I Don’t Know What I’m Doing.

I have a confession to make.

It’s now been 6 years and 600+ published articles here on Nerd Fitness. I’ve spent the past twelve years of my life obsessed with health and fitness, muscle building and fat loss, and have even made it my sole life’s focus for the past three years.

But here’s the truth: I don’t have this all figured out.

Ok, true, I make my living helping people figure out how to live better lives.

But anyone who tells you they have figured out all of life is full of it.

Nobody has it figured out, not really. We’re all just working together with others and experimenting to figure out what we can, as we go.

And that’s awesome.

That’s what has lead me down a path in life I’m damn proud of, and why I’m proud to be a small part of a rapidly expanding community that focuses on the same thing.

This isn’t just a grand theory. For me, finally accepting that, “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing” was the first step to actually achieving my goals.

Here’s why it can be for you too.

My Personal Journey

Steve Ostrich

Over the years focused on health and fitness and running this site, I’ve learned quite a bit. Often I realized I needed to find a new path to accomplish my goals:

I used to think that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, and that six meals a day stoked our ‘metabolic fire’ (whatever that means), until I stopped eating it and got healthier than ever.

I used to dutifully eat my heart healthy whole grains keep my carb content high, until I experimented with mostly vegetables and protein and dropped a significant amount of body fat quickly.

I used to train individual body parts and used machines often to get big like bodybuilders (which never worked), until I started focusing on getting strong with a few basic movements.

I used to believe that I was fragile, that we were genetically predisposed to certain paths, and our destinies were laid out…until I helped hundreds of people who told their genes to go to hell and had tremendous transformations. Heck, I’m even feeling antifragile these days.

I used to think educating people more and more was the solution to helping them get fit: “If I could just TELL them to exercise more and eat healthier, we could get healthier”…until I learned that the psychological aspect of health and fitness are so much more important.

Every day, I stumble across a new study, story, or article that changes the way I think. Who I am now is DRASTICALLY different than who I was six years ago…but it took lots of learning, lots of questioning of conventional wisdom (my OWN beliefs at the time), and lots of experimenting to find the right path.

As I said before, I don’t have all the answers, and I may not know the perfect path for you specifically to get healthier and happier. “I AM NOT A FITNESS EXPERT” has been on our about page since Day 1 of running the site.

I’m a normal guy like you, trying to figure it out…I just love learning and sharing what I’ve discovered.

Even after I’ve been doing this for twenty, thirty, even fifty years, I want to maintain this attitude – that learning is never finished and there always might be a better way of doing things. We should ALWAYS be students.

If you read something on Nerd Fitness, it’s because it’s something that has worked for me or has helped the people of the community.

If I recommend a particular type of diet or workout strategy, it’s because I have found through my research, experimentation, and experience working with other Rebels that these strategies have the greatest chance of helping the greatest number of Rebels reach their goal.

So, today rather than share with you a tactic that I’ve used to get healthy, I’m going to share with you the step-by-step plan to taking control of your own fitness plan. And it starts with a modest concession:

“I don’t know what I’m doing!”

Be humble, get fit

this way, that way

Once you have accepted the possibility that you are eating the wrong things or doing the wrong workouts, it’s time to put this humility to work.

Here’s the path I’ve used to improve my life and the lives of a few hundred thousand nerds:

1) Accept that we’re all different: Just because a tactic has worked for one person doesn’t mean it will work for me: everybody has different genetics, lifestyles, jobs, and obligations. Following the Hugh Jackman workout will not turn me into Hugh Jackman, just as following the Scarlett Johansson Workout will not turn me into Scarlett Johansson. Which is a shame.

Instead, I question everything (which is a rule of our Rebellion), and I understand that I can’t compare myself to the success or failures of others.

2) Make as many mistakes as possible, but don’t make the same one twice. I can’t tell you how many people I know who continue to do the roller coaster of “run like crazy on a treadmill and diet” until they grow miserable, fall off the wagon, and end up back to square one. Then, they repeat the exact same attempt, in the exact same way, months later and have the same results.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Failing is awesome! Scientists fail at proving or disproving hypotheses all the time…but then they move onto trying a new experiment.

Fail frequently, learn from it, and fail differently. I stubbornly kept my head down on calorie counting and a progressive strength training program for years until I finally asked for help. Then I saw more success than I had in the previous six years. I’m now setting PRs weekly, and in better shape than I have ever been.

3) Surround myself with other curious people.  My favorite part of Nerd Fitness has to be our community. Nothing inspires me more than seeing a community full of curious people from all walks of life, sharing their successes and struggles in the name of helping the community be better as a whole.

This is an important part of how I encourage people to build a Jedi Order around them:

  • Yoda: Somebody who is further along your path than you, who has succeeded in a way you want to succeed.
  • Fellow Jedi: Somebody who is in the same spot as you, struggling with the same things, and is willing to bounce ideas off of you and offer up their own suggestions and results.
  • Padawan: Somebody who is behind you and wants to be where you are. No matter how out of shape or overweight you are, I bet there is somebody farther behind who is in need of a shoulder. You don’t need to be an expert, just somebody who has ‘been there before’ and can offer up support and advice.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Don’t take Nerd Fitness as gospel. Rather, understand that the Nerd Fitness Rebellion is community that encourages you to question everything and keep an open mind, and then take action and find out what works for you.

We’re all figuring it out


We’re all figuring it out.

If you’re trying to get healthy and struggle with which tactic or technique is the best one for you, I know how you feel.

If you’re a new parent and worry you don’t know the best way to raise your child, it’s okay. In fact, it’s probably a good sign!

We have a community of 240,000 and a message board community of 30,000 that can’t wait to hear from you: Yodas to share their stories and advice, fellow Jedi to fight alongside, and Padawans who desperately want to hear how you got to where you are.

Learning what you can from wherever you can, make mistakes and adapt, and share your results with people who line up with your philosophy.

So, thanks for listening to this student of fitness.  Thanks for letting me make mistakes and fail. Thanks for not blindly following my words but rather experimenting and see if they work for you. Thanks for sharing your results with others, in the name of making this world better.

What’s one strategy you’ve had in the past that you now think about differently?

Thanks for being here 🙂



photo source: Ian Sane: Street Confused, Lori Greig: This Way, That Way

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34 thoughts on “I Don’t Know What I’m Doing.

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  2. Gotta be food – I used to buy those ‘healthy’ ready meals from the supermarket, that had small portions and lots of salt for taste, never really lost weight as I wasn’t enjoying them and so eating more around them.

    Nowadays I cook for myself, not too much variety, mainly stir fry, chicken, rice and veg or healthy fish and chips and I’ve managed to keep doing it and eat healthier from it as I know what ingredients are being used (olive oil, protein and veg!) which enabled me to lose about 2.5 stone and also keep the habit and ensure I’m still doing it!

    Also using strength training and compound exercises which have made me stronger, fitter and faster!

  3. The Breakfast myth – Get that metabolism moving in the morning by eating a healthy breakfast of oatmeal or cereal, juice, milk. It was not for me. I feel better after intermittent fasting and eating paleo.

  4. Machines, and to a lesser extent, basic weights (please wait for me to explain). I always though you needed ‘things’ to get fitter, stronger. But I have been a NF follower for almost 2 years now, and an Academy member for a bit more than 3 months, and I now understand that you can get really strong just working with your bodyweight. Also, I’m now a big fan over free movement, be they bodyweight or free weights, over machines, because it engages more muscles, instead of isolating. It also has more practical uses that way.

    – 13remon, a.k.a. Demos Mirak on the Academy

  5. I have a wonderful game that I play at my local shop. It’s called “what’s reduced?” and it involves looking at the vegetables that have reached their sell-by date. Much cheaper, and you never know what there’ll be. I’ve experimented with a few new things that way.

  6. Steve,
    Thanks for this great post. Right on the mark brotha and wish there was Nerd Fitness peeps I could hang out with in my area!

  7. oh thank goodness..I thought I was a nut because I am NOT hungry in the morning. Not at all. Knowing other people have ditched breakfast and not died of starvation or gained weight is just the kind of real person confirmation I’ve been looking for.

  8. “What’s one strategy you’ve had in the past that you now think about differently?”

    Oh, that’s an easy one. I used to think people who lifted weights were just a bunch of a-hole jocks. Needless to say, I understand the Iron a lot more now, and I’ve changed my tune 180 degrees.

  9. I lost close to 25 lbs a few years ago, and I’ve slowly put about 10 of those back on. It’s been difficult to lose them again despite feeling like I’m working harder now, and for a long time I felt like a total failure because I let myself slip. I wasn’t even considering that my circumstances were WAY different then – I was living in a city and walking everywhere, had a more physical job, my metabolism was younger, and I’d started my fitness from total scratch, plus I definitely wasn’t eating enough then. (Now I’m in the suburbs, drive to my desk jobs where I put in longer hours, eat lunch before my hunger turns to nausea, and have to work out harder because I’m stronger now.) I’m slowly learning to stop holding myself to past standards that no longer exist, and to look for methods that are going to be healthy and work for me where I am at this very moment instead of where I was years ago. It hasn’t been easy and I still struggle with it at times, but Nerd Fitness (and Fit Bottomed Girls too) has really helped me focus on the small wins and stop beating myself up mentally like I used to.

  10. Eat eggs. Eggs are bad. Paleo, baby!! “Debunking the Paleo Diet”
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMOjVYgYaG8), A.M. (NO!! P.M!!)
    workouts, HIIT with (or without) weights, Carbs are the Enemy? NO!!
    They’re WONDERFUL! No starches EVER! Starches are ESSENTIAL!
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5wfMNNr3ak), P:C:F= 60:20:20 or
    40:30:30 (maybe 25:40:35?), legumes – NO legumes!, meat – NO meat!, Tofu
    (NO SOY!)…

    Anything…. and I mean ANYthing you promote for
    “what to do to be healthy” has been (or will be) systematically refuted
    by (what seems to be) a reputable individual. Dr. Mercola, Dr Ashe, Dr.
    McDougall…hell, Dr. Seuss, probably. I’ve seen Paleo, Low Carb, Plant-based, Starch-based, Caveman, Atkins, South Beach, etc. TORN TO SHREDS. I’m sure SOMEone can relate to getting all geeked about a particular eating plan only to see article/video after article/video completely “debunk” it. Why the hell don’t we know how to eat as humans?

    Honestly… I’m so
    confused that I don’t have a GD clue what to do anymore. I’m athletic,
    53, I’ve never worked out so much (P90X, P90X3, or Stronger 6
    days/week), eaten so well, (1700 c/day), and been so GD frustrated in my
    life. I’ve been stuck @225 for the past 4 months and NOTHING I DO has
    helped me break through this wall I’ve hit.

    I’ve tracked calories, carbs, fats, protein, workouts, and I’m just SICK OF IT — especially of not seeing the results on the scale. It’s been long damn enough!

    Just between you and me, I feel like bawling like a toddler and throwing a tantrum.

    I just don’t know what to do anymore!

    53 you’d think I’d know how to eat by now….what works & what
    doesn’t. Do I need to just go full vegan? What KIND of vegan? Fit For
    Life? The Zone? Eat The Yolks?

    So… I guess you could say I’m frustrated. I sure would like some help. And a tissue.

    And maybe a time out.


  11. This has got to be the only guy in health and fitness that’s honest, straight up and willing to admit this. I’ve heard similar comments in private from lifetime trainers and nutritionists but were not willing to appear vulnerable and weak by admitting so. Anyone who says they’ve got all the answers and is not willing to keep learning and growing is to be avoided!
    Progress not perfection

  12. Supplementation! Years ago I was doing the traditional gym-thing taking whatever supplements the magazines told me to take. Not only did I have limited results, but it was very expensive. Nowadays I’m way more strategic — I take the stuff I know I NEED, not what someone says I SHOULD. I keep it to Omega 3s, Vitamin C & D, Iron, and protein powder after workouts.

    Recent Example: I tend to have issues with delayed onset soreness. There seemed to be no way to predict what would or would not make me sore. One of my coaches recommended 2000mg of vitamin C right before bed on an empty stomach. This DRAMATICALLY reduced my soreness. That was clearly a deficiency, therefore required supplementation. I can’t help wonder what else I’m missing.

  13. Agreed here, Paleo is not perfect. However, think about what it really does — It gets us eating real food again.

  14. Bread – I haven’t eaten white bread in years ,but still bread of the healthier kind full of grains and seeds always taken the healtheir option .Getting to my middle age now I find im much more interested in overall health .I really didn’t think I could do without bread and it was a silly thought to give it up ,but I gave it a go “experiment” and with quite some surprise it doesn’t bother me the slightest . Paleo is a great way of life taking it back to real whole foods .I couldn’t say I’m all the way ,I still have a naughty day but I’m feeling much better for the few changes I’ve made in such a short time .looking at the big picture .thanks NF

  15. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking to myself this entire week. Not only is it my first finals week of college, but I’ve also started down the path of my first relationship. None of this is directly related to exercising or fitness, but accepting that I don’t know what I’m doing is a step in the right direction for both of my stressors. Thanks for the life advice!

  16. The concept Steve discusses here is really difficult for most people as
    the majority of information people read really leads you down the path
    of having to follow a particular, promoted program. These articles will
    post pics of people who essentially show the ‘results’ of a particular
    program or diet. Heaps of websites do the same.
    A lot of sites are
    also tied in with top selling magazines that are chock full of diets,
    plans, supplements, contests, devices you can buy etc., to achieve a
    certain ‘look’ of muscle mass, slimness with heaps of before and after
    shots to prove their point.
    If you read a lot of these you will go stir crazy and wind up in a whirlpool of confusion without even knowing where to start.

    A few years ago I had a very sick child who eventually left hospital and he was returned to my care. This was scary! I was a young Mum who had been thru a significant life event.

    I decided to take all the family away for a holiday where I could relax
    a little and recover myself as well as put most of my energy into
    making James well again.

    I had a plan of action where I got James
    up early, took him for fresh air with a brisk walk on the beach.
    Followed by breakfast of good protein and small amounts of fruits etc
    and stuck to this regime and I ate the same as he did.
    This was
    followed by walks, swims, rest time, good food in small quantities and
    tailoured to his appetite etc. The days went by and gradually I could
    see him improving.

    On returning after 16 days to Australia, James
    was considerably improved and I had lost over 7kg. I hadn’t even
    noticed this weight loss until I dressed in my jeans I kept for the
    return journey. I felt so well and on checking, I had gained muscle as
    well as lost the weight.
    Without even realising it, I had established a routine that benefited me greatly as well.

    This is where I agree wholeheartedly with Steve in this post.
    You do have to come to a decision about where and how to begin to become healthy.
    a bit like all the self help books about babies; eventually you will
    throw them out and establish a routine around baby and you and what
    works well in the circumstances. Throwing the books away becomes a survival mechanism in itself !

    is very liberating when you finally come to that crunch point of ….
    now how will I tackle this, what will I eat, where and how will I train. What would a Jedi do first?
    those first small steps and adjusting all the time and letting your
    body tell you how your plan is working will definitely move you forward
    and you will be surprised at how quickly the effects and changes take
    place. It then becomes easier when you have found your own road. Taking
    on board the best information for you and consulting the right people
    along the way will help enormously too, but it’s up to you!
    Not easy, but it won’t lead to the dark side either!

  17. Thanks for mentioning FBG! I just signed up for it. I’m always interested in checking out new blogs to think about different perspectives on many of the same issues/challenges/goals many of us are working on. It helps reinforce many of the positive changes I continue to strive to make in my life.

  18. Thinking I could literally run my a** off. I ran ALOT (for me) in 2013, and I was successful in losing weight…got down to my lowest weight in October 2013. Then running stopped working the way I thought it would forever. I couldn’t stop eating. I was always hungry. Then add the stress of my last year of grad school in 2014 and I’m now up 40 lbs from where I was in October 2013 even after discovering NF, Paleo and many other Paleo-related sites and info over the last year. When I think about the number ’40’ it initially makes me feel like I’ve ‘failed,’ but I’m trying to change that mindset. I’ve been doing CrossFit now for three months, grad school is over, and I’ve set my mind on moving out west (CO?, AZ? – somewhere that way) in 2016 no matter what it takes. I focused on running and losing weight to distract myself from things that were not making me happy – doing things and making commitments based on what I thought I “should” be doing with work, school, family, friends, health and fitness… Now I’m going to focus on changing and shaping my life around things that truly make me happy. Being healthy and fit makes me feel good and happy, but that doesn’t mean I HAVE to be 40 lbs lighter. I’m still very healthy and fit compared to many people around me. I definitely would like to lose some of the weight I’ve gained back, but for very different reasons now such as feeling like I can hike any mountain I want to out west on any given day when I get out there!! 🙂

  19. I am so with ya! And I think something might work for a while, but as our bodies change, we may need to adjust as well to reach our goals. I think it’s all about being a detective…forever! Thanks for your authenticity!

  20. I second the breakfast myth. I used to believe the “six small meals a day” thing. Now I eat twice a day, usually not until after noon, and I am able to stay lean and enjoy larger meals which I love.

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  22. Setting a very specific weight that I want to be at – It’s nice to have an overall goal I think, or a number in mind; however, I always got too focused on the number. It’s taken me years to get to the point where I am focused on how I feel and the different activities I can do now that I’m getting fit. I’m not focused on weighing a certain amount because it doesn’t really mean much.

  23. Agree completely. Support of others on same path is crucial. Finding what works for you is crucial. Being open to trying the new is essential. I don’t do the Paleo diet … yet. Not sure I will. But I incorporate parts of it in my diet. I still have pie. Love me some pie. But I don’t eat a whole pie. I have two pieces of pie in my freezer. They’ve been there almost a week. I know they’re there. I can defrost them in my microwave. But I haven’t. I have a few goals to get to, so I’m ignoring them. I don’t feel bad enough to eat pie. I’m not using “pie” to make me feel better, in other words. Exercise makes me feel better. My looser clothes make me feel better. The slimmer face and body in the mirrors makes me feel better. The energy, balance and strength I’ve added makes me feel better than drowning a disappointment in pie. Working to help my girlfriend set up her first photography show gives me a charge. Going hunting with a friend who might be a potential more than a friend and who has similar energy to me, gives me joy. Setting up a duck blind with my cousin who first took me hunting three years ago as paying it forward gives me joy. Food was a hiding place. Now it’s fuel and it’s joy too. Making good food is its own reward. So is sharing it. I learned a gumbo recipe that cut out more than half the fat and tastes even better than the old style gumbo I was making. Learned that prepackaged “diet” plans aren’t plans at all. You have to do the work. You need to cook your food and learn to incorporate that time and energy into yourself. You’re worth it. Weight Watchers is boring and I was always hungry. I’ve never subscribed to that “we’ll mail you meals” Jenny Craig stuff. What happens if you can’t afford that level of high maintenance? And prepackaged? I don’t LIKE ice cream. Or their kind of brownies, and what if I don’t even want dessert that day? Or for several days? Or that week? Well, I’ve screwed up the plan. They can’t mail me a substitution. However, I can make one myself in a few minutes. I had a small oyster po-boy for dinner today and some fries. I didn’t eat all the fries. I needed that po-boy. (been having leg cramps after exercise and in middle of night. sign of potassium deficiency) So oysters every now and then and bananas and avocados. The leg cramps’ frequency has plummeted in just a week. Oysters: protein and fat, avocado, good fat, carb, banana carb. So I balance out all that info and eat accordingly. French fries. Well, they’re just bad, but so good. That’s dessert! Sugar free iced tea to wash it down. I don’t feel guilty. I haven’t fallen off of any wagon. In fact, I’m driving it! And I’m attending to a deficiency that was painful and debilitating. Homeopathic diet! I know I can’t eat a po-boy, fries or tons of bananas and avocados daily. I limit my intake. But since those cramps have left the building with Elvis, I know I’m putting the right stuff in my bod. And I don’t look like Elvis squeezed into that white jumpsuit either! It’s heartening to incorporate a lifestyle, not tack on a diet. I got a friend to start back on her exercise path again. She’s taking a medicine that’s caused her weight gain. I said, “Ask your doctor to find another medicine. There has to be one that works, but in the mean time, start exercising four times a week, giving yourself breaks for muscle repair.” She’s started. In the “sore” stage now. I’m 12 weeks in and feeling so energized and positive. I’ve cleaned a house that hadn’t been really cleaned since my dad died in March 2012 and when I did that, I realized I’d been mourning hid death and eating and not caring about myself. Once I’d finally gotten over this denial, it got easier and easier to re-enter life. I’d been dead too. I didn’t want people around me. I padded myself with lifesaving “fat.” “Stay away!” is what it told people. Well, I want to join the living. I want people over at my house. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner and served my brother and his family. I’m proud of my home again. I want that potential boyfriend to come visit so we can watch “Wicked Tuna.” (already seen it and like it…he’s a keeper I think…) Kisses to all!

  24. Hey, this community is radical! Thanks for the great articles and conversation. I offer a ton of complimentary info on my blog in regard to not just moving more but moving more functionally if anyone gets a chance. What does functional movement really mean? Thanks again for the inspiring articles Nerd Fitness! http://www.aligntherapy.com/blog/

  25. Hey, this community is radical! Thanks for the great articles and conversation. I offer a ton of complimentary info on my site/blog in regard to not just moving more but moving more functionally if anyone gets a chance. What does functional movement really mean? Thanks again for the inspiring articles Nerd Fitness! http://www.aligntherapy.com/blog/

  26. What always got me, and not just with exercise, is the unknown. The possibility, nay, near certainty of failure. And I’m wildly impatient, I never put in enough time to be good at anything and get pissed when it doesn’t come naturally. And then watch tv for hours and hours because “at least I can’t screw this up”. It was a truly startling revelation when I got off the couch and realized how much you can accomplish when you don’t spend 8 hours a day watching television, Or going out every 30 minutes for a cigarette. Shocker. I had to completely rethink my life. One of the biggest changes was the realization that I have my entire life to get fit and stay fit….or get fat and stay fat. Pick one. I used to think I could be “bikini ready” following the dainty magazine workouts, And when I saw no results after the first week, I’d quit. Now I know it takes time. I lost 27 pounds in 6 months . And now I’m working on my muscle. I have already made some improvement in just two weeks, and I know it’ll take much longer to be where I want, But I have the rest of my life. There’s no rush.

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