A Robot’s Guide to Healthy Living

optimus prime

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • “Oh I worked out today, so I earned this piece of cake.”
  • “I’ll just have a few Peanut M&M’s.  Okay one more…”
  • “Calories don’t count on your birthday!”
  • “That food is going to waste if somebody doesn’t eat it.”

We humans are incredibly talented creatures; unfortunately, one of the things we’re most talented at is rationalizing irrational, counterproductive, unhealthy behavior!

If you’re in the process of trying to build new habits, your first three weeks are the most important – succeeding in those three weeks will allow you to build momentum and give yourself the best chance of actually following through.  If you spend those three weeks making compromises, rationalizing bad behavior with “I earned this,” you’re far more likely to justify bad behavior later, falling apart and skidding back to square one.

Today, you’re going to become a robot.  

No, not some useless robot like C-3PO (sorry buddy), but more like an awesome robot like the Terminator, Optimus Prime, or the heroic J5.

Why Robots Rule

robots legos

Robots don’t have emotions.  

Yes, I understand that the day that robots become self-aware will be the day humankind is doomed, but until then, robots have to follow a set of rules that govern their behavior.

“If ________________, then __________________.”

For thousands upon thousands of equations and situations…

If you tell a Robot to beep every 30 minutes, it will beep every thirty minutes.  If you tell it to compact the trash when you press a button, the trash will get compacted when you press that button.

  • They don’t think, they just do.
  • They don’t say “just this once.”
  • They don’t feel sorry for themselves.
  • They don’t give up after a breakdown; they get fixed and start working again.

Now, obviously we are not robots (most of us, anyway), and emotions are part of what make us so great, contrary to what the Tetragrammaton Council will tell you.

However, emotions are what get in the way when we try to make healthy and positive changes to our life!

For that reason, today I want you to start thinking more like a Robot.

How to Become an Automaton

Automaton robot holding smaller robot overhead

Create a set of rules that you’ll live by for the next three weeks.   

If _____________, then ________________.

Remove emotion from the equation until your decisions become automatic.  Seriously, write down your rules.  Here are some examples:

  • If I am offered ice cream or cake at work, then I will say, “thank you but I’m allergic.”
  • If I wake up and my alarm goes off at 7AM, then I will get out of bed immediately and go for a 15 minute walk.
  • If I get hungry in between meals, then I will go get a really big glass of water and walk around the office.
  • If I come home from work, then I will immediately go exercise before sitting down on the couch to watch TV.
  • If I plan on losing weight, then I will only eat THESE foods and not anything else.

Instead of dealing with the brain and our emotions that fight us every step of the way, you are now a freakin’ robot – the decisions made above aren’t depriving you of anything….it’s just what you do now.

This is the reason why the Paleo Diet is so successful for so many people.  Instead of eating smaller portions of foods that they know they have absolutely no defense against, they are only allowed to eat certain, healthy foods.  No calorie counting (which requires willpower on its own to actually follow through), no “just one,” it’s just WHAT YOU DO NOW!

Another tip – simple robots with one function are so much less complicated to repair and fix.  Simple robots with one function don’t break down as often, don’t have as many moving parts, and are more likely to just WORK.

So be a simple robot!  Don’t try to make 180,000 new if-then rules to live by; it’s too complex and your robot body isn’t prepared for such a thing.  Instead, pick one or two rules at a time that you will live by until those rules become habits, and then move on to new rules.

Build a Robot Alliance

Robot Army

We try to be as efficient as possible.

Over time, our brain uses less and less brainpower to perform habits that we have built for ourselves, both good and bad.  When you make a decision to start building a new habit, or replace a bad habit with a good one, your brain and body will fight you every step of the way because it wants to follow the path of least resistance (your previous habits).

For that reason, you need to start using every robot and machine at your disposal to help you turn those new thoughts into conscious decisions, and then into automatic habits.

Your alarm clock – No more snoozing, sucka!  Put your alarm clock across the room, and have it play the most annoying sound in the world.  Set your alarm for the exact time you need to wake up, and put the alarm across the room.  Get out of bed, turn the alarm clock off, and immediately walk out of your bedroom.  Hell, they even make alarm clocks to suit any need – I bet they work like a charm.

If you work out in the morning, sleep in your workout clothes and put on your shoes at the kitchen table.  Start blasting your epic playlist and get fired up.  Immediately go outside for some fresh air and wake up!

Your calendar – Believe it or not, I never used a calendar up until a few months ago – I just told myself what needed to get done every day, and then I did it.  Eventually, after one too many missed interviews, botched meet ups, and skipped workouts, I decided it was time to start using technology to my advantage, and it has worked wonders.

If you are worried about not “having time” for your workouts this week, set up automatic alerts on your calendar and phone to let you know what time each day you’ll be working out, and specifically exactly what workout you’ll be doing. This way, you’re not left up to your emotional side of “wahhhhh, I’m too tired!”

Create automatic failsafes.  Struggle with actually getting to your workout on time?  Deposit $500 in your friend’s PayPal account, and let him know for every workout missed over the next few weeks, he gets to withdraw $50.  For every workout you DO attend, he’ll move $50 back into your account.  Suddenly working out is the most lucrative thing you can do!

Domo Arigato

Robot in Woods

The first few weeks of any new habit can suck royally, especially if they’re replacing a particularly enjoyable, but horribly unhealthy habit.

Luckily for you, you can eliminate much of the willpower required to change by making rules for your body to follow.  When in question, just ask yourself: “does this break one of the rules I have laid out for myself?”  If so, then don’t do it.

Put failsafes, automatic alerts, reminders, and whatever else you need to do to make positive changes.

How are you going to become Mr. Roboto?

What’s one step you can take TODAY to automate your positive habit changes?



photo sources: Robot in Woods, Optimus Prime, Robots looking at each other, Robot Army, Big and small robot

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85 thoughts on “A Robot’s Guide to Healthy Living

  1. A Styx reference? You’re my new favorite blogger, Steve.

    I’m sharing this with someone I know who needs it. I’ve found life a lot easier to live in this manner, even though I’ve never been able to articulate it as well as you did here. 

    The only downside to living like a robot for a healthier lifestyle is that your robotic nature might accidentally overflow into your relationships. Of course, I guess we could just give ourselves the instruction of “IF I act like a robot around my friends, THEN they get to kick me in the shins.” Or, you know, “IF I act like a robot around my friends, THEN they will think I’m awesome.” Either way, really. =)

    Great post, as always!

  2. A couple weeks ago I started using “IF I have an after-lunch craving for handfuls of sugar THEN I will eat a powermint flavored tic-tac instead”. Works like a charm.

  3.  Oh man, that alarm clock that donates money to a charity every time you hit snooze? Genius. I hit the snooze bar eight times yesterday, and it would have been more if it weren’t for the fact that my snooze bar no longer shuts off the alarm after an hour. I love the common usage suggestions: “Are you a butcher? Set your SnūzNLūz to donate to PETA” HAHA!

    I never added my workouts to my calendar, but I’m going to do that now. Even though I’m super sore since I just started, it’s much easier to get to CrossFit than the gym because I don’t want the cost to go to waste. And I really enjoy it. But I don’t want my week to get away from me and I only end up going to one class. This way I can work around commitments I have.

  4. Hey Steve,
    Is it bad if teens start the Paleo diet and working out? My mom’s concerned that I might be anorexic, but I know my limits fairly well. However, I still want to make sure that it’s alright if you’re slightly underweight to start eating Paleo and exercising.

  5. Some great tips Steve! 

    You know setting your alarm to go off with bagpipe music for your Saturday morning workout is a GREAT way to get your spouse to jump out of bed and join you. You may get chased and hit, but now we’re talking a total body workout! 

    As an accountant I can tell you that I’d be willing to be the banker for any of my friend’s fitness funds. 🙂

    Take care,


  6. Blankman, Equilibrium, Dumb & Dumber, Flight of the Conchords, AND Styx references? This could be the best blogpost….EVER.
    and…ya know…the great content, too.

  7. Sounds familiar.  Sometimes I wonder if the downstairs tenants think I’m a robot.  “No, I don’t want to puff your bong, no I don’t want an alcoholic beverage, no candies, no pastries, etc etc etc…  

  8. This is a great technique. It’s so much easier to develop good habits when you don’t have to fight against temptation or indecision. Instead your code has already made the decision for you. If someone offers you a candy, there’s no “ummms” or “maybe”, your gonna say no and do the robot dance!

  9. Sleep in your workout clothes??? GENIUS! That completely eliminates one of my favorite excuses (and one of the dumbest).

  10. Hey Steve,

    Great article today. Huge props for the Equilibrium reference, that is one of my all-time favorite movies.

    It’s funny that you bring up this idea. Nerdiness combined with my work has led to me learning VBA recently. I was bored one day and actually wrote a VBA code segment representing my workout and nutrition routines and decisions. I am easily amused 🙂

    Keep up the great work!

  11. When I read the title in the newsletter, I wondered how Bender would show me how to live healthy … Too much of the new futurama, I fear.

  12. Thanks for another great post that tells me exactly what I need to hear/be reminded. I had a few days of non-Paleo eating and I feel like crap. it was good reinforcement for why I need to live healthy all (ok, the vast majority of time). Today we are having a party at my office with sweets and carbs all over the place. So I decided beforehand what I will eat – fruit, raw veggies and a couple pieces of chicken. Decision made. This robot is now on automatic pilot.

  13. Another great post Steve, I am going to show this to some friends who really need it. I’ve never been able to confront them on their tendencies to rationalize irrational behaviours.  Thanks!

  14. Having predetermined responses can help tons to keep you on track! That way you never get caught off guard and lose sight of your end goals. 

    Of course, I do believe that a little indulging every once in a while is the key to a happy, healthy life 🙂 

  15.  Jess, I’m NO expert, but I think Paleo and exercise can be great for everyone. Have you read the NF profile on Staci? You should — she dropped down to a really low weight through unhealthy dieting and exercising, and then started eating paleo and doing crossfit/power lifting and put weight back on — in muscle, that is! Here’s the article: http://www.nerdfitness.com/2011/07/21/meet-staci-your-new-powerlifting-super-hero/ I think that would be great.

    I think it wouldn’t hurt, though, to ask your doctor for professional advice as well. If nothing else, it’ll make your mom feel better. 🙂 Also, make sure you’re exercising properly, whatever it is that you choose to do; if you’re about to start something new, maybe have someone with more experience help get you started. Good for you for starting now!

    Good luck, and have fun!

  16. I’m with you on the indulging, but I’ve made that a pre-made decision too. I will have a sloppy day every couple of weeks. I don’t know if the re-feed concept has any validity from a physics standpoint, but it has a huge effect on my mental health. I know it’s opposite for some people, but sometimes the only way I can pass up that sweet delicious self destruction is by telling myself that I can have anything I want if I wait just x more days. 

    Of course I’ve gone way off the rails on some cheat days, but on others I barely feel like deviating. 

  17. I’m married to a (now retired) Marine – I learned long ago to buy an alarm that just plain doesn’t have a snooze button. 

    I joined up here about 3 weeks ago; starting with the beginners circuit, interval training, and some diet changes.  I didn’t go wholly-paleo (Holy Paleo Batman – this was easier than I thought!); I’m still eating some dairy.  It was indeed much easier than I thought it would be, and I’m feeling good.  As an interesting side-effect, I’ve found that some of the sweets I ate before are now too sweet to eat.  Cakes & cookies are also not having the attraction they did before. 

  18. “If I am offered ice cream or cake at work, then I will say, “thank you but I’m allergic.””

    Please *don’t* follow this advice unless you actually *are* allergic. A food allergy is a very serious condition where your body’s immune response goes into overdrive, and someone (like my son) who consumes a food he’s allergic to could literally be dead within minutes, as they go into anaphylaxis, and their face and more seriously, their throat, starts swelling up, and their trachea is too compressed to let air through. I’ve rushed him to the hospital in an ambulance twice because of accidental exposure. It takes less than a tablespoon full of his allergens to have him either fainting in my arms with his face all puffed up, or struggling to breathe.

    An intolerance is a less life-threatening situation, but still serious, and consuming even a crumb of food you’re intolerant to can give some people reactions like stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhoea.

    People saying they’re “allergic” to foods they just don’t want to eat, perhaps because they’re vegan, or dieting, or just don’t *like* capsicum, are contributing to the problem of the general populace not taking real allergies seriously.

    You wouldn’t tell people you’re avoiding sugar because you’re diabetic, or that you can’t have those fatty chips because you’ve had a heart attack and need to keep your cholesterol low. Please don’t use allergies as your lie; don’t use a cop-out excuse like this. Just grow a pair and stand up for yourself. “I don’t want any cake today, thank you.” Repeat as necessary.

  19. Totally agree, Joshua! I eat really healthy most of the time (and prefer it), but every once in a while I need to indulge or I’d go crazy. But once I do that, I don’t have any cravings for a while!

  20. Very funny and motivating post. Another thing that has worked very well for me (maybe because I’m quite competitive by nature) is to set myself “healthy challenges”– I view my diet and exercise changes as personal tests, and the best thing about it is that I feel incredibly good about myself and knowing the fact that I was able to resist the temptation of simple carbs or give in to hunger during an IF. It’s all in the mind and it feels very good to be able to “control” yourself, and I think if you can train yourself to complete these short “n hours” tasks of willpower, you may be able to change other things in your life that need more willpower.

  21. Sadly, I think the thing that let me be successful in fitness and health was the ability to totally ignore my human emotions. If the workout was on the schedule, it was getting, done, no matter how I felt. Somehow I managed to simply stop considering certain foods as edible, and now they don’t even trigger an “I could eat that” response. Useful…but disturbing.

  22.  I think Steve was just using “I’m allergic” as a funny way of showing a fairly straight-forward response that people aren’t as likely to question. If you say “I can’t eat that because of my paleo diet” or “no thanks, I’m watching my weight” it could easily create an hour long discussion, complete with condescending opinions, that leads nowhere and just wastes everyone’s time.

    Of course, we’re all grown-up here and can make grown-up decisions. If you have problems with saying “I’m allergic,” say something else.

  23. I love these tips! This is exactly the kind of motivation I need for my zombie fitness regime. The calendar alerts for exercise especially will be useful.

  24. Thanks for the different perspective. I’m not sure why I wouldn’t tell people I’m avoiding sugar because I’m diabetic though. Maybe because I just say “I’m not eating sugar.”. I’ve never been challenged on it though.

  25. Thanks for the different perspective. I’m not sure why I wouldn’t tell people I’m avoiding sugar because I’m diabetic though. Maybe because I just say “I’m not eating sugar.”. I’ve never been challenged on it though.

  26. Great post! I set up my to do list for the upcoming week every Sunday. This is extremely helpful because I can just come home after work and get right into my business activities instead of thinking what I am going to be doing. I am actually getting stuff done instead of thinking about what to do! I do the same with fitness and nutrition. I have said “NO” so many times that my co-workers know that i won’t be eating the cookies they made, so they don’t bother offering it to me. 

  27. I’m assuming/hoping that people wouldn’t lie about being diabetic just to avoid an long discussion about being on a diet. It’s just not nice to fake having a serious illness, just to avoid a potentially uncomfortable discussion, or the problem of continued peer pressure to snack on unhealthy food.
    Allergies are also a serious illness, and IMO shouldn’t be used as a cover story (otherwise known as a big fat lie) to make up for a defecit of personal convinction or willpower in sticking to your diet disregardless of other’s opinions.
    Saying “I’m not eating sugar” is simple and to the point, and indeed a much better approach.

  28. For the record, mentioning you’ve got allergies may also set you up for an hour long discussion about how “they weren’t around when I was young”, and a dozen riduculous ideas about what causes them, and how to cure them.
    Sorry about the changed ID, it’s still Bronwyn here, posting under my husband’s account.

  29. “As an interesting side-effect, I’ve found that some of the
    sweets I ate before are now too sweet to eat.  Cakes & cookies are
    also not having the attraction they did before. “Thought it was worth commenting on this as it is a big plus.  I noticed the exact same thing.  This from a  40something who has been a chocoholic & cake addict for life.  I still indulge once in a while but after 6 months of not paleo – but definitiely far more healthier, diet with few processed foods, I can now walk past Dunkin Donuts and the thought of having one doesnt excite me at all.

  30. Thanks! I was just a little unsure since the FDA (who I’m learning everyday seems to be wrong) says that teens should have more calcium or something. Obviously I just need to eat something Paleo with higher calcium! Any suggestions? 😀


  31. I can wholeheartedly agree with the “too sweet to eat” reaction to most processed foods. I went very low-carb for a while and anything that contained sugar was so overwhelming to my taste-buds that it almost felt like someone was pouring a bucket of syrup in my face if I had just a little taste. It really goes to show how incredible relative senses are. The same thing probably happens if you stop adding salt to your food (I’ve cut down a little but still add a few pinches to some dishes to enhance the flavor)

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