Stuck at the starting line? Find your “gateway” change.

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“Greatness from small beginnings.” -Sir Francis Drake

Frodo, before he became the savior of Middle-Earth. Katniss Everdeen, before she became the Mockingjay and toppled Panem. In every great story – especially those of heroes – there’s always a call to action in which the future of a character is changed with a single plot point. More often than not, it’s not something monumental, but rather a personal decision that ultimately results in amazing changes on a grand scale:

  • Katniss didn’t set out to start a rebellion; she simply wanted to protect the life of her sister.
  • Frodo had no plans of saving Middle-Earth, he just wanted everybody at the Council of Elrond to stop fighting!
  • Harry Potter had no clue what he was getting into, he just wanted to get out of that darn house!

This is a crucial point in any Hero’s Journey. It’s fun looking back now at each of those moments and wondering “how would the story be different if they hadn’t done [a seemingly insignificant task or decision]?”

As I’ve looked back over the hundreds and hundreds of success stories in the Nerd Fitness community (a few dozen are here), I realized that almost all health and fitness journeys have that moment too. Maybe we don’t have a dramatic, life-changing visit from an owl or Hagrid, but very often we discover something – an exercise, an activity, a mindset that becomes our “gateway” into finally becoming someone who values health and fitness. Permanently.

You’re reading Nerd Fitness, which means you’re intrigued about the idea of getting fit. Maybe you’ve started and stopped dozens of times, tried every diet, chewed weight loss pills, and signed up for the gym and canceled your membership 20 times.

It sucks.

Yet, hope remains. And hope is a damn good thing. Just ask The Shawshank Redemption.

And I have 100% faith and certainty that you will start to build the superhero body you’ve always wanted, but I need you to you keep an open mind about where life can take you. If you are reading this at 400+ pounds and feel like healthy and happy is impossible, remember that many of us started with one change. Heroes all started out normal until they made a single deliberate decision that ended up altering their future.

Frodo didn’t know how his decision to pick up the ring would impact Middle Earth. Katniss didn’t expect to become the Mockingjay and lead a rebellion. They both made one small decision after the next.

One decision, a mountain of change as a result. It can happen.

why Starting with ONE thing Works.

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We are all creatures of habit, even when they’re the bad ones. 

The beers we drink to forget the long day at work. The candy we eat every time we go talk to Lois in accounting (I swear she keeps it on her desk for that reason!) The cigarettes we smoke during our break from a double shift at the restaurant. All of these habits started with a deliberate decision, too: the first time you smoked at 16, the beer you stole from Dad at 14, the candy you got from a parent when you stopped screaming in the grocery store…. Over time, they become normal, and that normalcy, if unhealthy, sets us up to fail.

The same is true with the foods and beverages we consume, or the lack of an active lifestyle. Single decisions made repeatedly over time, until the new normal is established. So, we need to start taking deliberate action to get our life back in order, and it starts with making deliberate decisions.

Unfortunately, 99% of conventional methods are garbage.

Let’s start with diets. As a recent study shows, those who diet are doomed to stay fat; essentially diets only treat the symptom, rather than making an adjustment to the source of the problem. Magazines and fitness marketers don’t want you to know that, but they do want you chasing the latest and greatest rather than getting healthy permanently (they don’t make any money there!).

Which is where we come in. No more diets. No short term solutions. No drastic declarations or all-in mentalities. Instead, deliberate, but deliberately small and simple action.

We don’t want temporary change, no matter how great it is. We want permanent improvement, even if it’s tiny.

That’s why you need to find your “gateway change.”

What does a gateway change look like? For that, I want to share two stories from members of our own team at Nerd Fitness!

Staci  Did you know that our very own Staci used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day and could eat an entire family size box of Kraft Mac and Cheese in one sitting? Yep, the same Staci who just deadlifted 408 pounds at Nationals.

When Staci found Nerd Fitness (thank you Legend of Zelda article!), she was encouraged by members of the NF message boards to try strength training. She worked up 20 seconds of courage to pick up a barbell, and it was like King Arthur pulling the sword from the stone, she and the barbell clicked. It was only after a few months of training that she realized, “if I stop smoking, I will get healthier and stronger faster.” Yup, for many months after Staci started lifting, she still smoked! After quitting smoking, she really dug into her diet (again, to get stronger) and discovered she has Hashimoto’s Disease – she’s now healthier, stronger, and more determined than ever!

It all started because she picked up a barbell.

Alek – Alek, our developer at Nerd Fitness, found his gateway to a healthier life through ultimate frisbee, though it took a while. In fact, while playing ultimate he continued to put on more and more weight, eating 1000-1500 calories a day of candy. It wasn’t until he tested a hypothesis: “if more candy makes me slower and worse at ultimate frisbee, would less candy make me faster and better?” When he discovered that this was in fact true (seriously, sugar, you suck), he adjusted his diet and is now in the best shape of his life!

Meet Jadah and Jen

Jada and Jen

I also wanted to share a story from my friends Jadah and Jen of the uber-popular SimpleGreenSmoothies, who just put out a really great book this week.

Both women were moms who were overworked, over-caffeinated, undernourished, stressed, and who struggled to maintain a healthy weight despite trying every diet out there. This rollercoaster of healthy/not healthy went on and on for years and years until Jadah decided to make one single change at the behest of her mom: “I’m going to swap out my unhealthy breakfast for a simple smoothie with green veggies, fruit, and almond milk.” She didn’t change anything else other than her breakfast! She didn’t change the food she ate, she didn’t count calories, and she didn’t make an effort to exercise more.

She made one deliberate decision: healthy smoothie for breakfast. After a few weeks she noticed an increased amount of energy, and thanks to consuming fewer calories (and more veggies!) from swapping out her old breakfast for a smoothie. And, as a result she eventually saw a distinct change in her life and her waistline.

She soon got her friend Jen hooked, and after a few months they noticed their lives had leveled up together! This one small, simple, but deliberate change had altered their paths. Soon enough, they started analyzing other parts of their lives and sought to make improvements there too. Jen has since run a marathon and Jadah has lost 30+ pounds. They’ve also improved the overall wellness of their respective families, and even built a massive community around their movement! Like, hundreds of thousands of people massive.

I loved hearing their story, as I know how powerful one change can be. Jen and Jadah attacked the problem with a philosophy many of us can relate to: “I know I have a lot of things wrong with my life at the moment, but I can certainly fix one of them. And that’s the only one I’m going to worry about right now!”

It’s amazing what one simple change can do.

Find Your Gateway


Before you can run, you need to learn to walk. And those first few steps are gonna be pretty comical. Like a baby giraffe. But that’s okay. I heard Jadah give a talk last year at The World Domination Summit, and she said something that I won’t forget: “Take imperfect action.”

Who cares if you don’t have the perfect diet plan figured out, or the perfect workout plan. (Spoiler alert: the perfect [anything] doesn’t exist!)

Once you start to see SOME progress and change, you can then increase the level of difficulty in your decision making process after you’ve built some momentum.

It doesn’t need to be smoothies, either. What’s important is that it’s a deliberate, healthy, small decision that you can repeat daily to reinforce the new habit.

  • Start walking to Mordor. If Frodo can do it, so can you! Do a mile every morning.
  • Try yoga. In fact, next week Nerd Fitness Yoga re-launches to the world! (Shameless plug ftw!)
  • Swap out soda for black coffee or unsweetened tea.
  • Commit to five minutes each morning of working on push ups and squats.

A single change can be the fire that lights the fuse that gets us going. I’ve seen it happen with thousands of nerds here on Nerd Fitness, and Jen and Jadah have a community of rawkstars who have done it as well.

Your turn. What’s been your gateway change – Did you take a simple deliberate action and have it affect other aspects of your life?

Or are you still struggling to find your gateway change? If so, what’s one new deliberate step you can take today that you can repeat…well, repeatedly!?


PS: A huge thanks to Jen and Jadah for sharing their story, and congrats to them on the launch of Simple Green Smoothies its a book full of simple recipes like the one above, and their story is really fantastic. I’m quite partial to their Green Hulk recipe 🙂

  • 2 cups Swiss chard, stems removed
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 bananas, 1 cup sliced peaches
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


photo source: Michael Chen: Indecision

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