5 Crucial Mistakes Newbies Make Trying to Get Healthy


I spent six years of my life falling into every pit (see what I did there) on a path to building a healthier version of myself.

Since finally cracking the code and transforming myself into a real life superhero, I’ve made it my mission to ensure that the readers of Nerd Fitness don’t have to go through six years of mistakes on their paths to a leveled up lives.  I made all of the mistakes so you don’t have to.

Today I wanted to identify the 15 biggest problems that newbies make when trying to lose weight and get healthy, and provide you with specific advice on how to avoid each pitfall.  There’s a ton of information here, so I’ve actually created a completely free eBook for Rebels signed up to the Nerd Fitness email list. You’ll receive the book with all 15 mistakes and solutions.

Are ya with me? Good! Let’s goooo!

The Shiny Object Chaser


The Problem: Does this sound familiar? “OOOOH this workout has muscle confusion.” “OOOOH, wait, this workout was designed by Navy SEALs.” “But wait! This diet book promises to change my life without making me change what I eat!”

If these things sound like something you’ve said before, then you may be a Shiny Object Chaser. This means you are constantly chasing the next best thing: the newest supplement, the latest workout plan, the best class or fitness DVD, and so on.

You follow through with a program for two to three weeks, and when you don’t see immediate results, you jump to the next program that promises even better results. Shiny Object Chasers expect giant changes and fast results, and then get incredibly depressed when those results don’t happen overnight.

The Solution: STOP CHANGING YOUR ROUTINE SO MUCH! Want to know the common characteristic I’ve noticed across all Nerd Fitness success stories? Persistence. People like Joe, Staci, Ryan, Tony, and Veronica pick a workout routine and stick with it for months on end.

Here’s the thing: Getting in shape can be boring – it’s clean eating and consistent workouts – that’s it. Diet and exercise. For this reason, companies have to market programs with lame taglines like “muscle confusion” or “belly fat targeting!” These programs aren’t written to help you get healthy – they’re written to get you to buy them.

So pick a simple program and stick with it. Start with the free Nerd Fitness Beginner Body Weight Program. Try the Angry Birds workout. If you want more direction and education, try one of the many plans in the Rebel Fitness Guide. Pick a program, and stick with it for a few months.

Remember, it took you years and years to get to where you are now. It’s going to require at least a few months of work to get you to where you want to be, but it can be done. One day at a time, one workout at a time, one decision at a time.

The Emotional Rationalizer


The Problem: The Emotional Rationalizer is usually a pretty smart person. He means well when he says he’s going to get healthy, but unfortunately he’s constantly let down by that incredibly smart brain of his. He can justify ANYTHING:

  • “I earned this box of donuts because I worked out today.”
  • “I shouldn’t, but just this once…okay one more.”
  • “I had a tough day at work and I need this.”

The Rationalizer can take any situation and come up with why they’ve “earned” skipping a workout or slacking on healthy eating. The Rationalizer will do things like eat 1,000 calories worth of donuts because they’ve just burned 300 calories during a gym workout. They might skip a workout because of a really tough day at work. Or they’ll sleep in one morning because it’s only “just this once.” Unfortunately, as time goes on these “one time exceptions” become more and more common, and the Rationalizer ends up right back where they started.

The Solution: If you are somebody that tends to justify and rationalize just about anything, it’s time for you to start removing emotion from the equation. Every time you are faced with a choice, you make decision in mere seconds, “yes I’m going to exercise instead of going back to bed” or “I’m going to go for a walk instead of plopping down on the couch.”

In order to make sure these decisions work in your favor, you need to start thinking like Mr. Roboto. Create rules for yourself that must be followed and remove need for emotion, thinking, or willpower. Build alerts into your google calendar that remind you to do things at certain time. Then make sure you actually follow through with them. Do this by creating “if_____ then ______” rules:

  • If I am offered ice cream or cake at work, then I will say, “thank you but no thanks!”
  • If I get hungry in between meals, then I will go get a really big glass of water and walk around the office and eat a piece of fruit.
  • If I want to watch TV, then I will immediately go exercise before sitting down on the couch to do so.

Thinking like a robot is one of the better things you can do for yourself when getting started, as it automates the process and removes your emotion and hesitation from the equation. Not only that, but it also removes “I’ll just have one” from your vocabulary, because we all know the “just one” can turn into four, five, or ten very quickly.

These are now just “things I do” or “things I don’t do.” That’s it!

The No-Fun-Haver

hamster in wheel

The Problem: This is a tough nut to crack, as it’s tough sell to the No-Fun-Haver that it is possible to have fun while working out…but it’s possible, I promise!

The No-Fun-Haver thinks of exercise that they dislike and thus associates all exercises with “no fun.” Getting “in shape” simply conjures up images of eating salads and running on treadmills for hours at a time. Or maybe a sweaty gym class surrounded by ultra fit people struggling not to pass out. Thoughts like these are enough to stop “getting healthy” in its tracks.

And let’s be honest, it’s easy to slip into the belief that, “I hate exercising, I had a miserable time today, and I’m never going back. NEVER!”, so that you can go back and sit on the couch guilt free.

The Solution: Life is freaking short, so why would you ever spend any time doing an activity that you hate? I’m personally not a huge fan of running, and the thought of getting on a treadmill makes me want to punch a hole in drywall…so I don’t! Instead, I love strength training, gymnastics, parkour, throwing around a frisbee, and going for hikes and walks. So I just do the things I like.

If you don’t enjoy a particular type of exercise, pick a new activity and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Here’s 9 nerdy and unusual activities to get the ball rolling. If you don’t like running, don’t do it. If you don’t like working out in gyms, work out outside! If you don’t like picking up weights, don’t! Find something that gets your heart racing that DOES make you happy.

Break your mental barriers – exercise can and should mean completely different things to different people.

The Anti-Bulk Toner

pink dumbbell

The problem: “I don’t want to lift weights, because I don’t want to get too bulky” and “I just want to get toned” are two sentences I hear at least a dozen times each week from concerned new female Rebels. These Anti-Bulk Toners spend their time on treadmills, doing crunches and side bends, and actively avoid the free weight section as much as possible. If they do wander into the free weight section, it’s to pick up the lightest dumbbells they can find to do dozens of repetitions. Why? They’ve been told by fitness magazines that higher repetitions with lower weights is the best way to build “tone” in their trouble sections: arms, thighs, stomach, and so on.

Want to truth? “Toned” is a made-up marketing term specifically targeted at women. YOU CANNOT GET BULKY LIFTING WEIGHTS unless you are consuming a caloric surplus (eating more calories than you burn). In fact, heavy strength training with LOW repetitions is the way to get that “toned” look that every woman is after. Ugh, just typing “toned” made me throw up in my mouth a little.

I understand this is probably the exact opposite thing that you have heard your whole life regarding how you should get fit, but we don’t call this the Rebellion for nothin’. Nerd Fitness Rebels challenge conventional wisdom, and take the smartest and most efficient path to the results they want. For that “toned” look, it’s strength training and proper diet. Need more convincing?

The Solution: Meet Staci, your new hero. She looks like how every woman WANTS to look, and she did it with very heavy strength training. How heavy? Staci can deadlift over 350 pounds. Not bad for somebody who only weighs 140 pounds, huh? Check out some of these other female success stories on Nerd Fitness – they all transformed their bodies with clean eating and strength training!

Proper strength training is the best way to build tight, dense, compact muscle…otherwise known as strength (ugh, or “tone”). When you train with heavy weights and eat healthy you burn a TON of calories, get stronger, and build dense muscle. Combine this with proper eating and you’ll soon get rid of all the fat on top of your muscles. If you don’t believe me yet, give it a single month. Follow a strength training plan for one month while also eating healthy. Then compare your before/after photos. Your pants will fit better and you’ll look and feel better too. Give it a shot.

The Underpants Gnome


The Problem: Have you ever seen the episode of South Park where Underpants Gnomes sneak into people’s bedrooms and steal their underpants? These gnomes spend all of their time collecting underpants, which is Phase 1 of a three phase plan. Phase 3 is profit, but NOT ONE of them have any clue what Phase 2 is…so they just keep collecting underpants!

In the world of fitness, Underpants Gnomes are people that would read a document like this, and then continue spending all of their time reading hundreds of other articles, carefully analyzing and worrying about the best possible plan, only to act on NONE of the things they’ve learned. They continually collect underpants, but never move on to the crucial Phase 2: putting all of the knowledge into action. They’re so afraid of picking the wrong workout plan or eating the wrong food that they end up overwhelmed and do nothing.

Don’t end up with a pile of underpants. Take action.

The Solution: Start. Today. Now. Pick a plan and follow it.  Here’s the secret: There is NO perfect workout plan – any website that tells you otherwise is lying to you. The perfect workout plan is the one that you follow through with, consistently, for months and months. So here’s the method:

  1. Pick a workout plan.
  2. Follow through with it for 8-12 weeks.
  3. Track your progress.
  4. See how your body changes.
  5. Make adjustments
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 ad infinitum

I’ve covered this topic extensively on the site, because underpants are no laughing matter. Wait, yes they are. Underpants, tee hee.

Want 10 more pitfalls to avoid?

15 Mistakes Ebook Cover

Because you’ve already made it through 2,000 words in this article, I wanted to try something different today.

I’ve turned the this article and TEN more pitfalls to avoid into a kick-ass eBook: “The 15 Mistakes That Newbies Make,” is available for free as a download for anybody on the Nerd Fitness email list.  Along with this free eBook, subscribers also have access to an eBook version of “The Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet.”  We’ll be continuing to put out awesome, exclusive content for Rebels that subscribe, as my way for saying thanks for joining.

If you’re interested in these free eBooks, simply add your details here (or at the end of the article).



photo sources: pitfallhamster in wheel, kitty, gnomes, pink dumbbells, shaggy

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    46 thoughts on “5 Crucial Mistakes Newbies Make Trying to Get Healthy

    1. Do you need to re-sign-up to the mailing list? I’m already part of the NFE list but its not in my inbox. =S

    2.  Did it show up in your mailbox or did you have to sign back up?  I’m on the mailing list, but I haven’t received it yet.  Might be a delay between the servers, but it’s usually pretty quick.

    3. I’ve made a few of these mistakes while getting back on track. The most common one for me was the underpants gnomes! I’m always reading Paleo books and fitness blogs but not always actually applying what I learn. The old problem I used to have was making working out fun. I’ve been doing the Nike+ Kinect Training since November and now it’s fun. Nothing like firing up the Xbox and playing while burning calories, learning new moves and kicking your friends asses!

    4. This was a really helpful article! I see myself in the shiny object chaser and I am apparently totally an underpants gnome! I love that description so much.

      The best thing I got from this article though is the realization that I have to do the kinds of exercise I actually enjoy. I love going to the gym, exercising outside with someone else and going to classes – actually I like almost every kind of exercise except doing workout DVDs at home. Looking back I’m noticing that my fitness routine fell off when I listened to my friend who tried to get me to do the Beachbody videos. I just really hate videos and can’t stick with them!

    5. Great article!  FYI, typo in the big file… pg 24 (end of ‘the scale watcher’) has a lead to the next page of “Discover the Scale Watcher”.  Should be, “Discover the “I’m Too Busy” Liar” or something along those lines 🙂

    6. Hey Steve! I’m signed up – still not in my inbox… I tried signing up again at the end of the article but doesnt work (it tells me I’m already signed up)… All of that said, there’s no reason at all that I should be expecting yet another awesome knowledge bomb for free!! Just thought I’d feedback to you so you can look into technical issues and such… One love x

    7. This is an awesome post! I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made at least one or two of these huge mistakes… I especially love that you brought in the Underpants Gnomes, haha!

    8. Bit slimy to try this bait/hook trick Steve.  What made your blog great is that your blog posts were interesting AND complete reads.  Now you’re telling people to give over their email addresses to your business’ newsletter in order to finish reading the blog post.  That’s what scammy sites do.  You know you’re better than this.

    9. I can relate to those mistakes haha, mainly in my early days when I had no clue what I was doing, but still!

      The anti-bulk toner made me laugh, I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen that, it’s somewhat quite sad to think that people will sell these crappy ideas just to make a few extra $$$…

      But, back to positivity, awesome post! And I can’t wait to get reading of the eBook 🙂

    10. Hey Taylor – thanks so much! Have emailed you… On behalf of a handful of UK nerd rebels, we freakin’ love you guys!

    11.  I gotta agree, to a point. I’m already a subscriber, so no big deal, and I don’t know if I’d go so far to say “slimy,” but it would have been nice to have a “click to read more” link or something rather than having to download a document. I’m guessing the “good stuff” is in the first five points anyway.

    12. Great article! I am definitely the underpants gnome. I still collect all of the information I can, but try to stick to one routine.  It’s a way of justifying what I am currently doing. I sorta beta test the other stuff by sprinkling in different workouts to switch things up once and a while! 

    13. Great article! I love how you called out folks who read and read and read but never follow through with action. For a good 8 years (from high school through college) before my “fitness awakening”, that was me. And the consequence was me ballooning up to 195 pounds at 5’7″. I knew what to do, but never did it.

      Another mistake I’ve noticed from personal experience is being an “under-informed eater”. That is, going “no-carb” or “non-fat/low-fat” or “zero calorie” without really paying attention to the fine print. Over and over again my friends and I used to go “low carb” but eat tons of fatty beef and pork, and/or then try “low fat” but load up on bread, etc.

      I saw “Hungry For Change” last night and it really opened my eyes to these little facts. The difficult thing is that there’s multiple generations’ worth of lifestyles that needs to be changed in order to rid ourselves of our eating habits fully.

    14. heyo!

      Thanks for the comment, and I’m sorry to hear you feel that way.  After 450 free and openly published articles, I found myself writing a 7,000 word document and wanted to try something new.  This article is already longer than the average Nerd Fitness article (not including the other 10 reasons), so I thought a free, nicely designed and formatted ebook was a cool way to present the information.

      The message boards and two articles a week still remain free and ad-free; I just wanted to create some bonuses as a way to say thanks for people that sign up for the email list.

      Thanks for reading up to this point, no hard feelings if you decide to go elsewhere. Best of luck to you! 



    15. hey David!

      Thanks for the comment – with 7000 words, “click to read more” would have been a horrifying wall of text…even more so than the normal nerd fitness article (which is a horrifying wall of text!)
      I can tell you that I put as much effort into the last 10 as I did the first 5 🙂 I also hired a professional designer/developer to turn the document into a nice looking ebook to show my appreciation to people that are on the email list.

      Sorry to disappoint you, and no worries if you decide to go elsewhere.  Thanks for being a part of the site up til now, I really appreciate it.  Cheers!


    16. I think I’m an underpants gnome myself…I always find myself getting everything lined up, but never can actually take the plunge into something. It’s a bit sad sometimes when I look back at all of the plans I had made yet had not actually been able to follow-through on. Nevertheless, it’s not stopping me from planning again…and maybe actually making it to step 2 this time! Here’s to hoping I can actually make it to step 3 eventually 😉

    17. If people are scared to get emails from a site they have grown to appreciate and love and trust, given the receipt of an email is in no way ever going to commit them in any way to do anything, I feel that they are not nerd rebels. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but seriously, regardless of why we ‘had” to download something – we ‘had the opportunity’ to download it!!! With no negative consequences. Stop bitching, people. Thanks again, Nerd Fitness team!!

    18. yesterday i cleaned and jerked 85lbs 3xs after a year or so away worked up to it again)  
       and i got this huge grin on my face. all. day. long.  so do what you love.  check.  As a somewhat out of shape 47yo i’ll take that.  
      so then today i’m all “i wonder if i can learn to caber toss?” is that shiny object chasing ? or nerdy goal setting. ?

    19. sorry forgot to mention that i am a woman. 🙂 i think a woman’s caber caps out at around a 100lbs 

    20. Oh no….. I’m an underpants knome (how do you think I found this site). I’ve always known it, but now it has a name. Hilarious and perfect! I thought I was the only one who did this!!! What a wake up call! I read this 3 days ago every day since I’ve told myself “don’t be an underpants knome today! Take some action! And I’ve done at least one thing- even if its just walking the dog or going to the grocery store when I’m feeling tired & lazy to buy healthy food to make for dinner. I think this article may be my turning point. WOW! Thank You!

    21. Love the article and would love to read the rest of it but I still have not received the ebook through email. I attempted to subscribe but it says I’m already subscribed. Any help would be awesome. 


    22. Hey steve, İ have a question for you. I’m 16 years old and my doctor said I didn’t finish growing. He said you shouldn’t be lifting weights. Is it possible to not use weights and you know , I know you don’t like the word, toned? Thanks

    23. I am the worlds biggest rationalizer.. my main ones being “i’m upset so I can eat candy” “I had a bad day so I deserve to go out to dinner and order the worst things on the menu”.. well i’m off to become a robot, thanks for the article!

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