6 Things You Think You Need to Get Healthy…But Really Don’t

Most of us make this whole “get in shape thing” WAY too complicated.

We are pulled in every direction when it comes to spending our few spare moments and our hard earned cash.

On top of that, there are a million fitness companies that tell us they have a secret formula, thousands of gyms that guarantee success only if their system is followed, and hundreds of supplements that claim instant gratification.

Today, I want debunk the six big things that people THINK they need to get healthy.

I get way too much excitement out of this.

1) Gyms

lonely gym

“Sorry, I can’t get in shape because I can’t afford a gym membership!”

I used to be a gym rat and thought it would be impossible to get seriously healthy without a gym.  As a result, every time I traveled I would skip my workouts because, “welp, there’s no gym!”

Last year, I traveled like a madman, and didn’t set foot in a gym for months and months at a time.  As a result, I had to become increasingly reliant upon the outdoors and my surroundings, and  managed to get in the best shape of my life and even pack on some muscle!

Since then, I’ve come to realize that gyms aren’t a necessity.

Even though I might hit up a gym occasionally for heavy squats and deadlifts, I love training anywhere and everywhere: in parks, on playgrounds, in hotel rooms, in front of historic landmarks, while wearing tuxedos, etc.

Gyms are NOT required…there’s a far cheaper option: Mother Nature! She doesn’t charge initiation fees, cancellation fees, monthly fees, and her gym (outdoors) is never crowded.

Yes. I just called Mother Nature cheap.

Get off your butt and utilize your surroundings.  Whether it’s hiking, running, parkour, or a park workout, you don’t ever need to set foot in a gym again.

2) Supplements and pills


It seems that every day, there’s a new miracle drug that will lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, make you sleep better, burn fat, build muscle, and make you finally healthy without any effort, promising to undue years of bad decisions without requiring you to make any personal changes.  

Considering the industries that create these miracle drugs continue to grow and grow, it’s easy to see that our society spends its hard-earned money on trying to find a quick-fix for our unhealthy bodies, rather than simply choosing to make healthier decisions.

Like Jerry Seinfeld teaches us, it’s like inventing better and better helmets rather than just avoiding head-cracking activities altogether 

Don’t believe any ad that says you NEED a particular supplement or pill to live better or get healthier.  If you are eating a proper diet of vegetables, protein, fruits, and nuts, you’ll be getting all of the nutrients you need to live a great life.

[note: the only supplements I could ever see you possibly wanting to us are a protein supplement if you cannot get enough from natural sources. Also perhaps a fish oil supplement if you are concerned with your omega-3 balance. However, neither are necessary if you put the focus on eating right.]

3) “Health food”

apple and tape measure

Meal plans like Healthy Choice, Nutrisystems, and any other “eat only our food and you’ll lose weight” plans make me want to hulk out and punch something.

Rather than teach you how to fend for yourself, they help you build up a dependence on THEIR proprietary food system.  They might even work for a month or two, helping you lose some weight (mostly due to severe calorie restriction), but teach you absolutely nothing about how to actually eat properly for life.  Eventually, you get to the point where you need to go on vacation, you can’t afford the meal plans anymore, you get sick, move, or get stuck late at work for a week, and you COMPLETELY fall off the wagon.

You do NOT need these meals, their preservatives, or chemicals.

You can learn how to actually eat better instead!  I’m not saying you need to shift your entire paradigm of food consumption overnight (small changes for the win!), but if you can educate yourself on actually eating properly, then you’ll never be in a situation where you don’t know what to eat.

Knowledge is power, sucka.

4) Fancy Equipment





The treadmill desk!

The Chuck Norris total gym! (sorry Mr. Norris, I still love you).

And don’t even get me started on things like Reebok’s tone-up shoes, ab machines, and whatnot. All of these pieces of equipment carry hefty price tags and claim to get you in the best shape of your life.

Within a month they’ll be stuck in your garage/basement/attic and never used again.

Believe it or not, you already HAVE the best piece of equipment you need to get in shape.  It doesn’t cost a dime.  And it’s with you wherever you go.

Your body!

As previously stated, I’ve fallen in love with body weight training.  If you don’t think you can get in redonkulous shape (that’s “really really good” to the layperson) without picking up a weight or buying equipment, just ask a gymnast.  Their training almost comes exclusively through manipulating their body in increasingly difficult movements.

You can get started with two great bodyweight routines here:

5) Time

man with clock for face

Above ALLLLLLLL other excuses I receive through Nerd Fitness, this one is the most prominent:

“I just don’t have time to work out or make healthy meals.”

Unfortunately, the folks who tell me they don’t have time to work out don’t factor in how much time they spend watching TV, playing videogames, or screwing around on the internet watching Ron Swanson dance (I apologize for the next 5 minutes of your life you’re about to lose – I’ll make it up to you).

In 99% of cases, somebody telling me that they don’t have enough time is either lazy, uninformed, or inefficient with the time they DO have available.  I love this perspective: Instead of saying “I don’t have time,” say “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.

I can’t fix lazy, but I can certainly help with the other two.

Hopefully you’ve been reading Nerd Fitness long enough to realize that what you eat will be at least 80% of your success or failure – no joke.  For that reason, you’re going to eat every day anyways; if you just work on making healthier choices, you’re 80% of the way there.  For example, here’s a super easy meal that will take you probably around 30 minutes to prepare.  Make enough of it, put it in tupperware, and you’ll have meals for days!

Need more options?  Check out the Easy Caveman Cookbook from my buddy Vic Magary.

Now, let’s get over to that other 20% – exercise.

Maybe you don’t have time to go find a park.  Maybe those body weight routines above take up too much time.

STILL don’t have enough time because you work too much?  Let’s say you spend all of your time at work, and you’re supposed to have a meeting with somebody or a few people; why not have your meeting while walking around the park near your office?  It’ll guarantee the meeting stays short (say, 20-30 minutes), and everybody involved gets some exercise, and no extra time required.

6) Money

None of the routines above cost money or require a lot of time, which means you have ZERO excuses when it comes to exercise.

You’re welcome!

However, I get the “I can’t afford to eat healthy” from folks far too often, so let’s address it.

These are folks that get snacks from vending machines, load up on calorie dense and nutrition-void snacks at grocery stores, and dump tons of cash into liquid calories every day (sodas, Starbucks runs, and more).

But, for the sake of argument, let’s say you ARE on a super tight budget; maybe you’re supporting a family, you’re a poor college kid, or just out of college and can’t find a good job.  That doesn’t give you an excuse to eat poorly!

It’s possible to eat super healthy, and it’s possible to do it on a tight budget – you just need to make it a priority!  Check out “how to eat healthy without breaking the bank“, a 2500+ word epic post covering this exact subject.

What you DO need

solo kayak

Okay, so if you don’t NEED anything above, then what DO you need to finally get healthy?

A reason – Unless you have a legitimate reason for getting in shape, you’re going to fail at the first sign of adversity.  Whether it’s for your wife, your kids, to impress somebody, or to be able to tie your own shoes, just have an actual reason for wanting to live that better life!

Want to know the best reason that will carry you forward the most?  YOURSELF – so you can look in the mirror at the end of the day and say, “I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish.”

A plan – Once you figure out WHY you want to get healthy, it’s time to put a bit of effort behind HOW you’re going to get healthy – are you going to strength train and eat Paleo? Are you going to run every day?  Are you going to take up martial arts or parkour? Are you going to join an ultimate Frisbee team?   I prefer the “Level Up in the Game of Life” approach of goal setting – pick lofty goals, identify the steps between where you are now and where you want to be, and then create a reward system that tracks your progress and encourages growth.

Support – Do you have a group of friends to lean on in real life who are all struggling with the same thing?  Are you all working together to live better?  Or maybe you need an online support group of folks at the same level as you.

Patience and consistency – Rome wasn’t built in a day; Optimus Prime didn’t transform instantly – it was one move at a time.  It took you years and year to get to where you are now; don’t expect your outward appearance to catch up to the “new” you until you’ve stuck with it for months.  Take things one day at a time, one meal at a time, one workout at a time.  And stick with it.

So now I ask ya…what’s missing?

What are some other things you used to think you needed until you discovered they weren’t necessary?



el momento zen,  lonely gym, pills, apple, gerbil wheel, man with clock for face, money, kayak

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    53 thoughts on “6 Things You Think You Need to Get Healthy…But Really Don’t

    1. Yup. Get off your butt and stop with the excuses! One thing I would add is that vitamin D is important for overall health. Get your levels checked, and supplement as needed. Some of us…well. Yeah. Very little sunlight due to the weather…

    2. Great lessons Mr Kamb and the one I agree with most is the time excuse. some days I know I’m not going to have time to get a work out in the evening, so instead i walk to and from work instead of taking the bus (it really only takes like 15 minutes longer per journey) or make sure i get out for a 45 minute walk at lunch instead of just reading the newspaper with a sandwich. Also healthy eating is just as quick and easy as cooking rubbish. A pie in the oven takes 45 minutes, some chopped & steamed veggies – less than 15! no excuses there!

    3. Though none of them costs a lot of money but at least money is needed to do any thang in life. Great list though. I used to think without much money, my black skinny body can’t get a good workout.


    4. Oh man! I totally expected you to say “Underpants!” and I was going to disagree, until I remembered this guy I saw on Ninja Warrior last night who ran the course in jeans and a T-shirt. He did just as well as the guys in Vibrams and spandex shorts. So you totally don’t need a closet full of special clothes either. Plus if you’re on a playground doing assisted pullups next to a kidlet, you’re going to cause a lot less alarm if you’re in mom/dad clothes. 

    5. Bodyweight exercises are awesome..! Steve, if you haven’t already, you must checkout eatmoveimprove.com and their book – overcoming gravity.. its an amazing resource.

    6. Your comment on the ability to get big on body weight (see gymnasts) isn’t true, they use steroids and the common NF reader doesn’t.

    7. I LOVE THIS POST!!!  Altho you definitely owe me for the Ron Swanson Dance…WTF up with that?
      I used to do those dumb diets and I finally got smart and started eating like a normal person-well, a normal person who’s out of work and has no $$.  For anyone who thinks they need the special diet route, take it from me-you don’t.

    8. um, blanket statements much? Gymnasts don’t even LOOK like they use steroids.  Why would you say something like that?  What has it got to do with the rest of Steve’s post?  Were you just feeling vicious?

      Steve didn’t say “get big,” by the way.  He’s talking about getting FIT.

      Gymnasts compete multiple times per year.  Every time, they are subject to drug tests.  They are probably cleaner, as a group, than your average high-school football team or Crossfit gang.

    9. You keep referring back to that one “chicken and veggies” post over and over, Steve.  Perhaps a little more variety on the food front?

    10. i beg to differ about the TRX system steve.  As a matter of fact myself being bodyweight exercise enthusiast i found a TRX to be one of the most effective piece of equipment on the market.  Especially when it comes to beginners who cannot do regular push ups, pull ups etc.  There are ways to use the TRX in order to build yourslef up to those exercises and a whole list of advanced exercises that you can do as soon as you mastered the basics(includintg tabata and amraps).  Granted it is not necessary to own any piece of equipment but if you must I highly recommend a TRX system.  If navy seals use it(and ive seen them use it) it is worth the investment.

    11. I used to think I *had* to go to the fitness center, and I really didn’t like it. So I stopped and started doing what I do like. I’d like to second the notion of more food posts for the culinary impaired. I’d be glad to contribute some simple recipes.

    12. *Finger snaps* Love this post…So simple, no frills required, most people can change their situation without wasting their money!

    13. You can change up the meat. Make it pork or beef or fish or even tofu. There; variety. As for the veggies; there are so many awesome ones out there that you can keep swapping them if you start to get bored. 

    14. Great list, Steve.

      I quit the gym a few years ago. I now only use bodyweight mover + gymnastic rings and a kettlebell. Very cheap and much more enjoyable. I also absolutely hate the supplement market.

    15. One “supplement” that I would add to the “possibly necessary” list is Vitamin D supplements. They’re not expensive, and for those of us who work in offices all day long, it is surprising how many of us will show up as Vitamin D deficient upon testing. From someone for whom the addition of a therapeutic level of Vit D supplementation meant the difference between walking and not walking (as in, neurological damage reversed through Vit. D supplementation), I’d say that if you’re over 40 and have spent more than 1/2 of your daylight hours indoors for the past 20 years, get tested — Vitamin D supplementation may be a valid part of your ‘getting healthy’ process.

    16. I have to agree with this. My physical therapist, back when I was -relearning- how to walk, etc., made use of TRX to help me restore lost muscle mass. I was also really, really heavy (58% BMI) — so doing body-weight exercises without some kind of support system wasn’t reasonable.

      While I understand people using the cost of supplements or quality equipment as an excuse for not getting fit, and trying to remove all the possible excuses or roadblocks necessary, I think it is also important to recognize that, for some of us, some of these things ARE going to be important, because the “go bare and go raw” world is FAR too difficult for someone who is old, fat, soft, and doesn’t have a CLUE how to start, say, running in the park without hurting him/herself. 

      I think advice like this blog post is great for folks who are younger, and who are “not quite fit” — but really, if you’re older (over 40 — especially post-menopausal women because of the possibility of bone loss), extremely fat (over 40% BMI), or have health issues — please talk to your doctor and get a referral to a physical therapist to help you through the startup — otherwise, you run the risk of hurting yourself and that will further delay your quest for fitness!

    17. thank you!!
      I do, however, looooove going to the gym every day!! I am addicted. can’t be helped. rec centers are cheap and family friendly.. so that gets rid of a few excuses.. no baby sitter etc..
      I have the BEST vit D supplement evah! (my company makes it) and it’s even better than the prescription my dr had me on.. so yeah.. I’m a lil partial to supplements.. but they do help me 🙂

    18. What a great list! You can certainly make a case for each one, but you really don’t need any. I used to love going to the gym – but hated waiting for machines, and dealing with sweaty people. So I got some cheap equipment on craigslist and now I have my owon home gym. It’s always open, no membership fees, no lines, and no sweaty people!

    19. You’re right they can help but I think the point that was trying to be made is that they are not the end all save all. Yes peoples bodies and lives are different and sometimes defeciant in vitamins but all the supplementation in the world wont make up for poor diet and poor exercise.

    20. I’ll kind of agree with this concept. I started out about 45% fat & I actually found it easier to work out with a kettlebell than to do many bodyweight exercises. 

      That said, I agree with Steve that nobody NEEDS a TRX or kettlebell or what have you. 

    21. Most of these are things that I had to overcome, so I think it’s a great list. One addition I would make, and it might sound kind of strange is that I thought I needed to be a different person. I knew everything I needed to do and I knew how to do it, but I just didn’t feel like I was up to the task. 

      I’m not sure exactly how I got over that but addressing the “things you DO need” was a big part of it. At 60 lbs down, I’m less than 1/3 of the way to my goal, and I do get discouraged from time to time, but my reason/plan/support/patience help me get over that when nothing would before. 

    22. oh so true. I’ve tried the “pill” diets.. they DONT work! lol
      but.. in combo with eating right for me, and exercise.. they do help 🙂

    23. “I get way too much excitement out of this.”  I can just see you cackling and rubbing your hands together in glee as you wrote the whole post.  MWHAHAHA!!!

    24. I managed to pack on 12 pounds of muscle using just body weight exercises and no supplements in a few months using just body weight exercises.  



    25. I was merely pointing out that you can get by without equipment! it is not a requirement 🙂

      Although I think TRX is a quality piece of equipment, its cost is insane.  One can create the same types of exercises with a set of olympic rings (less than half the price) or even build your own for around $30.


      However, I think one can definitely get started with walking, wall push ups, chair squats (sitting and standing), and rows with a common household item like a milk jug.

      As stated in the disclaimer on NF – always check with your physician or doctor before beginning any exercise routine or change in diet.


    26. I will agree to all of your points but I think, It would be better for us to go to gyms as they have more modern machinery and instructors to tell us where we are wrong or right, little mistakes that we make in our workouts at home could be judged in this way. 
      Anyways, thanks for sharing nice article.

    27. After 3 deployments between Iraq and Afghanistan no matter how much help I have sought, I will need a sleeping pill for the rest of my life. With that being said I agree with everything that was posted in this article. As an added bonus if you want to lift weights, go on a hike and lift some rocks or if you’re studly already life some boulders.

    28. I cannot agree more with this article! When people around me say they do not have the time to workout, i would tell my story how that was my excuse before. I really believe that if it is important to you, time will not be a problem. There is always a way.

      I ditched my gym membership after a year and have been working out at home consistently. I don’t have fancy equipments but just enough to make my workouts hard and challenging. 🙂

    29. Steve,

      please, please, please, PLEASE never stop writing this blog! I am a newbie to this site after google randomly took me here when I was searching how to do a proper push up. I can say that I am officially addicted to this blog, and was SO happy to find it about 4 weeks into the most thorough food/journal exercise journal I have ever started- and will never finish :). So thanks for enforcing the idea that I need ambition and PATIENCE, rather than expecting to miraculously look better a month from now. I think (hope hope hope hope) this finally clicked. 

      Keep doing what you’re doing!

    30. Great info here.  I know that the excuses you listed sound so like my wife and I up until a few months ago.  Granted we are still building into things, but the no excuses is the biggest hurdle we have begun to overcome.  Our four mile hike through the woods yesterday almost seemed easy on us, two months ago and we would have been taking one of the short trails.

    31. I am loving this comment, Kristina.  It’s so cool to see people super excited about life change and a healthy, fit lifestyle!  Keep it up – push through any doubts and don’t stop! you can do it!

    32. Well great…. went to see ron swanson dance and i still havn’t finished reading this damn article.

    33. I am so with you!!!!  I am obssesed with NF now!  Like more than fb – hello!  But seriously – I love everyone here and Steve is awesome!

    34. My number one excuse is TIME. Until two months back, I always felt comfortable with the excuse that I dont have time for work out. And now, I wake up early, way early than I should for my work, and then work out in the morning!

    35. As far as time goes, I’ve found the lunch hour to be one of the greatest discoveries of my life.  That time previously spent at some fast food joint or parked in front of my computer reading the sports news is now spent getting in some strength training or a run.  There is NO excuse for any man (I’ll give the women a pass for time constraints) to pass on this if there is a shower available.  Makes your afternoon more productive too.  

      Thanks for a great post!!

    36. Yes excuses are definitely bullshit. If you really want it, you’ll find a way. Having said that, I love gyms and supplements – it keeps me motivated and on track.

    37. i think for healthy life all theses things are important , time , healthy food ,money ,gym ,exercise, and healthy pills .try to avoid laziness ,maintain time table for your daily routine, finish all tasks at time, get sometime from your daily work and join gym or do exercises at home ,take care of your health.

    38. Had 4 replacement joints and need 2 more and still work out as I can. I have no sympathy for excuses.

    39.  I definitely used the time thing for awhile. Although it was less of an “excuse” and more of a “I don’t get how I’m supposed to make my day work if I take X amount of minutes/hours out for exercise”. All the things people said about trading out couch-potato time, or “you’ll have more energy and you’ll do more in less time as a result” were not really helpful, since I still couldn’t figure out how to add more to my day. I was quite seriously perplexed about how other people made it work on such a regular basis.

      The trick for me was to start out small, and to take baby steps along the way. Somewhere in there, as my workout time was increasing, I had a great conversation with a friend who I respect a great deal, especially with respect to fitness, and who would spend every minute of every day working out if she could. Who knows what we were talking about, but I made some comment about how it’s so frustrating to try to figure out when to fit my workout in, especially if I accidentally sleep in and can’t do it in the early morning. Her response was a simple “I know. This is a constant struggle for me, too. There’s really no good answer, is there?”

      The thing that made her response so great for me was that she didn’t make light of the struggle, but her life is also a clear example of someone who makes the time for it even though it’s hard and even though it sometimes means sacrificing time for other things that are equally important to her.

    40. There are some really great recipe sites out there. Civilizedcaveman, paleodiet, and about a million more. And a lot of the recipes aren’t complicated at all! I do a lot of cooking on Sunday afternoon to prep for the week, to make the rest of the week easy-peasy. Just takes a little research!

    41. I would say that mother nature and improvised equipment actually does you better than a gym. I spent a whole summer exercising with logs rocks and trees and when I got back to a real gym, everything felt easy and comfortable. After a few months getting used to balanced barbells and easy-to-grip pullup bars, I noticed my “in shape” body losing that resilience and toughness unique to wilderness types. I say if you want to be functionally fit, you’re actually better off doing at least something outside a climate controlled gym with well machined weights. And, like you say, it’s free.

    42. You are so right! I have never had a gym membership or any fancy equipment and I have lost 10 lb so far. I think its just a matter of really wanting to get in shape and going for it! I have started a perdonal fitness blog to keep myself motivated to lose another 10 lb 🙂 http://www.girlsfitnessproject.blogspot.com 

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