Civil War Week: Can You Adapt Like Iron Man?

Iron Man

We talked Monday about why Captain America might be right in the epic battle that has come to light between two sides of the Marvel superhero universe.

Today, I want to talk about why Cap, although noble in his efforts to stick to his guns, might be a bit confused and stuck in the past.

Nothing in this world is permanent, and the only thing that is truly constant is change. The great moments of history are marked by change after change after change. I’m not just talking about our evolution as a species, but as a culture and society.

Today we still struggle with so many things that need to change. (Cough, conventional wisdom, cough.) But we’re stuck in the past, and making changes even when there is overwhelming new evidence can be brutally challenging.

Today, we explore why you need to adapt and change like Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man.

Maybe You’re Not Right?

Civil War Team

We all have deeply held beliefs that govern our lives.

Oftentimes those beliefs are things that have been passed down to us by previous generations. They are things we’re taught in school, passed onto us by our parents, or things we’ve read in books and just KNOW to be true.

Sometimes, these beliefs can be called into question when new information comes to light. When this happens, you have a few options:

  • Bury your head in the sand, immediately discredit the new information, find something that proves your point, and loudly declare that your previously held beliefs hold true.
  • Understand that you can act like a scientist, and new information is an opportunity to reflect on previously held beliefs without letting your ego get in the way.

Most people choose the first. From Tony Stark’s perspective, he feels like Captain America is too rigid in his beliefs despite overwhelming evidence that something needs to change. While many people have been saved thanks to superheroes, many have died as well. Can the superheroes protect the earth without massive causalities?

Funnily enough, we see this all the time here on Nerd Fitness too.

We get emails and comments from people all the time lambasting us for declaring something that goes against popular belief, even when our stance is grounded in research, experimentation, and caveats: “try this and see how your body responds.” These people feel like we are personally attacking them and their belief system, and they can’t sleep until they let us know that we’re wrong.

For example, it’s common sense and conventional wisdom that tells us, “heart healthy grains are good for us. Skipping breakfast is unhealthy. Avoiding cholesterol is smart. Oh yeah, and fat is bad.”

But what if those things aren’t true? What if there’s more to the story?

Progress can only happen throughout history if we deviate from the norm. Otherwise, we’d still all be actual cavemen. These articles and the discussion that follows can make people FURIOUS for some reason: see our articles on Personal Responsibility, Cholesterol, the Paleo Diet, Intermittent Fasting: the comments would lead you to believe we’re telling people “gravity doesn’t exist” or “you don’t need air to breathe.”

Instead of blindly accepting what conventional wisdom says and avoiding anything that says contrary, we dug in, hoping to learn more. Even if it made us uncomfortable, we’ve changed our opinion after research and experimentation (seriously, some of the articles I wrote seven years ago make me cringe).

Even now, there’s turmoil in the behavioral psychology industry because
“motivation” MIGHT NOT BE so clear cut! Many are burying their heads in the sand, because they have staked their careers on that belief.

We’re doing the opposite: trying to instill a love for new information and changing our thoughts based on new evidence. A love for learning we’re wrong. It’s an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to shake up our foundation.

Like Tony Stark, we want to think like scientists: nobody has all the answers. We need to be open to change if we’re going to improve, and some of those discussions or changes can make us uncomfortable.

We need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable if we are going to grow.

Work with the system to improve the system


Within this Civil War movie, Tony Stark doesn’t think the Superhero Registration Act is perfect. 

In fact, he knows there are plenty of problems with all members of the superhero community being forced to become registered government agents.

However, he’s come to the conclusion that by working WITH the government, he can enact more change than if he decides to fight it tooth and nail from the outside where he’d be an outlaw like Captain America.

So he does his best to improve things by working WITH the powers that be.

Are there instances where it’s better for you to “join them” rather than “beat them”? Sure, taking a stand often feels like the most empowering thing, being a watchdog and agent of change within the system can do the most good.

Sometimes we urge you to drop the negative people in your life. But oftentimes, the solution is to BE the role model and make changes in the culture of your own family and friends.

By choosing to opt out of the game, you lose your power to help people. If you swear off friends and family and simply yell at them that they’re wrong, you not only lose the power to help them, but also a potentially awesome support team that could’ve been unlocked.

Can You Adapt?


You will never know everything. You might be wrong about a lot of things. In fact, at this moment we all believe a good percentage of stuff that’s just wrong. In fact, some things you have believed your WHOLE life might be called into question by next year.

How will you respond? 

Will you bury your head in the sand and make sure you don’t have to hear the new truth? Will that new truth make you question your foundation and cause a panic attack?

Or are you a scientist like Tony Stark – truth first?

Are you actively looking for ways to disprove things you know to be true? Conventional wisdom isn’t right all the time, and just because has been done the same way forever doesn’t mean it needs to be done that way forever. Change happens. New events bring new details to light.

I’d love to hear from you. What’s one deeply held belief that you have changed your mind on in the past?

I’ll start:

I used to believe that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. That it was necessary to eat when I woke up to “stoke the metabolic fires.” And then I did the research. I haven’t eaten breakfast in two years! I’m healthier, happier, stronger, and more productive than ever. Breakfast doesn’t work for me. It might work for others, but it’s not the savior I thought it was. In fact, I regularly skip meals or go 24 hours without eating, as fasting has been really helpful for my healthy journey.

Your turn:

What’s something you have changed your mind on since starting your journey to a healthier life?

How did others in your life respond when you made these changes?

And keep an eye out for a Civil War Workout on Monday!



Photo source: toy iron man, foot circle, Gears, war machine.

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18 thoughts on “Civil War Week: Can You Adapt Like Iron Man?

  1. You may have picked the wrong theme for your article this time.

    Science is all about repeatability. If something has been repeated, it’s fairly consistent. If government oversight of the Avengers nearly resulted in NYC being nuked once, and if the second time the government oversight turned out to be Hydra (who nearly took over the world), I fail to see how the “scientific” choice is to try government oversight again.

    And, unfortunately, health and fitness is pretty resistant to science. That’s why we get a perpetual volley of eggs are good, eggs are bad. Science is hard. Science on the human body is harder.

    But that means that your “try it for a little while and see how it works” approach is probably the best way to go on fitness.

  2. I spent years resisting a ketogenic diet because I had been told it wouldn’t work; it couldn’t work; it would cause a hearts track etc etc. After doing a lot of research I was talked into trying it by my training partner – 17lbs down in 5 weeks and I have never had more energy! Muscle mass is becoming more noticeable and I couldn’t be happier. Now, just to deal with all the nearest and dearest trying to make me go for pizza!

  3. Well I would have to say cooking was the hardest thing for me to change. I work 2 night jobs so usually my options for dinner is bring it myself or whataburger (It’s a texas thing). I have difficulty cooking for 1 person. I always make way too much and I hate eating the same thing every day. After some trial and error I have managed to make enough for 2 so that I have food for 2 days instead of all week. I can’t say I ever liked cooking but I didn’t hate it either, now I find myself enjoying it more than I use to and my body feels more energized and ready to face the day. Also, giving up soda was so stinking hard but I am more alert now so thank u nerd fitness for helping me be just a little healthier.

  4. For it was breakfast too. I was too afraid to skip it. Once I started skipping it and extending my time until lunch, I felt much better.
    I think the answer, to this week’s post is learning to find the right mix between Cap and Tony. Figure out what are the principles you cannot or will not change, alter, break (Cap) but be flexible enough to find the best way to achieve them (Tony/ Iron Man).
    In my personal life, I am facing this type decision. I found out two weeks that I will need back surgery that will limit much of my physical activities afterwards. However, if I don’t have it, I will suffer some grave consequences.
    My Cap/ Iron Man break down goes like this. My uncompromising principle, my Cap, is trying to be fittest, strongest, most able bodied person I can be. However much like Tony Stark in that cave, I can be flexible to find the way to reach it. Many roads can lead to your destination.
    Just my final thoughts.

  5. Thanks so much for writing this, in addition to and in contrast with the Captain American article!! I used to be just like Cap, removing emotion, using logic, being hardcore, and achieving a lot of “success.” But in many ways, it was a limiting attitude. I shut down my emotions, and was often left with anxiety. I would often succeed, but when I failed, I was crushed. Recently, I’ve become more like Tony, questioning the way I’ve done things in the past. I’ve learned to change my attitude towards my emotions, and stop seeing them as “stupid” distractions from logic. I now listen to my body and respect my emotions as “data” to make better decisions. I’m so much more at peace than I was before–and this has led to huge improvements in my health. (If anyone is curious, much of this personal growth came about by learning about and studying psychosomatic therapy (Hakomi!) in my massage therapy program at The Pacific Center for Awareness and Bodywork).

  6. I was always told that if I ran every morning, I wouldn’t have to worry about my diet. And it worked, until I hit 40 years of age. Then I ballooned up from 189 pounds to 270. I then tried diet and exercise, but plateaued at 240. It was only after I added in some strength training that I was able to break 240, then 230.

    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome

  7. I used to think vegetable oil was healthy but as I learn more about Paleo.. I learned I had to go back to coconut oil. It’s a challenge telling that to the people in my household so I just bought my separate oil and let them see the difference.

    The same goes for eating fat from animals. I used to shun them completely but then I learned that they are important too.

  8. The funny thing for me is that I did Paleo hard-core for a while, but ended up in a cycle of dieting, then bingeing on junk food, and then back at it. It was really hard for me to realize that extreme Paleo was not something I could sustain because it gave me anxiety and actually made me unhealthy. I needed a wider variety of foods, and once I allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted, I found myself venturing back toward Paleo naturally, but it’s not strict because I do eat just egg whites, I eat goat cheese, I eat oats, I don’t freak out over a taco with sour cream, and I just basically concluded that considering a more whole-foods approach fueled my workouts better and kept me sane. Same with eating breakfast every morning. But that’s me.

  9. I once had a point in time, where almost everything I had assumed about my life was proven totally false, within an 18 month period. Each time, I approached the problem with calm, rational logiv that would have made a Vulcan proud, and accepted where that logic led me, putting me in a position to rediscover the real me.

    As for fitness, back in the 80s, I noticed that static stretches before a race often led to injury issues. Years later, sports science caught up with my observations. I do adjust my warmup and event selection to avoid known problems, or take advantage of my traits, based on trial and error.

    Another time, an acquaintance showed me a different way to structure a gym workout, which he said both saved time and gave good results. I gave it a try, and then tweaked his idea slightly to suit me better. The result was significant gains in strength for the next few months during my “gym season” (I only use the gym in my off season due to heavy training commitments at certain times of the year). I use the basic idea to this day, with success, and am open to trying new things.

    My neurology is unusual, and I’m training and competing in unknown territory, so experimentation is a big key to my success.

    Right now, I’m also trying different distances at cross country to improve my endurance for the longer sprints. Time will tell how that goes.

  10. I used to think I could grow on my own. But I am realizing now that if I want to make bigger gains I need to be invested in a group or community. You can only go so far on your own. You need others to help you get further.

  11. Likewise I am big on breakfast to start the day. But since making a few lifestyle changes last year I reserve only special occasions for those big breakies to start the day. And also have been fasting 1-2 days of the week during training, which started 3 months ago, and have been enjoying the effect it has on my system.

  12. I used to hear (and believe) all about the dangers of drinking too much coffee, including loss of bone density, stunted growth, and dehydration. I have also recently found a number of articles that point to correlation between coffee consumption in more than moderate doses and longevity, increased health, and a net gain in hydration. So who is right?? For me, drinking coffee pretty much constantly throughout the day until like four in the afternoon seems to be working. I also started at the tender age of eight. lol Five feet, six inches seems like a reasonable adult height, and my bone density is above average for my age. I think it’s the fact that I use my body. Nothing I say to people will move them in the opposite direction of the original scaremongering everyone quaffed. More coffee for me. =)
    I should say, I’m a career barista, so more than a little biased, but there is good research being done by people much smarter than I am.

  13. Pingback: The | Nerd Fitness
  14. The biggest thing I have and am still trying to change is grains. DAMN I love bread and pasta. I have done short term experiments with myself and have come tot he conclusion they aren’t good for me. I will go paleo for a week or two and feel great: more energy, less joint pain, happier. Then I will take a weekend and eat pizza and pasta and other grain products. Not binging, just not avoiding them. And man do I feel it on Monday – total carb hangover.

  15. Steve:
    Sorry, late to the party, off doing things. As for breakfast – I could NOT stand to eat in the immediate morning even at childhood. And even now, it’s more a brunch thing than a breakfast thing. IF I MUST have breakfast with someone (such as a date – yes, breakfast dates!), I get up and around for 2 – 3 hours before I need to make an appearance at a breakfast food table.
    Who would of thought that what my body was telling me all those years might be the right thing to do. Thank You for the time You and Everyone on this site take to improve our outlook and our lives.

  16. I still fight with myself thinking that if I don’t eat anything I won’t get fat. I topped out at 220 a few years ago and since then I’ve been working on myself. I bottomed out at 183 by practically starving myself and doing cardio until I felt I was going to pass out. Since then, I’ve read and read and read and now I’m maintaining at 200. I’d like to get down to 190 and maintain. I’m reading about the paleo diet but I can’t get the voice out of my head that’s saying I can’t eat carbs or fat because I’ll get back up to where I was. I’ve been lifting for years but have only noticed a small gain and I know it’s because I don’t eat enough. I love the way I look now! The only real bulge I notice is around my stomach but I know I could do a lot more.

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