Today, I have a different kind of success story for you.
It’s maybe the best example I’ve ever seen for “just knowing what to do” isn’t enough when it comes to getting healthy!
Meet Jeff (hey, that’s me next to him!):
We met a few years back at Camp NF, one of our in-person events back in 2016 – he’s one of the most accomplished people I know (he started MED SCHOOL at age 16). However, even for a guy as smart as he is, he struggled with actually getting consistent healthy results and getting out of his own way for years.
Over the past few years, as Jeff’s startup life got busier, his health took more and more of a backseat:
- Jeff has founded multiple start-ups and is currently running one.
- His schedule, both for travel and eating, is completely erratic.
- He spent most weekends of 2018 on airplanes, flying red-eye flights.
- He kept chasing the next fad, changing his mind every other day.
And his brain wouldn’t slow down! Jeff really struggled with “analysis by paralysis,” thinking about working out way more than he actually worked out.
If this sounds like you and your brain, maybe you can relate?
It took Jeff partnering with Jim, our lead trainer in the NF Coaching Program, for the past year to slow down long enough to start to see results that would stick.
And slowing down isn’t easy for this guy.
Jeff’s brain is always going a million miles an hour, he practically lives on airplanes and red-eye flights, has a super varied eating and workout schedule, and no day is the same for him thanks to his entrepreneurial career!
I’m really proud that Jeff is one of our 1-on-1 coaching clients, and that we were able to get him the results that had eluded him for the majority of his life up to that point.
I love that even as a busy entrepreneur, he’s seeing the “return on investment” of investing in himself with coaching and taking care of his own health! If this sounds like you, we’d love to hear how we could potentially help you at Nerd Fitness Coaching – simply click the button below to learn more!
I’ve chopped this interview into multiple sections, so feel free to pick the sections that you’re most interested in!
How Jeff managed to get his own brain out of the way…
Readers of Nerd Fitness tend to be on the smarter side of average.
Like you. You smart person you.
Jeff is on a different level:
- He skipped high school and started college at 13.
- He began med school at 16.
- He became the second youngest US doctor on record at age 20.
- After his fellowship, he got an MBA from UCLA.
- He studied machine learning in Scotland.
- He’s now running a startup in Berkeley, CA.
Now, I don’t share all the above to brag about Jeff (and he wouldn’t either!). I’m sharing it because I want to paint the picture that this a very bright, driven, hardworking dude.
Okay, he also puts the NERD in Nerd Fitness.
In my emails back and forth with Jeff to share this story with you today, I kept thinking two things:
- This guy is gonna take over the planet one day, so I’m glad he likes Team Nerd Fitness!
- I can totally see why he struggled with getting in shape in the past!
So this is what I wanted to ask him about.
STEVE: You have tried and done many different exercise routines, diet strategies, and everything in between. What has your life been like in that time?
JEFF: In 2014 and 2015, I joined an amateur gymnastics club and really enjoyed the experience.
Unfortunately, when I doubled the number of overnight shifts worked to 200+ nights a year, I developed recurrent upper back/shoulder issues (too much radiology work + muscle hypertrophy from gymnastics) I stopped going to gymnastics altogether, and things deteriorated quickly.
Left to my own devices in 2016 and 2017, I barely worked out at all, and barely stuck to any diet. This is how I gained 20-odd pounds across those years.
STEVE: You’re a doctor and engineer, you have an MBA, and have started multiple startups. You get bloodwork done regularly, and you know your health and fitness information inside and out.
Why do you think you weren’t able to crack the code earlier when it comes to your health and fitness? You had all the information and tools you needed right?
JEFF: I don’t think doctoring, tech, or smarts necessarily help in the pursuit of health. On a side note, there are lots of different kinds of smarts, and the kind I have is definitely limited to very specific applications
Actually, each of these probably works against you, all things considered. It’s kinda like when we say, “Doctors make the worst patients.”
To get (and stay) in shape, I think it comes down to:
- Consistency, day in and day out.
- Enjoying something about working out.
- Building a set of habits that you return to instinctively when life gets busy.
- Being surrounded by a support network of people and environments that help you get and stay in shape.
- Sufficient sleep, and the practice of de-stressing in some way.
Unfortunately, those are the 5 things I feel like I have to battle each day:
- Thinking too much instead of acting.
- Not actually enjoying working out. I don’t get the endorphin rush at all. Trying different sports and group activities helps, but even getting back to a sport I love like gymnastics has been remarkably difficult mentally. I’ve also found the more I aim to do HIIT, the more I subconsciously avoid cardio altogether.
- Rarely sticking with something long enough to build a set of habits.
- Spending almost every weekend in the airport & on red-eye flights, flipping between night and day shifts every other week, having completely variable meal & workout schedules, and lots & lots of meetings.
- Usually not getting enough sleep, and not making the time to meditate or de-stress much either.
Fortunately, I’ve managed to have some success keeping the demons at bay in 2018 – as you saw in the photos above, and it’s how I ended up where I am today.
How Jeff Lost 30 Pounds By Focusing on his Diet
With Jeff’s brain being incredibly analytical you can bet he was crazy detailed with his tracking, his meals, and his metrics. You’ll see some of those specifics below,
STEVE: You started working with Jim from NF Coaching back in January – And since then you’ve transformed pretty dramatically, losing 30+ pounds even while working and traveling like crazy.
Can you get into the details? What strategies worked for you?
JEFF: I started the year on a low-fat paleo-ish diet for the first six months (lots of ground meat, sauteed kale, and occasionally some oatmeal in the morning).
Because I travel a lot, and flip days and nights working, my diet varied pretty dramatically.
That got me from just over 195 lbs (“before”) down to about 170-175 lbs.
I hovered there for months and months.
In June, the weight had been hovering for about a month, and I decided to try to full-blown Keto.
I measured every meal to 25g of fat, 21g of protein, and nearly 0 carbs. I stayed in the 5 – 15g / day carb range, and entered ketosis immediately.
Keto didn’t really work for me physiologically.
My weight was remarkably stable day to day while on Keto, right around the 168 – 170 range over 2 months.
At the end of August, I got a follow-up cholesterol/lipid panel just to check where things were at — and it turns out I’m in the small subset of people whose cholesterol spikes to ridiculous levels on Keto [studies have shown there’s a subset of people with cholesterol levels very sensitive to diet].
I stopped Keto immediately and went back on low-fat Paleo, which got me back to the weight hovering around 170.
I went on a vacation to Greece for the first time in September, where I gained five pounds (from eating a lot more than I should).
STEVE: I hear ya man. Keto doesn’t agree with me either, but I know it works for some! So tell me what happened specifically. So I’m glad you found low-fat Paleo-ish to work for you. That’s what I’m doing too.
So what got you over that final 10-pound hurdle?
JEFF: I was hoping to be able to do a photoshoot (a big goal I had set at the beginning of the year) in November, but the scale wasn’t budging in October and I was out of time!
I had a colleague who really suggested I look at intermittent fasting. I’d never considered it seriously before. The thought of not eating for these long intervals, after being so used to eating every 2 1/2 – 3 hours every single day, wasn’t appealing.
I remembered that you’d written a post on IF, so went back and read it through, and decided to give it a shot:
- Started a 16/8 fast/feast protocol (1700 calories a day, carefully measured).
- Moved to 18/6 the next day.
- Move to 19/5.
- Eventually did 20/4 for a few days
- Went back to 18/6.
It worked wonders — my weight started going down again.
I’m actually not sure whether I like IF yet – but it works awesomely for me – there’s a disconnect between how well something works vs. whether I actually enjoy it! Haha.
Here’s why I like it: I’m more productive when not eating, show up on time to workouts, and save time by not prepping and eating six meals a day.
But we’ll see. Right now it’s working for me. And it allowed me to hit my goal on time!
STEVE: As a crazy but lazy fan of intermittent fasting, I hear ya man – it helps me make fewer decisions each day, less clean-up, less work!
Clearly, you put a huge emphasis on your nutrition, but what about your workouts?
JEFF: Workout-wise, things have varied a lot.
I still haven’t been back to gymnastics this year, but have been through all sorts of exercise routines.
To name a few:
- Scheduled workouts
- Unscheduled workouts
- Mini-workouts at home
- Assault bike sprints
- Rings & small rope climb at home
- A few BJJ and Aikido classes
I don’t know how to do things half-assed, so I even kicked off New Year’s last year (prior to working with Jim) in Thailand for six days at a weight loss/fitness & Muay Thai bootcamp [Gym Bangarang] in Chiang Mai.
Due to my crazy travel schedule, my workout schedule has been hit and miss. That’s okay though.
So I tried all of that, but there’s been one constant over the past twelve months…
Jeff’s Experience with Trainers and NF Coaching
STEVE: Over the past few years, you’ve trained with a dozen trainers, many of them IN person. I’m curious: what was it about the NF Online Coaching program in particular that appealed to you?
JEFF: The biggest thing about the NF Coaching program is its persistent global accountability.
As long as you keep your coach updated, he/she sees the entire sweep of your nutrition & fitness-related life (as well as most everything else that’s going on in your life), and so they are by far the best-equipped person to get you off your ass and eating right / working out.
Working with any other trainers in years past, the training and accountability usually ended as soon as the one-hour training session was over.
Occasionally someone might help put together a food plan, but most in-person trainers are far too busy to keep track of all their clients over the course of the week, the month, and the year to help them keep themselves accountable.
STEVE: What else do you get out of NF coaching and working with a trainer like Jim?
JEFF: I started working with Jim in early 2018, and here’s what I enjoy the most:
Jim provides accountability, gets me to track my progress, and a consistent reminder that I need to be doing something:
- Watching and tracking each thing I eat.
- Getting a workout in whenever possible.
- Replying to messages in the app.
- Uploading food photos.
I do my best to track weights, reps, and sets on workouts, I sometimes dump weeks of my meal photos into the NF coaching app all at once (I average about a 2/3 success rate on taking food photos), and I’ve been pretty slack about taking interval follow-up photos and measurements lately.
Jim always adjusts accordingly.
He’s great at providing a bit of extra slack, especially during tough weeks, and not being too critical – except when he thinks I need a push – and he’s usually right!
Here’s the other thing I love:
The chance to share the ups and downs, to celebrate the triumphs and help me make it over the hurdles, a constant social bond in the midst of never-ending work and an ever-shifting schedule.
At Camp, I really appreciated that Nerd Fitness was working hard to change people’s lives.
So no matter where NF went – whether you ever decided to do another Camp, or launch a 1:1 coaching program, or build up NF Academy – I committed to staying involved: to help out people in the NF community where possible, join the NF Academy and Coaching program and share NF with acquaintances and friends.
STEVE: What would you say to somebody considering NF Coaching?
JEFF: It works where all the other trainers and fitness programs fail. The NF Coaching program meets you right where you’re at, keeping you accountable, providing tons of encouragement, and customizing your food and workout plans specifically to you.
It’s changed my life, and it could change yours too.
THE 5 KEYS TO JEFF’S SUCCESS
#1) JEFF ACCEPTED HIS LIFE WOULD ALWAYS BE CRAZY
Every day, we’re faced with a challenge:
- The way we WANT things to be, in a perfect world.
- The way things actually are.
The problem arises when people optimize their lives and assume that they can have things how they want:
- Of course I’ll have time to cook an amazing meal each day.
- Of course I”ll have 90 minutes to work out.
- Of course I’ll start batch cooking and take up Yoga.
Reality paints a very different picture, and THAT’S what you need to plan for!
Jeff had health and fitness goals, and also a crazy hectic lifestyle with ungodly amounts of travel. Rather than beating himself up for this, he accepts this is his current reality and asks “Okay, how can I do the best I can under these circumstances?”
By accepting that things would be crazy, it allowed him to have GOOD success, but not completely take over his life (the startup has already done that!).
Because Jeff knew his workout schedule and access to a gym would be limited, he took the next big step:
#2) JEFF FOCUSED ON FOOD AND TRACKING.
Over the past year, Jeff has dropped significant body fat even with inconsistent or nonexistent exercise. How does that work?
Simple: nutrition is 90% of the weight loss equation.
And for Jeff, to get down to “I want to see my abs” levels of body fat, nutrition becomes 95% of the battle.
Sure, making small changes like “focusing on real food” and “eating more vegetables” can certainly help an overweight person lose weight sustainably in the beginning, but the closer you get to 10% body fat, the more strict and disciplined you need to become.
As they say: abs aren’t made in the gym, they’re made in the kitchen.
Fortunately, Jeff was CRAZY focused on his food tracking, and used metrics to make sure he was hitting his caloric goals each day:
- He focused on a Paleo-ish nutritional strategy to lose the first 15-20 pounds.
- He tried the Keto Diet, but a cholesterol test revealed his body wasn’t a fan of being in ketosis. Good thing he got that test done!
- He incorporated Intermittent Fasting with strict calorie tracking to lose the final 10 pounds before his photoshoot.
He knew down to the carb what he was eating on most days whenever possible. Although people that are in tip-top shape want you to think it’s effortless, the real story is often far more strict and disciplined – why? Because nobody wants to hear about counting calories and weighing their food: they just want to be told it’s easy.
If you want to get to a low body fat percentage, that’s what it will take. And it will take much longer than you expected. For Jeff, that’s what it took. And it WORKED.
#3) JEFF HAS AN ACCOUNTABILITY BUDDY
What do you do when you know what needs to be done, but life gets so busy you often forget to do it? You recruit an accountability buddy. In Jeff’s case, it was Jim, his coach. This guy:
It’s amazing that a single text from a friend each day asking you if you did a particular habit is often enough to start a habit building process.
In Jeff’s case, it was Jim’s constant support, sometimes tough love, and gentle nudging that got Jeff to be more diligent and committed to the goals he knew he wanted to reach.
#4) JEFF SETS BIG GOALS TO GET OVER HURDLES
Jeff put most of his focus on his daily habits (behavior change), but he found that only took him so far – as a start-up founder and overachiever, he found that setting big goals in the future with specific deadlines really helped him buckle down and get serious:
“One thing that does sorta work (that my other trainer/friend Alan and I were chatting about earlier today) is having a big goal and a specific deadline.
For me in October, realizing the photoshoot was four weeks away got me to buckle down and do wonders with a nutrition plan, workout regimen, and final week of prep. In the month since, with the hectic trips afterward, and the lack of a well-defined or specifically timed goal, I’ve rebounded by 7 pounds.”
Looks like it’s time to set a new big goal and figure out a timeline! : )
#5) JEFF FOCUSES ON RELATIONSHIPS
I asked Jeff about his investment of coaching, and his answer surprised me:
“From my funky perspective, it’s not an expensive investment at all when you think about the value. I tend to value people, relationships and shared experiences far more than money.
I may try and jump around a lot of different things for nutrition/fitness/ personal improvement, but where it comes to people and interpersonal relationships, when I decide to commit to someone or to a friendship, I do so wholeheartedly and without reservation — and I stay committed long-term : )”
Life is all about relationships, something I think us nerds can really struggle with in this day and age. So for Jeff, not just investing in coaching, but investing in relationships with his friends is really, really important. He sent me dozens of candid photos from the past year, and many of them include big groups of friends doing amazing activities.
I have NO doubt that these friends are the “constant” in Jeff’s hectic lifestyle, which help keep him grounded while everything else is moving and changing at breakneck pace.
How to Get Results Like Jeff
I’m really proud of what Jeff has accomplished over the past year. It’s been AMAZING to hear his side of the story, as I’ve been following it from the other side (through his coach Jim).
If you’re somebody who goes ALL IN and stops, if you’re somebody who can’t seem to get any progress to stick, or if you’re somebody that spends more time thinking than doing, you’re in the right place!
Here’s how to see results like Jeff:
- Less thinking, more doing: Your brain will talk you into or out of anything. Act as if you already made the decision, and course correct along the way.
- Pick a nutritional strategy, and track it! This is a lifelong journey, so you’re not gonna get results in a week. Stick with it. Track your calories, take photos and measurements, and see how your body transforms.
- Know that nutrition is 90% of the battle. Don’t have time to exercise frequently? No problem. You have to eat every day, right? So put ALL of your focus there. Here’s our Guide on Healthy Eating.
- Be accountable to somebody else. This could be a friend who texts you each morning: “Did you work out yesterday?” Or a co-worker that you check in with each morning. In Jeff’s case, it’s his NF Coach, Jim.
- Invest in relationships. Jeff’s life is chaotic, and one’s fitness journey is often a lone-wolf activity. Jeff has prioritized the relationships and friendships in his life, and it has helped keep him sane despite a hectic lifestyle!
If you can relate to Jeff (do you travel a lot? Is your life super busy? Are you struggling to get results), you’re in the right place!
Depending on your current situation, our 1-on-1 NF Coaching Program might be the
droids solution you’re looking for. You can learn more by clicking on the box below and scheduling a call with our team!
Here’s what I’d want you to take away from Jeff’s Story:
- Accountability is everything. Have somebody other than you invested in your success.
- Want to lose weight? Focus on nutrition and tracking!
If you do those two things, I can almost guarantee you’ll be healthier 12 months from now than you are currently, and I’ll be sharing your story next year!
PS: Do you have a Nerd Fitness success story of your own? Email us at contact(at)NerdFitness(dot)com and let us know so we can share your adventure with the galaxy!