Struggling to Get Fit? Add Potions Before Your Boss Fight.

Health Potion

Self improvement can suck.

Getting ourselves to do the things we know we need to do can feel impossible. We know a better life awaits if we can just get ourselves to “stay motivated” and “get focused,” and yet time after time we struggle to stick with anything long term, continually restarting from square one.

We ask ourselves, “What’s wrong with me?” And “Why do I suck? I know what I need to do and I just can’t get myself to do it.”

  • “I know I need to eat better, but after a few days of cooking delicious meals I get busy and somehow end up in the drive-through line at Arby’s.”
  • “I know I should exercise more, and after a kick-ass week at the gym, I find myself half-assing my workouts, not seeing results, and I get demoralized. Wait, how did I end up in the Arby’s line again!?”
  • “I’m in pretty good shape, but trying to level up to an elite level of fitness really just seems like an exercise in frustration. Where’s the closest Arby’s?”

If any of the above sounds like you, then today is for you.

Trying to change in situations like the above can be futile if you’re not adequately prepared. It’s like going into a boss battle with 50% health, crappy armor, and no healing potions.  

Yes, you CAN still win, but the margin for error is miniscule. Why not give yourself the best chance to survive?

Today, we’re going to talk about how to actually conquer the above situations by thinking of these challenges in terms of bosses, battle gear, and buffs. Let’s see how they can help you survive the first encounter with a difficult challenge, instead of a frustrating defeat.

It’s time to start using buffs and upgraded armor in real life too.

Stack Your Inventory.

Health Potions

I am currently in the process of packing on some size and muscle (like a superhero). 

This requires a eating tremendous amount of healthy calories, along with a diligent adherence to a demanding workout plan. Initially I had grand visions of preparing myself tons of healthy meals, hitting all of my workout goals, running Nerd Fitness, and continuing my other nerdy pursuits (gaming, violin, reading, etc.)…ultimately resulting in me looking like Captain America.

Unfortunately, I’ve been fighting this battle off and on for the past decade. Despite this effort, I still don’t look like Steve Rogers.  I always do well for a few weeks, but generally slide slowly back to “pretty good” territory…and I always chalked it up to lack of dedication.

After a heart to heart with myself (it happens a lot when you live alone), I decided to add a critical item to my inventory to help me get through a few key months to get me on track while I sorted out the rest of the chaos in my life.

I gave myself permission to eat out for lunch, every day.

Feel free to let out an audible gasp right now. “BUT STEVE, you write about healthy eating and preparing your own meals and you provide tons of recipes, what gives?!”

Hear me out! What I’ve come to learn is that there’s a perfect plan, and then there’s a realistic plan.

We’d love to all follow the perfect plan and flawlessly defeat the boss (like this guy who perfectly won Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!), but the reality is…life is tough! An imperfect plan we ACTUALLY execute is better than a perfect plan we fail to execute.Tyson

So I added some buffs to my inventory.

At the beginning of the year, I really struggled with preparing all of my own meals; 3200-4000 daily calories of chicken, steak, vegetables, and some sort of carbohydrate source was time consuming. I also practice intermittent fasting, so all of those calories are consumed in an 8 hour window, from noon to 8 pm.  I felt like I was spending a lot of time on food and I wasn’t successfully juggling all the items in my life.

So, I made some key upgrades:

  • Lunch HP potion: After going to the gym, I eat out for lunch, nearly every day. I have three restaurants that I frequent that provide me with a MASSIVE meal full of rice, protein, and vegetables. It’s prepared quickly, relatively inexpensive, and I can get tons of calories into my system without prep or cleanup.
  • Upgraded weapons: After burning out the motor on a few crappy blenders (and taking 10 minutes to blend my powerbomb protein shakes), I finally bought a good blender. It saves me 3-5 minutes a day and makes me far more likely to take the step to make a shake.
  • Improved armor: Although I loved the idea of cooking a delicious stirfry every night, the fact of the matter was that I DIDN’T DO IT. So, I bought a cheap rice cooker. I minimized the steps between Hungry Steve and Well-Fed Steve.


I chose instead to re-prioritize my inventory, and use some of my rupees on these items so that I didn’t have to be AS perfect in my boss battle (my caloric nutrition goals).

Do I plan on eating out for lunch every day for the rest of my life? Negatory! I look forward to the days when I can prepare all of my healthy meals and still get everything else done in my life – I know it’s possible as I’ve done it before. Right now however, this “imperfect plan” is one that I can execute and actually get results with!

And guess what? The past two months have resulted in tremendous strength and size gains.

In any video game, when you are going into a new boss battle, that buff or healing potion can be the difference between life or death. When you attack a new problem (or an advanced tactic) in real life, adjusting priorities can also be the difference between finally building that habit….or yet another crash and burn attempt at getting healthy.

Mercenaries and strategy guides

Strategy guide

In many video games you’re able to hire a character to join you on a boss battle, unlocking certain strategies that can help turn the tide.

Or, you may have used a strategy guide or video walk-through to get past a difficult boss. Some might argue that it’s “cheating” to watch somebody else beat the game before trying it yourself, but it’s still up to you to follow the instructions and execute it properly to win.

In life as in games, we can hire a mercenary or use strategy guides too! Yes, it would be great to just KNOW how to exercise, how to squat properly, or how to create a workout plan, but oftentimes it’s our lack of knowledge (or lack of confidence) that can keep us on the sidelines or struggling to win the battle.

If you’re new to fitness, or you’re stuck in a middle ground and trying to get further ahead, have you considered enlisting the help of a mercenary or finding a strategy guide?

Although it would be GREAT to have a mercenary in our party at all times yelling, prodding, educating, and helping us get results, just having somebody to help for a single session or a single week can be the difference between long term success and long term frustration!

Have you met my friend Adam Baker? For the six years that we’ve known each other Baker has struggled with getting healthy (and he’ll tell you the same thing). He knows what he’s supposed to do, but it’s been very easy for him to slip back into old patterns and habits after a week or two of success.

He continued to attack his problem in the same way every time, the equivalent of going into a boss battle with the same tactic and not catching on to the boss’s patterns.

Baker needed a new strategy, so I recommended that he hire a mercenary and use a strategy guide. For the past month, Baker has been working virtually with somebody that provides him with a specific workout plan to follow and feedback on his progress. Instead of wandering through the gym or not going at all, he feels like he has a strategy guide to follow.

Unsurprisingly, Baker has made consistent progress over the past two months, actually completes his workouts now, and has the confidence to stay on track. 

Will Baker work with a coach forever? I doubt it! Instead, he’s using this opportunity for a few months to learn from a mercenary, to follow the patterns laid out in a strategy guide, so he then has the confidence to attack his current boss battle unassisted.

A win is a win


When you are trying to win a boss battle, all that matters is that you still have one hit point when the boss has none. It might be an ugly fight, you might look back and say “I can’t believe I had to use ten potions to survive that guy.” But it still counts!

This is the whole reason you buy potions! And upgrade your armor! Because it makes the fight easier for you…and can be the difference between victory and throwing your controller against the wall.

Life is no different. Yes, it would be AMAZING if you decided to get in shape, created your own workout plan, cooked three healthy meals every day, went to bed at 9 pm, didn’t drink alcohol, played less video games, and your children were all well-behaved.

But life is life. And it comes down to organizing priorities for success.

  • Baker had a conversation with his wife about finances before committing to hiring a coach for a few months
  • I spent months saving up before buying a great blender, and adjusted my life in other places so that I could afford to eat out for lunch every day.

We’re prioritizing our fitness goals over many other aspects of our lives right now, as that’s the only way we’ve been able to find the momentum to survive the boss fight.

Like diverting power from one conduit to double up the power in another, we’ve shifted our focus, energy, and effort temporarily to put everything into this boss battle.

This works with eating healthy, exercise, and many other aspects of life too. What are some boss battles that you’re currently fighting with 50% health?

Struggling to meditate every day? Use and follow a 2 minuted guided mediation (strategy guide!).

Want to start doing yoga? Sign up for a month of yoga classes to learn the movements so you’re more confident when you do them at home (mercenary!).

Struggling to eat better? Check Craigslist and see if you can find a chef to prepare meals for you at a reasonable cost for a month (inventory upgrade!).

Want to walk more? Grab a fitbit and train your body to get used to walking 10,000 steps every day until you can do it tech-free (armor upgrade!).

Want to learn how to squat and deadlift? Hire a coach for ONE session and have them perfect your squat and deadlift form (mercenary!). Check back with them in a month.

Want to learn to speak a new language? Go to and speak with a native speaker in exchange for teaching them english (improve your group).

Yes, it’s possible, through trial and error and perfect practice to accomplish all of the things above…but it can also be a big struggle!

Don’t be afraid to temporarily use a buff or divert resources to the important stuff for a few months until you have the boss’s patterns memorized so well you can win blindfolded!

Survive and thrive

Health Pot

Nerd Fitness has been a free resource for the past six years and will continue to provide free resources until the eventual robot uprising or zombie apocalypse.

Although we’ve provided you with dozens of free workout plans, recipes, and a free community…we also know how valuable and how things can change when you make a commitment to invest and prioritize your health.

It’s why we have so many great success stories that come out of the Nerd Fitness Academy.  Making a decision to prioritize your health and wellness, and adjusting parts of your life to make success in a boss battle can be the difference between “holy crap I did it” and “how did I backslide so much?”

We have a limited amount of money and time to spend on things in our life. Once we get beyond the basic necessities of existence, every other dollar spent, and every minute spent, is a vote for what’s really important in our lives. When you have an opportunity to win a battle, don’t be afraid to use temporary buffs to make it happen.

Eventually, I plan on eating out at restaurants way less than I do. Baker hopes to get to a point where he doesn’t need a coach to help keep him on track.

However, in the meantime, these ‘investments’ are acting as temporary buffs that allow us to succeed instead of failing. I’d rather win ugly than fail perfectly!

Let’s hear it:

What’s a “boss battle” in your life that you’re struggling with, and what’s one buff or health potion you can use to allow you to build that habit?

Let me know in the comments below!


PS: We’ve opened up a limited number of early bird spots for Camp Nerd Fitness 2015! We started with 150 and we’re down to just 29 spots left – check out the new site for all the details and watch our video recap from last year’s camp.

Make your fully refundable deposit to secure your spot today – and see you at Camp!


photo source: Nina HelmerZelda Strategy Guide, fisherkiller: potion, Seth Reineke: Cover potion, Sarah: Health Potions, ario_: Tyson, Zelda Wiki: Ganon, phobus: bowser

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37 thoughts on “Struggling to Get Fit? Add Potions Before Your Boss Fight.

  1. I know I should eat Paleo. When I did it hard-core for 30 days I lost 17 pounds but when I started eating carbs again it’s like a slippery slope and the more I eat the more I want to eat. I have eventually put those 17 pounds back on over the course of months. Do I just need to eliminate grains, dairy, and legumes forever?

  2. I know I need to be ready to do my stretches and strength training at 6am. I know that after caffeine I feel great, but I am not able to make it downstairs in the morning consistently to put the kettle on. Solution! When I get paid I am ordering one of these bad boys: – filter coffee machine with a timer! I can literally wake up and smell the coffee, jump in the shower and when the caffeine kicks in I’ll be good to go 🙂

  3. You don’t have to eliminate carbs completely in order to be paleo. Also, grains, dairy, and legumes are not the only carb sources out there. Experiment more with starches, like potatoes and some fruits. 30 days is a great starting period, but it can take a lot longer to build healthy eating habits.

  4. The rice-cooker is a great tip. A lot of people shy away from one-use-gadgets, but for $20, it saves me time and energy and helps me *easily* get some starches in. It’s so little effort. On the stovetop, I never seem to get the ratios right for rice. Plus, depending on the type you get, you can make a few different things in them. Some come with steamer trays (fish and veggies were examples that came with my rice cooker’s instruction manual), some can be used to cook bone broth or a whole rice-based meal with broth.

    The only way I got myself to start regular exercise was to sign up for a CrossFit place near my work. Yes, it’s expensive, but I love it. It’s so much fun and everyone is so encouraging. I thought I’d be totally overwhelmed by starting from scratch, but I get plenty of instruction in each class. In time, if I can’t afford to stay at the box, I have enough instruction that I would feel comfortable going to work out and work on lifts on my own, at a cheap gym.

  5. Hello!

    I’m from Brazil.

    I would like to attend the event, I will spend many dollars!

    Well, I’ll follow the same here, but the will is great!

    Regards to all


  6. I love the concepts introduced in this post. I think it’s important to spend a little extra on anything that makes life changing routines easier. Even simple things – like buying a REALLY nice toothbrush to make that 2 minute routine you’re going to do (at least) 730 times a year more enjoyable.

    A couple examples more applicable to fitness (aside from eating out, buying a quality blender, and picking up a rice maker):

    – Attending a nicer gym
    – Buying supplements you actually enjoy the taste of
    – Getting running shoes that feel like they were made for your feet

    Often times there are many ways you can trade a few bucks to make maintaining a life changing habit easier. I think there is great value in that.

  7. I have this same struggle. For me, I have long days at school (some days I spend 20 hours out of the house). I try to pack all my meals but I have to carry it around with me all day. It gets warm and I’m afraid it will go bad and be wasted. I finally gave myself permission to buy dinner out those days, as long as it was healthy, and it relieved so much stress and I actually started eating healthier! It just took the pressure off!

  8. In my case, it’s mostly inventory upgrades. From the cheap rolling pin and my very first blender to the freakishly expensive, but insanely high quality fry pan from Le Creuset and dozens of spices and herbs, it’s all about being better prepared to in turn prepare better food, having more fun doing so and learning to become an awesome chef.

  9. You described me perfectly. Awesome execution for one week and then it’s back to normal. I’m currently trying to set myself up for success by improving my Batcave. Gym bag next to the door with running, climbing, and gym stuff packed. Nicer yoga mat that is easier on my knees. Pull up bar at home (coming soon). My hope is that keeping my house (Batcave) organized and set up for success will produce less excuses.

  10. One of the most honest and relatable articles I’ve ever read- in here and in general.

    I’m facing a 90-hour work week (no typo), I have neglected my Rebellion goals and my exercise plan has gone to dust, but I feel a tiny switch turning in my head, telling me my priorities have shifted, I’m not 100% sloth, I’ll go work out right now.

    Thanks Steve!

  11. Stacking your inventory sounds smart, rational. I’ve been debating over getting one of those bullet or whatever blenders to make breakfast or a snack and now I think I will make that my early Thanksgiving/Christmas present. They’re quick and easy ways to get in greens, fruits and have a storehouse in the fridge for a snack. So I don’t fall back on something easier and less healthy, like that damned pie. (filling but far too fatty)

  12. Great article, really clicks with me, Steve! I have the same deal with myself: I eat a rather not-so-healthy lunch at the canteen, but my breakfast and dinner is almost always home cooked.
    And the other day I bought new sweat pants to up my armor! Now I look forward to wearing those comfy pants during workouts.
    And another addition to my arsenal (let’s call it special items): A new notebook that I use as a training log. It keeps me much more consistent because I want to see it full of workouts and beat up from using it a lot.

  13. I’ve really struggled in the past with meal prepping. Never could get myself to fully commit to any health goals. What really helped me was to have a WHY for myself. Something that meant a lot to me and would help me truly stick to the plan. Mine was for my Family. I wanted to be a good example for them and to lead from the front in living a healthy, active lifestyle. I began working out religiously at TruHit Fitness Tempe and kept reminding myself of my Why. For my family, for my family, for my family. This has what really kept me motivated throughout my fitness and nutrition journey.

  14. I’ve just joined the rebellion, and my first goal in my first challenge was to buyt a set of clothes specifically for going to the gym. I’ve always been a bit doubtful about spending money on clothes for fitness, but this time round I decided it was necessary to get me in the right mindset.

  15. You don’t need to eliminate any foods from your diet based on arbitrary diet guidelines such as paleo or vegan, etc. Avoid/limit the foods that make you hungry, that you can’t limit, make you feel lethargic or can’t say no to and make sure you’re maintaining a caloric deficit. And yes, eat your veggies and broteins. Grains and legumes are healthy foodstuffs that are rich in micronutrients. Dairy can be a great food if you can digest it. Your diet should represent you, not a club.

  16. I consistently go over my calories for the day. Sometimes by a hundred, sometimes by a lot. I need to accept the fact that I’m a night eater and enjoy eating gigantic meals. I think the time has come to start saving 70% of my calories for the evening. Instead of fighting that habit, accept it and use it to my advantage.

    Good post, Steve!

  17. I look like Steve Rogers… before the super soldier serum.
    Right now I’m struggling with getting enough sleep and eating regular meals. To help, I’ve set alarm reminders & wrote down easy recipes. I also now take melatonin, but I don’t want to take that my whole life…

  18. I have found that small amounts of dairy – as high-quality as you can get and afford (as per marks daily apple) are a useful way to add fat and protein here and there and keep you full enough to not reach for the grains. (Heavy/double/clotted cream with berries straight from the freezer helps avoid sugary desserts….) There’s no doubt for me that cutting out grains solved my colitis and dropped off the weight without even trying. But it’s only sustainable if you’re getting enough enjoyable fat, protein and vegetables.

  19. I’ve skipped far too many workouts because of my school, work, and relationship commitments. I think I need to hire a mercenary (my significant other) to force my ass out of bed on mornings to make sure the work gets done.

    I might also look at finding another gym. Mine has become far too popular over the past year, now even at 6:30am, the place is packed. Great for business, bad for my strength training.

  20. ‘I’d rather win ugly than fail perfectly!’

    That’s just a life lesson. Look at Lucille Ball. Why was she so funny? It’s because she, this beautiful woman, was willing to be ugly for the sake of comedy. It made her level up in such a wonderful comedic way.

    I’m gonna remind myself of this all week!

  21. I have trouble doing 7 sessions of mobility a week, so I’ve gotten myself a stamina buff, in World of Warcraft terms. I allow myself to do a double-length session in a day that counts twice if I choose, meaning a skipped day isn’t the end of a perfect run. So instead of having to play perfectly, I can take a swing or two and then heal myself up the next day.

  22. Thank you Steve! This comes at a really opportune time for me. I went Paleo last year and lost 30 pounds, but in the past two months I’ve slipped and slowly began gaining weight (I’ve regained 8 pounds). I am panicked. I felt that I really let myself down, but I think it’s what you’ve said, reality is just intruding into my illusion of what I think I can do. I’ve begun using Xbox Fitness (on the Xbox One). It’s awesome. There are 10 minute exercise programs (for free) that I can follow along with (strategy guide). The Kinect lists your heart rate and gives you points on how well you do (mercenary). I also have rearranged my cooking so that I make a large volume of food on one day and divide it into portions for the next few days allowing me to grab a meal quickly and avoid cheating. I just hope that these few changes will help me relose the gained weight and go down another 20 pounds to my goal weight.

    You always inspire me when I need it the most! Thanks again!

  23. I am a personal trainer at a gym and I was having my own motivation problems, along with wanting to focus on mobility (which takes a lot of know-how and education on that particular issue). I now train once a week with another trainer, who also a friend. She helps me structure my workouts, helps me keep track of nutrition, and focuses on what I really want. With two jobs, volunteering, school, and a life, I didn’t want the responsibility of making up my own workouts, mobility hw, and so on. DEFINITELY WORTH IT!!

  24. I am fighting an unbeatable boss: an amazing beer shoppe on my route home from work, stocked full of irresistible craft brews and a staff that knows what I like and make good recommendations. I love that place! I even know another route I could take that doesn’t bring me by there but I don’t take it. I don’t stop and shop there every night, but just seeing their sign every day starts the craving for the beer in the fridge and gets me daydreaming about what I want to buy the next time.

  25. I want to maintain an exercise routine consistently. I do well for awhile then slack off. Then go back to doing well. I know it is little steps but other things get in the way. Things always get harder for me in the winter months and the whole seasonal disorder mess. Add diabetes to the mix and I know I need to exercise more. I just don’t.

  26. We have one life only. We need to enjoy it at the same we need to take care of it.
    To have a balanced weight, I need to have a balanced diet. If I maintain balanced diet, I need to keep myself away from the great tastes of life. To me it would be a worthiest sacrifice depriving oneself from the pleasures of tasty foods.

    I want to have moderate viewpoint over this issue.

    One shouldn’t be so much obsessed with the junk fatty foods. Also one shouldn’t mind tasting these foods.

    You can talk to a doctor of Pro Lab Pharma- for your necessary solutions

  27. Since starting university again this September (5 science courses!) I have changed the way I workout to better balance stress levels. Instead of lifting heavy 3-4 times a week with no cardio, I balance medium lifting with cardio, yoga, and sensible heavy lifts. The cardio and yoga are more the brain than the body. It’s resulted in a massive decrease in stress levels- and my strength hasn’t decreased! So, the lesson I have learned is, like Steve says, prioritize for a balanced life. Great article.

  28. Hey There, this community is significant! Thanks for the perfect articles and discussion. I provide a lot of no-cost information 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!

  29. Great post! Which coach has Adam used? I have looked into using an online coach and would be intrigued to find out if there is someone you can recommend?

  30. I’ve always been a bit uncertain about buying outfits for fitness and health, but this time circular I made the decision it was necessary to get me in the right attitude.

  31. I really enjoyed reading this post – especially since I struggle to get back into fitness and always seem to bounce back. After reading this pretty funky blog from about getting back on the band wagon my eating did improve however i noticed that I had no idea about training and what workouts would work the best. So I did as you recommend and invested in a PT trainer for a while till I got the confidence to do the exercises and routines on my own! Now I am still not at my goal but Got some good ideas from here that I’m going to take on! Especially by reducing some of the foods you mentioned!

  32. Questions it seems that more people are now looking at weight loss on a hormonal level especially due to estrogen and testosterone imbalance. Whether reducing carbs or having a controlled macro diet – if your hormones are out of wack you will not be able to lose weight. Would you agree this could be the next step to look into losing weight? This blog about cortisol ( ) and how it has a huge affect to successful weight loss is intense! I for one know I struggle with stress but didn’t think it would affect fat loss?

  33. Melatoni receptors get blocked by blue light as found in computers, Mobiles etc, so if you didn’t know that yet it could help to cut them out after 8 pm, although you probably knew that already 😉

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