The 10 Things Perpetually Healthy Nerds Do that Unhealthy People Don’t.

We want weight loss to be effortless, exciting, and entertaining:

“One simple trick to lose 50 pounds!”

“The superfood that burns fat!”

“How Hugh Jackman got in shape to play Wolverine in just 12 weeks!”

We want that one workout that scientists hate that finally melts the fat off our midsections and tones our arms and makes us look like Wonder Woman. We gorge on acai bowls and omega-3s and get excited about the latest article that says red wine is a health food as we polish off another bottle.

Like Monty Python searching for the Holy Grail, we go through a series of follies in search of a nice idea that never actually comes to fruition.

Get On With It from Monty Python

Right, right.

Reality paints a much different picture:

Weight loss comes from habits that don’t grab headlines.

Boring, dull, and oh-so-incredibly effective.

I have seen tens of thousands of people lose millions of pounds collectively and get healthy permanently since I started Nerd Fitness almost a decade ago.

At the same time, I have also seen hundreds of thousands of people make dramatic grand declarations about the latest trend or fad, lose a few pounds, and end up right back where they started. If that sounds like you, you’re in good company.

No wonder a 2016 British study declared “we’re doomed to stay fat.”[1]

So what gives?

What’s the difference between the Try-Try-Agains and Perpetually Healthy Nerds (PHNs, for short)?

With over 40,000 students now in our flagship online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy, and 10 years with thousands of emails and success stories, I created this monster resource that dives deep into the 10 most crucial habits of Perpetually Healthy Nerds.

How many of these 10 can you check off? Be honest! Santa is watching.

1. They have a Groot Mindset.

Your mom was right, you are a unique snowflake.

That means there are ton of things that affect why you’ve gained weight over the past decade and why you struggle to lose it:

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Stress level
  • Home environment
  • Mental health
  • Activity level
  • Diet quality
  • Diet quantity

All of these things play a factor in what you look like and how healthy you are. Despite all of these various factors, I’ve seen a common thread amongst Perpetually Healthy Nerds (PHNs) that crushes all other factors:

A Groot mindset.

You’re reading Nerd Fitness, so I assume you’re familiar with Groot, the tree-like superhero from Guardians of the Galaxy. He can grow and change his shape to suit the situation. He also says, “I am Groot,” but that’s less applicable here.


Unhealthy Nerd: “I have bad genetics. My parents are overweight. I am busy. I have children. I have a slow metabolism. I’m never going to be able to lose weight. This plan and your strategies won’t work for me because [excuse to let myself off the hook]. I’m the fat guy/gal and that’s all there is to it.”

Perpetually Healthy Nerd: “I have bad genetics. My parents are overweight. I am busy. I have children. Soooo….How can I make this work for me in my situation? I know people like me who have lost weight, which is a great sign. I refuse to accept that I am a lost cause. I am Groot.”

It might not be your fault that you are overweight (thank genetics and bad habits from your parents!), or that life sucks right now. But it IS our responsibility (and nobody else’s) to deal with it.

People that get healthy build a new Groot-like identity for themselves. Not the identity of a victim of bad genetics or a “too busy” life, but rather the identity of somebody that CAN change.

We all have emotional, visceral responses to what we see in the mirror or how we feel when we wake up. We need to cut through the emotion and get to the truth: we alone are responsible for our fate, and that means we alone can fix it.

Key Takeaway #1 - Have a Groot Mindset

Even if it isn’t your fault where you are, accept that it’s your personal responsibility to deal with it.

Like Groot, you can change and grow. You’ll learn that your excuses are moot – if busier, older, fatter, poorer, and more injured people than you can get in shape, you can too.

Decide today that “I am a perpetually healthy nerd” and then simply do the things that perpetually healthy nerds do. And then repeat.

2. They know their “Big Why”.

The road to perpetual weight loss and healthiness is fraught with peril.

Even the best-laid plans will end up in a ditch on the side of the road unless you have the ability to persevere when life gets busy and it’s Taco Tuesday and a new video game just came out and your kid is sick and you just don’t feel like exercising.

That perseverance comes from a damn good answer to the question: “Why?”

And not just “Because I need to lose weight,” but two levels deeper, Inception-style: WHY you need to lose weight. That’s the motivation and answer you need to be reminded of to persevere over the next few months.

Because cake is delicious.

And winter is coming.

If your answer is: “I’m here because my doctor/wife/husband thinks I should lose weight. I know I should exercise more and do more.” you are more doomed than Sean Bean in literally any show or movie. You will give up at the first sign of adversity.

Compare this to the raw, deep, honest answers we get from Nerd Fitness Academy members when we ask about their “Big WHY”:

  • “I’m here because my dad died of a heart attack at age 45, and I don’t want my kids growing up without a father like I did.”
  • “I’m here because I want my husband/wife to look at me the way he/she used to, and I want us to grow old together.”
  • “I’m here because I just got dumped and I want to get healthy so I can start dating again. I don’t want people swiping left on my photos anymore.”
  • “I’m here because I want to look in the mirror and be proud of what I see. I want to stop hiding behind others in photographs.”

Find Your Big Why

Why are you here?

Is your reason for being here more important to you than cake? If it isn’t, you’re gonna give up at the first sign of adversity.

Write down your Great Big Why – and go deep, my friend. Way down. And ask yourself “Why?” to the answer of each of your questions until you get to the root of your reason for being here.

Once you write that answer down, hang it up somewhere you can see it every day: fridge, cubicle, bathroom mirror. Accept responsibility for your current situation, be compassionate, and also accept that you CAN change, and your identity can change with small wins that prove it.

3. They don’t go on diets; they adjust their nutrition.

Perpetually UNhealthy people have a love/hate relationship with diets.

Mostly hate.

They go on diets all the time, and then they go off diets. And then they go on another diet. And then they find another diet that’s supposed to promise even faster, easier weight loss, so they switch to that one.

Unhealthy people get dieting wrong from the start, and this is what dooms them.

Unhealthy people go on a diet for a month or two until bathing suit season is over and they can’t wait to go back to “eating normally,” because dieting sucks!

The problem is that their “eating normally” is often the reason why they’re overweight in the first place.

Temporary changes to one’s eating results in temporary changes to one’s physique. Like an addict chasing the next high, somebody consistently has to chase the next diet because their normal eating is the problem in the first place!

And I’m with you, dieting sucks.

Starving yourself, eliminating all of your favorite foods, and trying to use willpower to avoid candy and sweets is terrible. No wonder people abandon diets as soon as they start them; they think “if this is what it takes to be skinny, I’d rather stay fat and happy.”

Let’s compare this to PHNs.

They don’t go on diets, because they know diets suck and temporary changes won’t work. Instead, they make adjustments to their nutrition and eat for their goals.

PHNs have internalized the following: “The concept of ‘normal eating’ is broken, which means it needs to change permanently. You never get to be ‘done.’”

Think about that for a second.

If you are “never done” with your nutrition, and you can’t go back to how you were eating before, then the ONLY way permanent success happens is if you actually enjoy and can stick with your new “normal.”

Fortunately, because PHNs have a Groot Mindset, this doesn’t scare them!

If giving up soda forever is scary, they slowly cut back from 12 a day down to one a day. If giving up pasta forever scares them, they learn about portion sizes and turn pasta into a special experience (homemade pasta, only when out at restaurants, etc.).

Here’s another difference about PHNs: They usually don’t do “cheat days” or feel guilty when they eat ice cream. That’s a recipe (zing!) for self-loathing and shame.

Instead, PHNs eat well most of the time and occasionally choose to consume foods that might not line up with their goals (pizza while playing D&D once a month, beers and wings on Sunday during football season).

PHNs have the same idea about supplements – they know supplements can’t replace a great nutritional strategy, so they don’t chase the latest and greatest.

These things are fine, because they are playing the LONG game – years, not weeks or months:

Don't do diets, adjust your nutrition

Stop going on diets!

Stop chasing silver bullets – those are for werewolves!

No more diet pills, cleanses or crazy 30-day strategies.

Nothing you do can be temporary, or the results will be temporary.

Instead, make deliberate, incremental permanent changes to your daily nutrition, slowly, over a period of many months. Don’t feel guilty, and don’t do “cheat days.” Instead, eat to line up with your goals. If you are afraid of giving up something, don’t. Work to make it more of a treat and less of a daily indulgence.

Know that it took years for you to get to your current physique, and it’s going to take months if not years to correct it.

Once you accept that you never get to be “done,” you learn that you have to enjoy the journey, and pick changes that won’t scare you away from adhering to your plan.

4.They know what’s in the food they eat.

Do you know how many calories and grams of sugar are in a can of Coke? Or how big a serving of peanut butter actually is? Or how many calories and carbs are in a cup of “healthy granola?”

If you do, you’re well on your way to being a PHN!

Whether it’s portion control, calorie counting, tracking macros, or even keeping a food journal, PHNs have a rough idea of the nutritional breakdown of the food they consume regularly.

After all, GI Joe tells us that “Knowing is half the battle!”

The other half is lasers:

Knowing is half the battle, lasers is the other half

PHNs know their nutrition accounts for 90%+ of the battle when it comes to weight loss, and thus that’s where their focus is!

Seriously. 90+ PERCENT.

So they do their homework:

  • If they eat the same thing regularly, they spend a few minutes educating themselves about how much they are actually eating every day.
  • If they eat out, they do some rough calculations to track how many carbs, fats, and protein is in the meal they’re about to eat.
  • If they do bulk cooking for the week, they know how many calories and grams of protein are in each meal.

With each meal tracked, this behavior adds up to a quick mental model every day of roughly how many calories a PHN consumes each day.

This knowledge allows for shame-free and guilt-free meals even if they aren’t part of the big picture:

For example, a PHN will know that they’re going to be eating pizza for dinner, so they opt for eggs and bacon for breakfast and a salad for lunch to even out their daily total.

Because PHNs also know sugar is a big culprit in spiking insulin and making waistlines larger, they seek to limit sugar intake and make their calories count, especially if those calories are in beverage form.

PHNs are inherently skeptical of food marketers, and therefore take the time to look at labels:

  • Coca-Cola (20 oz): 240 calories, 65 g of carbs (65 g of sugar)
  • Naked Juice Green Machine (15 oz): 270 calories, 63 g of carbs (55 g of sugar)

Look at those two things above: one is a can of cola that you know is bad for you, the other is marketed as a “healthy beverage.” They’re both terrible for you!

PHNs know that fruit juice is pretty much sugar water, most granola bars have as many carbs and sugar as a candy bar, and a “healthy” muffin is a calorie bomb.

PHNs want the most bang for their buck, so they educate themselves on food.

Learn about the food you’re eating. You’re a grown adult, you can take 3 minutes and Google it.

Once you know the composition of your meals, you can start to make subtle adjustments or change quantities over time as you start to approach a healthier weight. Be okay with “good enough” to start, and get more accurate as time goes on.

For each food, learn the following:

  • Total calories
  • Serving size
  • Fat
  • Protein
  • Carbs

Keep a food journal and just write down what you eat every day for a week. If your weight isn’t changing, adjust down total calories and minimize sugar consumption and see how your weight changes. Make small adjustments over time and see how your body responds.

Speaking of goals….

5. They use Blueprints and Blocks to Create Goals.

Perpetually unhealthy people say things like “I’m going to exercise more this year!”

Goals like this are cloudy with no real markers of success. With no beacon guiding them, perpetually unhealthy people don’t know if they’re on track, and there’s no accountability if they don’t succeed. These goals get tossed in the abandoned pile next to goals like “I’m gonna start flossing!”

That is very different from PHNs.

PHNs grow like Groot through proper goal-setting and achievement:

  • They pick a blueprint: an outcome-based goal.
  • They place the blocks to build that blueprint: a habit-based goal.

An example: “I need to lose X amount of weight by X date or else X will happen.”

This is the goal that my friend (and NF success story) Saint set: to reach a single-digit body fat percentage before his wedding date, or he’d lose $500 to a friend. With a very specific goal and a specific timeline, we can work backwards to calculate how much weight we need to lose each week to build that blueprint: our goal physique.

Once a blueprint is selected, a PHN will focus on just placing the next brick or block according to the plans. They know that if they picked the right blueprint, placing one block after another in the right place will eventually result in a completed building.

In Minecraft terms, once you have the blueprints for a replica of Rivendell, all you have to focus on is placing the next block in the right place. Repeat. Eventually, you’ll have Rivendell:

Here’s a real-life example of this block-placing mentality:

“My goal is to reach 150 pounds by December 1st, so I will eat one vegetable every day, and I will strength train for 30 minutes, four days per week.”

In this instance, a PHN is focused only on the habits themselves, trusting the outcome will take care of itself.

Using block-habits like this results in no wiggle room: You can very easily answer the question “Yes I placed the block” or “no I did not place the block.” You either ate a vegetable today or you didn’t. You either exercised for 30 minutes today or you didn’t.

Pick habits and challenges and goals that are designed for YOUR level. Start with habits SOOOOO easy that you can’t help but achieve them. And focus on the habit.

If you’ve never built a thatched hut, don’t pick a blueprint of a cathedral for your first building. Pick a blueprint that works for you at your level, and complete it! Only then should you pick a bigger, more complex project to follow.

Think of it in video game terms:

6. They don’t HAVE to exercise, they GET to.

Unhealthy people treat exercise as a miserable means to an end: “I’ll exercise until I reach my goal weight and then I can stop this exercise stuff and go back to what I was doing before.”

Temporary changes, miserable strategy, temporary results… sound familiar?

They run on a treadmill because they think they should, but they hate it, and they never want to go back. Or they get dragged to a class with a friend and the class ruins fitness for them.

They do their best to build the habit, but they’re so unhappy and unexcited about the exercise that the habit never sticks.

Look, here’s the truth: “exercise” sucks.

So PHNs don’t do “exercise.”

At the same time, I’ve heard from Nerd Fitness Academy members: “I can’t believe it, but I actually look forward to exercising now. How did THAT happen?”

What’s going on here?

Because nutrition is 90% of the battle, having the habit of exercise and movement is more important than what specific type of exercise you choose.

This means PHNs pick things like gymnastics, swing dancing, ultimate frisbee, martial arts, hiking, or strength training. Whatever gets them off their asses and moving!

If there’s a type of exercise they HATE… they don’t do it.

Exercise goes from something they “have to do” (ughhhh), to something they “get to do” (yes!).

Now, if a PHN has a very specific physique goal (six pack, toned arms, a better butt, broader chest, etc.), they train for their specific goals to build the body they want and get hooked on improvement: “I can’t wait to go to the gym and find out how much stronger I got.”

You don’t have to exercise in a way that you hate. Pick the kind of exercise that makes you come alive. Don’t have that form of exercise yet? Try new things! Especially the stuff that doesn’t feel like exercise.

Have a specific goal or physique in mind? Train for that goal and get hooked on constant improvement to get addicted to exercise. You are a video game character increasing your strength attribute with each training session – there’s that Groot Mindset again!

7. They invest in their health like a 401(k).

When it comes down to our health, we can invest in three ways:

  • Our Time
  • Our Effort
  • Our Money

Perpetually Healthy Nerds know this and prioritize accordingly: they know investing in their health is the best decision they can make. So they decide what’s the correct balance of time, effort, and money to use for that investment.

Let’s do an investment analogy: some people LOVE spending 50 hours a week pouring through company statements to find value and going all-in on picking individual stocks. For others, they might instead choose passively managed index funds and pay a small fee to not have to think about it. Or they hire a financial advisor (a fiduciary! not your dad’s friend who has a hunch!) with a time-tested track record to advise and guide them.

Either way, the best investors (guys like Warren Buffett) advise time-tested, long term thinking with “buy and hold” rather than chasing “get-rich-quick” schemes.

Your health is an investment just like your net worth:

  • If you want to devote your effort and time to building your own workouts, crafting your own meal plans, and keeping yourself accountable, that’s awesome. I did this for myself for years.
  • You might decide to outsource your programming to a coach, recruit an accountability partner, or buy into a program that creates your workouts and nutrition for you.
  • Either way, this is a multi-year process that requires discipline!

We have thousands of people who read all the free content on Nerd Fitness for years not really taking their health seriously, but the second they finally invested in The Nerd Fitness Academy or joined Rising Heroes (our monthly habit building adventure), they took action and lost weight.


Because we VALUE what we pay for and invest in, making us more likely to actually do the damn thing.

Unhealthy people don’t look at all of this stuff rationally – they complain about spending 99 cents on an iPhone app that could save them 30 minutes a day, and then gladly spend $6 on a sugary Starbucks beverage each morning without a second thought.

Your money, your time, and your effort are all limited resources: how you choose to spend each of them tells me a lot about your priorities.

I am a Proud PHN (a PPHN, if you will), and it’s why I gladly pay hundreds of dollars every month for my own online fitness coach.

Many probably think I’m crazy and that this is a waste of money (“just do your own workouts!”), but I feel that it’s the best money I spend every month, and it’s why I’ve prioritized it over other expenses.

I’m not just paying for a workout plan in an excel document.

I am paying for accountability from somebody who is checking in on me, expertise from a trained professional who can spot my weaknesses, and the knowledge that I’ll actually do the workout because I’m spending my hard-earned money on it.

I’m also saving myself hundreds of hours and years of expertise because I’m buying those things from a pro.

It just happens to ALSO come with a workout and nutrition plan to follow.

PHNs invest in themselves in some way with the right things prioritized. It’s usually by adjusting their finances to prioritize their health:

  • They might have a free gym in their apartment complex or basement, but they pay money to join a gym near work with fitness classes, because they hate working out alone and if they know people are counting on them to show up, they’ll actually GO.
  • They might pre-pay for 20 trainer sessions because they know if they’ve already paid for it and scheduled the workouts, they’ll actually GO.
  • They might pay $20-30 to just go to a gym for one hour on vacation. Expensive? Not when you compare it to the weeks spent after the vacation trying to get back on track.
  • They’ll skip movies out or cancel their cable to instead prioritize a meal service or buy more cookbooks so they never get bored with cooking new healthy meals.

In each instance, PHNs have done the math: they’re not just paying for access to a gym or an overpriced omelet. They’re not “wasting their time” when they invest their time and energy into the right things. They have their priorities in order and spend their limited resources on the most important, most efficient things.

It’s not what you say is a priority, it’s what you spend your time or money on that’s a priority. So PHNs prioritize their money and time on the best stuff, even at the expense of other creature comforts.

How much money do you spend on your health?

How much time and effort do you devote to creating your workouts or fine-tuning your nutrition?

Have you ever hired a coach or paid for an online course? D

o you buy apps or software that make your life easier, or do you try to get by with free stuff that you know you won’t actually use?

Whether it’s time, effort, or money, if you want to be a PHN you need to invest in yourself with your priorities in order. This might mean spending more for a gym and canceling your cable bill, or preparing your own healthy meals instead of simply ordering out every night.

You’re not buying a course or a workout or an overpriced salad. You’re buying expertise, accountability and momentum.

And NEVER underestimate momentum.

8. They Go All In On Momentum.

PHNs are big fans of Isaac Newton:

An object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted on by another force.

Nothing could be more accurate when it comes to your health.

Unhealthy Nerds just starting out have a LOT of inertia to overcome.

Their body is used to sitting on a couch and eating junk food, which means building the habit of exercise is agonizing. They have to convince themselves to get off the couch and go out into the wilderness. Eating vegetables and healthy food sucks compared to their normal comfort food.

But they use max effort to do these things a few times, and momentum starts to shift away from unhealthy and towards healthy.

And that’s when things fall apart.

Their kid gets sick or they work late and they miss a workout. Not the end of the world, right? But then it snows the next day, and one missed workout day becomes two, which becomes 30 in the blink of an eye.

And shit, they’re back to square one.

PHNs know this all too well, so they dump all of their energy into cultivating and protecting their momentum. They invest their time and money in momentum-building or momentum-protecting products or services.

PHNs know that shit happens. Travel. Vacation. Kids. Work. So they focus on doing whatever they can to build momentum quickly and maintain it.

Perpetual health doesn’t happen in days, or with a few decisions. It takes months (or more likely, years) of consistent effort, so they go all in on momentum until their default behavior is healthy eating and exercise:

  • They exercise 4 days per week without fail. Yes, even on vacation.
  • They go for a morning walk every single day, even when it’s snowing.
  • They schedule workouts for early Saturday morning with a trainer so they know they can’t drink like a fish on Friday night.

Because momentum.

PHNs are all in on these habits, because they know it’s more than just “missing a workout.” It’s killing their momentum, and momentum is crucial to long term Perpetual Healthy Nerdiness!

This is why PHNs subscribe to the “Never Two in a Row” rule.

We know life happens, and sometimes getting to a workout or eating healthy food lined up with your goals isn’t an option. But it’s always the exception, never the rule.

Which is why if they miss a workout, they get to the gym THE NEXT DAY, without fail. The next meal after an unhealthy meal is the MOST important meal they have ever eaten. They never make two mistakes in a row because they know momentum can be ruined in a heartbeat.

Momentum is crucial to being perpetually healthy, so protect it with your life.

Never miss two workouts in a row, because it quickly becomes 30 in the blink of an eye. Never eat two bad meals in a row, because two quickly becomes a week of pizza and Chinese food.

Live by the “never two in a row,” and build momentum with daily goals.

9. They know their Kryptonite.

PHNs are big fans of the late great physicist Richard Feynman too, even if they don’t know it:

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Unhealthy nerds might be aware of their Kryptonite, but they just hope and pray they have enough willpower to overcome it every day.

They eat a single Oreo, and then spend an hour thinking about cookies until they go eat a whole sleeve of Oreo cookies and then berate themselves for not having more willpower.

PHNs know that we ALL have Kryptonite.

We are all flawed superheroes.

Unhealthy nerds try to fix their flaws through sheer willpower and then shame or guilt themselves when they can’t stop their behavior.

PHNs recognize their Kryptonite, and have a plan that doesn’t require willpower to overcome it.

If a PHN knows they have a sweet tooth, they don’t keep cookies and candy at home – they add more steps between them and the bad habits they are trying to break.

If they know grains make them unhappy and bloated, they follow a Paleo diet and remove those foods completely so there’s no attempt to only eat half a serving of something.

If they know they struggle with portion control, then maybe they try skipping a meal with Intermittent Fasting.

They also always ask the questions that get to the heart of their Kryptonite with regards to weight gain:

  • Maybe they eat when they’re bored.
  • Maybe they eat when they’re upset.
  • Maybe they eat when they’re nervous.
  • Maybe they eat when they’re watching TV.

They KNOW these things about themselves, and they know unhealthy food has been designed to be addictive.

So they plan for it!

PHNs introduce accountability, punishments, and rewards into their life to keep them on track and avoid their own personal Kryptonite:

  • They check in with someone every day to make sure they ate their vegetables.
  • Their friend has been instructed to donate $50 to a terrible cause they hate if they miss a workout check-in.
  • They reward themselves with new running shoes (a reward that rewards them back with more momentum) if they complete 20 runs in a single month.
  • They don’t go to certain bars or make sure they eat before going to a party, because they KNOW they’ll make a bad decision once they get there.
  • They build their environment to not have tempting foods at home – it’s tough to eat poorly when your cabinets are stocked with good food.

Unhealthy people do motivation wrong, and they let their Kryptonite defeat them. PHNs know their Kryptonite and build systems to deal with it.

Know thyself, my dear friend, and know what your triggers are.

We’re all flawed; PHNs just plan for their flaws better. These triggers can be environmental or situational or emotional. Know it will happen, and build a Kryptonite-proof plan so you don’t have to worry about avoiding it.

Stop relying on motivation and willpower to tackle your Kryptonite.

Don’t put yourself in bad situations. Build your batcave (your environment) so it’s tougher to make unhealthy decisions and easier to make healthy ones. Don’t go out to dinner at unhealthy restaurants, and schedule early workouts on Saturdays so you won’t drink yourself silly on Friday.

Yes, I realize Kryptonite is Superman and Batcave is Batman, but they’re from the same universe. Deal with it. 

10. They are surrounded by Lakitus, not Banana Peels.

You are the average of the 5 people you associate most with.

Are those people Lakitus in your life?

Or are they banana peels?

Banana peels need no introduction: drive over one in Mario Kart and they’ll ruin a perfectly good race by crushing all of your momentum.

Unhealthy people get spun out all the time by banana peels in their lives:

  • “What do you mean you don’t want to eat my lasagna anymore? You love my cooking.”
  • “Everybody is coming over to play D&D and eat pizza, you can’t miss this.”
  • “You don’t need to lose weight. You look fine. Live a little. Come on.”

Questions and comments like these subtly influence our behavior every day.

So think about the people in your life: the things they say, the activities they choose to spend their time on, the foods they eat, the restaurants they frequent, etc. These are the reasons why they look like they do.

And that stuff rubs off on you whether you realize it or not! Which is how you end up looking like them.

Compare that to surrounding yourself with Lakitus. If you’re not familiar, Lakitu from Mario and Mario Kart is the little guy on the cloud that picks you up out of the water and puts you back on course.

Like Lakitu, look for the people in your life who pick you up and put you back on track, hold you accountable, and use healthy, positive peer pressure to keep your momentum.

Take exercise:

  • Banana Peel: You want to exercise, but your friends are mad at you for skipping a Destiny 2 or World of Warcraft raid… you’re going to skip the workout.
  • Lakitu: You want to exercise, and your friends are at the gym counting on you for a team workout… you’re gonna get your ass to the gym!


  • Banana Peel: You are out to dinner with friends and they order lasagna, chicken fingers and fries, a large pizza, and enchiladas. You’ll likely order junk food to fit in, rather than order a salad and endure their scorn.
  • Lakitu: You are at a healthy restaurant and all 4 people order salads before you order – I’d bet $1000 you’re going to order something healthy too.

Mental health:

  • Banana Peel: You have 5 friends who never talk about anything serious: how are you supposed to tell them about your depression medication or that you’re thinking about going to see a therapist?
  • Lakitu: You have 5 friends who are not only accepting of your flaws, but share theirs too and have advice for you.

In multiplayer terms: do you want to be part of a group with 5 newbies that suck at Warcraft and get everybody killed on a raid? Or do you want to be part of a group of 5 rockstars that are 4 levels ahead of you – that can show you new zones, keep you alive, and make you a better player?

You want the second group! And you want that second group equivalent in life!!

So you need to be surrounded by people that pick you up, not slow you down.

PHNs know this, and they make the hard decisions about who is worthy of their time and attention.

They often fire their unhealthy friends and family – even if only temporarily – because they can’t be around negative influence as they’re trying to build momentum. I’ve heard of tons of stories where unhealthy relationships have ended because a PHN was dating an unhealthy person who didn’t want them to be healthy!

In their quest to become a PHN, we know sacrifices must be made.

Along with minimizing time around banana peels, they MAXIMIZE their time with Lakitus. Instead of spending time around people who say “you don’t need to lose weight, you’re too skinny as it is” they surround themselves with people who say, “That’s awesome, how can I help you reach your goals?”

PHNs use 20 seconds of courage to strike up a conversation with someone at the gym on how to do a certain exercise, and make plans to train together the next day.

PHNs join a running club at work, or start a running club if one doesn’t exist yet.

If PHNs don’t have people in real life cheering them on, they find an online group that pushes them to be better.

I recently asked our private men’s community from the Nerd Fitness Academy what the group meant to them.

This response jumped out at me:

You are influenced dramatically by the people around you whether you realize it or not.

You alone get to choose where your time is spent and who you prioritize.

For the time being, at least until you become a PHN, you might need to sacrifice or fire your friends and family members that are pulling you down. You might need to have a serious conversation with your significant other that “likes you more full-figured” if your goal is to be healthier and happier.

Or diving deep into deflection strategies if you have to constantly deal with unhealthy family members you can’t fire.

If they are worth your time, they will change their tune to be more supportive and helpful and less of an anchor.

And then start spending time around people who are stronger, healthier, happier, and more successful than you. And do what they do.

Are you a PHN?

Phew! Okay, let’s see how many of these you can actually check off:

  • I have a Groot Mindset
  • I know my Big Why
  • I don’t go on diets. I adjust my nutrition.
  • I know what my food is made of.
  • I have blueprints and blocks.
  • I don’t have to exercise; I GET to.
  • I invest in my health like a 401(k).
  • I go all in on momentum.
  • I know my Kryptonite.
  • I seek out Lakitus, not banana peels.

Give yourself a score, and let me know which ones are the toughest for you to follow through on.

If you checked 6 or fewer boxes, pick ONE of the PHN habits and work on it for the next month. Internalize it. Make it part of your new identity. And then move onto the next one.

You’re overcoming inertia and building momentum!

And NEVER underestimate momentum.

Agree with the list? Disagree?

Did I leave one off?

Leave that in the comments too!

Also, congratulations, you just finished the longest article in the history of Nerd Fitness – give yourself a high five.


PS: If you are somebody that is interested in investing in their health right now, these are the three paths available to this community:

  • Join the Nerd Fitness Academy – a one time fee for lifetime access. Follow the workout plans, adjust your mental attitude, follow our 10 level diet system and have a private community to support you.
  • Check out Rising Heroes our monthly team-based story driven adventure. Get new real-world missions each week that make you healthier and help us take down a sinister shadow organization.

If you are looking to invest in yourself, I hope to see you in one of these programs!

photo credit:Reiterlied Rex across the fields, Meeting Star Lord and Baby Groot, benjaminreay Big question mark, Mark Bonica Paleo Diet – Day 14, clement127 Chicken factory, post-apocalyptic research institute 3mm model, sualk61 Hamster wheel, evoo73 balance, hjl Kryptonite on Blue, Reiterlied Biking on the Lake

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  • Kerry

    “Is your reason for being here more important to you than cake? If it isn’t, you’re gonna give up at the first sign of adversity.”

    This is my EXACT problem right now. I am very unmotivated and I can’t get past the “I need to loose weight” reasoning. I have to find my big why in order to find the motivation to get out of bed and enjoy a workout. This is a great article, thanks for sharing.

  • Kristen J

    I really appreciate this. Being a PHN takes a lot of hard, daily work, and not a lot of people grasp the depth of that concept. For so many years, my fitness level has never been credited to ME in casual conversation (“You’re so skinny because you’re lucky”) and never to the amount of work and commitment I was putting into my personal health. I will happily claim personal responsibility over both my successes and misses in the future instead of letting my successes get chalked up to luck.

  • “they add more steps between them and the bad habits they are trying to break.” Wow that’s the best line you’ve written to date. Love it. Great article!

  • Tony Langdon

    Great article, sums it up well. I have 7 or 8 of those fairly well covered, and many people do see that. I often get asked how I “do it” (and the answer usually isn’t what they’re hoping for – no quick fixes, just lots of hard work over a long time! 🙂 ). So I’m pretty much a PHN.

    However, I can improve. Fine tuning diet is probably my biggest challenge, and that is influenced by living situations, but even there, I’m still able to follow some healthy habits, like cutting out excess sugar (except for the occasional treat), especially liquid calories (I drink mostly water now).

    This article is definitely food for thought (pardon the pun! 😉 ), and a resource for fine tuning my already successful strategies.

  • You’re damn right it’s a lot of work – props to you for being a PHN Kristen 🙂

  • When people ask you how you do it, you start to explain and the answer isn’t what they wanted to hear…they start to tune out, right?

    Thanks for sharing Tony

    And no need to pardon any pun ever. I live for puns 🙂

  • NewbieRebel

    Yes, definitely a PHN over here. If I may, one of the things that helped me stay on track in terms of nutrition is a simple phrase. When temptation strikes, instead of saying ” I can’t eat (fill in the blank), I say “I don’t eat (fill in the blank).” It is therefore a choice, and not a limitation. Subtle difference… but huge difference. Thanks James Clear, my other favorite author. 😉

  • Faith

    I am a PHN. Started these habits at 16 and have stayed in shape til 50. This article is right on!

  • Luke

    Tomorrow I’m going out for a meal and some beers for my birthday. I’m gonna order the biggest burger with chili cheese fries on the side. However because I KNOW this is going to happen, I’m gonna have a seriously lean lunch and be straight to the gym the next day. This kind of mindset has saved the momentum I have gained without missing out on things I enjoy. All the best to all the nerds out there!

  • Regina

    I’m really proud of Nerd Fitness for moving away from Paleo and advocating a sustainable lifestyle without restricting foods. I tried Paleo for years without success because I would try to eat that way, eat too much of the calorie-dense “healthy” foods (avocados, bacon, almonds, etc.) and then binge on “bad” foods whenever faced with them and lose no weight at all.

    Now I restrict nothing, as long as it fits within my calories and general macros for the day. Like you said in the article, Steve, if I am going out with friends for pizza that evening, I’ll eat lightly during the day in preparation for my treat, versus on Paleo I wouldn’t eat the pizza and be miserable, or cave and eat it and then binge on all the “bad” foods I was missing because I “broke” my diet.

    Calorie/Macro counting is way more successful and sustainable – I’ve lost 60 pounds this way. There is no need to revamp because you just adjust as you go along, no need for hard stops or starts. There is no diet to break and fail at because it isn’t a diet, it’s just living and eating responsibly. So good on Nerd Fitness and you, Steve, for this mindset. I look forward to seeing more articles like this in the future.

  • Ingrid Breithaupt

    I’m exercising TO eat the cake. My family uses food for maintaining traditions and it is a big part of our socializing but I am determined to be healthy.
    I’ve found that being aware of the energy intake and out put of my day is a great motivator.
    Think Mana Burn from magic the gathering. My intake has to be meet with output.
    I don’t know if this helps you at all, we are all different. I’m down 70 lbs from a year and a half ago and am doing my part to maintain now.
    I wish you the best.

  • Cledbo

    I’m a respawning former PHN at the moment – since having my second kid I’ve been using breastfeeding as an (excellent) excuse to eat anything I want. I’ve now hit a plateau in my natural post-partum weight loss, so it’s time to get back on the nutrition train!
    I’ve also been totally slack with exercise until this past week, now my partner and I have started doing yoga together from a DVD – he’s been running on a treadmill we invested in whilst watching law lectures (way to multitask 😉 and I’m just tight as all get-out after many months of not exercising.

    This probably comes under the “momentum” banner, but something I’ve always found helpful in the past is remembering that consistency beats intensity – doing ANYTHING is better than skipping because you can’t reach a certain level
    eg it’s better to go for a walk than do nothing just because you can’t fit in a whole hour; it’s better to do your best to find a healthy option when eating on the road rather than cave and pig out.
    Consistency is king!

  • Bryan Ewbank

    I’m a 57 year old male, and I’ve become a PHN over the last year. For me the two keys were

    (1) knowing my kryptonite (any sweet bread-like product) and avoiding it, and
    (2) adjusting my nutrition – and learning just how many calories was in stuff.

    I’ve lost ~60 pounds (waist from 44 to 38) over the last year by adjusting my nutrition without any other substantial change. Now to rebuild from the ground up; I’m joining the “I exercise hard so I don’t have to count calories (much)” school of thought.

  • Elizabeth Ruby

    This is such a useful article. I’m struggling. It’s tough to be a PHN! One of my bigger challenges at the moment is surrounding myself with people who motivate me. Some family members focus on negatives, people at work complain about everything. I’m a good listener, which I usually think is good but I’m on a run to hearing problems from what feels like everyone. And they’re all good people, but in negative places right now and I want to help them, but it’s throwing off my positive attitude. I’m not sure how to nudge this in a more positive direction, but this month… that’s the challenge I’m setting myself after this article. Steve, thank you! Once again one of your articles is helping me figure out an important item for me to focus on to improve.

  • Congrats on dropped 60 pounds already Bryan! That’s freaking epic dude 🙂

  • Tony Langdon

    They either tune out or go “You’re mad”, or “nah, I couldn’t do that”, or some other excuse – Even if they’re much younger than me, they’ll still haul out the excuses and want the results, without doing the work. 🙂

    Oh, and I’ve found my kryptonite is lack of structure, which causes me to defer to more mundane concerns, other people or just blobbing around. As a result, the bulk of my training is in the context of sporting clubs and the like, where I have to be at a place at a time to do my thing. Problem solved! 🙂

  • Bryan Ewbank

    Thanks, Steve. It’s actually mostly because of the motivation I find here that got me started. That and “My Fitness Pal” – the app reminds me to count every (EVERY) meal. It has a marvelous “finish the day” button that tells you “if you eat like this you will weigh N in 5 weeks”. I think it’s calibrated for men because men and women burn calories so differently, and it’s really frustrated the few women I know that have used the app.

  • Gloria Cole

    Most people will find this encouraging, I am discouraged and melancholy after reading it. I scored a big zero, well i’d say I have a groot mind set, working out and nutrition just aren’t my priority. I try, I fail, a lot, I eat ice cream and go back to the things that bring me joy. Really i’d say my biggest problem is that I don’t have a big why. I sometimes walk, try to do yoga because my therapist tells me to do something… Sure when I walk it’s something I get to do, but only every once in a while cause I don’t really have the time, (don’t try to tell me I do, generally if I have ten minutes to muself I’m going to put it towards writing or drawing. I’m in a season of motherhood were I don’t get enough sleep as it is. I have tried to figure out time it is not there. Afteral the dishes aren’t going to wash themselves.) I tolerate a 20min yoga session off YouTube once a week because it’s the least awful option I have. I miss my dance class but it’s too expensive and on the wrong night of the week.

  • Buy Contact Lenses

    Great article, Thanks for your great information, the content is quiet interesting. I will be waiting for your next post.

  • Leticia

    Hey, Gloria. I am going to extrapolate from your therapist mention that you are depressed. If you are, cut yourself some major slack, depression can suck the life out of your marrow. Exercise does help to release endorphins, and every person gets depressed differently – some feel better in the morning, some fell better in the evening. Whenever you fell – less bad – go for a walk. 10 min, 15 min is already going to help you. Also, depression makes your internal clock go slower, so you sit down and think it’s been one minute, but 10 have gone by. Time just flies by.

  • Laura

    My kryptonite is sugary treats. I make sure to keep this kind of food out of the house but how can I set up a system at work to deal with sweet stuff? There’s always donuts, cookies, brownies, etc at my office!

  • Mary

    I practice intermittent fasting, and my normal eating hours are 12-8 pm. This can help me say no to sugary work treats, since usually it’s donuts/bagels/etc. for breakfast. Since I don’t eat until 12, I don’t have a desire to eat them in the morning. Not only that, but I log all my food. If I have my macros all figured out for the day, I’m usually reluctant to mess things up by eating an unplanned treat at work. These things combined usually help keep me on the straight and narrow. (Lunch parties are a bit more challenging, but occasionally I will pre-plan a ‘splurge day’ and allow myself to enjoy the party guilt free.) Good luck. 🙂

  • Good job literally the next thing you’re going to do after touching it is wash your hands!

  • aluauha

    “…. you’re more doomed than Sean Bean in literally any show or movie.” I died so hard. You, Steve. 👊🏽

  • Lyn Barr

    I love your writing, and I love this article in particular! I shared it with my FB group, so hopefully you’ll pick up some brand new PHNs!

    I love all 10 of these, but personally, I think #2 is the most critical. Know Thy Why!

  • Carissa Montes

    This probably the best article I have ever read on establishing a healthy lifestyle. My favorite part about all of this, and what the Academy and Rising Heroes revolve around, is establishing habits – how to build good ones and how to get rid of bad ones. I also appreciate the realistic approach to time and how important it is to have an accountability partner. I have made efforts to get workouts in and tried to adjust my nutrition to eat clean, but having a spouse that doesn’t support the change with me made it very difficult and slowed my process; my greatest weakness is not having a partner that helps me feel I’m not alone. This is such a down to earth approach to health and fitness; I hope this reaches MANY people!

    PS. I now hear a totally different translation when Groot cries, “I AM GROOOOOT!” at the beginning of the prison break.

  • James Cavallo

    I was so happy to receive an email this morning that Steve wrote a new blog post, and damn, this was an amazing post. I started this week reanalysing my habits and this post helps with that. I gave myself a score of 6, so the habit that I’ll work on is To focus on momentum, a.k.a. adhere to the “Never miss two in a row” rule.

    I tried using the “Never break the chain” rule. Unfortunately to me, if I didn’t achieve perfect results, then I would quit the habit (my girlfriend had a similar result). Changing this to “Never miss two in a row”, means that I don’t focus on how long my streak is, I just focus on yesterday, today, and tomorrow. If I missed my last gym workout, I definitely make sure I do my next gym workout.

    Currently I’m aiming to walk around the block immediately after dinner, and if I miss one day, that’s okay, I’ll definitely do it the next day. Tomorrow, I’m eating at my mother’s house, which means I could miss out on the walk, but I can definitely go for a walk the day after.

  • Brendan

    My only caveat (and I didn’t want there to be one) is you don’t recommend diets, but then ask people to join the Nerd Fitness Academy’s 10 level diet system? Love this article, but that hypocrisy at the end made me wince. Thanks for the great work!

  • Wow! a complete package with all details for Healthy nerds. Love to read the article.
    Keep posting such awesome information, it worth a lot for a fitness enthusiastic like me 🙂
    Thank you!

  • MTangel

    Have you checked out Youtube for dancing? I dance ballet and have found two really good channels to supplement classes (which are expensive!): Kathryn Morgan, and Lazy Dancer Tips. They both have videos of barre and centre classes, designed so you can do them at home in a small space. I’m not familiar with other dance styles, but maybe you can find something similar? It would give you a chance to keep dancing at home until you can join a class again.

  • Miriam

    Urg, limitation of English! Correct, NF does not say go on a ‘diet’ = temporary effort to lose weight, but has a ‘diet’ = set plan of eating. I agree, it’s confusing, but I don’t think it’s hypocritical.

  • Miriam

    Great article!! I want a poster of it!

  • Gloria Cole

    Thanks i’ll give them a look. I do dance on my own sporadically. -i have a frappe and grandbattma(forgive my spelling) to a couple of Phineas ans Ferb songs. With preschoolers we watch a lot of Phineas and Ferb. But I’m just not at the level of being able to correct myself or even know if i’m doing things right. I often make reference to the hippos dancing to the Hours when I talk about my own dancing. But i’ll take a look.

  • Zzzzzebra

    I’m 14 and trying to be healthier, but there are so many obstacles at the moment. My mum wants to eat healthy too, but she often encourages me to make cakes or unhealthy meals because she’s unaware of how bad they really are. My brother and dad eat very unhealthily, and there’s no way they’re going to change that, which means my house is always filled with unhealthy food and snacks, so it takes a lot more willpower to avoid them. I have to plan out my meals for the week so I always have the option of eating healthily, which does work but my recipes are limited as I dislike a lot of vegetables which is a problem for most good recipes (I’m trying to eat paleo-ish).I don’t have very much control over most of the people in my life, so I’m kind of on my own in my quest for health. Nerd Fitness was definitely a huge help for me; It helped me educate myself on nutrition and gave me a catalyst to start being serious about my health. I can’t join the Academy, but the articles and free resources have really been helpful.
    I used to be 10 stone aged 13, but I’m down to 8.5 (and I’m 5ft 3). I still feel that I’m “fat”, but most body fat measurements are for adults so I can’t tell if I have too much fat. I think the problem is that I’m not sure what healthy looks like for me. I also don’t feel like I look any different even after losing 21 pounds, but as a teenage girl I suppose I’m expected to be insecure about my body. I am very shy and socially awkward and I’m not a sporty person at all, so I don’t go to the gym or join any clubs; I quite like badminton (though I’m rubbish at it) and I love hiking and being outdoors but I don’t have anyone to do that with.
    It also doesn’t help that I don’t like most vegetables – I eat carrots, bell peppers and the tips of broccoli, but anything else is hard to eat and I really don’t enjoy it. I like fruit, but a lot of that is too sugary to be healthy.
    As a teenager I don’t have much control over my life, but I’m doing the best I can to be healthy, not use my problems as excuses and think in terms of days and years. I hope it works, and I’m glad I started this early, even if it’s not easy.

  • Rosita

    I hear you! I am in a similar spot feeling my optimism and momentum in life overwhelmed by an avalanche of empathy for other people’s negative outlooks. It’s tough. Sounds like you are a good friend, who is setting a good example of how to be a positive influence. Make sure to give yourself credit for how valuable and rare you are.

  • Rosita

    Wow! Great read. Thanks to the 6 years I’ve been reading Nerd Fitness I have gone from a 2/10 to a 6/10 in better shape than I was in my 20s.

    I’ve still got work to do. I need to invest more in organization and planning. Although I am tempted to tackle all 4 of the areas I can’t claim at once…I’ll stick with working on a blueprint and start placing blocks. I want to get back into a daily fitness habit, so I will start with a bodyweight circuit or yoga session daily.

  • gordondev

    Might I suggest that instead of trying to do the exercise stuff right now, you focus on finding your why and finding Lakitus?

    Find yourself a child friendly support group. They’re out there. A support network makes a huge difference.

    Also, I’d say your why is right in front of you: those preschoolers you mention. You want to be a good role model for them, not? Your want to see them graduate, right? There you go.

    Teach them yoga or dance with them. No, it’s not going to be perfect, but it gets you moving, without requiring you to carve out your own personal time, and the kids are engaged in a fun activity for a little while. Remember, it’s the momentum more than the activity, itself.

    You can also start getting the kids involved in household chores, which can start freeing up your time. Preschoolers love to help, so grab a stool and a towel and set them to drying the dishes and putting away the ones they can reach.

  • Tim Gordon

    Is this really the longest article? Because this is probably the first one I read all the way through.

  • Gloria Cole

    Do you or have you had preschoolers? Cause maybe mine are the exception but my almost 4 year old doesn’t love helping.

    I do play with my kids, their favorite game is currently chase. As for teaching I barely like yoga, and I don’t seem to have the patience to reach anything to a strong willed 4 year old and a distrated 1 year old.

    As for them being my ‘why’ well no, because I don’t think health and fitness are the most important things in life, I am working to be an example in the things that I do believe are important.

    The same with the lakitus… I make time for the people who are important and they are encouraging helpful. But once again fitness and health aren’t the highest priority. I have one good friend who could be considered a bit of a jock but she is hundreds of miles away. Also a cursory search on google reveiled no mommy fitness support group close enough to me. If I can’t afford a dance class I can’t afford a gym membership of which there are none with child care in my town.

    I know activity is important but it’s not a priority, it’s something i’m told should be important, will help with with my baby blues, and losing that baby weight. But I have no tangible evidence that exercise would make my life better, just the anecdotes of strangers online. The walk I took this afternoon did less for my overall mental health today the the 30 minutes of writing I did yesterday for yesterday’s overall mood.

  • gordondev

    First, yes, I have had preschoolers, it’s why I suggested it.

    Second, the support group doesn’t need to be fitness related. It sounds like you need a support group of any sort, for the sake of your mental health. Until you can get your mental health in order, none of the other suggestions are really going to go anywhere and are just going to result in frustration.

  • Amazing article. It highlights every point so well.

    I can now say that I check off 9/10.

    The one that I can’t get is seeking Latikus and avoiding Banana Peels. I work in a hospital which is its own microcosm, and as ironic as it may be, the vast majority of people tend to be unhealthy. I figure the best way to make others Latikus are to lead by example. What other strategies have you used to balance out the Latikus and banana peels


    I loved how you mentioned peoples Why, I think its really important when you set a goal to dig little deeper as to why you want to release that weight. Because its your why that will get you out of bed to go for a job when its snowing outside.
    Great article

  • living life in a healthy way is the best way to live it.

  • Edith Karnitsch

    My biggest positive change is meal prep on a Sunday coupled with intermittent fasting (no breakfast). I now have a healthy prepped lunch, healthy snacks and a normal evening dinner. Prepping gets me back into momentum after holidays, after “off” periods and keeps the momentum throughout the week. It’s been a game changer. My friends don’t get it, it probably sounds too boring, but if anyone asks how to lose weight, I say “meal prep”. They may not like the answer, but it’s the one thing that actually works. As for PHN? I’m not there (yet) but I’m on my way 🙂

  • My kryptonite is Chick-Fil-A.

  • “Intake has to be met with output”. Great way to put it. When eating high quality intake, it’s amazing how much energy just even a single banana can give you.

  • I also like to think of it as “advantages vs disadvantages”. That eliminates the judgment and allows me to make the best choice by simply saying, “yea, this just makes more sense.” Leaving the guilt out of it and not being pressured by what you “should” do.

  • Elisabeth Cline

    Way to go on your PHN status! I think My Fitness Pal is the most accurate and easy meal tracking app I’ve tried and it makes tracking my macros easy. It’s definitely useless on the calorie front thing though. On days when I bike to work and go to the gym it basically tells me I didn’t eat anything that day – which isn’t true because I’m basically eating at maintenance!

  • Agreed wholeheartedly. #3 and #4 are probably the ones that are biggest for me in my journey. I attribute a lot of my ability to stick with my diet (I hate that word, too) to just being educated on what i’m putting into my body.

    Crazy how fast reading the nutrition label on something will make you go from “that sounds good” to “hell nah”.

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