Why People Suck at Getting Healthy and What to Do About It.

WALL-E looking at a puddle

We’re in trouble.

WALL-E knows it too, which is why he looks so sad.

Poor WALL-E 🙁

We are spending more money on fitness quick-fixes, gym memberships, “health food”, personal trainers, and other ‘life improvement’ products than ever before. Thanks to the power of the Internet, we’re hit on a daily basis with “Top 10 healthy foods,” “foods to avoid for optimum health,” “6-pack abs in 15 minutes a day!,” and millions upon million fitness sites extolling expert advice.  Super markets like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and even healthy “fast food” places are popping up everywhere that make it incredibly simple to eat healthy foods.

Despite ALL of this, we continue to get bigger, slower, and lazier.

More than 2/3rds of America is overweight, over 33% of us are considered obese, and the numbers continue to grow with each passing year.  At this rate, we could be headed for an actual WALL-E type future within a few decades.

Ruh roh, Shaggy.

I’ve been running Nerd Fitness for over three years now, and I can say without a doubt that the question I get asked above ALL else goes something like this:

“I know what I should do, I just can’t motivate myself to do it. Can you help?”

My answer has always been “I can’t give you motivation, only the tools to use once you FIND your motivation.”

However, I’ve come to a realization over the past few weeks – although I cannot provide you with motivation, there is another way I can help.

Today, you’re gonna learn why most people suck at getting in shape, and how to avoid that trap.

Admiral Akbar would be proud.  

Be More Like Yoda


Personal finance blogger Ramit Sethi (one of my blogging/finance Yodas, whose book completely changed how I looked at finances) talks extensively about the concept of “motivation” and “should” when it comes to self improvement.

Essentially, when you read an article about exercise and fitness and diet, if you say “man I really should do that,” you’ve already lost.

“Should” is a defeatist word.

And here’s why:

You are a smart person.

You know what needs to be done in order to get in shape.

You know that you should eat REAL food and stop eating junk food. You even know that a majority of “healthy” foods out there are crap. You know that your diet is 80% of your success or failure. You know HOW to build a workout, or you at least know that there are free workout resources available through the site. There are even products available through the Nerd Fitness Store that do everything short of holding your hand when getting started with exercise!

On top of all of that, we ALL know that eating better and exercising improves your life in about a MILLION ways, so I won’t even bother listing them.  

And yet, people come to me every day and say “I know I should exercise, and I know I should eat better, but I just don’t have the motivation and don’t know where to find it.”

My goal with Nerd Fitness is to remove every single barrier and excuse you might have to level up your life.  I try to write motivating articles that inspire action and give you the desire to change, but I know their influence can fade as soon as the laptop closes and the Xbox/Netflix/Hulu beckons.

Today’s article is for the people who know they SHOULD change but don’t.

Yoda said it best: 

“Do or do not.  There is no try.”

There is NO “should” either! 

It’s time to stop sucking, stop saying should, and start DOING it.

Start here: Every time you say “should,” drop and give me 10 push ups.  I don’t care where you are or what you’re doing.  Trust me, it’ll be funny.

Stop searching for motivation, start building systems

Do any of these situations sound familiar?

  • “Just one peanut M&M” or “Just one piece of cake” becomes the entire bag/plate.
  • “I skipped yesterday’s workout, why bother today? It’s useless.”
  • “Meh, next month is better for me anyways.”

Most out of shape folks have said at one point or another, “I should get in shape but I __________.” Whatever your excuse may be, we BOTH know that you’re the only person who believes it.  We might tell ourselves that we don’t have time, or that we had a bad day at work, or that we just don’t feel like exercising or eating right for whatever reason.

It’s at this point we start to question our willpower, wondering how to get “motivation” or “inspiration.”

It’s not just a lack of willpower – it’s a lack of proper preparation and systems!

Although we can’t automate our workouts and our diets, we CAN automate our thinking to promote positive habit change.

As Leo will tell you, it takes around 30 days or so for a new habit to form.  By automating our thinking for the first few weeks, we can remove emotion from the equation until we start to see positive change and build momentum.

As we also know from Sir Isaac Newton (All praise his scientific name!), “an object at rest tends to stay at rest,” and “an object in motion tends to stay in motion.”

In our case “somebody who sucks at being in shape will continue to suck being in shape…” until he/she becomes somebody who “is good at getting in shape will stay in shape.”

By automating your thinking, you can power through the slow, momentum-less weeks until you hit your stride.  

[side note: I’ve already covered how to NOT suck at setting goals, so I’ll assume you already have that squared away.  Today’s focus is on actually accomplishing those goals.]

Fix your diet

Banana boat rescuing a lego man

Your diet is 80-90% of your success when it comes to getting healthy and looking better.

Seriously, it’s that important.  

We know from the Rules of the Rebellion that you can’t outrun your fork, and you can’t out train a poor diet.

And yet, we’ve all said at one point in our lives, “I should start eating better” while polishing off a bag of Doritos/popcorn/Skittles.


“I should (eat better)(eat less)(clean up my diet)” is a useless phrase that will result in no positive action.  So stop saying SHOULD.

Instead, put systems and practices in place that remove any thought or action from your decision-process until you’ve heard “hey, have you lost weight?” and “you look great.”  Once momentum is on your side, nothing can stop you.

If you are reading this right now and thinking “I should start eating better tomorrow,” I will slap you in the mouth.    

Not tomorrow.  Not tonight.  Now.  I can see that donut in your mouth, you know.


Build a system that removes emotion from the equation.  

Create a yes/no list

Darth vader eating a turkey leg

Create a list of foods right now that you have zero self control over and or foods that you know are bad for you.

If you know those foods are derailing your efforts, then remove temptation and emotion from the equation by making a rule that YOU CANNOT EAT THEM.  

Part of the reason the Paleo Diet is so successful for so many people is that it removes ALL of the guesswork!  “No, I can’t eat that because it’s not paleo” makes everything incredibly simple!   People on the paleo diet know they can eat meat, fish, fowl, veggies, fruits, and nuts. That’s it. If it doesn’t fit into one of those categories, then they can’t eat it.

It’s no longer a question of willpower, it’s just what you are doing.

If you want to start eating better and you know certain foods are bad for you, build a list that says what you can and can’t eat. If you’re a person that struggles with self control when it comes to unhealthy food (and we all are, to an extent), then “just one” doesn’t work.

“But Steve, people will give me funny looks for not eating birthday cake at the office, and I’ll get made fun for not eating the bun on my burger and replacing french fries with a salad.” A strong majority of this country is overweight, out of shape, in debt, and unhappy…do you really care what they think about you?  Do what you need to do to only eat the foods on your approved list.  Staci told everyone at her office that she developed a food allergy to avoid all of the unhealthy temptations at work.  While lying sucks, they never asked again, and it made it super easy to bring in whatever she wanted without getting weird looks.

“But Steve, I eat out all the time, mostly at American style places with big portions. How am I supposed to eat healthy there?”   As soon as your food comes to you, set aside 1/2 or 1/3rd of it as “not touchable.” Ask for a to-go box right away and put that portion in there.  Don’t feel like taking it home but know you’ll nibble at it?  Dump a pound of salt on it after you’re done

“But Steve, people will think I’m weird!” EMBRACE THE WEIRD. Fitting in with everybody else got you where you are now. Maybe doing things that others think is weird is precisely what you need to get back on the right path.

“No thank you” is a freaking powerful combination of words – learn to use them.

Clean house

Lego men eating bread

Now that you have your list of “yes” and “no” foods, it’s time to remove temptation from the equation.  

I know that if I’m in the same room as Goldfish crackers or Sourpatch Kids, I will not be able to focus on anything else until I have eaten every single one of them, so I make sure I’m not within a 500 foot radius of them. If you’re at your office and you can’t have just one peanut M&M, stop walking by the desk of the person who has a jumbo jar on their desk for the next two weeks!  It doesn’t make you a bad person or weak if you can’t have just one; it makes you smart to avoid them.

“Just one” is no longer an option.

The same goes for unhealthy food that you can’t help but snack on in between healthy meals.  So, go home today and throw out every single piece of unhealthy food from your house. If you can’t be in the same room as ice cream without eating an entire tub of it, DON’T be in the same room with ice cream!

I can already hear your excuses.  Seriously, my hearing is that good.  All the way from Ecuador.  What’s up.

“But Steve, I already paid for it, I need to eat it.” At this point, it’s a sunk cost.  Eating it because you already paid for it just compounds the unhealthy problem…if you’re truly serious about turning your life around, the few bucks you spent on this junk food is a small price to pay. Throw it away, give it to neighbors, donate it to a food shelter, whatever you need to do.  Get rid of it, and maybe only go out ONCE this week, or bring your lunch in twice to make up for the extra money spent.

“But Steve, I can’t afford healthy food.” Really? Or is it just easier to say “I can’t afford it” than it would be calculate how much money is wasted on soda, chips, candy, coffee, drive-through meals, vending machine stops, etc. each week? HMMMMM!?  Yes you can!

“But Steve, my family still eats these things, I can’t just throw them out.” Have you had a talk with your family about the NEW YOU yet? Have you proposed trying to get the whole family eating better yet? Maybe your family will be eating differently than you…work with them and have them help keep you accountable.

“But Steve, my roommates still eat these things!” Ask them to keep these foods in their rooms or in a cabinet that’s not yours. Create a rule that says “I will not eat anything that I did not pay for.”

Don’t leave exercise up to your brain

Exercising lego men

We nerds are smart, but we’re also quite imaginative – which means there’s no limit to the number of excuses we can create to justify not working out “just today.” 

First are foremost, let’s deal with the elephant in the room: Yes, you do have time to work out.

Anybody who says they cannot find 30-45 minutes a day is full of crap.  Your workout might have to be early in the morning, in the afternoon, during your lunch break, or at night after the kids have gone to bed, but I guarantee if you do a TRUE evaluation of where you’re spending your time, you can find 30-45 minutes.

That might mean one less episode of _______ each night on Netflix. Or, it might mean during every comercial break you have to do five pushup, three pullups, and ten squats.

Even if it’s spread out during the day, it is better than nothing!

Okay, so we know you HAVE time, but it’s still tough for you to get yourself off your butt and into workout mode, right?

Which means we need to remove the “yes/no” option from your brain.  Instead of focusing on the misery of the workout until you start to see progress, put your focus on building good habits, not accepting ANY excuse, and just doing it.  It’s what Joe did – 10 months and 128 pounds later, he’s a completely different person.

These are my suggestions:

Start small – Commit to five minutes of exercise a day. Five minutes of push ups, pull ups, and/or squats. That’s it! No matter what happens, every day, you need to do 5 minutes of exercise. You’ll quickly learn that getting started is the hardest part – once you finish your five minutes it’ll be easy to keep going.

Work out in the morning.  Sleep with your running shoes next to your bed, and in your workout clothes.  When you wake up, there is NO thought involved.  You are going for a run/yoga/to the gym and that’s that.  If you wait until the afternoon, life is bound to get in the way and excuses are easier to sink in.

Flip it. This is a trick I learned from Leo as well.  Right now, the pain associated with working out and the benefit of sitting on your couch is what keeps you sedentary.  Make a mental shift: focus on how GOOD a workout can make you feel, and how painful SKIPPING a workout can be.

“How can skipping a workout be painful?”  you’re wondering… 

Have an accountability system.  Tell your friends that you are going to get in shape, start a blog and publicly declare your intentions.  Send one of your friends $200 on PayPal. Every time you work out and check in with them, they will send you $10 back. Every time you skip a workout, he gets $10. Do you really want to fund your friend’s drinking money for the weekend? Do you want to see the smug “I told you so” look on his face a month from now when you’ve given up?  Hell no!

My friend Saint said he would pay his friends $500 if he didn’t get to a certain body fat percentage by June. After two years of struggle and lack of results, Saint…faced with the prospect of giving up $500 he didn’t have….realized that NOT working out was going to cost him a lot more than working out….so he sucked it up, started training with conviction, and hit his goals weeks ahead of schedule.  Now he’s a new man, in search of another dragon to slay.

Make it impossible to bail.  Sign up for a class with your friends and make sure they keep you accountable.  Sign up for personal trainer sessions and pay for them in advance.  Even if you have to scam and trick yourself into working out, get your butt off the couch and doing something productive.

Adjust your targets – “I want to lose weight” is useless…but “I want to lose 50 lbs” can be equally crushing. The scale lies, and it’s easy to freak out if the scale doesn’t change or (gasp!) moves in the wrong direction for a day or two. Rather than dealing with numbers that don’t tell the whole story, put your focus on healthy habit building then you will build momentum.

    • I will work out 3 times a week and walk 3 times a week.”
    • I will eat only foods on the YES list for every meal except two, every week.
    • I will check in at the gym 3 times a week on four square. For every missed check in, I will donate $20 to a local charity.

Bring it all together, you will

To recap:

  • Stop saying should.  Penalize yourself with push ups every time you do.
  • Create rules for yourself about what you can eat and what you can’t eat.  Follow these rules without exception, and remove emotion from the equation.
  • Get rid of the foods that are holding you back.  It’s really tough to eat something if it’s not in your cabinet.
  • Build in fail-safes and accountability systems that make it impossible to skip a workout.  Make it suck more to skip than to not skip.

The first few weeks of getting in shape can be incredibly difficult.  By planning and building in proper systems to avoid the pitfalls that trip everybody up, you can power through the slow-roll stage until your momentum and positive behavior start to snowball into an avalanche of awesome.

Yes, you heard me. An avalanche of awesome.  Feel free to use it wherever 🙂

If you remember getting through the tough first few weeks, how did YOU succeed? What were your systems?

Help out your fellow rebels!

If you are stuck in the “I know what I should do, but I can’t do it” phase, what are you going to do RIGHT NOW to get started?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!



photo sources – WALL-E, X-Tyler , Schtumple, Robbie_V, icedsoul photographynettsu, lucidtech, e.r.w.i.n. 

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100 thoughts on “Why People Suck at Getting Healthy and What to Do About It.

  1. Make bets! If I fail to go to the gym 3 times a week my friend will give £50 of my money to a really nasty political party. I’ve been going ever since (4 weeks ago) and I really love it. No, really – when I’m not at the gym I fantasise about doing deadlifts. Also, I’m more motivated now that I’ve read Rippetoe’s Starting Strength book that goes into so much detail about barbell lifting form that I’m confident that I’ll make gains and avoid injury.

  2. I was in the same “Should/need” boat for awhile and then I realized I needed a Reason/Goal, much like Saint. I couldn’t find motivation for the longest time because of the lack of a clear finish line.  Now I’ve gone from 176 (12/16/12) to 150 04/10/12) (Goal 1) and body fat from 25% to about 16/17%. I just made a 2nd goal which is to now gain more lean muscle and drop my body fat to about 10-13%. I also placed a $100 bet with my friend. $500 was just too much. Kid’s gotta eat and pay bills! I won’t lie and say it was a piece of cake but you need to surround yourself with people who will help keep you on the right path and honest with yourself. I can’t stress it enough how awesome it’s been to have someone like Saint around in the office. There are days I want a double Baconator and 20 spicy nuggest from Wendys, but then I see him stroll in with his Boloco bowl after the gym and it’s enough for me to make the right choice. Any advice that I could give would be start off with reasonable, small goals. I tried to jump all in and got burned. Good luck people!

  3. I train at my gym three to four times a week with my housemate. Neither of us are game to skip out on a session, for fear of knowing that the other will give them an avalanche of aggro (Because for every light side, a dark side there is).

  4. Going to the gym isn’t my favorite thing to do. But here are some things that work for me.

    I pack my gym bag the night before I go to the gym. I go to the gym at lunch because it feels like a reward to leave my office. Sometimes I don’t feel like going to the gym when I wake up and debate taking my bag to work. But I’ve trained myself to take my bag anyway. Usually by noon, I feel better and more awake than I did and I am happy to go to the gym. I eat a decent breakfast so that I have the energy to exercise. It’s easier to succeed if I set myself up for success.
    I always go on the same days. I exercise Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s rhythmic and I plan for it. I can do it in 75 minutes. My bag is already packed. I waste less of my time if I just do it than if I procrastinate about it all day.

    I try to eat naturally colorful food (carrots), not artificially colorful food (cheetos). I found vegetables that I actually like (carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, etc) and I eat them regularly. I don’t buy junk food and bring it home. I’m not against eating a cupcake or cookie now and then, but if I find myself hungry late at night my choices are fruits or vegetables, not chips.

  5. Honestly, join the NF forums. And THEN join a challenge. I’ve never been around a more supportive, encouraging group of people than the people on the forums. Watching others succeed and telling me I can to is very motivating! 

    The trick for me with changing my eating was picking one thing at a time and committing to it for a week. If I failed, I started over. If I succeeded but needed more work, I’d tack on another week focusing on that food. When it was no longer challenging, I’d add on a new food.

    And for those people who say their kids won’t eat whatever eating lifestyle they choose, that’s crazy. My dad had bypass surgery when I was about 10 years old. My entire family’s diet changed overnight. My mom’s explanation was, “This is how we eat now. We weren’t healthy before.” Don’t make me remind you that your spouse has already gone “all in” at the wedding. 🙂 And a family is the first team you’re ever on. Your children will be better people by learning the true spirit of team and family.

  6. I brushed my teeth so I wouldn’t keep nibbling and I’m going to fencing class to work on footwork…. 

  7. Whao, lengthy and great. Full of lessons. Its true to stop searching for motivation. If that is the only stuff i gained from this article, it;s worth it.


  8. Steve,

    Hands down my favorite piece you have wrote. As a wellness coach myself it is definitely the most common thing I hear as well. “I know what do do, but….” I think for many when it gets to a point where it just hurts too much that they have no other choice but to change is when that motivation sets in. I guess in a sense “embrace the pain” and use it as the ultimate tool for success.

    Great work bud!

  9. Awesome, Steve! I sleep in work out gear and lift weights during the opening credits of TV shows…great ways to keep going. I also give myself geeky goals. My first one this year was “not feel the need to wear shapewear under my Green Lantern costume to ComicCon ” (and I didn’t! ) My goal for Geek Girl Con in August is to be in good enough shape to go as Dejah Thoris.

  10. Having a plan and being consistent are the keys to any fitness gains. Well, I guess they are the key to any type of success. But when it comes to fitness, so many people tend to look for that “magic pill” so it is especially important here. And you can never go wrong using Yoda in your post…

  11. Marry me, Steve (who said that?). Because I’m following your advice, I have people doing what I’m doing (some out of a sense of competition…) and the Rebellion grows. Even though I’m feeling “crunchy” today, I went to yoga class anyway (modified like hell, but I put in my hour). We need some kind of commemoration on May 4th (As in May the Fourth Be With You).

  12. One of your most encouraging (and dare I say wisest?) articles to date, Steve.

    I think you’ll really appreciate this TED Talk (if you haven’t already seen it): http://www.ted.com/talks/jamie_oliver.html

  13. I may be one of “those” people who had excuses.  I didn’t get how to do the diet in such a way that I saw it as something good.  Finding the Paleo approach has been helpful because it seems like it’s good food….tasty food…something I can look forward to.  It has solved my hearburn and reflux so I can sleep laying down.  That’s huge! 
    That gave me the umph to try and kick the 2L a day of Diet Coke.  I can say that I have broken that habit.
    Now the Paleo thing has been hard…no sugar, no gluten…none of so many things to which I was addicted and felt deprived without having.  I have definitely had to give myself permission not to be perfect.  I just want to be better today than I was….making forward progress.

    I actually sat down and set a goal that I would make sure that 20% of my day was Paleo…no cheats.  The next week I pushed forward to 30%….until I got to 100%.  then I tried to take a day off and the food I thought I loved sort of make me sick.  I spent a lot of time in the bathroom.  Now I think I’m 90% Paleo every day…sugar is still my downfall.

    But I’ll also tell you this.  When I crash & fall off the wagon, I don’t let myself stay there.  Even if I get back up and started and crash again.  I just crashed for 4 days last week….knew it was because I didn’t do the prep and hadn’t been good about anticipating things.  Got so tired doing too much and not having  good food, that I sucked.  Thanks to a coach, I got myself back in the saddle and I’m 100% again.

    Every time I don’t stay stuck, I feel like I’m a little more powerful.  I wish I could be all macho and I totally believe in no excuses.  But I also feel like I need to be compassionate to myself and I learn to get better….I learn not to stay stuck and crashed and burned.  I am taking power back & becoming more healthy. 

    The other piece to this was the exercise.  I get bored and can’t stay with something too long.  Then I found a compassionate Crossfit gym where people actually knew how to modify for cranky old knees and someone who was 50 pounds overweight.  They didn’t judge me….just tonight when I was trying to kipp (and I’ll readily admit it must have been quite a sight) not one person snickered, laughed or even hinted at a judgment.  I can’t kipp….but I will…..because this is a supportive place where I can get better a little bit at a time.  Even though I finish 20 minutes after everyone else, they still let me finish and congrat me when I do.

    So being tough is good.  But being able to tolerate failure and come back is even better FOR ME.  I love your posts and think this is a good one….but I need a little variation on the theme to make it work for me.  Just wait…on my 60th birthday in a couple of years, I’ll be something really buff.

  14. Massive smack across my face this morning. I know exactly what I need to do, and I keep looking at my husband who is riding the paleo/fitness train and getting great results- so why am I continuing to let my cheeseburger habit hold me back? 

  15. This is a great site. I love the use of the toys in the pictures. I think that you should be commended for your creativity and useful site content. I know what you went through because I recently lost 45 pounds and it was a tough road. Check out my before and after photos here. http://www.insaneworkoutreview.com/

  16. I think this is your best article yet! I’ve used all four of the main strategies you outlined and they’ve worked really well.

    I don’t remember *exactly* what went down in the first few weeks of my successful path to fitness. It was sort of a gradual change, but I know I made significant gains with the first 6 week challenge I did, in which I wasn’t allowed to eat ANY processed sugar at all. I’m definitely one of those people can’t control herself around certain foods, so making strict rules is so much easier than following guidelines. I also stopped keeping any temptation foods in the house. If my housemates had no-no foods I would tell them, “I’m not allowed to eat your ____, okay?”

    Another big part of my success was finding hot yoga. I fell in love with it, and once I started to see results from that and my improved diet, everything pretty much fell into place! I still have occasional challenges, but they’re a lot easier to overcome now than they used to be.
    Btw, did you ever get the last comment I left on yout post about conventional wisdom? I wanted to make sure you didn’t think I was referring to you when I mentioned untrustworthy people selling books. 😉

  17. My family and used-to-be friends always ate out and constantly said I couldent do it and its ok to be big. 120 lbs and 2 yeara later, I fell much better. 230 now about 22%bf still trying! Besicly anyone who tells you you cant do it, make prooving them wrong part of your motivation. And cast off friends who want to bring you and your goals down!

  18. My motivation was realizing that after two years at my stressful desk job, I went from a resting heart rate of 68 or so to 80-82. I am 33 and I have a child with special needs; I had turned to my work to hide from that pain and I realized I was slowly killing myself instead. I literally stopped everything I was doing, turned some music on, and started moving. I gathered all of my excuses and destroyed them one by one. I created a space in my home where I could work out without disturbing anyone. I looked up body weight exercises to make routines I could do at home for most efficient use of time (how I found this site). I set up a standing desk in my home office. I have a song… when it comes up on Pandora while i am working, I am required to dance. I use my kids for weightlifting (Hold 43 or 47 lb child under arms with elbows bent, go into deep squat, stand up, lift child straight up. Yes of course they want you to hold them up there, argh). I get them to “exercise” with me so I am not taking away from my time with them. My other excuse was being too tired to exercise, but lack of exercise and poor sleep were causing body pains and constant fatigue so that one disappeared on its own. I have exercised at 11:30 pm just so I wouldn’t miss my schedule. I would promise myself 20 min then do 20 extra (already sweaty, might as well), it did not make me miss a deadline or anything important. Yeah, I think those were all my excuses: no time, no physical space, no energy to make a start, in physical pain so I could not imagine exercising. line them up like dominos, push the first one down, watch the others fall.

  19. They always say people don’t live in black or white, but in the grey area.  But in order to remove ourselves from the grey area, we must think in black in white!  It makes perfect sense, as you said, people who eat paleo know, I can eat this but not that.  It’s pretty simple.     Nice work man, good article!

  20. This is a truly timely article. I’d been doing really well doing one WOD a week at home but fell off the wagon last week. Getting started again was becoming difficult. I has the S word hovering on my lips. But I am planning on starting the 30 days of yoga as I can do this first thing in the morning and am gonna look at how I can get back on the paleo without breaking the bank like it was. 

    Thanks for the motivation Steve. It’s like having your own personal cheerleader 😀 

  21. Awesome article – finally tackling the monkey of motivation. 
    I realised I had to do something when I had to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe for the third time in three years due to weight gain.  My kids were complaining that I was always to tired to do anything with them.  I remembered the days of my youth when I was fit, strong and healthy and how awesome it felt to play an hour of squash just for fun.  So, I got off my butt, created a fixed routine which I still stick to 3 years later, going to the gym at 5am so I don’t take away from family time.  Now, it is such a habit that I wake up to go to gym without need of an alarm clock.  Back down to the origianl pants size too – but this time, buying the new wardrobe was rewarding.

  22. Definitely the hardest part of any lifestyle change is the first few weeks, but if you stick at it, they become only a second of effort in the hour clock of benefits you receive from your new life in fitness and health.
    Those first few weeks you just have to be super diligent and before you know it becomes second nature.
    The easiest way to make it through for me is to remind myself why I’m doing it…I never regret when I work out and I never regret when I eat a healthy meal. I do regret and feel guilty when I eat shit and treat my body shit and laze on the couch so it’s really not that hard to think about which is the right choice to make.
    As soon as you want something as badly as you want to breathe, then you will set up every system necessary to make sure you don’t fail.

  23. I’m down 20 pounds from my highest weight, only have 7 more pounds until my “cut-off point” (basically, if I get that light, I switch focus and try specifically NOT to lose anymore), and I’m getting stronger. Started visiting Nerd Fitness last year sometime, probably the middle of the year, but only got serious in November. I’ve been doing pretty well with my vague goals (get healthy, get strong, lose the excess weight), and the phrase that’s helped me the most is “Just do it.” Sometimes I’ll just tell myself “Think Nike.” Either way. I just do it, it’s done, and I can think about something else.

  24. great article. One good thing I used to do with my friend  to never skip a session on the gym is that you have to pay for dinner whenever you start slacking. One missed session = Dinner for two .. so we used to go to the gym even when one of us lacks motivation, sick, tired …etc and what was surprising is once u step into the gym and see people workout it all goes away !!

  25. great article. One good thing I used to do with my friend  to never skip a session on the gym is that you have to pay for dinner whenever you start slacking. One missed session = Dinner for two .. so we used to go to the gym even when one of us lacks motivation, sick, tired …etc and what was surprising is once u step into the gym and see people workout it all goes away !!

  26. RYC, I’m with you on much of this. My special needs son is now 13 and close to 9 stone and nearly 6foot tall so a bit tricky to lift overhead. I’ve started by moving to a paleo diet and getting my partner to work with me on this. I’ve lost 14 pounds since the New Year which is a great validation for the Rebellion. So now my next challenge is exercise. Time is a huge issue. We also care for a special needs foster child and, as an overworked educator, work and commuting usually takes 70 hours a week during term time. My big break looks like being an invite from a fellow teacher to join him on his runs from school once the kids have gone. So now I’m going to start to learn to run. Not done that for over 30 years (I’m 50 this year) so I’m researching the barefoot running form. I’m going to start by running for 100 yards after a warm up walk and then take it from there.

    I know how hard it can be caring for our special children. Even in the dark hours keep the faith and keep going. Despite what it feels like there are others of us out here who can offer a little support even if we can’t be there to give the practical help you need. Chin up.

    Tim (Widgetman).

  27. Steve, just had to stop by after this post and tell you how much I love your site! The analogies you tie into fitness are classic and inspire me to continue on my goals. Keep it up!

  28. “Not tomorrow.  Not tonight.  Now.  I can see that donut in your mouth, you know”

    Weird.  I was totally eating a donut while I read this.

  29. What if the food you are trying to avoid is in a company break room where the microwave you use to heat up your leftovers from your healthy meals?

  30. This article came at just the right time. After an Easter candy binge on Sunday I decided that I needed to ban ALL sweets, even my Primal-permitted dark chocolate, because I could not exercise restraint when eating them. I’m now on day 3 of no sweets and already feel better. I hope I can reintroduce dark chocolate at some point in the future, but right now it’s just not possible. I can say this – Paleo foods taste better when your palate is not blunted by processed sugar.

  31. Great article (again), Steve.  I am giving myself till next week to not beat myself up over being out of shape.  We’re competing on Saturday and there’s tax returns to file, and I decided that stressing out over not working out made no sense.  I’m not working out right now.  That’s where I’m at.

    But I will change that, because we’re competing again in October, in two divisions instead of one, and the ballgown that is so forgiving will be accompanied by the Latin dress that is … not.

    As one who is at the stage of “fairly fit and only slightly spongey” I can attest that it is JUST as difficult to kick SHOULD to the curb as when you are totally unfit and very overweight.  We all have challenges.  I, at least, just need to work around mine with a little more intensity.

  32. Fantastic post. I am very good at working out, but the food part, not so good. I like the idea of yes and no lists. I am starting NOW.  No sweets after dinner.  Oh my I said that publicly so now I’ve got to do it…  

  33. The is the ghost of past me. Great post. I am so glad I finall moved past all that bull**** to get myself moving! That’s for that Steve!

  34. Another awesome post Steve!  I’ve been kicking ass with  my workouts, but still eating a ton of junk food – my wife nagging me is not enough, I think setting a limit of 2x/week works, and if I fail, I have to change all the diapers for 24 hours (my wife will love that)!

  35. I’m totally a “should” kind of person.  I really loved this article and it gave me tons of ideas to fix things.  Like, I’m going to start working out first thing in the morning, rather than going back to sleep after the kid goes off to school.  I’ve already got the interest in what I want to do, I just needed the extra push.  I’ve always had problems with “motivation” and coming up with reasons why I shouldn’t work out, but it’s time to change that.  My goals should be motivation enough.

    Having trouble with the diet, though.  My family is resistant to helping me stay on course with what I eat, and my partner (who does the cooking) doesn’t want to accommodate a separate diet in the house.  Kinda selfish, I know, but once our finances get in a better place, I’m going to try and convince him.

  36. Great article again!

    When I read this entire article, I was thinking back to all the tricks and tips I used in my epic quest of getting healthy.

    I went from 310 pounds, realized after a stomach bug hit me for 3 days that I didn’t need to eat a Taco John’s 6-Pack and a Pound (6 tacos and a pound of potato rounds) a couple times a week…in one sitting.

    I started replacing my snack foods with healthier snacks, started removing unhealthy foods from my life, and exercising without compromise daily…either through actual exercise, or working on my house/yard/friends house/car/moving a friend…you get the point.

    In 2011, I found the best carrot ever though…OBSTACLE RACING!  I signed up for Warrior Dash, trained off and on for 5 months, lost 30 pounds (to a lean 210 on race day).  Then the bug really set in…but…I got lazy until I signed up for the next race.  I signed up for Tough Mudder Twin Cities, Warrior Dash MN, and will be signing up for Warrior Dash MN 2.

    Since Warrior Dash 2011, I gained nearly 30 pounds, but once I started training again for Tough Mudder, I quickly lost weight again to right around the 215 mark.  Then I started realizing I was tired all the time…especially when I ate breads.

    At the end of February, I worked on purging my house of non-Paleo foods, I did this by going on benders, eating it all over the weekends, feeling VERY sick, and it made my compliance with Paleo go way up!

    I have just a couple exceptions to Paleo, I go out twice per week to eat lunch and dinner with friends, and I do my best to pick Paleo compliant foods, but sometimes it just doesn’t work when you’re going for Pho.  I also make a huge exception for anyone at work who offers baked goods which they mixed and baked, or especially if their kids made it.  Though, this isn’t nearly so dangerous anymore, because people understand what I’m doing…and some of these people have seen the before pictures to understand fully the changes which were made.  

    I also have an exception to coffee and tea because I really enjoy it, and some of my favorite people are my baristas 🙂  I also enjoy the occasional glass of wine or a good wine tasting event.  I only drink what I enjoy fully though, nothing for a quick fix.

    I did have to immediately hit up some of the more calorically dense Paleo foods because I crashed 12 pounds in a week.  Now, I’m no nutritionist, but I know that is a BAD THING!  I was eating every hour at work, every 3 at home, and not consuming enough calories…but getting all the nutrients according to the tracking I was doing.  I’m now at a steady 206-210 pounds, and I’m happy here.  6-pack is starting to show, veins are popping out of my arms and legs (my little brother is a paramedic and tries to get me to volunteer to be a pin cushion for students), I’m annoying as hell when it is beautiful out (I JUST WANT OUTSIDE), and I have much more energy than before.  When I sleep, I sleep like the dead and wake up refreshed, and the only time I say I’m tired is when I’m actually exhausted.

    Dude, I wasn’t expecting this to be so long.  Maybe I should just write up an article for you in the near future.  I know I said should…but this is pending a decision on your part 😉

  37. maybe you could volunteer to do the cooking a few times a week and show them that a healthy meal can also taste freaking fantastic?  Even once a week is better than nothing.


  38. I remember my first tkd class and the first time i went to the gim..
    I just did it, no excuse, no tought about it, then I involved music in search of inspiration (the one that makes you say ALWAYS “fuck, I don’t want to do it, I’m to lazy, but now I just can’t stay here without doing nothing”) and then I started to make friends, or got some friends looking for something better, it’s not easy, but it becomes…. normal, after a while, you just start to do it and never stop….. (unless you’r sick, injured, really tired of other things that you didn’t expect to happend) but DO SOMETHING.

  39. Well im still in my first month of eating healhty and doing exercice, but what I started with is doing a list, mental or written, of ALL the stuff I could do or become once I hit my goal of weight loss. Weirdly, it motivated me a lot until now and still does 🙂 (ex, I said I want to dance latin dances, I want to wear all the clothes I couldnt in the store near me, I want to wear these smexy swimsuits that were soooo cheap and I almost cried looking at them).

    I firmly believe on the “DONT CARE ABOUT HOW THE OTHERS EAT! YOU ARE YOU”. Well hey, I know what Im talking about, I live with my family who all buy excessive amounts of chocolate, drinks, candy….and eat them in a week. Like really.


    also I reccomend tracking your calories in a website that has a community 🙂

  40. Two years ago I caught myself thinking “I wish I could go back in time and tell my past self to stay in shape during college, back when it would have been easier to do.” How lazy can you get?! That’s when I decided that I wouldn’t allow myself at (for instance) 35 to say “I wish I could go back and tell my 26-year-old self to get in shape.” I started doing instead of wishing.

    Great article Steve!

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