

Your turn:

What’s one BIG WIN change you make today now that you’re fired up and ready to capitalize on this momentum?

What’s a big win that will result in a LONG LASTING slight improvement?

-Steve

photo source: Joseph Thornton: Mario, Rubbertoe: Mario Kart, Jeroen Bennick: Xbox

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Is it Vain to Want to Look Better? How Far is Too Far? http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/14/is-it-vain-to-want-to-look-better-how-far-is-too-far/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/14/is-it-vain-to-want-to-look-better-how-far-is-too-far/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 18:25:55 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25881 Like most people, I started working out because I wanted to look better and feel better about myself. 

I was 16, had just spent four years with braces, had plenty of acne, and recently got cut from the basketball team. Let’s just say I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin, and my confidence was certainly lacking.

So, I figured if I could build some muscle and get stronger, it would be an opportunity to change how I was viewed by others. I saw stronger, bigger people who had the confidence and charisma I lacked, and set my sights on becoming them through exercise. This is what got me started, and kept me going for years

Now, over my dozen years or so learning about health and fitness, and now 6+ years of building Nerd Fitness, it’s been a personal odyssey to learn what truly creates lasting healthiness, self-confidence, and happiness.

To say I’ve learned a lot would be an understatement. 

Just as you can be in poor shape and lack confidence, so too can you be in incredible shape and still be miserable and lack confidence.

Molly Galbraith, co-founder of Girls Gone Strong and one of our interviewees in the Nerd Fitness Academy, wrote a fantastic article about her experiences as a fitness model and how it didn’t result in the happiness she expected.

In interacting with thousands upon thousands of people through Nerd Fitness, I’ve realized we don’t strive to look a certain way just for the sake of the look. Instead, we also want achieve a certain status in our social groups, be seen as attractive, or sometimes just fit in. Feeling out of place or at the bottom of the totem pole isn’t very fun.

Although I started out aiming for a certain look, what I was REALLY after was happiness, confidence, and self-respect. 

Wanting to look good can be a strong and positive force in getting us started and keeping us moving forward. It was for me. And I’m sure it is for MANY Nerd Fitness Rebels. 

Even today, I do still focus on taking pride in my appearance and wanting to look the part of a guy who owns a fitness company! However, it has taken a back seat to the joy I get from exercise and the excitement I feel from making strength gains and continually leveling up in the gym.

Along with having fun and seeing progress, it’s helped build a level of self-confidence (and inner strength) I had always lacked.

As Henry Rollins said: “I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-confidence.”

All of that to say, I don’t care what helps you get started with exercise, even if it’s a purely physical goal of wanting to look better.

However, if we’re not careful when using JUST external appearance as a singular goal all of the time, things can go too far down the path to the dark side. One day, we could wake up and realize that we’ve pushed the whole “confidence and happiness” thing to the side in favor of unhealthy and unsustainable behavior all for the sake of a smaller waistline. D’oh!

The line between confidence and obsession

measuring tape

If you’re familiar with BroScience, you know it’s a parody account of a gym meathead who tells us what life is like as a superficial bro.

In the following video, he cracks an all-too-real joke: “the day you start lifting is the day you become forever small.”

If you’re easily offended (a poor allocation of resources), fair warning on bad language:

When your goals are 100% focused on appearance, there’s a very real possibility you can take things too far down the other end of the spectrum. Instead of seeing the improvements you’ve made and being excited about progress, you instead start to notice each and every imperfection.

Before NF Team Member Staci became a deadlifting superhero, she lost a tremendous amount of weight the wrong way and almost did serious damage to her body. Because her focus was COMPLETELY on her aesthetics, she was willing to sacrifice her personal health to get there. It didn’t matter how much weight she lost; she was never satisfied, because there was always something else to “fix.” 

It’s no surprise body image posts like this are so popular on Reddit  – so many of us are insecure about our appearance, and are striving for the perfect body. Just like money can’t really buy you happiness, a perfect body won’t buy you happiness either!

If you’re getting in shape because you hope it will solve all of your problems of low-self worth or unhealthy comparisons, you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed or putting your health in danger:

  • If only I had a six pack, then I’d be happy.
  • If only I could fit into these pants, then I’d be happy.
  • If only I looked like that person, I’d be happy.

Because we tie our happiness to the appearance we don’t have, we are never satisfied while chasing the unattainable: We all harbor these unrealistic expectations for ourselves and for others, thanks to the wonders of the internet. We see perfectly framed (and photoshopped) magazine ads, or instagram photos, or “Famous Celebrity” in “Big Action Movie” and we become disappointed with our reality. This can lead to us seeking shortcuts or unhealthy fixes (steroids, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, diet pills, etc.).

Thus, we need to be constantly vigilant in battling down these conventional-wisdom, empire-created illusions! Wherever we are, we wish we looked like the bigger guy or skinnier girl next to us at the gym, and they in turn wish they looked like the person next to them. And that person wants to look like somebody on Instagram.

After all, most of what we deem attractive are just social constructs. We made this point strongly in our article on body image, and what is ” beautiful” seemingly changes by the decade!

Finding the Right Balance

stormtrooperbalance

So with all of these things luring us into not being good enough, how can we avoid focusing on our imperfections, while still wanting to improve ourselves? 

Sixteen-year-old Steve assumed how he looked physically changed how people viewed him, which in turn would in change how he viewed himself.  

He had it backwards.

I’ve since come to realize that how strong and happy I became changed how I viewed myself, and how I carried myself and interacted with others, which in turn changed how people viewed me.

If you want to use external appearance as a source of motivation, and that’s what got you started, go for it! Just don’t lose focus on the two major goals:

  • Healthy - You get a clean bill of health from your doctor and no issues physically.You are transforming in a healthy, sustainable way. 
  • Happy - You can do the activities you want to do without your body holding you back. You feel confident in your own skin. Whatever “look good naked” or “look good in a bathing suit” means to you. Bulky, thin, orange, green, whatever! Male or female, you get to determine what your personal ‘look’ is.

That means it’s okay to feel confident in your skin – RIGHT NOW! Make sure you understand this isn’t just about your body fat percentage or bicep size or thigh gap.

Yes, it can be great to use others as a source of inspiration or motivation, and it’s okay to hold yourself to higher standards, but know you are not them and not in their situation and do not have their genes. But if you’re building long-term habits, try to put your focus on the process – find a way to exercise you can fall in love with (and how it makes you feel).

No matter what, know that YOU need to set your standards for what you expect of yourself. If you’re a new parent, or a busy single mom of three, your expectations will most likely be different from a supermodel or fitness professional – and that’s okay!

As long as you understand what a healthy goal is for you, leveling up your body is great (that most likely will not be 5% body fat and chiseled abs year round)! Regardless of who you are and what you do, remember: Haters gonna hate.

Healthy and Happy

runner

This is a huge topic almost everyone has struggled with; we’re hardwired to compare ourselves to others.

Wanting to look better can be an awesome motivator – helping people shed hundreds of pounds and transform their lives. When used properly, it can be a fantastic tool to get us started and keep us on track.

But when this source of motivation grows beyond our control, it can poison our self-esteem and self-worth, no matter if you have six pack abs or are 100 lbs overweight. In the process, we can find ourselves pulled down even further than where we began. 

We plan to dive into this topic a bit more over the coming months, and would love to hear what you think: 

How do you hold yourself to a higher standard without setting it impossibly high?

Have you found a way to improve yourself without nitpicking your flaws or comparing yourself to the person next to you?

Let’s hear it in the comments!

-Steve

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photo source: Joseph Jansenn: runner, Phil Gradwell: measuring tape male, Charlotte Astrid: measuring tape female

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The World’s Quickest Advice Column: Hack Your Life http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/12/the-worlds-quickest-advice-column-hack-your-life/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/12/the-worlds-quickest-advice-column-hack-your-life/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 17:25:45 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25983 I tend to be wordy with articles on Nerd Fitness.

With now 680 articles published, there’s a LOT of information to wade through.

So every once and a while I like to change things up, and provide you instead with the world’s quickest advice column. If you’re currently struggling with leveling up your life, consider this your wake up call!

I’ve already done two of these on getting healthier (here and here), so here’s one on getting happier.

Happiness

I’m not happy. Change something in your life, or change yourself.

What do I change? Pick one thing and change it. Report back with results.

I’m overwhelmed. Deep breath. Pick one thing. Change what you are in control of right now.

Will more money make me happier? Yes, but only up to a certain amount.

What’s more important than money? Time. Time to spend time with people you love or doing things you love. You can never get it back.

more Time

I don’t have enough time to get stuff done. You have poorly managed priorities.

But there’s so much to get done. Do less. Say “no” to more things.

But I have [obligation]. It’s either a “hell yeah” or a no. Clear your schedule.

But I might offend [somebody] by saying no. That’s on them. Better to not go than go and not want to be there.

But the timing isn’t right. The timing is never perfect. If you wait for the perfect moment, you’ll never do anything. A month from now, you’ll wish you started today.

Love

How do I make a good first impression? Look them in the eyes. Smile. Talk slowly. Stand tall. Wear clothes that fit.

Should I ask that person out? Yes.

What if he/she says no? Then you’re in the same spot if you did nothing, except now no regret.

What do I say? “Hey, I think you’re cute/beautiful/stunning. I’m [name], can I buy you a cup of coffee or a drink sometime?”

I have anxiety now! Use 20 Seconds of Courage.

I’m in a bad relationship. Get out.

What if I never find anybody better? What if you find somebody way better?  What if you get hit by a bus tomorrow?

I got dumped. I’m heartbroken. But it’s still ticking, which means there’s hope for you yet.

Should i…

Question

But Steve, none of this is that easy. I know! If it was, everybody would be happy with everything!

I’m not the type of person who does ___. Stop sabotaging yourself with self-limiting beliefs. You aren’t the type of person who does ___ until you do it. Now you are.

This won’t work for me. Okay! Keep doing what you’re doing.

But what I’m doing isn’t working. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

Damn you, Steve. We’re either growing and changing, or we’re dying.

When should I start? Right now.

What other short questions do you have?

I’ll be hanging out your questions in the comments below as quickly and succinctly as possible!

-Steve

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How to Make Pan Seared Salmon and Pineapple Salsa http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/07/how-to-make-pan-seared-salmon-and-pineapple-salsa/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/07/how-to-make-pan-seared-salmon-and-pineapple-salsa/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 13:40:53 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25840 This is a recipe from NF Rebel Chef Noel.

Today we’re going to be looking at a recipe that is super easy to make, but looks really elaborate and impressive.

Maybe you’ve invited someone special over to cook dinner with you. Or heck, maybe you just want to treat yo self to a nice meal because it’s Thursday, you work hard, and damnit, you deserve it.

Well, look no further!

I’m all about fancy-looking recipes that take a minimal amount of time. Most of us Rebels work a full-time job, some of us have families, and on top of all our daily responsibilities, we’re doing our best to get and stay healthy. Steve always says 80% of winning this game is diet, so why not make this part as easy as possible?

This recipe should take no longer than 30 minutes, depending on your knife skills. And you can get to dinner time even quicker by making the pineapple salsa ahead of time!

Pan Seared Salmon and Pineapple Salsa

Prep time: 18 min
Total Time: 30 min
Servings: 4

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_001

Ingredients:

For the salsa:

  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1/4 pineapple
  • 1/4 onion
  • 3/4 bell pepper
  • 1/2 jalapeno – or more if you like it spicier! Bonus point if you roast the jalapeno first!
  • 1 clove garlic – minced
  • 1 tsp (5ml) lime juice
  • 1/4 (1.23ml) tsp salt

Optional ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp (1.23ml) red pepper flake
  • handful of chopped fresh cilantro

For the fish:

  • 1 lb (453g) salmon filet (wild caught preferred) – Ask the person behind the counter to cut your fish from the thickest part of the filet.
  • 1 tsp (5ml) coconut oil (for pan-frying)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Equipment:

  • knife
  • cutting board
  • small mixing bowl
  • spoon
  • measuring spoon
  • frying pan

Instructions

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_023

Note: The instructions below are for a simple raw pineapple salsa that should only take as long to make as it does for you to chop the ingredients and mix them together with a spoon.

(That’s pretty quick!)

If you have more time (or are a more advanced cook) and would like to deepen the flavor of your salsa, throw everything but the garlic and avocado on the grill or in the oven to roast them a bit before chopping!

We’re going to start off by washing and chopping our vegetables.

1. Dice your bell pepper, jalapeno, and 1/4 of your onion. Here is a picture of what mine looked like, so you can see about what size they should be. If they’re not exactly that small or you want to cut them a different size, that’s fine. Totally up to you!

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_002

Once you’ve finished chopping them, add them to your mixing bowl.

2. Smash and mince (cut really small) your clove of garlic. Add that to your mixing bowl as well.

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3. Now cut your avocado. First, cut it in half.

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Then, make slices vertically down one of the halves. (I chose the half without the seed so I wouldn’t have to take out the seed right then.)

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Now make perpendicular cuts on the avocado short-ways.

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_007

Lastly, use a spoon to scrape the avocado into your bowl with the rest of your ingredients. (I actually only ended up using only 1/4 of the avocado for the amount of salsa I was making. I ate the other 1/4 that was cut as I was cooking… no apologies.)

You can store the remaining avocado in a ziplock bag to use later. The outside will oxidize over night and look a somewhat yucky brown, but it is still edible, and you can use it the next day. Alternately, you can make a quick guacamole to dip veggies in and munch on as an appetizer!

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_008

4. Now it’s time to cut the pineapple! I so rarely buy pineapples at the store, but luckily the day I went shopping, not only were pineapples on sale, but they were also ripe! Score!

If you can’t find fresh pineapple at the store, you can buy canned. Just read the ingredients to make sure there’s no added sugar!

First you’re going to want to cut the top off.

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_012

Stand your pineapple up. You can see that it has a core inside. This is where it once attached to the bush it came from. You can sort of see a faint outline of it when you stand the pineapple up.

Make your next cut as near to the core as possible without cutting the core.

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_013

After you’ve cut off your piece of the pineapple, lay it down again and cut off the bottom.

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_015

Then, cut it in half. We’ll only be using this much for the salsa. Keep the rest as an after-workout snack, or add it to grilled steak kabobs, burgers, or grill it and use it as dessert!

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_016

Now we’re going to carefully remove the skin. Get the knife as close to the skin as possible and slice it off.

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_018

The first time I cut a pineapple, I cut too close to the fruit and lost most of it. Take it from me – don’t do that. It was disappointing.

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_019

If you want to cut your whole pineapple right off the bat, a better choice might be to slice of the skin right after you cut the top off. Since I only used this portion of my fruit and saved the rest, I cut it this way.

If you have some indentations with the skin still in them (eyes) in your pineapple, that’s okay. This is edible, but not a nice texture to chew. You can carefully cut these pieces out with a smaller knife or chop them off after the next step.

Next, slice the pineapple into three long pieces (hot dog style). Then slice shorter, perpendicular cuts about the same size as the avocado pieces (hamburger style).

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_021

Add this juicy, pineappley goodness to your bowl.

5. Now add your lime juice, salt, and any optional ingredients you might want. Mix all ingredients well and set aside.

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_023

Now onto the fish!

6. Cut your fish into single serving sized portions. My 1 lb salmon filet sliced pretty nicely into 4 pieces. It might be tough to get your knife through the scales if your knife is not especially sharp. It was tough for me. Just keep at it and don’t cut yourself.

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_010

The thickest part of my salmon was about an inch. At the thinnest, it was maybe a quarter inch. That’s okay. I cooked each piece of fish individually because I had a small pan. If you have a larger pan, you can cook all your fish on it at once – just remember to watch them carefully because the thinner pieces will cook much faster than the thicker ones.

7. Heat your pan on medium high heat with your fat (I used coconut oil) in the pan.

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_024

8. When the pan is hot enough, carefully place the fish skin-side down in the pan. Do not drop or throw the fish! This will cause oil to splash up and burn you, and that is no bueno.

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_025

9. Let this side of the fish cook for about 6 minutes. You’ll be able to see the salmon cook as the side nearest to the pan changes from a dark translucent pink to a pastel orange-y color. Press down on the salmon a couple times during cooking to keep the skin from curling up.

10. Carefully flip your fish using your spatula. Let the other side cook for another 5-6 minutes.

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_028

You’ll see the orangey-pastel color increasing on this side of the fish and it will nearly come to meet the cooked other side of the fish. Press down this side a couple of times to prevent the sides from curling up.

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_027

11. Once your larger surfaces are done, take a minute to turn the fish onto its sides for about 30 seconds each to sear these as well, then remove from heat.

Serve over a bed of fresh or wilted spinach, and spoon some of the salsa on top of each piece of fish. Serve by candle light while a salty sea breeze tousles your hair.

Noel_Pan_Seared_Salmon_031

Treat Yo Self!

You deserve a treat. And by treat, I don’t mean a pint of cookie dough ice cream while sitting on the couch watching Game of Thrones. What I mean is a decent meal, cooked by your own two hands, styled on a plate, served at a dinner table. Cooking a fancy meal can make you almost as proud as hitting a new PR on your deadlift.

Many of us are short on time and think of nice meals as a luxury. I’m guilty of this too. About 90% of my meals are eaten on the couch in front of the TV or computer. Most of my food is the same few dishes cooked over and over again.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Eating healthfully doesn’t have to mean baked chicken and steamed veggies for every lunch and dinner.

Take a chance, plan a couple days ahead, and eat something new! Invite a friend over to cook with you. Listen to your favorite Pandora station while you’re chopping. Treat yo self to a new piece of kitchen equipment you’ve been eyeing and try it out. Make it fun!

If we make cooking a relaxing treat, it can become an activity you enjoy. Even if you’re short on time, limiting your food options to recipes that take 30 minutes or less, prepping ahead of time, and using a minimal amount of easy-to-clean equipment can make learning this new skill less stressful and more pleasurable.

Try it out!

How do you make cooking an enjoyable activity?

Do you dedicate a certain day of the week or month to having dinner with friends or family?

Let us know in the comments!

- 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!

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Have Your Parents Decided Your Fitness Fate? Happy Star Wars Day! http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/04/have-your-parents-decided-your-fitness-fate-happy-star-wars-day/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/05/04/have-your-parents-decided-your-fitness-fate-happy-star-wars-day/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 14:34:00 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25946 “[Luke,] I am your father.”

I bet you can remember where you were when you heard that famous line uttered by Darth Vader to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back. I remember watching this as a small child and my jaw dropping at this revelation: holy crap! The bad guy is the dad of the hero! Han is frozen in carbonite! How the heck do they get out of this?

With today being Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth be with you!”) and a recent trailer dropping that took the internet by storm, I felt like this would be a good chance to explore our fate and what we really get out of our time on this planet.

Ultimately, do we have to follow in our parents’ footsteps? Am I predestined to be like them? 

Star Wars explores this very question, and I want to talk about our own fate today. It’s probably best you listen to Duel of the Fates in the background while reading.

Destined for the dark side?

lukevsdarth

“The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it.”

When Luke discovers Vader is his father, you have to feel for him. The guy he’s been chasing, the guy who killed his mentor, the guy who is trying to kill him…is his freaking DAD. Luke is wondering “if he is capable of this great evil, am I capable of it as well? The same blood that flows in his veins flows in mine.”

I’m sure we’ve all been there, parents especially – when growing up we saw our parents do something and said, “when I’m a parent I’m not gonna be like them!” And then you have kids, and realize things are more complicated. Or maybe your parent was a smoker, or struggled with addiction/obesity, and you vowed to be different. But can we?

We have to face facts first: genetics and the habits we were brought up with do matter. Whether they are healthy habits or unhealthy habits, learned from great parents or parents who didn’t pass along a solid foundation – they matter. Maybe you have anger management issues like your dad, a sugar addiction like your mom, or you had parents who struggled to hold a job (or, parents who are doctors or scientists)!

We can’t pick our parents, just as Luke didn’t pick for his father to be Darth Vader. We also can’t pick how we were brought up (good or bad), or go back in time and change how we were treated or raised:

  • If you have overweight parents who thought trying to get healthy was a waste of time (“my dad was overweight, so was his, and you will be, too”), or they ate unhealthy foods and never gave it a second thought, it’s challenging to break free of that destiny.
  • If you had parents who placed values on the wrong things, or shamed others for being different, there will be a STRONG pull to go in that direction.
  • If we had parents who struggled with addiction or abuse, it can feel like ‘history will repeat itself.’

Ultimately, it can feel as though the deck is fixed and it’s going to play out in a certain way regardless of what decisions we make, which can make us feel helpless.

But there is (a new) hope!

In my years of running Nerd Fitness, I have seen thousands upon thousands of people buck the trend, break free of their fate, and change the ‘predetermined path’ they were on. The pull towards the dark side is strong, but with the right strategy you CAN turn out differently.

And only you can alter your path.

It’s something we need to learn before it’s too late.

You are not your father

Darth

In the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, do you know what the #1 regret was of people who were on their deathbed?

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” 

Maybe you grew up in a family where obesity is par for the course: fast food, diabetes, and heart attacks at an early age are part of the plan. Maybe now you feel like you dying young of heart disease is a foregone conclusion, as it happened to your dad and your grandpa. Heck, it even applies to your career, education, and other life choices!

I was fortunate to be raised by loving parents, and I subconsciously led myself to follow a particular career path because I thought it would make them (and thus make me) happy; I figured that they were both in sales and thus I should get into sales too. It turns out, they just wanted me to be happy, but I put unnecessary pressure on myself because I thought this was what was expected of me.

But let me tell you something that Luke learned long ago:

You are not your father.

You are not your mother.

Luke was aware of his father’s path, and had the choice to join him. In a what is surely a 20 seconds of courage moment, instead of seeking his dad’s approval, he chooses to stand on his own:

As Henry Rollins points out in The Iron and the Soul:

“I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. Completely.”

You get to pick if you want to go to the light side or the dark side: Become the Jedi you want to be, not the person you think you’re supposed to be. There might be a very strong pull in one direction, but ultimately it is never too late to start your training, or change course. Villains can become heroes, second-tier characters can become major players, and futures can change. But it requires honesty, a bit of bravery, and taking bold action.

Just know you’re not alone - We have about 33,000 Rebels on our free message boards who are here to support you, help you, and offer up words of advice as I’m sure many of them have felt the same.

Remember, true courage is living a life true to yourself, not the life others expected of you.

Motivation goes both ways

Although we spend three full movies absolutely loving to hate Darth Vader, he redeems himself in the Return of the Jedi when he chooses to sacrifice himself and destroy the Emperor in order to save his son:

There are few tougher conversations to have than one as a child telling his or her parents, “I’m worried about you, and I want you to be healthier.” Parents are often set in their ways (see Vader), but deep down it doesn’t mean they’re not listening (see Vader).

We grow up seeing our parents as invincible….until the day they’re not. My parents weren’t the healthiest people – raising three kids and both working jobs resulted in them putting on a few unhealthy pounds over the years. After starting Nerd Fitness, I started to worry more about them, but struggled with finding a way to bring it up the right way.

So I did the next best thing: I got myself in the best shape I could. I asked for healthier foods when I came home to visit, laughing at the “wait, but I thought you only ate pizza and spaghetti?” jokes. Unbeknownst to me, it had an effect on my parents – they actually started to apply some of the principles I chose to live by as well! It was really cool to see and I’m glad to see my choices have influenced their choices.

Having a conversation with parents about making changes, when it comes to being healthy or happy, is never easy. This is especially true if your name is Luke Skywalker, and your dad is trying to chop your head off with a lightsaber. If your name isn’t Skywalker, then you’re still up against the people who changed your diaper – tough.

Use the Force: If you still have parents and talk to them regularly, then your best bet is to become a model Jedi. Be ready, willing, and able to have a conversation with them about being healthier and happier when they bring it up, and offer support when they ask. The pull can be strong on you – but know that the pull can work BOTH ways, so use that to your advantage!

What are you giving to the next generation?

lukehan

This Winter, Star Wars Episode VII will be released, and a whole new generation of Jedi, X-wing pilots, storm troopers, and Sith lords will do battle. Oh and the freaking Millenium Falcon is back. And a whole new generation of Star Wars fans will be born.

You have an opportunity to change the fate of the Galaxy as well. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics said the factor that puts children at greatest rick of being overweight is having obese parents.

If you want to give your kids the best possible chance to live the life of a healthy Jedi, taking care of yourself (and ‘selfishly’ making your health a priority) is the first place to start. Your kids are watching not what you say, but what you do, and you can drastically impact how they treat others, how they feel about themselves, and how they take care of themselves through YOUR actions.

The choice is yours. I hope you pass along the great qualities you’re building in yourself. And please, don’t blow up any planets.

I want to hear from you: have you bucked the trend of unhealthiness or unhappiness in your family? Have you broken out on your own against the path set for you? Or did you end up following a “pre-determined path” and now realize it wasn’t the path you wanted for yourself?

How about inspiring your parents to live better lives through example? Or have you gotten in shape and helped your kids make the connection with healthier choices too?

May the fourth Force be with you.

-Steve

PS: With a bunch of new campers signing up over the weekend, we have something like 25 spots left for Camp Nerd Fitness this fall! Hope to see you there :)

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photo source: JD Hancock: Luke vs Darth, JD Hancock: Han vs Luke, Kenny Louie: Luke Lego, JD Hancock: Snake Eyes vs Luke

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The Avengers Workout Challenge http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/04/30/the-avengers-workout-challenge/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/04/30/the-avengers-workout-challenge/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 17:32:57 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25936 The Avengers are in need of a hero.

Tony Stark created an artificially intelligent being by the name of Ultron, and Ultron decided to go off the rails and attempt to take over the planet. He and his minions have incredible intelligence, lightning-quick speed, tons of raw power, and are hell-bent on destroying his creator.

If the robots win, then we’ll end up in a future not unlike the Matrix. Suck!

Fortunately, despite dilly dallying across multiple movies and ridiculously fantastic plot points, the Avengers have assembled yet again, and are ready for the challenge to defeat Ultron and save Earth yet again from calamity.

Are you ready?

You have been presented with a unique opportunity to join the Avengers, but you’ll need to complete a trial to show the world you’re worthy of joining the cause.

Ultron is going down! Sorry James Spader.

The Avengers Workout Challenge

BlackWidow

Complete the recommended reps of each exercise in as few sets as possible while following good form. (Any time you rest and put the bar down, that is considered a set). So, the best possible score would be to complete each movement in a single set, for 6 sets total across the challenge.

Complete all of the first exercise before moving on to the second exercise. Remember – we would rather you do the exercise spread across more sets with great form, than less sets with form that breaks down. If you can’t complete the prescribed movement, try the S.H.I.E.L.D. version of the movement.

As always: warm up before, and cool down after! Complete each of the movements below with great form and not focused on time.

This is a full body routine, so make sure you take a day off from strength training the day after. No gym access? Complete one of our other workouts that don’t require equipment, like the beginner bodyweight routine.

This isn’t meant to be a full workout routine to be done multiple times a week, but more as a one time challenge.

1) BLACK WIDOW MAKER SQUATS: 20 reps of barbell squats with the bar remaining on your shoulders. You can’t kick ass like Black Widow if you don’t have killer legs (see what I did there?), and there’s no better way to build leg strength and power than with a widowmaker set of squats.

Complete 20 reps at a weight on the bar that equals your bodyweight. You can rest for a moment, but the bar must remain on your shoulders.

S.H.I.E.L.D.: Complete 20 reps at a weight that’s comfortable for you, taking as many sets as necessary (instead of one 20-rep set).

 

2) HAWKEYE PULL-UPS - 20 Archer Pull Ups (10 each side). You need serious back strength to launch arrows with the power and accuracy of Hawkeye. And what better way to get that strength than with the appropriately named Archer Pull-up?

S.H.I.E.L.D.:: Unable to do archer pull ups? Do regular pull-ups, assisted with a band or on a machine.

 

3) IRON MAN BOOSTS – 20 Box JumpsImagine you have a rocket propulsion system strapped to the bottom of your feet. Stand in front of a box or bench at least 24 inches tall, and launch yourself as high as possible, landing softly on the bench or chair. And then STEP DOWN (don’t jump down).

S.H.I.E.L.D.:: Step ups onto the bench.

 

4) CAPTAIN AMERICA SHIELD LAUNCHES – 30 Plyometric Push-ups. Imagine you have a shield made of vibranium, and there is a robot on the other side of it trying to get through. You want to push that robot 100 yards away with your super soldier strength. Complete plyometric push ups as if you were launching your shield into an enemy.

S.H.I.E.L.D.: 40 regular push-ups, or knee push-ups.

 

5) HULK LIFTS – 30 barbell deadlifts at bodyweight. The Hulk has tree trunks for legs (though thankfully his shorts increase in size when he transforms). If you’re going to pick up cars and throw them at people, or toss enemies around like rag dolls, it’s time to level up your barbell deadlifts.

S.H.I.E.L.D.: 30 deadlifts at half-bodyweight. Reduce the weight – a great place to start is half bodyweight, but don’t be afraid to try less!

 

6) HAMMERS OF THOR - 30 swings of a sledgehammer into a tire. Thor can call the power of lightning, but it’s his strength that allows him to wield his famous hammer.

No access to hammer and tire? Do Kettlebell/dumbbell clean and presses, as if you were picking up Thor’s hammer and raising it to the heavens.

S.H.I.E.L.D.:: 30 kettlebell/dumbbell clean and presses of 30 pounds (or less depending on your skill). No prescribed weight.

How did you do?

avengers-workout

You can download a PDF of the workout here: Avengers Workout.

So, Avenger…how did you do? Keep track of how many total sets it took you to complete all of the movements above.

  • 6-9 total sets: Avenger Hero
  • 10-15 total sets: Avenger Recruit
  • 16-20 total sets: SHIELD Agent
  • 21+ total sets: SHIELD Agent in training

-Steve

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photo source: Meet the Chembeques: lego avengersJD Hancock: Universal AvengersmarvelousRoland: Black Widow

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What’s Your Avengers Superpower? http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/04/27/whats-your-avengers-superpower/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/04/27/whats-your-avengers-superpower/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 14:03:03 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25835 I freaking love the AvengersIf you’re reading this site, chances are you do too, and you’re probably freaking out with excitement for the release of Age of Ultron.

There’s something just inherently badass about taking a posse of amazing characters who have lead their own films and comics, and bringing them all together to take on an even greater challenge no one Avenger could defeat alone. Whether they’re facing an invading alien race, or artificial intelligence gone rogue, these heroes need to find a way to work together and become greater than the sum of their parts.

In the Game of Life, turning yourself into a healthy ass-kicking superhero can seem like a monumental task worthy of joining the Avengers. Having the right attitude, unwavering mental fortitude, and laser-sharp focus might feel impossible with our day-to-day responsibilities.

However, if you can take the best parts of each Avenger and apply each of their abilities to your own journey, I guarantee you’ll emerge a real life superhero yourself. Seriously!

And then you’re going to contribute your own super power and help The Nerd Fitness Rebellion take over the world.

Avengers, assemble!

The Incredible Hulk’s Alter ego

hulk

Bruce Banner is a quiet, thoughtful, bumbling scientist.

And then he gets angry.

And sure, the Incredible Hulk often gets out of control (hence the need for Tony Stark’s Hulkbuster), but the Hulk can also do some incredible things nobody else can. In fact, many Avengers would have lost their lives and the world might have ended if it weren’t for Bruce’s power to become incredible:

Do you spend your whole life like Bruce Banner? Or do you take advantage of opportunities to become somebody else?

For most of my day, I’m a quiet shy nerd who sits at a computer and writes articles about Minecraft, The Matrix, and Deadlifts. But when I’m in the gym, my headphones are blasting music, I hang from gymnastic rings like a monkey, and I grunt during heavy deadlift sets.

Socially, I’m usually a pretty risk-averse and shy person as well, but I know sometimes it’s important for me to come out of that shell. So I channel the alter ego of somebody who’s much more outgoing, talkative, and friendly when I’m in situations where I know it would improve my evening. Yup, it often takes 20 seconds of courage for me to go up to talk to somebody.

Be more like the Hulk: What’s your alter ego? You might be a scientist, or a janitor, or a doctor who struggles with social anxiety. At the gym, you can be somebody strong, fast, and powerful. You can train like somebody who’s drastically different than the person you spend most of your time living as. You can actually be a superhero!

Next time you’re on a vacation or headed out for a night on the town, adopt the alter-ego of somebody incredibly confident and make decisions based on what they would do. Who cares if it’s not really you? Confidence, social skills, and strength are all skills that can be learned with enough practice.

Tony Stark’s Tinkering

Ironman

Be honest, you would give anything for a fully functioning Iron Man suit.

Every time we see Tony Stark, he’s in a newly upgraded Mark suit, all the way up to Mark XLV in Age of Ultron. With each iteration his suit gets a bit stronger, more durable, smarter, faster, sleeker, or more efficient. And thank goodness: his movies and his role in Iron man wouldn’t have worked if he stuck with the hunk of junk that was his first attempt of his suit in the original Iron Man movie:

From the first suit to the most recent, Tony is constantly shaving off millimeters to become more aerodynamic, or tinkering with the suit to get a single percentage point of efficiency.

Tony is a perfectionist, always in search of improvement. However, he doesn’t let that get in the way of progress, because he knows the rule: you can’t edit a blank page, and you can’t improve a machine that hasn’t been built yet.

Be like Tony: Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. Instead of drastic sweeping changes each time, Tony makes teeny tiny adjustments that result in breakthroughs and improvements.

If you are looking to get in shape, look for small tweaks that you can repeatedly improve. If you want to learn how to squat, start with just the bar and work on your form. If you want to lose weight, make a single adjustment to your diet this week and then make another adjustment next week.

Don’t overwhelm yourself with the perfect diet or the perfect workout plan: they don’t exist.

Start. Build. Learn. Change. Adapt. Repeat.

Captain America’s bright lines

Captain America Toy

It’s no surprise Captain America is often referred to as “The First Avenger.”

And if you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know he’s my favorite Avenger. Heck, we even have shirts in the NF Store that pay homage to this superhero.

That’s because Cap doesn’t have to waste precious mental bandwidth on deciding what to do in conflicting situations. He has a very strong sense of right and wrong, and it’s these rules that allow him to quickly decide what action to take… even if it goes against popular opinion.

See Captain America: The Winter Soldier for proof:

Be like Cap: If you struggle with saying no, or can’t get yourself to start working out, stop saying “I can’t” and instead make it part of your identity:

  • “I do [this].” “I don’t do [this.]”

“I probably shouldn’t eat that cake” suddenly becomes this idea you can’t get out of your head until you eat cake. “I can’t eat cake” is you restricting yourself and depriving you of something you want.

Compare that to a Captain America rule: “I don’t eat cake.” This one change takes the guess work out of what you need to do, and removes the need to have “just one” or “only a little.” My friend James Clear refers to these rules as “Bright Line” rules.

Black Widow’s mental flexibility

BlackWidow

Black Widow (aka Natasha Romanova) is often praised for her deadly skills as an assassin, along with her flexibility to beat the crap out of bad guys, even when restrained or under attack.

(I’m more interested in her mental flexibility! I promise.)

Whenever the situation changes, she adapts quickly and then crushes her opposition:

Have you ever been in the gym and found that the equipment you needed to use was already taken? Or gotten ready to go for a run and realized it was pouring rain? Did you leave the gym, or give up on your run? Did you plan on eating healthy but on a business trip decided “well, if I can’t eat healthy for every meal, might as well eat whatever I want!”

Suckers look for the slightest excuse to say “Damn, can’t do my workout today!” or “Looks like I’ll have to eat fast food!” Avengers prepare for any situation and have plans B and C and D in case Plan A falls through.

Be like Black Widow: Don’t look for excuses to skip your workout and nutrition – instead look for solutions. Have a plan in place for every scenario when things don’t go according to Plan A. It works for MacGuyver, and it works for Black Widow: If you can’t get to the gym, can you do a bodyweight workout at home? If there isn’t access to any healthy breakfast options while traveling, can you do some intermittent fasting? Stay agile, like Black Widow.

Thor’s Confident humility

Thor

“Confident humility? That’s an oxymoron Kamb!” you might be saying right now.

I love Thor, as I feel like he’s gone through one hell of a transformation on his journey to becoming an integral part of the Avengers. In Thor’s first film, his arrogance and naivete get him banished from Asgard and stripped of his power:

Which is a bummer, as Asgard is freaking gorgeous, and I want to live there.

Anyways, Thor has to question everything he deemed important, and radically adjust his view of the world, from cocky arrogant demi-god, to redemption song. Sure, he remained strong and confident, but it was his humility and questioning of his deeply held beliefs that gave him a chance to regain his power and become worthy again. Although he’s surrounded by “mere mortals,” he’s learned to exist among them, including a love of coffee:

Like Thor, we all have beliefs we hold deep within us; when somebody questions those beliefs it can shake us to our core and cause us to put up our defense mechanisms. Read the comments in any article on the internet, and you’ll find people who lash out at the opposition when their own views are called into question.

Be like Thor: When it comes to getting healthy, we are all fighting decades worth of conventional wisdom that has cemented itself in your brain. If we are trying to do something different with our life, social pressure might make it hard to make a big change.

It’s time to look at our own deeply held beliefs and question everything (a Rule of the Rebellion).

Hawkeye’s phoenix-like redemption

Hawkeye

Hawkeye is a deadly marksman with a bow and arrow: one hell of a shot and a valuable member of the Avengers. Unfortunately, in the first Avengers flick, Hawkeye’s brain is hijacked by the trickster Loki, and is forced to do the bidding of the enemy.

During that time, he kills tons of “good guy” S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and struggles internally with the damage he’s done. He feels deeply remorseful for those actions, even though he was a puppet with somebody else pulling the strings. This wrecks him:

Fortunately for Hawkeye and for the rest of the Avengers (and us fans), Hawkeye is set free and gets a chance to redeem himself, bailing out his friends and helping save the world:

He can’t fix what happened in the past, even though it eats away at him. He can only learn from it and do his best to redeem himself moving forward. I want the same for you.

Be like Hawkeye: Be your own redemption story. Regardless of who you were yesterday, today is an opportunity to change, to atone, to redeem. If you’ve been a bad friend, or a bad husband, or a bad daughter, a bad team member, you can’t fix yesterday. You can however, fix what you’re doing right now, and change your actions moving forward.

It’s time for you to show the world what you are capable of and make your contribution. As they say: “it’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

If yesterday you were a 400-pound, unemployed, unhappy person, today you have an opportunity to start day 1 of a new life. Sure, you might be 400 pounds and unemployed today, but the difference is that today is a step towards superhero status… And tomorrow? Anything is possible!

avengers assemble

Avengers

If you couldn’t tell, I’m quite excited for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

But I want to hear from you: what superpower are you bringing to The Nerd Fitness Rebellion?

Get creative. Give us your backstory. Tell us about your superpower and why it’s going to help us take over save the world!

I’ll start:

My superpower is the ability to combine abilities and skills from others, whether it’s combining the philosophy of Nassim Taleb with video games, or combining the complexities of a paloelithic diet with Legos, or intense bodyweight training and heavy barbell training. I like taking complex or seemingly unrelated things, and bringing them together to form a super idea, or super training plan, or super power. This skill has translated to team building! I like to think I helped assemble a unique group of misfits and underdogs here at Nerd Fitness, and the same with Team Nerd Fitness.

What about you? We’ll pick two commenters at random and give away free Nerd Fitness shirts!

-Steve

Rebel Hero: My friend Jason Lengstorf in Costa Rica, striking quite the superhero pose himself here in his Nerd Fitness shirt.

jason-lengstorf-costa-rica

Want to be the next Rebel Hero? Take a photo of you doing something epic in your Nerd Fitness gear and send it to contact @nerdfitness.com so we can feature you on the site!

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photo source: Varlin: Captain, marvelousRoland: Hawkeye, Wacko Photographer: Ironman, Jay Malone: Thor, marvelousRoland: Black Widow, JD Hancock: Universal Avengers

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Want to Crush Your Inner Demons? Use the Skywalker Strategy! http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/04/23/want-to-crush-your-inner-demons-use-the-skywalker-strategy/ http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2015/04/23/want-to-crush-your-inner-demons-use-the-skywalker-strategy/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 13:40:23 +0000 http://www.nerdfitness.com/?p=25891 In most fantasy or sci-fi movies, there’s a big epic battle between the forces of good and evil.

However, before that battle can happen, an even more important battle must take place: between the ears of the protagonist. Oftentimes our hero or heroine has an inner demon to slay before he or she can go slay the dragon/save the princess/galaxy/world.

There’s probably no more famous nerdy example than Luke Skywalker in the Cave on Dagobah:

A few other great examples:

Often life is no different: getting healthy, like most other things in our life, is more about fighting our inner battles than anything else – that voice that tells us to eat bad food, drink and smoke, avoid confrontation, or skip our workout. Even when we WANT to do something like asking someone to go on a date, we must overcome the fear of rejection and that internal voice of insecurity.

Last week on Nerd Fitness, we featured one of my favorite success stories ever. Maya lost over 70 pounds and went from “not good enough” to practicing aerialist. She said something I will never forget:

“I’m much more positive now, and much more likely to take an optimistic outlook on things. I still struggle sometimes with my inner demons – who doesn’t? – but I’m better equipped to fight them now.”

Today we’re going to win some inner battles to kick some ass on the outside as a result.

Step 1: Identify the battle first

Ganon_OoT_battle

First and foremost, it’s tough to fight an inner battle before we know what we’re up against. It’d be like trying to fight the smoke monster in the show Lost, or swinging at a cloud. Put a face on that demon, give it name, and know your enemy.

As Sun Tzu said:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

So, what the heck is it? Often we seek to treat the symptom of a problem without getting to the root of the problem, which is usually this inner demon we are trying to slay. This is like trying to patch faulty code instead of hacking it at the source.

Until we identify the demon, we might struggle to make consistent progress on our goals, consistently backsliding and berating ourselves for sucking. Or worse, spending our days thinking back on what might have been, rather than finding out what could be.

  • Struggling with a food addiction or a sugar addiction?
  • Addicted to caffeine?
  • Drink too much?
  • Maybe it’s unhappiness!
  • What about a fear of inadequacy or rejection?

In each of the situations above, it’s important for us to take the time to dig deep – go into our Dagobah cave – and put a face on the demon holding you back. This part can suck – it requires 100% honesty with yourself and owning up to what’s really at the root of the issue.

Step 2: Stay Away Until You’re Ready

Level Up

It’s no secret that I love role-playing games as metaphors for life.

The tagline for Nerd Fitness is “level up your life,” and I love thinking about these games and how we can apply their lessons to living better lives outside of fantasy land.

Imagine you are a Level 1 noob in a new game, and you stumble across a Level 10 Orc Chief. You pull a Leroy Jenkins and run screaming at him and attack. Unsurprisingly, he absolutely demolishes you.

You are then faced with two options:

  • Continue to charge the chief, getting your ass kicked every time, and then tell yourself “I’m not good enough” and mope.
  • Recognize the fact that the chief is a Level 10 and you’re a Level 1, so maybe you should find a different path and come back when you are better equipped to handle him.

Unless you are a masochist, you’re probably going to go with option 2. Doing all of these things will give you a chance to level up and prepare yourself. Build some momentum, level up, get better armor, and THEN come back.

When you return at Level 15, that once-menacing Orc Chief is now a peon that you can destroy with two clicks of the mouse. It’s not that he’s any less strong than he was when he started, it’s just that you’re much better prepared to battle him.

Why do we do things the hard way when it comes to life, but the easy way when it comes to video games?

  • If you struggle with drinking too much, then continuing to put yourself in bars where everybody binge drinks is a recipe for disaster.
  • If you struggle with portion control, going to an all-you-can-eat buffet is asking for trouble.
  • If you struggle with fast food, driving past a row of fast food joints every single day is a hopeless endeavor.
  • If you can’t get yourself to eat just one piece of candy, then putting yourself within arm’s length of more than one is a terrible idea!

My thoughts on Weight Watchers can be found here, but man they really nailed their latest ad campaign:

So, stop facing the Level 10 Orc Chief before you are ready! Go explore a different part of the world and level yourself to Level 15 before you consider putting yourself back in a fight with him.

  • Get all of the junk food out of your house until you’re better equipped to handle it.
  • Drive a different path to work so that you don’t drive past Burger King and Taco Bell and McDonald’s twice daily.
  • Take a month off from going out to bars and get your life in order before inserting yourself back into that environment.

While you’re avoiding the Orc Chief, you can set out to fight increasingly difficult bad guys to level up your character and become better prepared for the inner battle. Maybe you are afraid of public speaking, or you’re afraid of talking to a stranger you’re attracted to. You don’t jump straight to speaking at TED conferences or asking out Scarlett Johansson. You take baby steps and slowly level up:

  • Speaking: start by giving a talk to your friends. Then on a street corner. Then volunteer to talk at a local school or shriner’s club.
  • Asking out somebody you’re attracted to: Start by talking to people you’re not romantically interested in, or people you find easy to talk to. For me, this might look like: dudes, married women, old folks, kids. Get comfortable with having conversations. Then offer up a drive-by compliment. Then build up to asking somebody out.

Just like with all of the examples above, that inner battle you’re facing never goes away completely, it just becomes easier due to the fact that you are now leveled up. Thanks Einstein!

Step 3: Study the pattern of the boss and memorize it

Bowser

Ever played Mike Tyson’s Punch-out!!?

I remember playing this as a kid and really struggling to defeat Bald Bull – every time I got close to defeating him, he would run back and then charge me and knock me out with one punch.

This went on for WEEKS until I learned that you could send a properly timed punch right into his face and it would knock him out cold:

After, that…the fight became a breeze. And this pattern continued for each fighter after that. Initially impossible, each battle would result in my TKO. However, after dozens and dozens of attempts I would learn the opponents triggers, mannerisms, and tells before certain types of punches.

Again, it wasn’t because these guys got any easier…it was because I got better at pattern recognition and had the perfect counter punch for each situation. How can we apply this to our inner demon fight?

Prepare as much as you can ahead of time, and have a plan in place for every time that inner demon comes out to fight! If you are struggling with smoking or eating unhealthy foods, think about the triggers that cause your brain to crave these things:

  • Do you smoke when you are nervous or anxious? When you drink?
  • Do you eat when you are bored or unhappy?
  • Do you chug a six-pack of Mountain Dew in the afternoon to stay awake at work?

Your demon has a face, and now you’re properly leveled to fight him. You still need to study his patterns and prepare yourself to fight him each and every time. He won’t get any less strong, but you’ll be better equipped to go through his patterns and counter attack and crush him.

Here’s an example:

I know that at work in the afternoon I go eat snacks and get a 20 oz soda because I’m tired and bored, not because I’m hungry. Therefore, when this feeling kicks in, I will follow the pattern of victory:

  • I will walk around the office to wake up, while drinking a black coffee.
  • I will eat an apple and stay away from Fran, who keeps a bucket of candy on her desk.
  • I will emerge victorious.

What inner demon are you fighting?

JediFight

There’s a common theme running through each of the sections and paragraphs above:

Non-judgmental analysis and adaptation.

When you come across a Level 10 Orc Chief, you might lose a few times before retreating and realizing you need a different game plan. You then go find a new path around him, or you don’t come back to fight him until you’re properly equipped to battle.

Heck, maybe you come back with two friends who can help you win – we have a community of rebels looking to group up to help you win your battle.

None of the above is possible without that first initial defeat: “okay I have an inner demon that is beating me.” However, the second step is more crucial: “I need to change my strategy or I’m going to keep losing.”

If you are struggling with an inner demon, it doesn’t make you weak or a bad person. People die in video games all the time; it’s part of the game. The satisfaction in the game is learning the patterns or leveling up high enough to deliver that finishing blow.

I want to hear from you:

What is an inner demon you are currently battling? And what are some concrete steps you can take IMMEDIATELY to help defeat it more often?

If you’ve successfully quit smoking, or overcome a fear of rejection, or finally got the courage to try something you’ve always held back on, please share your story. I know about 260,000 people who would love to hear your story and learn from you!

Because I like giving away stuff, we’ll randomly give away a Nerd Fitness shirt to a rebel who leaves a comment before Wednesday April 29th at 11:59 PM.

Ready player one…FIGHT!

-Steve

PS: In case you missed Monday’s announcement, we have less than 30 of 300 spots left for Camp Nerd Fitness this fall! Check out CampNerdFitness.com to see our first group of announced speakers – hope you can join us :)

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photo source: artnoose: Level up, alan: Jedi, phobus: bowser

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