Get Healthy Like Mr. Spock

This article was written by NF Team Member Staci.

Five years and over six hundred articles published, and not a single one about Star Trek. Seems pretty inconceivable. But alas, it’s true. So today we’re going to change that by taking a look at one of Star Trek’s most famous characters – the green blooded hobgoblin, Mr. Spock.

Spock is one of the most interesting (and, in this nerd’s humble opinion, greatest) characters of of all times. You see, it’s easy to pick Spock out from the rest of the crew. He’s a nerd; he doesn’t fit in. 

If his pointy ears and upswept eyebrows aren’t a dead giveaway, his insides are pretty weird too. The blood in his veins runs green, as Spock is half Vulcan – a stoic species from the planet Vulcan, who follow a philosophy of logic, reasoning, and suppress all emotion.

Plus, Spock is a pretty awesome Rebel; he questions everything around him at all times, and never turns down a situation he can learn something from.

Fascinating Video

There are quite a few things we can learn from Spock and the Vulcan philosophy of logic and reasoning to keep us healthy in everyday life. Let’s take a look!

Remove emotion

Spock hug

One common misconception about Vulcans is that they have no emotion; in reality, they experience extreme amounts of emotion, but they have learned to control it through meditation, discipline and practice of logic.

Before we dig any deeper, lets look real quick at what logic is. You may remember doing logic puzzles in school as a child, where you are given a set of statements that help you determine the the conclusion to a question. Logic works very much like “if this, then that.”

For example:

If (we know that) all Nerd Fitness Rebels are awesome, and you are a Nerd Fitness Rebel, then (we know that) you are awesome.

There is no emotion in logic. Logic is based on fact, and making smart decisions based on those facts. So step one of using Vulcan philosophy is to remove emotion.

Spock has it especially hard, as he is not full Vulcan – his mother is human. And while he chose to adopt the Vulcan way of life, there is still the human side of him which is full of emotion, trying to come out at any given moment. But Spock, unlike us, deals with this predicament of emotion with great skill.

“What you want is irrelevant. What you’ve chosen is at hand.”

How many times to hear people say “Oh, well, I was supposed to go to the gym but I just didn’t ‘feel’ like it.” Or that they didn’t eat their vegetables because they don’t ‘like’ vegetables. Or someone ate a huge piece of cake because they really ‘wanted’ it.

See all of those words? Feel. Like. Want. These are all words of emotion.

If you remove emotion, and follow logic, good decisions are much easier to make.

Logic - New Page

Is your goal to get stronger or gain weight? It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to exercise or clean up your diet. In order to achieve your goal, you must.

Is your goal to lose weight? Then when you are presented with the opportunity to eat a huge piece of cake, you would think first and foremost: it would not be logical (even if it is your co-worker’s birthday).

Removing emotion helps you differentiate what you’re trying to achieve (what you want in the long term), with what you want right now (which is the largest thing that trips us up). One thing that Joe said in his success story was, “Don’t sacrifice what you really want for what you want right now.” That was logic (and removing emotion) at work.

Have you ever had a  bad day at work, a breakup, or a fight with a friend, and then eat a pint of ice cream to make yourself feel better? We all have, but it’s not logical. You may truly THINK you really want that ice cream or piece of cake, but after the immediate pleasure of having it is over, you probably wished you never ate it at all.

Wanting and having are two different things.

Spock Video

Let’s learn from Spock. There is no want, just doing what it takes.

There is no luck

spock kirk

“With each passing moment of your life, one event precipitated another, which made each subsequent occurrence more probable.”

How many times have you looked at someone, and said one of the following:

  • “They are so lucky to be able to go to the gym whenever they want”
  • “I could never eat like that”
  • “They are so lucky to have a body like that”

The truth is – there is no luck. Yes, things can be difficult, but the vast majority of the time, not impossible.

If you watch Star Trek, every single time Captain Kirk asks Spock for the chance of something happening, Spock replies with an exact probability that it will happen. Throughout the episode, as the situation changes, the probability either gets better or worse.

The same is true with your life.

While we don’t to think about the EXACT numbers like Spock does, it is helpful to recognize that everything that we do, or want to do, has a certain probability of happening. By changing elements in your environment, and by making certain decisions, you can either increase or decrease the chances of that actually happening.

So, if you have 100 lbs to lose, and you change nothing, the chances of you losing weight are pretty slim.

However, with each positive decision you make – with each workout and each healthy meal you consume, the probability that you will achieve your goal gets better and better.

For example, if you want to go to the gym after work, but you keep forgetting your gym bag, the likelihood that you will continue to forget it is high. However, if you keep your gym bag in your car, or rent a locker from the gym (remember this from building your batcave?) you’ve removed some of the obstacles and you’ve greatly increased the probability that you will go. 

When you look at that woman or man with an amazing body working out in the mid afternoon – don’t assume that they are lucky to be able to work out all day. They could actually be quite busy, and have three young children and a full time job. But by working nights and choosing a gym that has childcare available, they have increased the probability that that they can get their workout in during the day. Don’t surrender to circumstance.

You are the master of your own fate. Tip the odds in your favor.

Pain is an emotion. Control it.

spock kirk

[Spock]: “I am a Vulcan, doctor. Pain is a thing of the mind. The mind can be controlled.”

[Captain Kirk]: “You’re only half Vulcan. What about the human half?”

[Spock]: “It is proving to be an inconvenience, but it is manageable.”

Now, first, if you are in actual pain, stop and see a doctor.

But there is a difference between actual pain and mental pain that comes from doing something that your brain perceives as hard – the pain of pushing through the very end of your workout, or the pain of being hungry when you start eating less.

These are things that our brain perceives as difficult, and therefore is mentally hard. But when we view this pain for what it is, simply an emotion, we can recognize that this is our body trying to override our logic.

How many times have you been hungry, and then gotten distracted, and forgotten you were hungry at all? Keeping your brain busy helps you think about something else, and then you forget what you were struggling about in the first place.

In one episode of Star Trek, Spock, so full of emotion, and not knowing how to handle it, starts rattling off multiplication tables to keep his mind thinking about something else.

Many times when I am swimming, or rowing, or doing anything for endurance (which is extremely hard for me to get through mentally), I’ll do one of two things:

  1. Put on a podcast of something extremely interesting or extremely funny – because if I’m laughing, I’m not paying attention to how miserable I am that I’ve been going for 30 minutes and I STILL have 15 minutes to go.
  2. Take a page out of Spock’s book and start doing math. With rowing, it’s easy. If my goal is 10,000m and I’ve already rowed 7,200, I can start doing math related to what I have left: I am 72% of the way done. There are 12 minutes left on the album I’m listening to. How fast do I need to average rowing each of the final 500m sections to finish my row and my album at the same time? By the time I’ve figured out all the various answers, I am very often very close to being done.
  3. If math isn’t your cup of tea, there are a million other things you could do to keep your mind busy – get an audiobook, or a language learning CD. Write, draw, whatever it takes! My lifting notebook is full of drawings that I’ve drawn in between sets.

The same thing works with food – if you’re feeling hungry, very often all you have to do is focus on something else for ten minutes, and then you will no longer feel hungry. In fact, there have been studies that show that DRAWING the food that you are craving boosts your mood.

The more stressed out you are, the harder it is to make smart decisions

red ball

“Irrational fear is a construct of an undisciplined intellect” 

As you know from reading our article on willpower, the more decisions you have to make, the harder it is to keep your willpower up and make good decisions later in the day.

This can also happen when you don’t get enough sleep or if you are stressed out. To combat this, Vulcans regularly practice meditation, and are taught this at a very young age as a way to combat the pressures of giving in to emotion. Vulcans also practice different methods to return control and balance to their minds when they are struggling. One of their chants:

“Structure. Logic. Function. Control. The structure cannot stand without a foundation. Logic is the foundation of function. Function is the essence of control. I am in control. I am in control.”

Vulcan Song

Now, while we can’t just dissipate all our stress (because we’re not Vulcans), we CAN understand it, and control how we respond to it. The first step is to accept the reality of present moment. Understand that everything that is happened is in the past, and that you can’t change it. Trying to, or stressing out about the fact that you can’t, is not logical, and not productive.

Many times when something bad has happened, and everyone is stressing out about it, you look over at Spock and he is already trying to come up with the next steps and moving forward. He knows that stressing out or continuing to worry over what has already happened won’t help. The present moment is a reality, and Spock always acts to make the future better. A mindfulness practice can help us humans enormously with this.

A few other ways to not let stress get you down?

Sometimes showing emotion is logical.

spock vs data

[Spock]: “I am simply choosing to display emotion at those moments where it seems most appropriate, and likely to assist in achieving my objective.”

[Nimoy]: “In other words, you’re emoting when it seems like the logical thing to do?”

[Spock]: “Precisely.”

Being aware and controlling our emotions can be extremely helpful in actually following through and achieving our goals, but that doesn’t mean we need to ignore them when it comes to setting our goals and deciding how we want to live. In fact, emotion can be quite helpful in crafting our ideal level 50s.

And when it comes to emotion in our daily lives, this logic stuff can sound pretty boring. If I truly follow that chart, the following items would definitely be big no no’s:

  • Going out and getting a few drinks with friends
  • Staying up all night playing the new video game you just bought.
  • Having a piece of cake at your best friend’s wedding

Here’s an example of when Spock thought that he had killed Captain Kirk, and shows an outburst of emotion when finding out that he is still alive:

Spock Video

The truth is, that like Spock, no matter how logical we train ourselves to be, our human side needs to come out, and we have emotional needs. Sometimes constantly suppressing our emotions can be our downfall; the turmoil within us and the constant thinking can bring us down.

Remember, our ultimate goal is to achieve the triforce of awesome – happy, healthy, and confident in your own skin.

Just like it’s okay to do something that’s not so healthy, sometimes you will need to let your emotions rule the day. Remember, we don’t call this cheating – but rather view it as a conscious decision and then return to our regular scheduled programming.

Sometimes it is only logical to take a night off from being so logical. And not only is it logical to let your emotion come through sometimes, but it is healthy as well.

Live Long and Prosper

spock

Live Long and Prosper Video

Ahh, it couldn’t be a proper article on Spock without the classic Vulcan salute.

The overall philosophy of leading a logic centered life and controlling emotion logically can be a major tool for Rebels throughout our journey. If you give your life an honest review, you might be surprised how often emotion controls you.

Being in control of it doesn’t mean you need to be emotionless – it just means that you can make smarter decisions, weighing in all of the elements that go into it (including the emotional elements). It’s why getting healthy is a whole lot more complicated than “eat less and move more.”

We are an emotional, illogical species, and we could learn a lot from Spock and the ways of the Vulcans.

What do you think? Can you remove emotion and use logic to help you make decisions? How do you think Vulcan philosophy could help you?

-Staci

###

photo source: Amy Mctigue: stress ball, Sonny Abesamis: Kirk and Spock, Iaian Heath: Spock Lego, Blake West: Spock Art, JD Hancock: Data vs SpockEveryone Calls me Dave: Original Spock

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  • HahnBahn

    I’ve never even watched Star Trek and this was super motivating!

  • Kayla M.

    love this! i think its very true. we humans are very emotional. I feel like it would be really hard, but doable to try to approach life more logically. it would help with procrastination big time! which is something i desperately need to work on! because of this i think i’m finally gonna stop procrastinating and stat meditating on a regular basis! i think it would really help!!
    great article!

  • Tim Donovan

    But you can also use emotion to push out that last rep in the gym or sprint those final 100 meters!

  • I just realized that pretty much every time I’ve strayed from eating healthy (plowing down a cinnamon danish, for example), it was 99% emotional and only 1% hunger… or maybe it was 100% emotional. I’ll have try to remove emotion next time I think I’m craving something… and drawing the food that I think I’m craving is an interesting idea as well.

  • scb0212

    This article gets rationality completely wrong. Rational people can be emotional and still be intellectually consistent. Rather, this article uses the stereotype of the “Straw Vulcan”. Think about it – if Spock is so rational, then why is he so frequently wrong, and the more emotional Kirk and Bones so often right?

    This very website demonstrates that. Alongside the wonderful, well-tested advice usually found here, what really shine through are the writers’ passions. Think of the outpouring of emotion Steve shows us when reading and sharing success stories. Those stories then become inspire the community to become better, faster, and stronger. It’s converting those passions into fuel to power our instrumental rationality (i.e., the use of our intellect to achieve goals). If Steve didn’t want to spread his knowledge about fitness and wellness, would he have even started the site in the first place?

    And that’s what I LOVE about this site – the intensity and passion behind it. If you want to meet someone devoid of emotion, don’t look for a scientist – look for a depressed or anhedonic person.

    The greatest philosopher in history, David Hume, was a arch-rationalist and leader in the Enlightenment, yet he freely admitted the key to life was sentiment. Without feeling, without passion, we wouldn’t be motivated to do anything.

    Yes, logic is mind-independent, and we should remove emotional investment in particular conclusions in matters of epistemology. And simply wishing or wanting something doesn’t make it true or real. But no one achieved their goals without wanting to achieve them (even Buddhists, who want to no longer want anything – it’s a paradox).

    Would anyone think Einstein or Feynman are less rational for being jokers?

    The key isn’t to become unemotional. It’s to become fearless and win, even when it hurts. Because that feeling of success is one of the greatest things there is.

    Read: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StrawVulcan & http://intelligenceexplosion.com/en/2011/why-spock-is-not-rational/

    Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLgNZ9aTEwc

  • Matthew Frazier

    Thanks! I was waiting for the Star Trek article…this is where my nerdom lies (Guys, I have a freakin’ star trek tattoo). One logical thing I do especially toward stress is look at my emotions through H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). This helps me to be aware of what the emotion is, then I figured out where it’s coming from. It helps me to not lose sight of my goals and what I’m working towards. I also know how to combat those things.

  • Teri Eckhoff

    It never seems to fail. I can read a NF blog post 2 weeks after it’s been posted or immediately after it comes out and it ALWAYS speaks to me directly regarding an issue I’m dealing with. I was just thinking the other day I needed to start “thinking” before I just randomly pick up some food and eat it. I have a bad habit of grabbing something to eat and consuming it quickly. Usually it is gone before I even think about what I’m doing/have done. This information on logic fits right in with my issue, I can’t think about it logically if I don’t slow down and think about it at all. That is the one goal I’m working on right now. Thanks for this awesome post Staci!

  • Taylor

    Thanks for your comment – this is why I love our community. I could discuss/debate this topic (especially Vulcan philosophy) for hours. We should get a beer sometime 🙂

  • scb0212

    Thanks – in hindsight, I hope I wasn’t too harsh in the comment. I mostly lurk specifically because I would comment more on the nerdy parts of the article more than the fitness (heh). I was a Star Wars fan as a kid, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more of a Trek fan. But both take a back seat to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!

  • Andrew Williams

    That Lego Spock at the top of the article doesn’t look so healthy! 😛

  • Loren Anthony

    I love the original Star Trek series! Thanks for this it was a very unique way to look at fitness motivation!

  • Fred J

    inconceivable!

  • staciardison

    Hey! Like Taylor said, thank you, and I could also discuss this for hours! I think I had about 5,000 words before Taylor was given the very difficult job of getting this into something article sized 🙂

    Completely agree on a lot of this – I’ve actually seen this and this side of everything was one of the reasons that writing this article was so hard and why it took me so long to do it!

    We don’t want people to become completely emotionless – that would be boring, and so very unhuman. Emotion will always come through, no matter what.

    One thing that people always ask me is about motivation, and how do I stay motivated – and the truth is, I don’t – but I use this type of thinking to make myself do it – but in reality, what truly is driving me deep down is the desire to succeed, which is an emotion. So I’m only being logical because of the emotion.

    ANYWAYS – I could go on for days, but I won’t 🙂 But again, agree that there is so much more to this topic 🙂

  • staciardison

    You can, absolutely, but wouldn’t using emotion to push you mean that you are in control of your emotions? 🙂 So much more to this topic than what we had time to cover! 😀

  • staciardison

    Emotional eating is something that I have always historically struggled with. Always. It’s SO HARD. A few years ago I put a big sign on the fridge that said “ARE YOU REALLY HUNGRY?” and that helped. Also – making a rule about always eating at the table (and not at the fridge or cabinet) helped huge because I would actually have to THINK about the decision before I did it.

  • staciardison

    I WANT A STAR TREK TATTOO!!!! That’s awesome 🙂 I love the HALT idea! We can’t get RID of emotion (nor do we want to), so learning to understand it (and therefore control it) is the best thing we can do. Love it

  • staciardison

    Thank you! Thinking about WHY you are doing something is definitely the first step. So many times I’ve gotten to the fridge and started to make food and asked myself why I was eating and have NOT been able to come up with a good answer. And if I can’t come up with a good answer as to why I’m doing it – I shouldn’t be doing it 🙂

  • In the given case of the cinnamon danish, the emotion was… weird. The thought going through my head was something like, “dammit, I can eat this stuff too.” Like somehow I was feeling deprived… and of course, after I ate it, I felt terrible. I have to go back to the “I *don’t* eat that stuff” attitude, instead of the “I *can’t*” attitude. There is definitely a difference.

  • Jordan Silver

    Thank you Staci for this article. I have been trying to get myself motivated to go to the gym in the morning when it’s freezing outside, and this might be the push I need. If I tell myself that getting out of my warm bed and running outside for the 1 minute it takes to get to the gym is the only logical way to improve my body… then it’s the only thing to do!

    Also, you give some great examples about getting through those tough endurance sessions. Playing games with numbers is not only a great way of knowing how much longer you have to go, but it distracts you from the workout! Thanks again!

  • Mike L.

    I’ve long thought that if humans made all decisions based on logic versus emotion, we would be better off in the end. I firmly believe that the logical decision is almost always the best decision. Emotional, gut decisions are often the ones that get us in trouble (think about the girl who has a gut, emotional connection to dating the “bad boy”). My SO and I differ on this greatly – she makes a lot of emotional decisions, which we often end up realizing are poor decisions, but I guess some people are just naturally born emotional decision makers and will continue to make mistakes until they consciously change the way they make decisions.

  • Jean G

    Very interesting article, I loved it. However, I think Spock is more an example of how to live a disciplined life than a “logical” one. As a character, he also represents 2 extremes- a dangerously emotional man who turns to suppression of emotion (dangerous and unhealthy in it’s own right) to control himself. Neither option is good. In the end, he learns that controlled expression of emotion is a good balance between his dangerous nature and his dangerous way of handling it.

  • scb0212

    Thanks. Again, I hope I wasn’t too harsh with the initial comment. And I can empathize with editing – was a Lit & Philosophy major in college, & now I work at a PR firm and do freelance copy-editing, so I get both sides of writing.

    And this site does a great job of applied rationality. It doesn’t offer one-exercise-fits-all advice. That’s the idea behind the RPG classes – if you want a body like THIS, then you should focus on THAT. People have different motivations for fitness (that’s the emotional part), so you have to tailor the workout for those individual needs (that’s the logical part).

    To update Plato’s analogy, I think of it like a car. The engine is your emotions – doesn’t think for itself, but powerful and gets you moving. The intellect is your navigator – it’ll tell you how to get where you’re going, and better navigators will help you avoid dead ends, road hazards, &c (i.e. a more developed intellect recognizes fallacies & biases more easily). And you, the driver, judges. Where to go? What kind of route to prioritize? What pace to set? &c. It’s the drivers job to make sure it’s all in balance.

    The HALT suggestion below is a great example of applied rationality, too. Recognizing & identifying the negative thought pattern is the first step to stopping it.

    All this said, I’m still a rationalist. Emotions are good and useful, but logic optimizes outcomes.

    Fun fact 1: your example syllogism (All rebels are awesome, you are a rebel, therefore you’re awesome) has a name: Barbara! It consists of three “A” statements, so that’s its nickname.

    Fun fact 2: I’m discussing philosophy & Star Trek on a fitness site, yet was silenced at my local comic book & game store for being too nerdy. Go figure.

  • RoboCojo

    I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • Taylor

    You can never be too nerdy on NF 🙂

    I like your update to Plato’s analogy, but I do think intellect and emotion are more reciprocal than the car metaphor gives it credit for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m with Hume, and believe positive psychologists have proven Hume (over Kant)… at least in experimental conversational situations, reason is the slave.

    That said, it seems to me that it is some interaction, some interplay of the two working together (and sometimes against themselves) produce your purpose/ethos…which then joins the interplay.

    Thinking about my own life, at least, I can recognize many instances where logic might have been even a larger factor as the “engine” (although emotion is usually the more powerful bully).

    In my own mindfulness practice, this is something that has become more clear. As I become more aware of a variety of my own processes/reactions, logic enters the scene earlier and stronger.

  • Me

    Super Great Article!!

  • Tim Donovan

    Good point! Hadn’t thought of that!

    There’s an awesome interview with Hugh Jackman talking about how he gets angry when he’s deadlifting…I reckon that would be awesome to see (from a distance!)

  • M Christine Wildman

    I read this whole sitting here emotionally drinking my SMALL chick-fil-a peppermint chocolate chip milkshake. Now, I will make the logical choice to drive home and do my painting plans! Thanks, Staci!

  • Natasha Sellner

    Jordan,
    I had to out-think myself on this issue. I knew that one of my excuses for not going to the gym was that I was using gas, would have to wait on a shower, etc. So eventually I got smarter than myself, if that’s possible.
    I cancelled my gym membership. I started working out at home and making it impossible to ignore. I have a large calendar with large Red X’s on it (Thanks Steve!) and all of my weight loss equipment staring me in the face the moment I walk in my door (again Thanks Steve!). Now I don’t have to drive anywhere, and my shower is right upstairs. Granted so is my sofa, but that’s where a little willpower comes into play. I removed having to use logic because I strategically placed things where it just became a routine and impossible to avoid. I don’t have to make decisions now.
    Granted keeping up on bodyweight exercises and slowly growing my free weight collection will take some time…but the first step was making it an every day thing. I’ve been at it for about 2 months now. Shouldn’t be too difficult to keep it up. 🙂

  • Trent

    Freaking brilliant!

  • Trent

    Matt Fitzgerald (author of Racing Weight) counsels to distinguish “head hunger” from “real hunger.” Although the head is usually associated with logic, in this case it refers to thinking irrational thoughts about food, or emotional thinking.

  • jedimom

    This is so perfect to what I am working on with my anxiety disorder! THANK YOU!!

  • Jordan Silver

    Thank you for your reply Natasha. I remember that article Steve wrote about putting his workout equipment and guitar in places that he can’t avoid. Such a great idea!

    That’s really smart what you did about working out at home instead of paying for the gym. Seems like you keep up the motivation if you don’t have to waste the gas and you get to stay in the comfort/warmth of your own home. There’s always a little willpower that has to be used, but I guess the harder you make it to avoid something, the easier it is to do!

  • Daniel Jcs

    I really needed this sort of article, along with the cross-referenced “master of my ow fate”-article from 3 years ago. Thank you!

  • This is one of my favorite posts for the Nerd Rebellion. My favorite quote, “sometimes showing emotion is logical.”

  • computertay

    ahh x) gotta love some spock knowledge! great article thank you.

  • Ethan Myerson

    I’m just now seeing this article months after it was initially posted. It’s a little sadder now that Nimoy has died, of course, but the lessons in the article are what matters. Thanks for sharing this!

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