Nerd Fitness Level up your life, every single day. Mon, 19 Mar 2018 12:50:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How a single busy mom lost 100 pounds with Nerd Fitness Wed, 24 Jan 2018 16:51:52 +0000 Meet Leslie:

A single mom who works long nights and has a long daily commute, found Nerd Fitness, and also happens to be one of my favorite people and one of our best success stories.

Leslie was playing the Game of Life on Nightmare Difficulty with multiple time-sucking jobs, a brutal commute, and a love of fast food, all while being a single parent.

Since joining the Nerd Fitness community, she has become a powerlifting, handstand-practicing, gymnastic ring-wielding, extroverted, cross-country-moving, happily-in-a-relationship supermom.

While Leslie’s transformation started in her fitness, you’ll see below how quickly it spread to almost every area of her life. No matter what situation you’re in, we can all learn something from her powerful story.

I’m extra proud today to be sharing Leslie’s story, because she’s one of the longest running members of our 1-on-1 NF Coaching Program. As a member for well over a year, she’s not shy in sharing about how her personal coach helped her on the journey.

At the end of the day though, it’s Leslie that deserves 100% of the credit for her success, her transformation, and her new life. And we couldn’t be more proud of her.

Let’s see what we can learn from Leslie’s story!

How Leslie lost 100+ pounds and saved her own life

STEVE: Hey Leslie! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview with us – for those that didn’t get a chance to meet you at Camp NF 2016 and don’t know your story, fill us in!

LESLIE: I’m a single, working mom who wears A LOT of hats for a living! I’m a Graphic & Web Designer with a freelance design business, and in 2001 I accidentally started a Limousine manufacturing company, which I still operate as my “day job.” Most recently, I’ve added a little online retail side business into the mix that I can run from anywhere, which I’m looking to get off the ground in 2018, so I can spend less time chained to my desk and more time out in the world exploring.

STEVE: Jeez, no wonder you’re so busy and struggled with getting healthy! It sounds like you’re always on the move, always working, and always grinding. Can you talk me through what a typical day was like before you stumbled across Nerd Fitness?

LESLIE: As a total night owl with a long, early morning commute, I would stay up late watching TV, go to bed around 1am, wake up exhausted at 5:30am, sit in traffic for an hour or longer, suck down a pot of coffee to stay awake, grab fast food for lunch, sit at my desk all day, sit in traffic again for an hour or longer, grab fast food for dinner, then sit and watch TV or play video games while munching on cheese puffs, until 1am.

Rinse and repeat.

Weekends would be spent hermit-ing at home, with pretty much the same routine of fast food for meals, and TV/video games or reading until the wee hours of the morning. That’s a whole lot of sitting and mindless eating!

STEVE: I hear ya. When you have long exhausting days, the only thing you can think about when you get home is escape: be it with fast food, TV, video games, or all of the above. I’m interested to know how many times prior to Nerd Fitness had you tried to lose weight?

LESLIE: I’ve been overweight my whole life. I’ve attempted every diet out there, starved, binged, starved again, the whole nine yards. I hated exercise because I couldn’t do anything without launching into a full-blown asthma attack, so I avoided it.

By the time I turned 13, I was severely overweight and heavier than most adults! In my 20s, I joined a name brand program that actually helped me reach my goal weight. I had done it! I had ZERO energy and I was hungry ALLLLL the time but who cared – I was “cured,” right!?

I was now normal and told myself I could stop dieting and just eat like everyone else. I joined a gym and became a treadmill hamster – I hated it, and still had no energy, and was hungry all the time.

Because I was so unhappy I eventually stopped going, stopped eating right, and slowly the bad habits came back and my weight went up. Before I knew it I was even heavier than when I started. From that point on I became a career yo-yo dieter, chasing whatever new fad or gimmick came on the market, with no real lasting success.

STEVE: Do you remember how you found Nerd FItness?

LESLIE: My brother and I were Steam chatting and playing an online game together called “Don’t Starve” (ironic, no?), when the conversation turned to how I was so tired, and I was going to bed hungry so I wasn’t sure how much lower I could drop my caloric intake, when he asked me if I had considered lifting weights.

I laughed and told him he was crazy, because I didn’t want to be all scary buff, just toned.

He then sent me a link to “Meet Staci: Your New Powerlifting Superhero.” I connected with her story instantly, but I was hesitant to do yet “another diet and fail,” so I blew it off for a few months and just kept doing what I was doing.

In December 2015, my 24-year-old son was diagnosed as prediabetic, and I was crushed by the guilt of having taught him all my crappy eating habits. He knew he needed to lose weight, but he didn’t know how to go about it and didn’t want to spend a bunch of time weighing and measuring food or counting points. He didn’t even actually care what he weighed; he just wanted to feel better in his own skin (and not die).

On January 1st, 2016, as had been my habit for sooooo many New Year’s Days in the past, I decided to start dieting again, and brought my son along for the ride. We gave up the daily fast food runs, switched to homemade meals, and the weight started coming off.

We were using a points-based system for calculating our meals at the time, and I was doing all kinds of fuzzy math to figure out how to squeeze our “less-healthy” favorite convenience foods into our meal plan so he wouldn’t get discouraged that he “couldn’t have something.” He then made a comment to me that he would rather have real food than waste the points on the less-healthy option “just because he had points available.”

In that very moment, I realized I wasn’t really changing my eating habits, I was just sacrificing real food to eat processed junk, which offered temporary pleasure but left me hungry at night.

That was the biggest turning point in our switch to eating actual healthy food.

(Speaking of which, I know learning about nutrition can be daunting, which is why we made a free 10-Level Nutritional Blueprint to help you start to make sense of all of this. You can grab your printable guide free when you sign up in the yellow box below!)

Back to Leslie!

LESLIE: In April of 2016, as my progress began stalling, I got a text message from a guy I had a crush on, that said he was going to be in town in the next month, and did I want to meet up for dinner?

I said yes, freaked out, went online to find the fastest way to lose another 10 lbs in a month, and then remembered the story about Staci. I figured I needed to do something different if I wanted different results, and I joined the NF Academy that day!

In the NF Academy I started the “Walk to Mordor” quest, and once my week of walking was up, I found I really enjoyed the daily walks so I kept going, and my son decided to join me.

10 minute daily walks turned into 1 mile walks every other day, which led to 2 mile walks plus a 3 mile walk on the weekends, and so on.

After the Academy, I joined the NF coaching program, then attended Camp NF 2016, and by the end of 2016, we had each lost over 90 lbs.

We spent all of 2017 in maintenance mode to help our bodies adjust to the losses and find new set points (Thank you Coach Jim!). Flash forward to 2018, I’ve been in maintenance at my goal weight for over a year!

STEVE: You have officially melted my heart, Leslie – I am so happy for you and how you’ve managed to turn things around for you, your son, and your relationship! Tell me more about coaching with Jim – what made you decide to try out NF Coaching and why did you stay for a full year?

LESLIE: After joining the Nerd Fitness Academy and reading through all of the content, I had a pretty good idea of how to get started, and I knew what end results I wanted.

The problem was I wasn’t really sure what to do “in the middle” to get there and had collected too much information without action – in other words, I had a big collection of underpants!

I was motivated and focused, but clueless.

I wanted to set and tackle goals that were specific to my situation and lifestyle: I needed to lose weight AND get stronger, all without wasting a lot of time and effort in trial-and-error mode.

I realized that the more I read, the more I worked out, the more I tweaked my diet, the more questions I had. Most of all, I wanted to lose the weight and KEEP it off, and I knew that I was going to have to come at this with a completely different approach than anything I had ever done previously.

Then NF introduced the 1-on-1 private NF Coaching program, which sounded like the exact right thing I needed to help me wade through all of the information, develop the exact right plan for my situation, and meet my long-term goals, so I signed up and got paired with Jim (who you might recognize from all of our Academy videos with Staci!)

I loved the idea of training with Jim because he can do cool stuff like this:

It was amazing!

I spent the next several months working with NF Coach Jim to develop the correct eating plans, exercise routines, and habits, while also receiving feedback through form checks, and countless tips on how to stretch properly, increase my endurance, lift heavier, and work smarter (not harder) to reach my goals. I finally had somewhere I could confidently turn to with all of my questions, which was so incredibly reassuring!

But, as I was nearing that “magical goal weight” on the scale I started to panic. I had been at my goal before – that was the easy part. What I didn’t know and needed to learn was “what to do once I hit my goal” to make the changes permanent. I decided to stay a full year so that Jim could teach me how to maintain that loss while fine-tuning my body.

I can say with 100% certainty that had I not joined the NF Coaching Program, I would not have found this success on my own, especially not in such a short amount of time!

STEVE: I hear you, and that’s tough for many to admit! As somebody who has ALSO had an online coach (for 4 years now), I can say it’s the best investment I’ve ever made too.

So I gotta ask, what surprised you about the NF Coaching program?

LESLIE: Simple, it was way more than I expected!

I thought it would be weekly, generic workout/nutrition assignments sent by my coach in an impersonal, drill-sergeant-like, bootcamp fashion, with some check-ins along the way to keep me accountable.

I expected to receive a strict list of what I could/couldn’t eat – when I had to do my workouts – when I had to check in, etc.

What I found instead was a very friendly, intelligent, enthusiastic coach who made an amazing effort to tailor personalized programs for nutrition, exercise, mindset around ME. Jim gave me the freedom of not only planning my workouts around my busy schedule, but he never seemed “judgey” or condescending about what I ate or what I could/couldn’t physically do.

My coach felt more like a “workout partner” than a drill sergeant, always asking how I was doing, where I needed help, what my new goals were, and even helping me figure out ways to stretch better, heal faster, and work harder, the smart way.

He never made me feel bad for where I was in my journey, or what I couldn’t accomplish, which is invaluable in a coach, because it helped keep me motivated and always looking forward!

STEVE: This is the EXACT reason we launched our coaching program: non-judgmental accountability and professional guidance in the way you need to be coached! Talk to me about your workout routine: were most of your workouts done at home – body weight? Or did you do free weights?

LESLIE: The very first routine I did was the free NF Beginner Bodyweight Workout.

You made it look easy, and I loved that I had everything I needed right there in the comfort of my own home – no hunting for parking spots, or psyching myself out to walk through the door of the gym, and even better, no membership required.

I was all excited to get started – I did my warm-up, about 8 squats, and then I thought I was going to die. I knew I was out of shape but hadn’t realized how bad it was.

Then a funny thing happened: the next day I could barely stand up to get out of my car (delayed soreness), and rather than become discouraged, I kept giggling!

Every time I felt the “ouch,” I was so proud of myself, and I actually looked forward to the next workout.

As the bodyweight workout got easier, I began adding in free weights, and then fancy stuff like deadlifts happened!

Now I do a combo of free weights, bodyweight training, gymnastic rings and handstand work, walking, sprinting, and swimming, which I vary with my mood and the weather to keep things interesting.

STEVE: I love how varied your training has become – it sounds like you’re actually doing things you love too! So we both know nutrition is 90% of the battle. What’s been your diet strategy?

LESLIE: In the past I was all over the place on this one, from counting food points, to calories, to macros, and through the Academy and the Coaching Program I discovered that I eat the healthiest, stress the least, and feel my best when I stick to being about 95% Paleo.

It is so much less complicated for me, is more convenient for cooking meals in bulk, and is easier to stick to when I am eating on the run or away from home. I mostly pick simple, whole foods like fruits, veggies, and meats, with the occasional dairy, and add in brown rice/sweet potato on workout days.

I’ve found that I need to stay away from processed foods and quick snacks like cereal, granola bars and almonds/nut butters, because they become triggers for me and I don’t want to slip back into those mindless snacking habits.

To stay accountable, I weighed myself weekly. I was so focused on the numbers on the scale that it didn’t occur to me to take measurements until it was on my NF Academy quest list – but as a gamer I did the quest to get the points and found it helped!

I now take measurements every few months and eventually even bit the bullet and had 2 DEXA body scans. I only weigh myself on the first of the month to make sure I am staying within my target range, and then adjust my routine if needed.

STEVE: You’ve changed so much over the past few years. Looking back, what has been the toughest change you made?

LESLIE: I made little changes as I went along, rather than giant drastic ones, so I was able to adjust to the healthier eating habits and workouts pretty easily.

Where I struggled the most was in seeing myself in photos and coming to terms with what I looked like.

I would feel so freaking amazing and then take a photo and think “OMG, do I really still look that yucky and frumpy?” and it would deflate me.

Inside I felt like gold bikini Princess Leia, but all I could see in the snapshots was Jabba the Hutt. I hated seeing myself in photos so much that I almost quit the NF Academy when I found out I had to take “before pictures.”

I literally cried after seeing my starting photos, cursed you in my head for making me take them, but made a folder called “UGH” and stuck them in there so I could earn my NFA quest points and move forward.

STEVE: I’m glad you read the part of that “take photos!” quest that said “you don’t have to look at the photos, just take them and put them in a folder somewhere, you’ll thank me later”! Anyways, please continue!

LESLIE: People were complimenting me on how great I looked but I wasn’t seeing any progress in my pictures; all I could see were the flaws and how much work I still had ahead of me.

In this journey, the toughest change I’ve had to make has been mentally; I’ve had to work really hard to stop being so critical of what I look like, and start celebrating my victories instead of obsessing over my flaws.

STEVE: That is often the biggest hurdle we have to overcome: what’s going on in our heads! Thanks for your honesty around that Leslie. Let’s bring things back to the positive: what was the most important change you think you made?

LESLIE: Working on my mindset and learning how to cope with different situations and emotions, instead of just focusing on food and exercise, has been the most important change for me.

I knew I had to eat better, and I knew I had to exercise; they’ve been drilling that into our heads since we were kids.

What I didn’t realize was how much of the undertaking involved dealing with issues from my past and learning how to handle them differently so I didn’t slip back into old unhealthy habits. Some of that process meant I had to figure out which situations and people I needed to eliminate from my life in order to begin healing.

I also had to learn to say “no” to people without feeling guilty, which was really hard to do at first, but as people saw my progress, they began to understand WHY I chose to rearrange my priorities and focus on me and my son instead, and they became supportive which helped a lot.

STEVE: I love that, and I’m so glad you and Jim worked together on your mindset too – it’s a big part of our coaching program and a big part of Nerd Fitness! So I have to know, what’s a typical day like for you NOW, after the changes?

LESLIE: I’m still a night owl with a long daily commute, but these days I eat real meals instead of fast food, which saves a crap ton of money and calories, do my walk/run or workout right when I get home from work instead of grabbing a bag of chips and plopping down on the couch.

I limit the TV/gaming time to just a few hours per week, making sure I don’t snack while doing so, and make an effort to head to bed no later than 10pm so I can get a decent night’s sleep, even if I can’t doze off right away.

I rarely watch TV on the weekends anymore, and instead head out to the mountains or desert to go camping or wheeling and get in some hiking and climbing, and go actual grocery shopping to get what I need for the upcoming week instead of zipping through drive-thrus, which really helps me stay on track.

STEVE: Your physical appearance has changed…what else has changed about you?

LESLIE: The change to my physical appearance has been amazing, but the biggest changes have actually been in my confidence levels and mindset, which I believe have made the most substantial difference for me.

I’m very shy and super socially awkward, especially around new people. The old version of me would get invited to something, and the first thought I would have before deciding to accept or not was “can I lose enough weight first.”

I would go into starvation mode to “lose a few pounds” before the event, then fail, then berate myself, then cancel at the last minute. On the occasions where I couldn’t back out, I would hang out on the sidelines hoping to blend in with the wall to avoid having to talk to people unless they came up to me first.

I had a hard time carrying on conversations because I was so uncomfortable I couldn’t look people in the eyes for very long.

These days, when I get an invite to something, my weight never even crosses my mind! I have met some amazing people and enjoyed so many new experiences that I would have missed out on had I not lost the weight!

I no longer have trouble approaching new situations or interacting with new people, and I can keep and maintain eye contact (in a totally non-creepy way, I swear). I am so much more confident in every aspect of my life that I find it much easier to seize new opportunities as they materialize without going into a panic attack, which makes me feel so much more engaged with my life!

And that crush I mentioned that helped kickstart this whole journey? He’s now my boyfriend and we celebrated our one-year anniversary last fall!

And yes, I really do talk in exclamation point these days because I am just so friggin’ happy!!

STEVE: I’m not crying, you’re crying. You’re the best Leslie. Is there anything about the new you that the old you would be surprised to learn?

LESLIE: I am most surprised to find out that I am actually NOT an introvert!

For most of my life I was so caught up in my weight and how I thought others perceived me that I convinced myself my shyness and lack of ability to talk to people was because I was an introvert.

Labeling myself an introvert was like giving myself acceptable permission to not participate in life, like it was something I couldn’t control so why bother.

Now I have no problem talking to people, and I actually look forward to social events! That is a HUGE change for me!

STEVE That is amazing, Leslie! We all give ourselves labels or self-identify as a certain thing that can often keep us prisoner! I’m glad your physical transformation helped you transform on the inside too.

So now let’s talk about what’s next! What are your goals moving forward? What kind of awesomeness do you want to do in your new body?

LESLIE: I want to do ALLLLL the things!

When I started all I wanted to do was lose weight. I had a random target number that I thought needed to be on the scale for me to be happy, and figured once I got there, that was it, the end, roll credits.

What I discovered, instead, was that I actually love running (WTF?), and lifting weights (the Wolverine Workout is my FAVORITE), and exploring the great outdoors, and archery… OMG I love archery! My goals are to add in as much of that stuff into my life as possible, and figure out what else is out there that I haven’t even considered yet!

Speaking of doing new things, for as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to play the drums.

I would pick up pencils or chopsticks and play along to the beats in my favorite songs. I would play Guitar Hero, and do pretty good for a while, but would eventually get off beat because all I could feel were the notes from the drums.

So, when the “Embrace Your Inner Noob” quest from the Academy appeared on my to-do list, I sucked it up, stepped outside my comfort zone, found a drum teacher, and started lessons… and actually didn’t suck.

4 months later, I bought my very own 5-piece drum kit as an Epic Loot Drop!

STEVE: I know there are TONS of Nerd Fitness readers right now who are at your “Day 1.” Do you have any words of advice for those folks?

LESLIE: First and foremost, FORGIVE YOURSELF.

You are where you are for whatever reason, but it is only temporary and does not define who you are or who you can become! Next, make a few tiny tweaks you can live with instead of drastic changes you can’t sustain.

And most importantly, remember Leonard Snart’s “4 Rules of Acting”: 1) Make the plan. 2) Execute the plan. 3) Expect the plan to go off the rails. 4) Throw away the plan.

Allow yourself the freedom to make a plan, experiment, screw up, see what works… and what doesn’t, and give yourself the flexibility to adjust as needed, or start over, without beating yourself up!

There was no one magical thing that worked for me, but instead, several little things that, over time, added up to changes I could make permanently.

STEVE: Thank you for sharing. So I feel like you’ve referenced both Nerd pillars in this interview, but if you had to pick one…Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?

LESLIE: Ohhhhh, so much LOTR! If I could magic myself into that world as an Elven Ranger, I would do it in a heartbeat! In fact, the NF Character System that allowed me to be a Ranger was one of the things that made me excited to join NF in the first place, and then when I saw that there was a Nerd CAMP… with ARCHERY… I was sold!

STEVE: Any other nerdy passions or pursuits?

LESLIE: I’m a huuuuge Sci-Fi and fantasy fan, and love all things Marvel, DC, LOTR, Star Wars, Princess Bride, Doctor Who, Goonies, Indiana Jones, zombie, vampire, witches, time travel, etc! The nerdier, the better, and I will take it in movie, book, game, or comic form, don’t care… if there is a Sci-Fi or fantasy story to be told, I want it! Except for ghosts… and clowns… those are just a whole lot of no!

STEVE: Fair enough, I’ll cancel that “life-sized ghost clown” I was gonna send you as a thanks for letting me interview you!

The 6 Keys to Leslie’s Success

I bet there are parts of that interview above that made you go “hey, I do that too!” or “Hey, that’s exactly how my brain works as well!”

I wanted to quickly distill the most important parts of Leslie’s journey into bite-sized nuggets of wisdom you can take with you (but not eat):


Leslie had started and stopped a bazillion times in the past with regards to getting in shape. She was always chasing quick fixes and losing weight in a miserable way only to put the weight back on. She began another half-hearted attempt to lose weight and then life threw her a powerful curveball: Her son was diagnosed as pre-diabetic.

This rocked her to her core, knowing that it was HER habits that he had learned from. She knew something had to change, and they began exercising together. Knowing that she had to fail differently, she thought back to that success story that resonated with her.


Leslie had stumbled across Staci’s success story on Nerd Fitness and instantly identified with her. Here was a woman who had been overweight, tried every diet under the sun (which led to an eating disorder), exercised in a way that made her unhappy, and then ultimately found her new identity as a powerlifter.

She gave herself permission to believe that if Staci could become a powerlifter and not get bulky, than MAYBE there was something to this whole “pick up heavy weights to get strong and lose weight and look damn good and actually enjoy the process” strategy.


Leslie wanted to be like Staci, but she didn’t know where to start. She knew the starvation/treadmill option didn’t work, and she didn’t have years and years to spend doing more trial-and-error. She decided to make an investment in herself and try a program that spoke her language as a gamer: the Nerd Fitness Academy. She started following the quests to earn points, even then quests that pushed her outside of her comfort zone!

As she started to see progress, her mentality started to shift: after years of struggle, things were finally working! And she wondered what would happen if she dialed up the guidance, accountability, and expert knowledge. Leslie was in a fortunate position that she could afford to invest in herself to save time, but most importantly, hire expert guidance and accountability. It led her to try out Nerd Fitness Coaching and make a commitment that helped her supercharge her transformation.


When Leslie encountered Nerd FItness, she had 30+ years of boom-and-bust, starve-and-gain-it-back mentality to overcome, and 100 pounds of inertia to overcome too. It was a daunting battle that she had lost many many times before.

When she joined our community, and ultimately made a 6-month commitment to our coaching program (which ended up continuing for a year), she did so because she started realizing that this wasn’t a problem that could be fixed in a few weeks.

I talk about this in our short video “days and years, not weeks and months”:

Leslie had a LOT of baggage to unpack, a lot of mental hang ups that needed to be addressed, and knew that building new habits takes time and accountability!


This is the one that I think separated Leslie from another half-hearted attempt and failure at weight loss. When she attempted our beginner bodyweight workout for the first time, she was so tired during and so sore the next day that she could barely move. This is where most people use soreness or the fact that they struggled with the workout as a negative thing that causes them to give up before they get started. Leslie flipped the script, and like a true stoic, laughed at her “slow start.”

Well okay, she giggled.

She took the soreness as a sign that what she was doing was WORKING! And she loved feeling sore. Leslie knew that if she struggled at a beginner workout, that she started at just the right time and that she could see progress would come. Week after week, month after month, she chased that soreness and challenge. Eventually the bodyweight workout became too easy, so she constantly upped the difficulty (with the guidance of her coach) to stay addicted to progress and learning what she was capable of.

After all, as gamers we need to feel progress and that our efforts are WORTH IT, right? Which is why she kept searching for more dragons!


Leslie had lost weight in the past the traditional way – treadmills and low calorie plastic food. She was so miserable that she eventually gave up on this strategy and put all of the weight back on (and then some).

This time around, we helped her change her mindset. She knew that she would “never be done,” and that a temporary diet meant temporary results. So she had to enjoy the process! And that meant having fun and picking activities and a style of eating that she could live with permanently.

At the same time, Leslie had a coach that was constantly updating her goals and giving her new challenges and dragons to slay.

Although she initially set out to just “lose the weight,” once she started approaching her goal weight, she found a love of exercise and the pride and confidence that comes along with it.

Now Leslia wants to find out what she’s capable of – she does handstand practice. And gymnastic rings work. She’s getting strong as hell. She loves running! This is the same woman who couldn’t be bothered to get off the couch 18 months ago.

It’s no longer about weight loss for her – she is always working on something new and thinking of what her new body is capable of.

And I love that more than anything! Nothing makes me happier than hearing from somebody who just wanted to lose weight and then realized they somehow actually like exercise these days.

I want that for you too.

Make A Commitment to be Nice to Future You. Be like Leslie!

It’s tough to put Leslie’s words into a condensed format, but if I had to TL;DR the whole thing, it would be this:

  • She had a “Great Big Why” to get in shape (for her and her son).
  • She invested in herself with a community she trusted (NF Academy).
  • After she started having success, she decided it was worth the money to hire professional accountability and expert guidance (NF Coaching).
  • As she lost weight, she and her coach constantly picked new goals that she enjoyed and that challenged her so that she never fell back into old habits.
  • She knows she never gets to be done, so she is enjoying her journey!

I’d love for you to check out our 1-on-1 NF Coaching Program and decide if it’s something you’d like to learn more about.

If coaching isn’t your thing, we also have two other options that have helped tens of thousands of nerds like you:

  • The NF Academy: 1-time payment to join a self-paced online course and private community
  • Rising Heroes: our habit based, story driven team monthly adventure.

And if you want none of those things and just want to keep reading free Nerd Fitness content, that’s cool too.

Here’s what I’d want you to take away from Leslie’s story:

Make a commitment to yourself. Decide that 6 months from now you’re going to be a different person. Start with small changes and surround yourself with people that are cheering you on.

Make an investment in yourself, be it with time or money. Research programs to follow, or work with a pro to build one that fits your situation. Find an accountability buddy or hire professional accountability. And you can figure all of this out on your own too – I hear Nerd Fitness has some okay resources 🙂

Have a damn good reason why you’re getting in shape. The weight loss is the side effect of what you’re really doing: turning yourself into a badass hero that is capable of physically active and challenging and fun things.

I hope to hear from you six months from now with a great success story that we can add to the hall of heroes that have inspired millions around the globe!

If you have any questions for Leslie, please share them in the comments!


PS: Just a quick heads up: The NF Coaching program has really exploded over the past 8 weeks, and we’d love to help you become the next success story! 

We actually speak on the phone with every single person that is interested in coaching to make sure we’re a good fit for each other, and you can schedule your call at the end of our Coaching page.

PPS: Do you have a Nerd Fitness success story of your own? Email us at contact(at)NerdFitness(dot)com and let us know so we can share your adventure with the galaxy!

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5 Hacks to Effortlessly Build Healthy Habits in 2018 Wed, 17 Jan 2018 17:58:23 +0000 At some point in the past few weeks (or five minutes ago after a Google search), you’ve made a resolution to change your life:

  • I’m going to exercise every day!
  • I’m going to start flossing!
  • I’m going to start eating better!
  • I’m going to quit smoking!
  • I’m going to stop wearing jorts!

That’s awesome, and I’m very excited for you.

No, seriously! I want to see how this turns out – I love a good redemption story.

Maybe you told some friends, or posted it on your blog, or shared your experience on Instagram, or started a club at work with coworkers about your goals.

Although I’ve railed against resolutions and big audacious declarations in the past, this year I’m changing my tune.

If you set resolutions or goals this year, whether in January and you’re in on “new year, new me,” or you just had a big life event (birth of your first kid, scare at the doctor, etc.) and decided: “This is the year I get in shape!” – I’m here to help.

Everybody has goals – it gives us something to aim for.

They just need to be done right.

I want you looking back in 6 months and not recognizing the “old you,” instead of looking back and asking yourself “what the hell happened? Why am I back where I started?”

With over 40,000 students in our flagship online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy, 200+ 1-on-1 coaching clients, 1000 people in our monthly team adventure Rising Heroes, and 10 years with thousands of emails and success stories, we have a damn good track record at helping people build permanent habits.

This resource dives deep into the key habit-building techniques that will actually help you get in shape this year.

Why do we suck At Building Healthy Habits?

homer simpson twitter fail whale

“I know what I’m supposed to do, I just can’t get myself to do it!” Welcome to the club – we all know what we need to do, but we just can’t get ourselves to make the important changes.

We know how to get in shape: move more and eat less!

We know how to exercise: get your heart rate up, do some push-ups, get stronger.

We know how to eat healthy: more vegetables and less sugar.

And yet, we can’t get ourselves to stick with ANY of these things for longer than a few weeks.


Simple: Building new healthy habits is tough, our lizard brains crave instant gratification, we don’t fully understand how habits are built, life gets busy, and our default behavior is often as unhealthy as it is easy.

As a result, we don’t put the right systems in place in order to make changes stick.

We also rely wayyyyy too much on willpower and motivation.

We tend to bite off more than we can chew, go too fast too soon, and then get overwhelmed too quickly.

Does this sound familiar?

  • I’m going to eat 100% paleo AND
  • I’m going to run 5 miles a day AND
  • I’m going to work out in a gym five times a week.

If you’re somebody that eats a typically poor diet, never runs, and hasn’t set foot in a gym since grade-school dodgeball with Mr. Wazowski, changing alllll of these at once is almost a surefire way to succeed at precisely NONE of them.

We’re conditioned these days to expect and receive instant gratification. If we want food we can get it from a drive-through, stick a frozen meal in a microwave, or sit down at a restaurant that’s open 24 hours. If we want a game we can download it to our computers/phones/PS4s within a matter of seconds. If we want to watch a TV show, it’s a few clicks away.

Hell, Netflix even starts the next episode for you without any action required!

We expect getting in shape to go the same way.  

And this is why we suck at building healthy habits that stick.

We tell ourselves “Hey, I’ve been dedicated for a whole two weeks, why don’t I look like Ryan Reynolds yet?”, not remembering that it took us decades of unhealthy living to get where we are, which means it’s going to take more than a few weeks to reverse the trend.

And then we miss a workout because life was busy or our kid got sick. And we get disheartened that exercise or giving up candy is not nearly as fun as Netflix and video games and peanut M&Ms.

This is where everybody gives up:

  • They try to change too many habits too soon
  • They get impatient the results don’t come more quickly
  • They slip up when life gets busy
  • And they go back to square one

It’s why we are doomed to stay overweight and suck at building habits. It’s the videogame equivalent of attacking too many bad guys at once: game over.

We’ll cover the specific healthy habits and resolutions you SHOULD be picking later in this article, but I have a big damn question to ask you first: “But why though?”

Be Honest about Your “Big Why”

Before we do ANYTHING with actually building habits, you need a damn good reason as to why you want to build them in the first place or the changes will never stick.

Without a good reason, you’re dead in the water:

If you’re here because you decided you “should” get in shape, you’re going to fail the second life gets busy.

If you are dragging yourself to the gym because you think you “should” run on a treadmill five days a week even though you hate it, you’re screwed!

As you’re determining the habits or resolutions you’re trying to set, make the habit part of a bigger cause that’s worth the struggle.

You’re not just going to the gym, you’re building a new body that you’re not ashamed of so you can start dating again.

You’re not just learning to like vegetables, you’re losing weight so you can fit into your dream wedding dress.

You’re not just dragging yourself out of bed early, you’re getting up earlier so you can work on your side business before your kids get up so you can set money aside for their college education.

In our flagship online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy, we refer to this as your “Big Why.” Without it, you’re just forcing yourself to do things you don’t like to do – that’ll never last.

Tie it to a greater cause and you’re infinitely more likely to push through the muck and mire to get it done.

So dig 3 levels deep and ask “why” until you get to the root cause of WHY you want to build a new healthy habit or change a bad one. Write it down. And hang it up somewhere you can see it every day.

Got your reason? Great. Now let’s get into the science of habits.

Healthy Habit Building 101: the Three Parts


#1) Cue (what triggers the action): It can be a feeling: I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m bored, I’m sad. Or it can be a time of day: it’s Monday at 9am, work is done, etc.

#2) Routine (the action itself): This can either be a negative action you want to cut back: I drink soda, I eat cake, I snack, I drink alcohol, I smoke cigarettes, I watch TV – or a positive one: I go the gym, I go for a run, I do push-ups, I read a book.

#3) Reward (the positive result because of the action): I’m now awake. I am temporarily happy. My hands/mind are occupied. I can forget the bad day I had. I feel energized. I feel good about myself.

Depending on your routine/action above, habits can either be empowering and amazing, or part of a negative downward spiral. Your body isn’t smart enough to KNOW what it needs to do: it just wants to fix the pain or chase the pleasure of the cue, and whichever way you choose to respond will become the habit when it’s done enough times.

Factor in genius marketing, behavioral psychology, bad genetics, and an environment set up for us to fail – and bad habits rule us.

It’s why we crave certain foods, why we can’t help but check our phone every time it vibrates, and why we can’t keep ourselves from watching one more episode or grinding one more level in World of Warcraft.

As Charles Duhigg points out in The Power Of Habit:

“There is nothing programmed into our brains that makes us see a box of doughnuts and automatically want a sugary treat. But once our brain learns that a doughnut box contains yummy sugar and other carbohydrates, it will start anticipating the sugar high. Our brains will push us toward the box. Then, if we don’t eat the doughnut, we’ll feel disappointed.”

We have trained your brain to take a cue (you see a doughnut), anticipate a reward (a sugar high), and make the behavior automatic (nom nom that donut). Compare that to a cue (you see your running shoes), anticipate a reward (a runner’s high), and make the behavior automatic (go for a run!).

The Dark Knight himself said it best: “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

Let’s take a look at each part of the habit-building process and start to hack the sh** out of it!

Learn Your Cues: Recognize the triggers.

Whether you are trying to change an old habit, stop a unhealthy habit, or begin a healthy habit, it starts with the first step in the process:

“The Cue.”

If you want to stop drinking soda, but feel like you need it every afternoon to get through work, your brain has been wired to think SODA after the cue:

  • Cue: I’m tired thirsty, and have no energy.
  • Routine: I drink a soda around 3pm.
  • Reward: Weeeeee caffeine! Sugar! Happy! My life has meaning!

When identifying bad habits to avoid, it starts by becoming aware of the cue that sets the habit in motion. Simply being aware of the cue is a great start to breaking the cycle:

  • When I get bored (cue), I eat snacks (routine), and it fills the void with a happy stomach (reward).
  • When I come home from work (cue), I plop down on couch and play videogames (routine), and it helps me forget about work (reward).
  • When I get nervous (cue), I start to bite my nails (routine), to take my mind off the awkwardness (reward).

So if you are looking to break a bad habit, it begins by identifying what the cues are that make you take the action that you’re trying to stop.

At the same time, you can mentally train yourself, just like Pavlov’s dog, to build a new healthy habit by identifying the habit you want to build and the cue you want to use to proceed it:

  • When I wake up (cue), I will go for a walk (routine), and reward myself with an audiobook on the walk (reward)
  • When I get tired (cue), I will drink black coffee instead of soda (routine), and along with the caffeine boost (reward), I’ll get new running shoes after 30 soda-free days (reward), and satisfaction from the weight loss thanks to fewer calories (reward).
  • When I come home from work (cue), I will walk straight to my computer to work on my novel for 30 minutes (routine), and reward myself with Netflix after i have written 500 words (reward).

So, whether you’re breaking a bad habit or starting a new one, it begins by recognizing the cue that triggers the habit. Once you recognize or pick the cue, you can start working on fixing the routine (action).

Make the Routine Easier: Use Systems

“Steve, I get it, but I still struggle with the ‘building the routine’ part…for some reason I just can’t bring myself to do it.”

Yup – welcome to the toughest part of a habit:

The Routine (the action itself!).

This is where we’re going to start thinking and acting like nerds and scientists. Whether we’re trying to stop a negative routine (stop drinking soda) or start doing a healthy routine (start running), both need to be addressed with a different battle plan.

For starters, we’re going to stop relying on two things:

  • Willpower: if you have to get yourself to exercise, you’ll give up when you get too busy or it’s too cold.
  • Motivation: if you need to be motivated, you’re going to give up and then beat yourself up for not being more motivated!

Both motivation and willpower are finite and fickle resources that will abandon you when you need them most. Suckers and chumps hope and pray that they have enough motivation and willpower to build a habit.

Not us though! We’re going to remove both from the equation and use systems and outside forces to make the routine even easier to build (or tougher to build if it’s a bad habit you’re trying to swap!).

This can be done in a few ways:

  • Environmental hacks: making the routine easier by removing steps needed to complete it, or adding steps between you and a bad habit.
  • Programming hacks: add your habit to your daily calendar, track your progress daily with a journal, and make it part of your day.

We are products of our environment. We can use this information to our advantage, and make the process of building a new habit or changing a bad habit easier by modifying our environment. I dig into this more fully in our article: “Build your Batcave for Habit Change,” but I’ll cover the basics here.

Look at the places you spend your time. Reduce the steps between you and a good habit, and increase the steps between you and a bad habit. You’ll be less reliant on willpower and motivation and more likely to do the healthy habit or skip the bad habit.

Here are five examples of environmental hacks you can use: 

RUN EVERY MORNING: Go to sleep with your running shoes at the foot of your bed, with your running uniform laid out already. Hell, you can sleep in your running/workout clothes. Put your alarm clock on the other side of the room so you HAVE to get out of bed to turn it off.

GO TO THE GYM AFTER WORK: Pack your gym bag BEFORE going to sleep the night before. That way, every morning you already have a bag to throw in your car or bring with you. As soon as 5pm hits, you are in your car on your way to the gym.

EAT HEALTHIER: Don’t give yourself an option of not eating healthy – throw out the junk food in your house and start preparing meals the night before. Put a lock on your web browser from ordering pizza online (yes you can do that now), and don’t drive down the street full of fast food places.

WATCH LESS TV/PLAY FEWER GAMES: Use your laziness in your favor. Unplug the TV/system. Increase the steps between you and watching the TV. Put parental controls on your own system and have your friend set the time limit and the password. I knew somebody who put his TV in his closet and cut his TV viewing by close to 100%. Don’t rely on willpower – make it more difficult!

CHECK YOUR PHONE LESS: Turn off your notifications and uninstall the apps that waste your time. Put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode when you are at work, and put it in your desk drawer. Don’t rely on willpower to get yourself to not check your phone when it buzzes – get rid of the buzz.

You can also use programming hacks to help build NEW healthy habits: 

  • EXERCISE: If you want to exercise more, set calendar alerts at the beginning of your week so that every day at 8AM you receive a cue (ding! on your phone) and a reminder to do the activity. You’re much more likely to stay on target when the activity has been scheduled ahead of time.
  • HEALTHY EATING: Consider batch cooking! If cooking healthy meals every night sounds like way too much work (I hear you on that), consider doing it all on ONE day – it’s a significant time savings, and it also will reduce the steps between you and healthy eating because the meal is already cooked and in the fridge!
  • WRITING: If you want to write a book, tell yourself you have to write 500 crappy words every day. Buy a calendar, and draw a big red X on every day you complete your task. Make your singular focus every day continuing the streak[1].

Make the Reward Momentum Building

Changing Rubick's Cube

And we are finally at the third part of the habit:

“The Reward.”

When looking to replace bad habits, do some reward analysis on your bad habits:

Soda gives you a caffeine kick and a burst of energy in the afternoon when you’re tired. Can you replicate that energy boost for your body in a healthier way? Switch to black coffee and go for a walk.

You find you spend too much time watching TV because you love escaping into worlds, and it’s affecting your health. Can you listen to your favorite audiobook but only while walking?

This will require some analysis and digging into the reward you’re trying to recreate without the negative action. This can lead your brain to some tough places, but it’s healthy to dig into it.

If you find that you want to start drinking way less (or give up drinking completely), you might discover that the reward you’re chasing is actually “escape from a job I hate” and “avoiding social anxiety in bar situations.”

Dig into your reward and what your brain is craving, and then see if you can reverse engineer a healthier routine with the same reward.

And then use outright bribery to get yourself to actually do the new healthier and choose the better action/routine.

What works for science and physics also holds true to building habits: inertia and momentum will work against you when it comes to building habits…until it starts to work for you as the habit becomes automatic.

We can fix the third part of the habit-building loop, the reward, with momentum-building prizes or results to bribe ourselves to continue. With each healthy and positive reward, with each completed routine, we make the habit sliiiiightly more likely to become more automatic the next time.

In other words, create rewards that reward you back!

DON’T reward your routine (running!) with an unhealthy reward (cake!). That’s “one step forward, two steps back.” And nutrition is 90% of the equation when it comes to weight loss anyways!

DO reward your routine (running for 5 minutes every day for 30 days straight) with a reward that makes you want to keep running (a snazzy new pair of running shoes).

Hacks for Effortless Healthy Habit building

a storm trooper stares at his reflection in the mirror

Your life will get busy. 

There will be days when you don’t want to do your new habit. Or you want to backslide and go back to old habits. Actually, that will pretty much be every day, especially early on.

So don’t leave it up to yourself!!

Stop relying on yourself and start relying on outside forces. Here are the best tips you can use to get yourself to actually follow through with a habit:

1) RECRUIT ALLIES: find a friend or group of friends to build the habits with you. A recent study [2] showed that:

Among the weight loss patients recruited alone and given behavioral therapy, 24% maintained their weight loss in full from Months 4 to 10.

Among those recruited with friends and given therapy plus social support, 95% completed treatment and 66% maintained their weight loss in full.

You do not have to go on this habit-building journey alone. Building a guild or recruiting a group of people to support you and help you and make you better could be the difference maker in building habits!

When your friend is already at the gym waiting for you, you HAVE to go. If it was up to you, skipping out and watching Netflix has no negative consequences. Recruit friends and allies!

Don’t have that support group at home? Consider joining ours 🙂

Remember, those first few weeks are the toughest, which means they’ll require the most effort to get started.

2) CULTIVATE DISCIPLINE WITH CONSEQUENCES: When you can’t get yourself to follow through on a new healthy habit you’re desperately trying to build, make the pain of skipping the habit more severe than the satisfaction you get from skipping it.

Allow me to introduce some BRUTAL consequences:

  • Every time I skip ______________ this month, I will pay $50 to my wife/husband/friend who will donate my money to a cause I HATE.
  • Every time I decide not to _______________ this month, I have to run around my house naked.
  • Every time I do ____________ when I shouldn’t, I will let my three-year old do my makeup before work.

Do any of these results sound like fun?  If you can’t afford to pay your friend $50, if running naked around your house might get you arrested, and if you’ll get fired looking like a drunk clown thanks to your kid’s makeup skills…maybe you just do what you know you need to do. The more painful it is to skip something, the more likely you’ll be to actually suck it up and do it.

3) NEVER MISS TWO IN A ROW. What happens if you miss a day? Who cares! One day won’t ruin you – but two days will, because 2 becomes 30 in the blink of an eye. As pointed out in a research summary: “Missing the occasional opportunity to perform the behavior did not seriously impair the habit formation process: automaticity gains soon resumed after one missed performance.[3].

4) DON’T PICK HABITS YOU HATE: “Steve I know I should run so I’m trying to build a running habit even though I hate running.” Stop. Can you get the same results with a different habit, like rock climbing or hiking or swing dancing? Pick a habit that isn’t miserable and you’re more likely to follow through on it.

At the same time, we have tons of success stories of people who went from hating exercise to loving how it feels. It’s because they made the habit part of a bigger picture: “I am exercising at the gym because I am building a kickass body so I can start dating again!” It’s because they had a BIG enough why to overcome their initial dislike of exercise until they learned to love how exercise made them feel.

5) TRY TEMPTATION BUNDLING: Consider combining a habit you dislike with something you LOVE, and you’ll be more likely to build the habit. If you hate cleaning your apartment, only allow yourself to listen to your favorite podcast when you are cleaning or doing the dishes.

Want to go to the gym more? Allow yourself an hour of watching Netflix, but ONLY while you’re on the Elliptical. This is called temptation bundling, and it can be a powerful change.

Ready to Build a healthy Habit? Great! Do Less.

Lego Storm Trooper Ladder

Now that you’re educated like a boss on the different parts of a habit, it’s time to build one!

I’ll leave you with a final bit of advice: if you decide that you want to run a marathon or save the world or lose hundreds of pounds, you’re going to screw up unless you internalize the following information:


Or in the immortal words of Kunu from Forgetting Sarah Marshall: “The less you do, the more you do”:

Pick ONE habit, make it small, and make it binary. Something that at the end of every day you can say “yes I did it” or “no I didn’t.”

Habits that are nebulous like “I am going to exercise more” or “I’m going to start eating better” are more useless than a Soulcycle membership for Jabba the Hutt.

Here are big examples. Be specific. Be small. And track it:

  • Want to start exercising more? Awesome. For that first week, ONLY go for a walk for just 5 minutes every morning. Literally 5 minutes.
  • Want to start cooking your own healthy meals? Just aim for one meal per day or one meal per week. Whatever works for you and your schedule.
  • Want to stop drinking a 2 liter of Mountain Dew every day? Scale it back to 1.9 liters a day for a week. Then 1.8 for a wek. Then 1.7…
  • Want to get out of debt and build the habit of frugality? Start by saving an extra five bucks a day, or finding a way to earn an extra 5 bucks a day.
  • Want to learn a new language? Speak your new language out loud for 10 minutes per day. That’s it!

Keep your goals SMALL and simple. The smaller and simpler they are, the more likely you are to keep them. And the habit itself pales in comparison to the momentum you build from actually creating a new habit. I don’t care how many calories you burn in a 5 minute walk, just that you can prove to the new YOU that you can build the habit of walking, and only then can you up the difficulty.

We’re thinking in terms of years and decades here! So think small.

My real life example: I wanted to build the habit of learning the violin at age 31, but couldn’t get myself to do it because I told myself I was too busy, which is a lie (“I only have 25 minutes; I need 30 minutes to practice…might as well not practice at all”), and thus I never played! Once I lowered the threshold to “I have to only play for 5 minutes per day,” it gave me permission to pick it up here and there – and I ended up practicing WAY more frequently, and got better much faster.

I still suck, mind you, but I’m lightyears ahead of where I was before!


If you’re new to building habits, or you have never stuck with anything long enough to make it automatic, it’s because you did too much. Habits are compound interest. As you build a new habit, it bleeds over to other parts of your life and makes future habits easier to build too – momentum!

You’ve tried the whole “build all the habits at once” and it doesn’t work. So try building ONE habit for 30 days. And then pick a habit that stacks on top of that one and helps you build more and more progress and more and more momentum.

Start today: Pick Your Habit and Go

stop sign with OP covered up with ART so it spells START

I’ll leave you with a final quote from The Power of Habit:

“If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real. This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you chose them to be. Once that choice occurs – and becomes automatic – it’s not only real, it starts to seem inevitable, the thing…that bears us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”

You’ll need more brain power initially, until your default behavior becomes the automatic habit building you’re chasing. With each day of you building your new habit, you’re overcoming any self-limiting belief, building momentum, and becoming a habit-building badass! And then those habits become automatic.

So today, I want you to look at just ONE habit you want to change:

  • Identify the cue that spurs it on – Is it the time of day? Boredom? Hunger? After work? Stress?
  • Identify the potential rewards – Happiness? Energy? Satisfaction?
  • Identify a new routine you’d like to establish that results in the same “reward” from the negative behavior…but in a more productive and healthy way.

I want you to leave a comment below: pick ONE habit that you’re going to build this month and identify the three portions of the habit you’re looking to build.

Good luck – now go build some momentum. And ONE habit.


PS: If your habit is getting healthier/stronger/weight loss focused, we have some premium resources here at Nerd Fitness that dig into the habit building psychology of this article:

  • Rising Heroes – Our monthly team based, story based habit-building adventure
  • NF Academy – Our self-paced online course with workouts, boss battles, and nutrition levels
  • NF Coaching – 1-on-1 customized instruction from our coaches

photo source: mouse on wheel, homer fail whale, storm trooper ladder, level up club, lego R2D2, storm trooper mirror, start, jigsaw, victory, rubik’s cube, , fred_v Evolution – Alternative

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How Kenney the Tabletop Gamer Lost 120 Pounds and Found His Voice (Literally). Thu, 04 Jan 2018 14:59:53 +0000 “There’s no way that’s the same person, right?”

Admittedly, that’s what I first thought when I saw Kenney’s before and after photos. There was just NO way that this Tony Stark looking dude on the right was the same person as the man in the other photo, right?

And then I saw his other photos. And then I heard his story.

And then I teared up.

Shut up I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Today, we’re going to be talking about Ironma—-Kenney Frazier, an IT systems administrator from Alabama, a gamer, and an opera singer who has had one of the most dramatic transformations I’ve ever seen. It’s no exaggeration to say that Kenney clearly saved his own life. Not just in terms of life expectancy, but also quality of his life.

Kenney is a proud member of the Nerd Fitness Academy who made some key changes in his life that helped him succeed. We’re going to dig deep into those major and minor changes Kenney made and how you can be like him!

After years of struggle, starting and stopping, a switch flipped and he has lost over 120 pounds in the past 15 months.

Here’s his origin story.

Meet Kenney

STEVE: Kenney! My man. When I first saw your post in the Academy Facebook group, and it had hundreds and hundreds of likes and comments, my jaw dropped. Let’s hear your background:

KENNEY: I’ve pretty much always been overweight. Even in Kindergarten I was pudgy! I attribute this to my love of Reese Cups (I’m a recovering addict; there should really be a Reese Cup Lovers Anonymous Group). I steadily put on the pounds, and by high school I easily tipped the scales at 250lbs+.

By the age of 25 I was over 300lbs and miserable.

I would go on a diet, have some success, then expand to new heights in short order. My addiction to Everquest and World of Warcraft definitely did not help. I lived an extremely sedentary life and I was depressed. I would use these virtual worlds as an escape from my self-imposed dungeon. I was finally able to break out of this addiction and decided to start living in the real world. I joined the workforce and did my best to become an adult.

STEVE: I hear ya brother – I too played Everquest (and Everquest 2) for over a decade and did it for the same reasons you did – to escape a crappy reality. What was a typical day like for you then?

KENNEY: I would wake up around 8:30am during the week and drag myself into work. On the way to work I’d stop by Chick-fil-a and grab 2 chicken biscuits and a large lemonade because breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?

Ha. Of course being a southerner you can’t have breakfast without biscuits!

Lunch, would roll around and I’d run to Burger King and order 2 double cheeseburgers and a large fry and Coke to wash it down with.

I’d probably grab a candy bar or chips from the snack machine mid afternoon.

On the way home I’d stop by and grab more food for dinner: a large chicken finger plate from Zaxby’s because who don’t love fried chicken? I had to have another large Coke to wash it down.

After I finished my food I’d plop down in front of the TV or my computer or go take a nap for a few hours. I’d normally heading to bed around midnight or 1am after playing a few games of Dota2 with some friends.

STEVE: So let’s talk about what happened that brought about actual changes:

KENNEY: I was 35, tired all the time and unhappy with my life. Obesity, diabetes, thyroid issues, and high blood pressure are also all prevalent in my family history.

I finally had enough and made an appointment to get a physical. When I saw my lab results I knew I was in trouble. My blood pressure was high, my blood sugar was high and my A1C was in the diabetic range! My cholesterol was sky high and I weighed 334 lbs! Despite these sobering results it still wasn’t enough to wake me up.

As a card carrying super nerd – I’ve always enjoyed table top RPG – I was a member of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with some friends from High School. One of the players started talking about Nerd Fitness and it piqued my interest.

I decided to check it out and joined the NF Academy in January of 2016. I read the starter quests, but keep putting off actually starting.

STEVE: That’s interesting – so you joined the program, but couldn’t get yourself to commit or take action beyond just reading the missions. Sounds like a classic case of not having a big enough reason WHY yet! Your doctor said you had bad health signals, but deep down you weren’t ready to change yet.

So what happened next?

KENNEY: Music has always been my main passion. I was a vocal major in college before switching to something more “practical.” I decided to restart my vocal studies at a local music school in my early 30’s.

As if being a typical DnD/MMORPG nerd wasn’t enough, my musical endeavors are in the Classical/Opera genre. The school where I study has spring and winter productions each year. I was cast in my first show and I was hooked. I was continually cast in smaller roles but I had larger ambitions. In September of 2016, I had just finished a production and felt I had performed well but I wanted more. I reached out to the teacher in charge of casting.

I told her that I was committed to landing a leading role, and her response? My weight was a showstopper.

STEVE: And there it is…your ACTUAL “Big Why” – the reason that deep down made you want to change. It must have been brutal to hear that you were too big to be considered for more important musical roles. But it appears to also have been a big turning point for you.

KENNEY: October 2016 I started my fitness journey first by cutting out sodas and cutting my portion sizes. I started logging everything in a Fitness App.

I knew from reading the articles on Nerd Fitness that making small changes at first worked best. I tried doing some of the free home workouts but I knew my motivation would suffer and I would stop unless I had some “skin” in the game. So I called up my local gym and set up a free training session on Columbus Day.

The first workout was so horrible and I was so out of shape that I almost tossed my cookies – it just reinforced how far I had to go…but I was inspired. I signed up and started working with a trainer 3 times a week.

Strength training with some occasional cardio has the name of the game since then.

At that first session, I weighed in at 320 lbs and by Nov 16th I was down to 297lbs. I couldn’t remember the last time I was under 300lbs and my motivation never faltered. I started incorporating cardio 3 or 4 times a week into strength-training routines.

STEVE: Hmmm, so what you’re saying is…this whole diet and exercise thing might actually work! Hahaha – so talk to me what other changes you made along the way.

KENNEY: I started doing intermittent fasting along with a low carb, high protein diet. As my weight went down I started feeling better and was continually amazed at what I could do. By January 4th, 2017 I was down to 281lbs.

STEVE: And that’s when you discovered the power of a supportive community, right?

KENNEY: Later that month I saw that there was a Facebook group for Academy members, which I had somehow missed when I signed up the year before. When I joined the group I was amazed at the community. The posts were uplifting and informative.

The progress posts served as motivation for me! By February, I had lost 50lbs and decided to make my first post on the Facebook group (which you can see below):

This was a huge step for me due to self-esteem issues but the support and uplifting comments were great. I used the Academy community to help keep me motivated.

Whenever I’d feel like quitting I’d log in and read the new posts and fortify my resolve. By May I was down 75 lbs and I was doing things I never thought I’d be able to do. I went from being winded by walking up stairs to doing Burpees, Squats, and bear crawls. I even started taking tennis lessons!

By the end of summer I was down 100lbs.

And just a few weeks ago, I weighed in at 198 lbs, meaning I’ve lost 120lbs! I can’t even remember the last time I was under 200! I recently went to the doctor again and had a fresh set of labs. My results were night and day! My A1C was normal, my blood sugar was normal, and my cholesterol was greatly reduced.

STEVE: AMAZING. So let’s hear about the New Kenney. What’s a typical day like now?

KENNEY: I wake up around 6:30 and 6:45am and try to get to work before 8:00am. I do intermittent fasting so I actually skip breakfast. My “feasting” window runs from 11am til 8pm.

My typical lunch is a salad minus croutons with chicken (I have a slight addiction to Caesar salads) If I need a snack I’ll eat some tuna or even some beef jerky (can’t have enough protein). Normally, I’ll head home and get ready to go to the gym! I work out 3 times a week with the trainer so I’ll do 40 minutes of cardio after those sessions or on a non-lifting day I’ll do an hour of cardio.

Lately, I’ve been on an elliptical kick as I can zone out and watch Netflix while I’m doing it. I also play Racquetball once a week with friends and I joined a basketball league (I’m really bad!).

After I work out, I’ll grab dinner with chicken or beef, with some brown rice, and broccoli (I love broccoli!) or a mixture of other veggies.

I also have a bit of a sweet tooth so I’ll treat myself with some halo ice cream (within reason) or some fruit or Siggi’s Icelandic style skyr. I’m a simple guy so I can eat the same things a few times a week and it doesn’t bother me. I guess I look at food differently now. It’s fuel for me to reach my goals before I used it to make me feel better.

STEVE: That mentality change is amazing, and I love hearing it. You changed physically. What else changed about you along the way?

KENNEY: Looking back over the journey so far I’ve learned so much more about myself. I’ve discovered that I can reach goals and that I am capable of doing anything if I put my mind to it. While I haven’t reached my goal weight, I am well on my way. I have the tools to complete my journey.

I was a soloist in a community Sing-a-long Messiah tonight and I got to rock a tux, so I thought it would make a good after!

When I went to try on my “rent-a-tux” I was fitted in a 46S jacket and when I got home I looked at my old suit jacket and it was a 56R! It’s just amazing to me! I really appreciate the community that you have built. I wouldn’t have come this far without it!

STEVE: Everybody assumes that they’ll be happy once they lose weight. And you clearly seem like a completely different, more content, and proud person. Is there anything you still struggle with?

KENNEY: Losing this weight has really forced me to face my self-esteem issues and the mental aspects are a struggle. I feel so much better physically but I still struggle mentally with being the “fat” guy.

STEVE: Thanks for sharing that honestly with us, man. We’re all works in progress, both inside and out! And these battles take time. 

It’s a good reminder to know that even if you build the body you want, you still have to level up on the inside too and that can take time! Luckily you have an amazing community of weirdos cheering you on, and others who have struggled with those same self-esteem issues and can help you get through it! 

How Kenney finally succeeded and lost 120 pounds

I wanted to highlight the key points to his transformation that allowed him to finally find success, and hopefully you can implement these types of changes into your life too.

KEY POINT #1: Kenney kept trying.

Kenney spent over a year reading Nerd Fitness articles before working up the courage to even get started. After that, he joined the NF Academy and read the content but couldn’t get himself to do much more past that.

And yet, something kept him around. He kept getting Nerd Fitness emails in his inbox, even if he wasn’t ready to take action yet. And EVENTUALLY, the right combinations of words on a page, life experiences, and things clicked for him to finally take action.

If you’re somebody that has started and stopped or lost 20 pounds only to put on 30, you’re not alone.

If you woke up this January and said “I said the same thing last year about getting healthy, but here I am still overweight,” you’re not alone.

If you beat yourself up when you fail and think you’re doomed to stay fat, you’re not alone.

Give yourself credit – you’re still here reading this, and that counts for something! Keep trying. Keep reading. Keep attempting different methods until you find one that works for you – though I’d consider these 10 changes before making another attempt).

The important thing is that you take action – more information is usually not the answer.

Here at Nerd Fitness we refer to the perpetual activity of collecting information as “collecting underpants!

Don’t get stuck on Phase 1 – you’ll never get to “profit” (healthy) without taking action (that’s phase 2).

Now, there’s a powerful psychological element to Kenney’s journey that I wanted to highlight as well.

KEY POINT #2: Kenney finally found his “Big Why.”

Just saying “I want to get in shape” wasn’t enough for him. Being overweight wasn’t enough. Having his doctor tell him that he was at risk for a all kinds of preventable diseases wasn’t enough.

Sure, he “wanted to get in shape,” but it wasn’t enough to make him actually change. After all, Chick-Fil-A, Zaxby’s, Coca Cola, and Burger King is SOOOO damn good, it takes a really powerful reason to want to give up those things and delay gratification until the future.

And then he finally found his “Big Why.”

Kenney was told that his weight was holding him back from landing bigger roles while performing on stage (something he truly loved). And that’s when he decided to finally take this next attempt at getting fit seriously and actually took steps to change.

If you are somebody that thinks you “should get in shape,” you’re not digging deep enough for your reasons. However, if you are trying to get in shape because:

  • You’re tired of being unhappy with the person you see in the mirror.
  • If you want to build confidence to finally go on a date for the first time.
  • If you want your wife to look at you with love/admiration the way she used to.
  • Your dad died at a young age and you want to live to see your grandkids.

A reason like this, written somewhere that you can see daily, will help you stay on track when life gets busy.

Key Point #3: Kenney changed his relationship with food.

This quote from Kenney perfectly encapsulates why Kenney was successful in his transformation:

“I look at food differently now. It’s fuel for me to reach my goals, whereas before I used it to make me feel better.”

This is a guy who ate fast food 3-4 times per day, every day. Who grew up in the South, home of “comfort food.” A self-described Reese’s Cup and Ice cream aficionado.

THAT guy now views food as fuel for his fitness goals!

How did it happen? Slowly with small changes over a long period of time. Kenney knew that going on a crash diet wasn’t going to work (he had tried that in the past), so as we discuss here on Nerd Fitness he focused on small actionable changes he could make that didn’t scare him.

He kept things simple like cutting back on soda and tracking his food intake.

Only after he started to see some progress did he start playing this “healthy eating” game on a harder difficulty setting:

Thanks to this dramatic change in his mentality, Kenney no longer needed food as an escape, but rather saw it as fuel, with occasional indulgences – like his favorite ice cream or candy – but in moderation without fear or guilt.

Key Point #4: Kenney STOPPED relying on himself.

Believe it or not, Kenney giving up on himself might be the most important mindset shift he could have made.

When most people decide to get in shape, they all do the same thing: “I am going to get in shape. I’m gonna get motivated and hit the gym consistently!” Two weeks later, they’ve already given up but now they ALSO have shame: “I am ashamed that I couldn’t stick with my goals, something must be wrong with me!”

Conversely, people that succeed know themselves better than that, so they plan for it. They stop expecting themselves to magically become a motivation powerhouse and instead start asking better questions. “Okay if Motivation ALWAYS leaves me, rather than beating myself up how can I stack the deck so that I no longer need motivation in the first place?”

Kenney stopped relying on himself in two key ways:

  • He invested in himself so that he had “skin in the game”
  • He had OTHER people keep him accountable other than just himself.

We’re going to dig into both of these specific issues in the next two points, but I want to return to the above:

If you rely on yourself to be motivated, and you think you need to be motivated to get in shape, you’ve already lost.

STOP relying on motivation. Instead, build systems, recruit allies, and structure your environment in ways that support your goals.

Try this: recruit a friend who will cheer you on. Give him $50 of your money and tell him you’ll check in with him every day. If you don’t check in to let him know that you went for a walk and ate a veggie, he will donate that money to a cause you HATE.

Speaking of recruiting allies…

Key Point #5: Kenney surrounded himself with the right people

I’m proud to say that Nerd FItness played a communal role in helping Kenney Reach his goals. Our Academy doesn’t a super secret proprietary workout plan – its fun compound strength training. Our nutritional strategy isn’t anything proprietary – its less junk and more vegetables. Sure, it digs deep on the mindset stuff, and it’s got a fun leveling system and nutritional strategy that gamifies getting in shape.

But that’s not what made it such a big help in Kenney’s journey: it was the community of people who are aligned with the same goal, struggling with the same problems, that were cheering him on.

Or in another Academy member’s words, when asked why he loves the community:

Human connection and supportive people can be the biggest help in transforming, and Kenney had both: a coach who pushed him, and a community that supported him.

Did you know that you are the average of the 5 people you associate most with?

Show me the weight, health, net worth, and happiness level of the 5 people you spend the most time with, and I bet I can guess a lot about you with startling accuracy – it’s because those people influence you every day without you realizing it with their words, decisions, and choices.

So then I ask you: Are your five people making you want to be better? Or are they people who make fun of you for skipping game night to exercise or goad you into skipping the salad and ordering a cheeseburger to “live a little.”

Kenney has been a major contributor to our community, sharing his struggles and his progress. Unsurprisingly, he’s also one of our BEST successes, and an inspiration to the men of the Academy group – and now the galaxy.

If you are serious about getting in shape, interact with people that make you want to be better:

  • Join a running club at work. Or start one!
  • Find an accountability buddy that you check in with daily.
  • Create a guild and introduce positive peer pressure!
  • Have somebody you can ask embarrassing questions to and share your struggles with.

I love that Kenney found the NF community to be super supportive while he also leveled up his life with in person connections too, and I want the same for you.

I don’t care where you find these people, I just want you to have these people in your life! Now, I might be slightly biased, but I believe our online crew is the best community on the planet!

Key Point #6: Kenney invested in himself

Kenney tried to follow along with free workouts at home. He read free articles on Nerd Fitness for over a year. And he couldn’t get himself to take his attempt at getting in shape seriously.

As he was still in search of his big WHY, he realized that he’d never stick with an attempt until he had some “skin in the game” (invested in himself). So he called up his local gym and set up a free training session.

And that lead to him realizing that hiring a trainer that knows him better than he knows himself was going to be a game changer:

“My trainer is perfect for me! He keeps me motivated and honest without being the cliched TV trainer who berates their clients! He’s never yelled or made me feel like a failure. Honestly, If had a trainer like that I would have quit after the first session. He’s a self described nerd so we often talk about the next big superhero movie or I crack jokes about his addiction to big Kit Kat bars!”

Whether it’s an online coach or a course, there’s so much psychology at stake beyond just the information you learn in these situations. We all know what we need to do (eat less, move more), but we can’t get ourselves to do those things.

Investing in a course or hiring a coach can be the biggest difference between success and failure for many people. When you spend money on a quality fitness product or service:

  • You spend time with other people who are investing in themselves.
  • You get to outsource your decision making and just focus on following directions.
  • You get the peace of mind that you are doing the right thing because its been prescribed by somebody farther along than you.
  • You get guaranteed accountability, because you’re paying somebody for something which means you’ll value it more!

Sure, there are MILLIONS of free resources out there about how to get healthy. There are millions of free fitness articles (you’re reading one of them!).

And yes, many people can get motivated and go build their own workout and go to the gym and figure things out and LOVE spending that time doing so.

For the rest of us though, we don’t have the time or ability to sort through the junk to find the best information, or we just want the peace of mind knowing we’re learning from somebody that gets us.

And lastly, maybe we know ourselves well enough that if we spend money on something, we’ll actually use it!

Personally, I pay money to go to a gym 2 blocks away instead of using the free gym in my apartment building, because I never go to the free one! I also pay hundreds every month to work with an online fitness coach, and it’s the best money I spend each month.

I’m not telling you to spend your money on fitness. Instead, I’m saying that what you spend your money (and your time) on says a lot about your priorities.

Kenney looked at his spending habits and despite what he was told himself he cared about, he was really prioritizing fast food, no sleep, and video games.

So he changed his priorities by eliminating unhealthy, expensive food and instead, spent that money on investing in himself (a coach, the NF Academy, healthy food).

Of COURSE you don’t need to spend money on your health and wellness – but it can be like powerleveling yourself in a video game! If you think you can’t afford a gym membership, or a trainer, or a course…track your spending and measure what you have been spending your money on instead (TV, Netflix, game subscriptions, etc).

If you reallllly want something, you can find a way to save elsewhere to invest on what’s important:

If you have chosen to prioritize your health and wellness, I’d suggest investing in:

Notice I didn’t say anything about supplements or ab coasters or whatever – get your mentality in order, work with people who have succeeded in the way you want to succeed, and get started!

be Less like Old Kenney. Be more like new Kenney.

I’m so thankful Kenney let me share this story with you today! Here are the most important things he did to transform into Tony Stark:

  • Even though he wasn’t ready to transform, he kept reading about health and fitness for years until something clicked.
  • He finally had a big enough reason why to overcome his love of fast food. He dug deep and really addressed his motivations.
  • He stopped relying on himself, and instead outsourced his motivation and accountability to a community and a coach.
  • He invested in himself, which made him take the opportunity more clearly
  • He fixed his relationship with food – instead of comfort, it became fuel for his goals.

Regardless of how involved you want to be with Nerd Fitness, I’m just glad that you’re here and reading this. I hope you can see Kenney’s transformation above and decide “Hey, I want to do that! maybe I should do what he did.” And put his words into your practice!

And then go see Kenney perform!

Look for the guy center stage….


PS: I’m glad that Kenney is a really active and encouraging part of our community in the Nerd Fitness Academy, and I hope you consider checking it out too!

It’s the most supportive group on the internet, and you’ll also get workout plans, a 10-level nutritional system, an entire mindset module, and character leveling system with real-life quests and boss battles. It comes with a 60-day guarantee to give you a chance to try it out and see if it can help you level up your life!

See you in there!

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The 10 Key Differences Between Weight Loss Success and Failure Mon, 01 Jan 2018 17:08:07 +0000 “NEW YEAR, NEW YOU!” 

At some point in the past two days, you probably said something like the following:

  • “Alright, time to lose this gut. “
  • “This year I’m gonna tone these arms and fix these love handles.”
  • “Holy crap I really let myself go. Is that Cheeto dust…on my forehead? Yikes.”

And thus, we begin our search for the promised land of effortless, enjoyable weight loss:

We want that one workout that scientists hate that finally melts the fat off our midsections and makes us look like Wonder Woman.

We gorge on acai bowls and omega-3 supplements and get excited about the latest article that says red wine is a health food as we polish off another bottle.

We go through a series of follies in search of a get-fit-quick fantasy that never actually comes to fruition, like Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Reality paints a much different picture:

A flat stomach doesn’t come in a bottle or in a workout DVD.

It comes from boring consistent action over months and years. Gross.

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

At the same time, I have also seen hundreds of thousands of people chase the latest health fad, lose a few pounds, and end up a year later right back where they started. Every year, I have seen packed gyms in January become ghost towns in February.

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

So what gives?

This year, what will separate the people who make new years resolutions and STICK with them, and those that give up after a few weeks?

With over 40,000 students in our flagship online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy, 150 1-on-1 coaching clients, and 10 years with thousands of emails and success stories, I created this monster resource that dives deep into the key habits that will actually help you get in shape this year.

Here are the 10 key strategies that separate the Healthy from the Unhealthy – start doing these things today and you’ll actually make progress that lasts:

1. have a Growth 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(s) and why you struggle to lose it:

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Stress level
  • Home environment
  • Mental health
  • Activity level
  • Nutrition

All of these things play a factor in what you look like and how healthy you are. Despite these various factors, I’ve seen a common thread in people who build healthy habits and stick with them:

A Growth mindset.

Let’s get nerdy for a second (you’re reading Nerd Fitness after all). 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 only says, “I am Groot,” but that’s less applicable here.


Unhealthy Person: “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 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.”

Habit Building Badass: “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.”

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.

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.

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.

So, decide TODAY that this year that you are a“a healthy, habit-building badass” and then simply do the things that perpetually healthy nerds do. With each meal or each decision, ask yourself “what would a healthy person do?” And then do that.

2. know Your “Big Why”.

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

Even the best-laid plans and New Years Resolutions will end up in a ditch on the side of the road unless you have a damn good reason.

After all, 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 and it’s cold. There will ALWAYS be something.

You will never not be busy.

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

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

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 doomed. 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? Why do you want to build healthy habits?

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. don’t go on a diet. adjust Your nutrition.

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

Mostly hate.

They go on diets all the time – especially in early January, 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, and they can’t wait to go back to “eating normally.” The problem is that their “eating normally” is the reason why they’re overweight in the first place.

Temporary changes to one’s eating results in temporary changes to one’s weight and 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 yup, dieting sucks.

Starvation, eliminating favorite foods, and trying to use willpower to avoid candy and sweets is a terrible strategy, so stop doing it.

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.”

This year, never go on a diet ever again.

Instead, come to terms with this: “My concept of ‘normal eating’ is broken, which means it needs to change permanently in order for me to get healthy.”

Think about that for a second.

If you “never get to be 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 your new “normal.”

Don't do diets, adjust your nutrition

Stop going on diets!

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

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

Instead you are going to make deliberate, incremental permanent changes to your daily nutrition, slowly, over a period of many months.

Eat to line up with your goals.

If you are afraid of giving up something, don’t! Make the unhealthy foods more of a treat and less of a daily indulgence:

  • If giving up soda forever is scary, slowly cut back from 12 a day down to one a day.
  • If giving up pasta forever sounds like a life not worth living, learn about portion sizes and make it an experience (only at restaurants, for example).
  • The same goes for diet pills and supplements – Supplements cannot replace a good nutrition strategy.

When you think about getting healthy this year, think in terms of days and years, not weeks and months:

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. This means you HAVE to enjoy the journey.

Once you accept that you never get to be “done,” you can start picking small adjustments or changes that won’t scare you away from adhering to your plan.

4.know what’s in the food You eat.

Did you know that when it comes to weight loss, your nutrition choices will account for 90% of your success or failure?

In the Nerd Fitness Rebellion, we refer to this as the “you can’t outrun your fork” rule.

Seriously. 90+ PERCENT of the equation

Tattoo this on your forehead. Hire somebody to skywrite it above your home every day. Pay somebody to call you every morning and remind you of this fact.

Whatever it takes to get you to realize that changing your eating habits will be the fastest (and only) path to weight loss in 2018.

And it starts by educating yourself about your food.

Make a habit of knowing what’s in the food you eat! 

Whether it’s portion control, calorie counting, tracking macros, or even keeping a food journal, it’s important to have rough idea of the nutritional breakdown of the food you 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

With each meal tracked, this habits adds up to knowing what needs to happen every day for you to get healthy.

Sugar is a big culprit in spiking insulin and thus contributes to making waistlines larger, which means checking the labels on the foods you’re consuming for sugar is a great habit to get into.

Speaking of sugar, let’s see a common pitfall you can start to avoid. Here are two different beverages:

  • 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!

Don’t fall for the hype: read the label, and break free of the Matrix!

Learn about the food you’re eating. You’re an 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.

What’s that? You don’t know how to eat healthy? I got you, boo: “A beginner’s guide to healthy eating.

For each food, learn the following:

  • Total calories
  • Serving size
  • Fat
  • Protein
  • Carbs (especially sugar)

Don’t overthink this: 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. 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!”

Compare this to what you’re going to do in 2018:

  • Pick a reachable blueprint to follow: an outcome-based goal.
  • Place the blocks to build that blueprint: a habit-based goal.

Let’s see this in action: “I want to lose X amount of weight by X date.”

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 target weight.

Once you know where you want to be a year from now – you can then just focus on what you need to do TODAY.

Want to lose 50 pounds by the end of the year?

That’s one pound per week. And that can happen by making a single change today and every day moving forward.

Focusing on the habit (“today I’m going to drink only one soda instead of 3, and have one vegetable”) allows you to not get overwhelmed at the big picture.

In Minecraft terms, once you have the blueprints for a replica of Rivendell from Lord of the Rings, all you have to focus on is placing the next block in the right place. And then repeat!

Eventually, you’ll have Rivendell:

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

“My goal is to reach my goal weight of 150 pounds by December 1st, 2018, so I will eat one vegetable every day, and I will strength train for 30 minutes, two days per week. On other days, I’ll go for a 10 minute walk.”

What happens when you do this: you stop worrying about the outcome, and instead JUST focus on the habit you have to do today.

It allows you to 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.

Make sure you are picking a blueprint that you can build (it’s not overly optimistic), and keep things simple. A target weight loss goal of 1 pound per week is reasonable and sustainable. Remember that the focus should be on SUSTAINABLE progress – not “progress at any cost.”

Once you start reaching goals you can create more complex plans.

Or in fantasy terms, after you finally slay the dragon, go find a bigger one!

6. You don’t HAVE to exercise, You GET to exercise.

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 you’re going to stop doing “exercise.”

I’ve heard from Nerd Fitness Academy members time and time again: “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, building a habit of exercise and movement is more important than what specific type of exercise you choose:

Whatever gets you off your ass and out the door. If there’s a type of exercise they HATE…don’t do it.

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.

Nutrition is 90% of the battle, so the exercise can be something that you enjoy, that reminds you to make better food choices so your efforts don’t go to waste.

Desperate to lose weight faster? In addition to fixing your nutrition, try temptation bundling to get you to go to the gym.

Have a specific physique in mind (six pack, toned arms, a better butt, broader chest, etc.)? Build the body you want and get hooked on improvement: “I can’t wait to go to the gym and find out how much stronger I got today compared to last week.”

You are a video game character increasing your strength attribute with each training session.

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

Healthy habit-building badasses 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.


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 months or years-long process that requires discipline! Every day you get a tiny bit better compounds upon the day before and builds you a big nestegg (read: a great physique) that will keep you wealthy (read: healthy) for decades and decades.

We’ve had thousands of people who read all the free content on Nerd Fitness for years with no results, because they never invested in themselves.

However the second they finally invested in The Nerd Fitness Academy or joined Rising Heroes (our monthly habit building adventure) or hired a 1-on-1 coach, they took action and lost weight within months.


Because we VALUE what we pay for and invest in, making us more likely to actually do the damn thing. And we don’t value what we get for free or take for granted.

Unhealthy people don’t look at all of this stuff rationally – they complain about spending 99 cents on an iPhone app that could dramatically improve the quality of their life, and then gladly spend $6 on a sugary Starbucks beverage each morning without a second thought.

People email me all the time asking “Why should I pay for a course when there is free information online.” Welp, there has been free information online for decades – has it gotten you in shape yet? Maybe there’s a point to investing in yourself!

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.

Personally, 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.

And it got me the results that had eluded me for a decade.

It’s not what you say is a priority, it’s what you spend your time or money on that’s a priority.

Prioritize your money and time on the best stuff, even at the expense of other creature comforts, and you’re more likely to get in shape because you’ll actually care about it.

Answer these questions:

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

Do 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?

Sometimes spending money is the best investment you can make in yourself – because you KNOW that the free option is something you won’t stick with! 

  • Although you have a free gym in your apartment complex, pay money to join a gym near work with fitness classes, because you hate working out alone and if you know people are counting on you to show up.
  • Pre-pay for 20 trainer sessions – if you’ve already paid for it and scheduled the workouts, you’ll actually GO.
  • On vacation and afraid you’ll backslide on all habits? 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.
  • Decide what to sacrifice. It might mean you have to skip movies out or cancel your cable to prioritize a healthy meal service or buy more cookbooks so you never get bored with cooking new healthy meals.

Start thinking about this from a different perspective:

You’re not buying a fitness course or a trainer or an overpriced salad (that you would never make for yourself anyways).

You’re not just hiring a coach that prescribes you a workout that you could have found for free on the internet.

You’re investing in your future and purchasing accountability and expertise and momentum.

And NEVER underestimate momentum.

8. Go All In On Momentum.

Remember that Isaac Newton guy?

“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.”

This is called “inertia,” and nothing could be more applicable when it comes to your health.

Unhealthy people have a LOT of inertia to overcome when they are trying to build healthy habits and get in shape:

Their body is used to sitting on a couch and eating junk food, which means 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 a month in the blink of an eye.

And shit, they’re back to square one.

We are going to focus instead on cultivating and protecting  your momentum. Invest their time and money in momentum-building or momentum-protecting products or services.

Shit happens. Travel. Vacation. Kids. Work. Life.

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.

It’s more than just “missing a workout.” It’s killing your momentum, and momentum is crucial to long term healthiness.

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

So, focus on momentum until their default behavior is healthy and they can go on autopilot:

  • Exercise 4 days per week without fail. Yes, even on vacation. Yup, even if it’s only push-ups for 5 minutes.
  • Go for a morning walk every single day, even when it’s snowing.
  • Schedule workouts for early Saturday morning with a trainer so they know they can’t drink like a fish on Friday night.
  • Put your workouts in your calendar. Have your friend give $50 of your money to a cause you hate every time you miss a workout.

Because momentum.

Which means you should be following my favorite rule: never miss two in a row.

Two missed workouts quickly becomes 30 in the blink of an eye. Two bad meals quickly becomes a week of pizza and Chinese food.

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

9. know Your Kryptonite.

I want to share an important quote from the late, great physicist Richard Feynman:

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

Unhealthy people 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 to avoid the temptation.

The truth is that we are all flawed superheroes.

Unhealthy people try to fix their flaws through sheer willpower and then feel deep shame when they can’t stop their behavior.

Permanently healthy people recognize their Kryptonite, and have a plan to avoid or protect against it:

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 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!

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

We’re all flawed; plan for your flaws instead of trying to fight them. 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.

Add accountability, punishments, and rewards into your life to stay on track and avoid your Kryptonite:

  • Check in with someone everyday to make sure they ate their vegetables.
  • Instruct your friend to donate your $50 to a politician you hate if you miss a workout check-in.
  • Reward yourself with new running shoes (a reward that rewards you back with more momentum) if you complete 20 runs in a single month.
  • Don’t go to certain bars or make sure you eat before going to a party, because you KNOW you’ll make a bad decision once you get there.
  • 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.

You don’t need to be flawless. You don’t need a perfect plan. What you do need is to have an honest conversation with yourself about things you need to avoid while you’re trying to make healthier choices.

That might be certain restaurants, certain aisles of the supermarket, or even certain people….

10. Your are surrounded by supporters, not anchors

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

Are they banana peels?

Or are they Lakitus?

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.

Compare that to Lakitu. If you’re not familiar, he’s the little guy on the cloud in mario Kart that picks you up when you fall off the track and puts you back on course.

Unhealthy people get spun out all the time by the 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. Which is how you end up looking like and acting like the 5 people you associate most with. 

Compare this to Lakitus: the people who want you to succeed, who hold you accountable and make you want 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 need to be surrounded by people that pick you up, not slow you down.

Healthy people 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 newly healthy individual was dating an unhealthy person who didn’t want them to be healthy and was actively sabotaging them.

Why does this happen? Because it’s often easier to drag other people down than it is to look honestly in the mirror and address one’s shortcomings or unhealthy. 

If you are trying to get healthy, minimize your time around banana peels and MAXIMIZE your time with Lakitus.

You are influenced dramatically by the people around you whether you realize it or not. How are these people influencing you?

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.

Decide who is worthy of your attention, and work on putting yourself in situations with people who make you want to be better.

This might mean 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.

  • 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.
  • Join a running club at work, or start a running club if one doesn’t exist yet.
  • If you don’t have people in real life cheering them on, find an online group that pushes them to be better.

How is 2018 Going to Be Different?

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

  • I have a Growth 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 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.
  • Hire a Nerd Fitness Coach expert accountability, Yoda-like guidance, and handcrafted workout and nutrition plans based on your specific life situation.
  • 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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How Many Calories Do You Burn While Walking? Mon, 27 Nov 2017 13:00:31 +0000 How many calories do you burn while walking? 

It’s a simple question, but it inevitably leads to a series of other questions too:

  • Can I lose weight just by walking?
  • Is there a right way to walk? How about a wrong way?
  • How many calories do you burn walking a mile? A marathon?
  • Can one simply walk into Mordor?

Okay, so maybe you didn’t ask that last question, but as a guy that runs Nerd Fitness, I certainly wanted to know the answer to that (spoiler: you can).

I’ll be addressing each of the above questions in this monster article about walking, including everything you need to know about the most natural activity we can do as human beings.

Walking is not only a great way to burn calories and stay active, but it’s an incredible stress reliever and gives you a chance to explore your surroundings in much more detail than through a car window.

For starters, YES, you absolutely can lose weight just by walking! Here’s a Nerd Fitness success story from Tim, who got hurt and could only walk for exercise.

50 pounds later (and another big change I’ll get to below), I’d say he succeeded!

Tim burned a LOT of calories while walking and lost 50 pounds

But I’ll get to Tim’s story shortly. Instead, Let’s talk about the second question…


In true Nerd Fitness fashion, we scienced the crap out of this, and even created a handy calculator for you – simply put your stats in the calculator here, and you can determine how effective walking can be when it comes to burning calories and losing weight!

What I thought would be a simple equation led me down a rabbit hole of labyrinthine proportions, but I feel we’ve found the best estimation as a starting point for discussion. [*].

So feel free to mess around with this calculator, and then keep reading so I can get you the information that will be helpful in your quest for health:

Calculate Calories Burned While Walking Calculator

Calculate Calories Burned While Walking Calculator

Enter your weight in pounds.
Enter the distance walked in miles. Partial miles is fine (e.g. 1.5)
We used the formulas and information found on this page for this calculator

A few things to remember about the above equation:

There’s a difference between gross calories (total calories) expended and net calories (additional calories) expended! Your body burns most of its calories every day JUST by existing.

  • Gross calories: calories burned while walking PLUS the calories burned just existing
  • Net calories: ADDITIONAL calories you burned thanks to exercise.

You’re a unique snowflake, and no box or formula can capture your awesomeness/uniqueness. Fortunately this equation below is JUST a starting point!

ANY exercise pales in comparison to a much more important part of the weight loss equation. It’s what Tim did above, and what I’ll explain below!

If you’ve come this far, and you want to learn more about why walking is so amazing, continue reading. I’ll also tell you just how Tim had the dramatic success he had above.

And you’re damn right, I’ll show you exactly how to walk to Mordor too.

The Benefits of Walking

Walking along roads or hiking can burn a lot of calories

We are designed to walk. It’s in our DNA, and it’s a huge part of our emergence as the dominant species on this planet (along with opposable thumbs, big brains, and Nintendo).

Let’s get the basic stuff out of the way:

Every day, it’s recommended by the CDC that we walk around five miles, or 10,000 steps. Hence the reason why your Fitbit – which I’ll get to shortly – has that 10k step goal as its default number.

Unfortunately, we Americans tend to average HALF that: 2.5 miles or 5,000 steps. And I’d imagine that people who work outdoors or have more physically active jobs drag that average wayyyy up.

Which leaves us desk jockeys, who don’t walk nearly enough.

We use our feet to get us from the front door, to our car, to our desk, to the vending machine, to our car, to our front door, to our couch… where we put them up while watching four hours of TV before going to bed.

Not walking enough can be a big factor in the creep-up of weight gain over the years, and it’s probably why you’re here reading this article!

“Can I walk more to lose weight? Is walking REALLY good for me, or do I need to do more intense exercise?”

Long story short, you should walk more and it can help you lose weight and be healthier.  

Short story long, here’s why walking is important:

Walking burns calories without exhausting you. If you walked the recommended mileage each day (5 miles instead of just 2.5), it can lead to a tremendous amount of weight loss over time. You’ll burn an extra 100 calories walking just ONE more mile each day than normal: When that’s multiplied out, it’s an extra 700 calories burned per week, which results in approximately a pound of fat lost every five weeks, or 10 pounds in a year.  You can scale up your distances to get your desired results!

Walking doesn’t add to training stress. If you are strength training regularly, adding in more weight training or running can lead to burnout, breakdowns, and injuries. If you are trying to look like a super hero, extra cardio sessions (or long distance cardio sessions) will kill your gains. But you can just walk. You can walk great distances, provided you’ve built up your body’s physical ability, and not get tired or sore – walking (especially outside while soaking in some sunlight) can make you feel better, not worse.

Walking is low impact. Unlike running, which can wreak havoc on people’s joints if they run improperly or are severely overweight, walking doesn’t have those impact issues. If you go for a walk and your feet or joints hurt, you’re doing it wrong – read the next section!

Walking can burn fat. Because walking is low impact and low intensity, your body doesn’t need to pull from its glycogen and glucose stores to fuel itself, which happens when you strength train or push yourself into “aerobic training” with higher intensity cardio. Proponents of intermittent fasting suggest walking in a fasted state in the morning before eating anything in order to help burn extra fat. This will have to be something you attempt and measure for yourself.

Walking relieves stress. Seriously! When you put on your iPod with your favorite playlist, and can go for a pleasant walk around your neighborhood or through the woods as the sun is going down, you have a recipe to forget the worries of your day.

Walking improves mental health (especially in older hobbits). Walking can improve mental health, increase brain size, improve memory, and is correlated with improved, longer lifespans.[1]

How walking can change your life

Walking in the woods is a great exercise full of benefits

If you are severely overweight and can’t run or strength train, walk on.

If you are building muscle and bulking up, walk on.  

If you are trying to lose weight, walk on.

If you struggle with following a routine, or have failed in the past with weight loss, walk on. 

Why? I’m a HUGE fan of small habit change and tiny victories – walking is the PERFECT habit builder. If you’re brand new and starting out, go for a walk TODAY and begin your journey to Mordor.

This afternoon, go for five-minute walk. Tomorrow morning before work, before breakfast, as SOON as you wake up, put on your shoes, and go outside for a five-minute walk. No snoozing, no lying in bed, no checking email or Twitter. Put on your headphones, pick your favorite song, go outside, and start walking.

Here’s why:

  • Walking for just five minutes a day is the start of a new habit.  Every morning for a few weeks, you’ll have to force yourself to walk. Initially, it will take effort and willpower to walk instead of snoozing. However, with each passing day of success, you’ll need to use less effort and willpower to get out the door. After all, it’s only five minutes, right? Once it’s something you do automatically without thinking, you can add on to it by increasing your walk time.
  • Walking briskly outdoors in the fresh morning air can be a great caffeine-free wake up call! If you make walking the FIRST thing you do in the morning, especially if you’re doing it before anybody else is awake, there will be zero distractions and no reason to say “sorry, I didn’t have time.” Of course, we like caffeine too (in moderation).
  • Walking will give you a chance to gather your thoughts and clear your head before the day begins. We’re constantly distracted at home: TV, iPads, smartphones, etc. Walking is so primal – no gadgets, just walking. Many people cite walking as the impetus for their creative or intelligent breakthroughs.   
  • Walking and successfully building a habit will give you a habit blueprint to follow for anything else you’d like to accomplish: “Hey, I was able to make walking a habit, what else can I tackle in the same way?” Slow and steady wins. One foot in front of the other, my friend.

How to walk properly


Walking along the beach to burn calories, just make sure you walk properly

“Uhhh, Steve, I know how to walk. I do it every day!”

Welp, if you’re starting from only walking from your car to the office, we need to make sure you’re walking the right way for when you push that mileage up.

Let’s start with your feet, provided you’re not gonna glue hair to your feet and go barefoot to become a hobbit.

I recommend walking in shoes that have a a wide toe box and minimal drop (height at the heel vs height at the toes), as we discuss in our monster post on healthy feet and footwear:

You might not be used to walking with minimal cushioning under your heels, so walk slowly and land softly. Walking on softer surfaces to start isn’t a bad idea either.

What about those “tone up shoes?” Will they make your booty pop like it says in the ad? This won’t be a surprise to you, but those shoes are about as likely to improve your health as Gimli shaving his beard (not likely).

We were designed before the invention of big clunky shoes… thus, we should be able to walk without big clunky shoes. If you are interested in going barefoot as a runner, get started by walking short distances first. Your feet will toughen up (though they probably won’t grow hair quite like Frodo and Sam), your joints and muscles around your feet and ankles will strengthen, and your knees will deal with less stress.

When going for a lazy stroll, focus on landing softly, which is much easier when you don’t have thick soled shoes to cushion your stride: land softly with your heel barely touching before rolling onto the middle (ball) of your foot, and then push off. You might need to take shorter strides than you’re used to if you were a big heel striker with a long stride.

If you’re aiming to walk quickly and up the intensity, shorten your stride and aim to land in the middle of your foot while pumping your arms. This is more easily done when walking uphill (which is also a great way to burn extra calories).

Walking To Lose Weight

Tim from Nerd Fitness lost 50 pounds by walking and fixing his nutrition

Meet Tim, a regular nerd like you who found Nerd Fitness a few years back and walked his way healthy. 

Case closed? Of course not!

There’s more to that story – although it makes for a great headline, we need to set the record straight on walking and exercise in general when it comes to losing weight and getting healthy.

The NF Community asked Tim what he thought about his transformation looking back at himself after 7 months [2]:

“If you’d told me I could lose 50 pounds in 7 months with just changing my diet and walking, I would have told you to take a long walk off a short pier! I can hardly believe it myself.”

So what happened?

Before he could really get started on his weight loss journey, he managed to injure himself and was told by his doctor that he couldn’t do any strenuous exercise or strength training for at least 6 months.

Tim also joined our comprehensive flagship digital course, The Nerd Fitness Academy, and following the mindset and nutrition modules. Tim took the MOST important step one can take when it comes to walking your way healthy:

He went for walks, he fixed his mentality, and he fixed his nutrition!

One of the Rules of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion is that we know “you can’t outrun your fork.” No amount of exercise can counter a bad diet, as your nutrition will be responsible for 90% (not an exaggeration) of your success or failure.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you go for a 5-mile walk, which takes you 90+ minutes. If you then consume a 20 oz Gatorade and a small bag of Fritos (a typical snack for many here in America), you will have already undone all of the calories burned while walking.

Depending on your nutrition and love/hatred for exercise, this is either great news or bad news!

The BAD news: you can’t eat very badly in mass quantities and then expect to lose weight with a bit of exercise every week, even if it’s strenuous.

The GOOD news: Even if you dislike exercise, you can avoid exercise and still lose weight (like Tim)! Instead, put ALL of your focus instead on fixing your nutrition, and then go for a walk every once in awhile.

I’d also consider reading the following:

If your nutrition is in serious need of an overhaul, I hear ya! It can be overwhelming. In addition to the Academy, we created a free PDF and a whole 10-level nutrition system to make the process of fixing your diet more like a video game:

Walking tips and tricks

Long walks have many benefits outside of just burning calories

Focus on posture! Head up! Shoulders back! Walk with a confident stroll – practice this one in the morning if you’re not used to walking like this. It’s also a great way to appear instantly more confident; we nerds and hobbits need all the confidence we can get! Look around at your surroundings with your head up, arms swinging in rhythm.

Walk uphill to burn more fat. If you are walking on a treadmill, set it to an incline to increase the intensity and thus increase the amount of fat burned. Just don’t be that person who sets the incline way up, then holds onto both sides and leans their body back to be perpendicular with the incline. Keep good posture, lean forward into the incline, shorten your stride, and pump your legs.

Hiking is a great way to practice walking, enjoy the scenery, and play Lord of the Rings in the woods with plastic swords and capes. Not that you should do that (you totally should). Here’s a beginner’s guide to hiking!

When walking downhill, especially while barefoot (or wearing minimalist shoes), keep that stride short and be careful on how you are walking. Make sure your knee is bent when you land and absorb the impact rather than jamming the impact through your heel, knee, leg, hips, and lower back.

Consider going for fasted walks in the morning. When you wake up first thing in the morning, your body has burned through most of the carb-fueled energy stores during the night. Which means when you go for a walk first thing in the morning, your body is more likely to have to pull from the only fuel source available to it: fat! This is the entire philosophy behind things like Intermittent Fasting or really low-carb diets like the Ketogenic diet.

Get yourself a sturdy walking stick, if only so you can use it to battle imaginary ogres, goblins, cavetrolls, etc. It can also make you feel far more adventurous than if you’re just walking, and help you get up hills and land softly when going back down.

Try Temptation Bundling. Load up an audiobook or your favorite podcast, and tell yourself that you can ONLY listen to the book or podcast while walking.

What about Fitbits and Nike FuelBands and Apple Watches?

what you need to know about Fitbits and Pedometers to track calories burned walking

If you’re somebody who has been interested – or is getting interested – in walking, you’re probably familiar with step-tracking devices that are oh-so-popular these days:

Personally, I’m a huge fan of fitness wearables, but not for the reasons you’d think.

For starters, you’re wearing a constant reminder that you are prioritizing movement, which can only be positive. You can even trigger it to remind you to get up and move every hour. It can also allow you to see how many steps you normally take, and thus allow you to prioritize moving MORE.

Although Fitbit was involved in a lawsuit for the inaccurate heart-monitor portion of its devices, I’m less concerned about heart rates and 100% accuracy of step distance, and instead think in terms of personal improvement.

Just like with tracking your bodyfat percentage or your weight, “that which gets measured gets improved,” and that carries over to your total steps. The fact that you’re tracking it means you’re going to be more aware of it, which means you’re going to be more likely to be able to improve it.

And that’s why, in a weird way, I’m not very concerned about the total accuracy of these devices. Even if your scale is off by 5 pounds, or your body fat caliper is inaccurate by 1%, as long as you use the same device and measure in the same way under the same conditions, you can track trends and paint the picture of your health and whether or not it’s improving!

And that’s what these fitness trackers should be used for: a reminder and a trend tracker!

What you SHOULDN’T do: take your fitness tracker as gospel, and use that to calculate down to the calorie and macro how much food exactly you can consume.

What you SHOULD do: track your trend over time, and see if you can improve your average. Use the technology to aid your fitness quest. Use the community portion of the band to compare your stats against friends and get some positive friendly peer pressure to get you off your ass.

Okay, if nerdy fitness technology isn’t nerdy enough for you, let’s go full-nerd.

How to Actually Walk to Mordor

Frodo and Sam are walking buddies and actually walked to Mordor

Did you know it’s 1779 miles between Hobbiton to Mount Doom? [3]. We can actually determine how far Sam and Frodo walked, and then set out on the journey ourselves! It’s one thing to go for a stroll around your neighborhood. It’s another to know that, “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”

So let’s take a look at how far we need to walk first:

  • 458 miles: Go from Hobbiton to Rivendell.
  • 462 miles: Set out with the Fellowship from Rivendell, through Moria, to Lothlorien.
  • 389 miles: From Lothlorien, down the Anduin, to Rauros Falls.
  • 470 miles: Follow Frodo and Sam on the quest from Rauros to Mt. Doom.
  • 535 miles: From Minas Tirith to Isengard
  • 693 miles: From Isengard to Rivendell.
  • 397 miles: From Rivendell to Bag End.
  • 467 miles: (bonus!) Follow Frodo to the Grey Havens and return home with Sam.

Following this path, you need to walk a total of 1779 miles to get from Hobbiton to Mt. Doom. Then it’s time to destroy the ring and get carried to Minas Tirith by the Great Eagles. Then you’ll walk 1625 miles back to Bag End (and an additional 467 miles if you’re interested in doing a round trip to the Grey Havens).

Obviously, you don’t need to move at the same speed as the hobbits (18 miles in the first day is no joke! Damn, those hobbits covered some ground!), but it’s still fun to track your walks and your total miles to see where you’d be on your journey.

However, like Frodo and Sam, it starts with the first step.

I’ve created a google doc that you can copy for yourself to track your distances to follow Frodo and Sam on your journey to destroy the One Ring.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Open the document, and then click on “file,” “save a copy,” and then you can edit your own copy of the document.  
  • Track your distances with a pedometer, FitBit, your iPhone or Android phone.
  • Input your distances and work towards completing each section of the journey over months. As you input your distances, it will automatically let you know when you reach each destination so you can get you started on the next one. 5 miles a day on average will have you destroying the Ring within one year.

Oh, and if you’re curious, according to my rough gorilla math, Frodo burned at least an additional 61,0000+ calories (100,000+ gross calories) by walking “there and back again” – you’re welcome[5].

What questions do you have about walking? 

How have you incorporated it into your daily routine?

And have you walked to Mordor?


Photo source: fourbrickstall Hiking in Candelario, Lego Frodo, Stewart Baird: Stay on the Pathlothlorien tree, new zealand mountains, Simonds Footprint@PierCoveendless fields, Thad Zajdowicz Keep walking! HMM!, waterfall, Frodo and Sam

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The Beginner’s Guide to Body Types: Ectomorph, Mesomorph, and Endomorph Wed, 15 Nov 2017 16:47:11 +0000 We are all unique.  

Yes, even you. Your mom was right!

And you’re here because questions about your body type and genetics:

What body type am I?

How does it affect my training and diet?

I have bad genetics, how screwed am I?

I am a [body type]. Does that mean I shouldn’t do [activity]?

We all have different bodies, genetics,reactions from certain foods, strengths, and weaknesses, and thus we each have different activities and behaviors that we’re predisposed to be good at (or struggle with!).

The standard way of thinking tells us that we have three main “body types”:

  • Endomorph
  • Ectomorph
  • Mesomorph

(Don’t worry we’ll get into each of those below too.)

HOWEVER, when it comes to your genetic benefits and shortfalls, there is way more to it than just which category your body fits in.

As you’ll soon learn, just because you’re predisposed to be good at one thing or terrible at another doesn’t mean you should be pigeonholed or limited with what you can do.

With a bit of help from our favorite Role Playing Games, we’re going to dig into body types, character classes, and ways to buck the genetic lottery.

Whether or not you know your body type, or you have never heard those terms above before, I got you covered!

The three main body types

body shapes - endomorph ectomorph mesomorph

Back in the 1940’s, an American psychologist named William Herbert Sheldon tried to classify us non-superheroes into three neat categories called “soma types”:

  • Endomorphs
  • Ectomorphs
  • Mesomorphs

Over the years, these three body types have become widely accepted as three solid classifications for how our bodies will generally react and grow based on our training and diet.

We’re going to ignore the parts about Sheldon trying to equate people’s body types to wildly generalized psychological traits, or the fact that he obtained the photos for his study under shady circumstances.

The 3 body types that Sheldon created managed to endure and have found a place in fitness, so that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Sure, there is this complicated math formula that you can use to calculate your “soma type,” but we’re going to skip the formula and go right into the stuff you actually need to know. [1] .

These are the three types and how they’re characterized. I bet you’ll find you fit into one of them:

Ectomorph (thin)

Ectomorphs are characterized as having long, slim, and thin muscles/limbs and low fat storage. Ectomorphs are not predisposed to store fat nor build muscle.

These are the “hardgainers” that can’t gain weight even when they “eat so much.”

I am an ectomorph, and fought my genetics for 10 years – I also used this “diagnosis” as a crutch before finally overcoming it – I’ll talk more about this at the end of the article.

Mesomorph (muscular)

Mesomorphs are the “lucky ones.” They have medium bones, solid torso, low fat levels, wide shoulders with a narrow waist.

Mesomorphs are predisposed to build muscle but not store fat. Aka “lucky AF.”

You might know somebody that can just look at a weight and seem to get bigger and stronger: that person is a mesomorph.

Endomorph (curvy)

Endomorphs play the game of Weight Loss on extreme difficulty. These are people with wider waists, large bone structures, and are predisposed to storing fat instead of building muscle.

If you struggle to lose weight, or you put on fat easily, you MIGHT be an endomorph.

Again, I’ll explain why the diagnosis isn’t as important as how you respond to it!

IMPORTANT NOTE: These body types are not to be confused with the fourth classification: Animorphs, who possess the ability to change into any animal they touch.

Animorphs are necessary for the defense of Earth against the secret alien invasion.

Which BODY TYPE am I?


Although the three categories give us a decent foundation on which to build, there are a litany of other factors that are at play here.

For starters, instead of us fitting neatly into three categories, it’s more like a massive 1-1000 scale.

Imagine there is a triangle with each point representing one of the three body types.

We humans can exist at any point inside that triangle, from storing fat easily to not gaining weight easily to building muscle well. The reality is that we all have some parts of each of those.

What it really comes down to:

  • Some bodies are efficient at burning energy for fuel.
  • Some bodies are less efficient and tend to store more energy as fat.
  • Some bodies are really efficient at building muscle.
  • Some bodies are inefficient at building muscle.

Despite our genetics, our lifestyle choices, the foods we eat, and how we train will ultimately determine our body shape!

Where the problem with “soma types” begin: It’s very easy to use one’s classification as a crutch for being unhealthy or weak. 

Let’s use a different example: have you ever taken a personality profile for work (“I’m an INFP! You’re an ENTJ!”), and then used that as an excuse: “Sorry, the test said I’m an introvert, it’s not that I’m an ass. Deal with it!”

Just like with personality tests, our Soma Type should be a starting point for us to put a plan in place.

We are not going to use our genetics as a crutch anymore. I did it for a decade until I finally allowed myself to create a different identity!

  • “I’m an endomorph, so I’m screwed and that’s why I’m overweight.”
  • “How lucky is he? He can eat whatever he wants and not gain weight!”
  • “That dude just looks at weights and gets bigger. Must be nice.”

Here’s the truth: We have all rolled a random character in this Game of Life. We don’t get to pick our parents, we just have to play the hand we’re dealt to the best of our ability:

Some people hit the genetic lottery and get to play Life on Easy difficulty.

Some people have really crappy genetics and have to play on Legendary difficulty.

Your genetic makeup isn’t your fault, but it is your responsibility.

And this whole concept of dramatically different metabolisms due to soma types is overblown, which is GREAT NEWS:

Studies have shown that most people tend to fall within 200-300 calories of each other on the “metabolism speed scale.” [2] .

Your genetics can only help or hinder you so much – it’s the decisions you make after your character has been rolled that determines how quickly you progress through the game.

What this means: 

  • If you are really overweight, you don’t have as slow of a metabolism as you think. In fact, your metabolism is FASTER than somebody who is thinner than you (your body burns more calories to fuel your extra mass). What it really means is that you probably eat too much compared to how many calories you burn.
  • If you are really underweight (as I was), you don’t have as fast a metabolism as you think. Although you think you eat “so much,” I bet if we tracked it, it’s significantly less than you are estimating.

I’ll address each body type below with specific instructions on how to react!

This is great news, but it means you’re going to need to work for it!

Now, in addition to body types, we also get a lot of questions about muscle fibers and how they affect your physical fitness…

Twitch Muscle Fibers: Fast and Slow

Your muscles are influenced by body type

To further emphasize that we are all unique snowflakes, our muscles have different types of qualities as well.

Based on your genetic makeup of what percentage of each type of muscle fiber you have, you might have a higher athletic ceiling when it comes to certain activities.

Again, this is just a starting point; I’ll get to how we can change our fate later.

Our muscle fibers can generally be classified as fast-twitch or slow-twitch:

  • Slow twitch fibers (Type I): These muscle fibers can carry more oxygen and sustain longer periods of aerobic activity (activities that require your muscles to use oxygen) than other types of fibers, using fats or carbs as fuel.  They can contract for long periods of time, but are weak.  Think: long distance running or hours of cardio.
  • Fast twitch fibers (Type IIb): These muscle fibers can carry less oxygen and only work with short periods of anaerobic activity (activities that require your muscles to burn glycogen) before becoming exhausted.  They have the greatest potential for strength and for gaining size. Think: sprinting, power lifting, strength training.
  • Fast twitch fibers (Type IIa): These are a mix of Type I and Type IIb fibers, and thus can be used for either aerobic or anaerobic activities.

So, if you are somebody that genetically has more slow twitch fibers than fast twitch, you’re genetically predisposed to be a better distance runner.

If you have more fast twitch fibers than slow twitch, you’re genetically predisposed to be a better powerlifter or sprinter.

Either way, we have some of each: as we age, our Type I fibers remain generally unchanged, while our amounts and sizes of our Type II fibers will decrease.  [3] .  

So, are we born with muscle fibers that have cemented our fate, and we can either be marathon runners or sprinters?

Hell no!

We can actually change our muscle fibers based on our training!

A study performed on males who were tasked with “sprinting” all out on a bicycle with a specific training regimen for 4-6 weeks resulted in decreasing their slow twitch fibers from 57% to 48% while increasing their Type IIa fibers from 32% to 38%.[4] .  

In another study performed on females who went through a rigorous endurance training schedule, Type I fibers did not increase, Type IIb fibers decreased, and the Type IIa fibers increased significantly.  Type IIa fibers are the “switch hitters” that can be used for increased power or endurance.[5] .  

Although more studies should (and will) be done on muscle fibers and how they’re affected by training, and how it differs between men and women this is the conclusion I’ve drawn:

Genetics be damned.

It might be an uphill battle, but we can change our fate. Body type, metabolism, muscle fibers, they are merely a starting point for discussion.

We can change our size and the percentage of our muscle fibers with the right training, just like we can change our body composition with the right diet.

Yes, at the upper echelon of elite world class athletes, those with a higher genetic ceiling might have a physical advantage over those who have less of the beneficial muscle fibers.

But for regular muggles like you and me, there’s no reason why we can’t be who we want to be, and look how we want to look.

To hammer this point home, we’re gonna dive deep into online role playing games.

Even if you’re not a gamer, I guarantee this analogy will make you go “I get it, and damn Steve you are both clever and smart and really good looking and also modest.”

Thank you!

Role Playing Games and Body Types

Are you a wizard body type? Or a BARBARIAN?!

I remember playing Everquest (the game that paved the road for World of Warcraft) back in 2001.

I spent hours reading the official strategy guide in order race for my character, Morphos Novastorm, who was to be the most kickass wizard in all of Norrath.

Why wizards? Because they always start scrawny and weak and end up really freaking powerful. Duh.

According to the guide, my best choice was to select the Erudites: they possessed the highest amount of intelligence to start (INT), and thus would give me an advantage over against non-Erudite wizards.

I agonized over this decision and spent hours before even starting the game because I assumed this decision that would forever haunt me if it was the wrong one!

And then I started playing.

As I watched Ogre Wizards, Gnome Wizards, Elf Wizards, Halfling Wizards kick serious ass in the later levels, it made me realize that although my character’s skill potential was slightly affected by my race….it had NO impact on how good I was at the game!

There were so many other factors that were more important:

  • My style of play.
  • The equipment my character is wearing
  • Who is in my group.
  • Was I having fun and challenging myself in a certain way?

Do you see the point I’m trying to make here?


Genetically, you might fit into one of the soma types above: ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph (animorph? call me).

Ultimately, think of your body type as your character’s “race” in a role-playing game:

How you choose to PLAY that character in this game of life makes all the difference in the world.


SO we’ve established the 3 soma types. We’ve discussed muscle fibers and genetics. And then we learned that the difference between the body types is minimal and that you can change your muscle fiber composition with training.

I have a few final points to make, but you might be looking for some recommendations:

I am an Ectomorph, Endomorph, or mesomorph. What do I Do?

Body types can influence your actions

Okay okay okay, you’ve read all this way, and now you’re wondering what you should actually do.

Let’s say you firmly believe you are an Ectomorph, Endomorph, or Mesomorph, and you want to know the best steps forward. This assumes that you REALLY are the soma type listed below.

Just know that I bet a LOT of people who think they gain fat easily are actually not an endomorph, they just have a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits! I’ll cover that below though:

I AM AN ECTOMORPH: Congrats, you are somebody that can’t put on any weight or muscle! I am too, and assumed for a decade that I was doomed to be thin as a rail. The reality was I just wasn’t eating enough. I had to break my own identity to go from Steve Rogers to Captain America.

If you are trying to get bigger, you should minimize cardio, maximize strength training, and whenever in doubt eat more calories!

I’d also recommend reading the following articles:

I AM A MESOMORPH: Congrats, you get to play life on easy difficulty! You’re more likely to build muscle and not store fat, but that doesn’t mean you get to rest on your laurels!

You’ll want to strength train, and depending on how old you are, you’ll have to become more disciplined with your diet. You can get away with it when you’re younger, but building healthy habits at a younger age and keeping your nutrition on track means you’ll keep a good physique as you get older!

I would recommend reading the following to help determine HOW you want to train: How to build the physique you want.

I AM AN ENDOMORPH: Congrats, you are playing life on a higher difficulty level. For starters, I want you to remove the stigma from your mind that you are a lost cause.

For starters, your metabolism isn’t slow, I PROMISE. The truth is that you most likely eat more than you realize, and you don’t do enough strength training to combat it.

You might also eat unhealthy foods (and/or consume a lot of sugar) that lead to physiological responses in your blood that promote fat storage!

What this means: you can’t use your genetics as a crutch or an excuse. It just “is what it is.” This means you’ll need to address both the quantity, and the quality of your food. I would focus on eating protein and healthy fats and try to minimize carb consumption.

As you start to strength train and make better food choices, you can affect HOW your body processes the calories you consume and start to change your body’s make-up. You can change it from “store fat” to “build muscle,” but you need to be disciplined about it!

May I recommend:

Regardless of what you THINK your body type is, and what your ACTUAL genetic make-up is, it is a tiny tiny tiny piece of the puzzle.

The rest comes to how you want to play the game!

What happens if I don’t like my category?

Get Swole as ANY body type

You might have a few final questions, and I bet they fit into these categories:

Steve I’m kind of an overweight guy but I hate strength training, can I still run?

I’m skinny and I hate running, and I want to strength train, is that cool?

Here’s what to do if you don’t line up with what your genetics say you’ll be good at: acknowledge them, and then move on.

Write your own destiny.

Become the hero you want to be, not who you’re “supposed” to be.

The Truth: Your body will store fat and burn energy in a certain way.  Depending on your genetics, sex, hormone balance, age, and medical conditions, you might need to be more careful with your consumption of sugar and processed foods than other people, as you might be genetically more likely to store those foods as fat rather than burning them as fuel.

I’ve come to learn there is so much more to being healthy than just “eating less” and “moving more.”  It’s a complex topic involving dozens of variables that we still don’t fully understand yet.  Your genetics are the opening act, and your diet is the main actor in this story.

It sucks, but that’s the truth.

Your diet will be responsible for 80-90% of your success or failure when it comes to weight regulation.  So the BEST way for you to change your fate is to focus on eating the right kinds of foods.

How you chose to exercise makes up the other 10-20%. Ultimately it comes down to one big rule with exercise:

Enjoy it.

We’ve already covered the different “professions” and how you can be whatever you want in real life, be it Warrior, Druid, Assassin, Monk, Scout, Ranger, or any combination.

Hell, we even built a free character creation system here at NF so you can ACTUALLY treat life like a role playing game!

I can’t think of a better example of somebody deciding to Write their own path than Staci on Team NF.

She recently got her genetic testing done as well, and discovered that she’s supposed to be terrible at powerlifting based on her genetic makeup. Luckily, she didn’t listen to this, and now consistently deadlifts 400+ pounds:

A post shared by Staci Ardison (@staciardison) on

I’m definitely an “ectomorph.”  I have thin wrists, skinny legs, skinny ankles, and have struggled to put on any weight, be it muscle or fat, for most of my life. I’m genetically predisposed to be a good distance runner, and I’m not built for strength training.

On top of that, I have a genetic spinal condition that will severely limit my potential when it comes to getting big and strong.

I don’t care! 

I love strength training, so I strength train.

I don’t like distance running, so I don’t run. I train the way I want to because that’s WAY more fun for me – I don’t care what my peak genetic alignment says – I want to do the stuff that makes me feel alive. And that’s gymnastics!

A post shared by Steve Kamb (@stevekamb) on

You might be an overweight guy or gal and want to become a Parkour Assassin or Martial Arts Monk or Elite Scout.

That is amazing! Freaking go for it.  Yes, you might have an uphill battle on your hands, but there’s no reason you can’t get to a great level of proficiency with your desired profession and HAVE FUN WITH IT.

We have a community full of characters of all races who are playing the game of life on different levels of difficulty….and having a damn good time doing so.

I want to leave you with one final public service announcement.

While we’re at it, comparisons are silly.

Good choices will lead you towards success no matter what body type you are

I once wrote about why comparing ourselves to our celebrity heroes in movies is silly: their lives are so different, their motivations are different, and their situation is different. 

It’s not a fair fight.

The same is true on comparing yourself to others in the gym or those you see in magazines.

You might walk into the gym and see a level 50 guy or girl, absolutely jacked/ripped/toned/thin/whatever in the weights section and think, “Wow! If I only had their genetics! Must be nice…”

“Must be nice” is one of the most dangerous phrases in the english language. Followed closely by “Hold my beer, watch this,” and “trust me, they don’t bite.”

The truth of the matter is, the people you wish you were like, no matter how good their genetics are, achieved their high level of fitness through consistent dedication to regular workouts and a healthy diet.

No matter watch edge you might possess genetically, you won’t see results without hard work.

Don’t let the fact that everybody is at different points in their quest be an excuse to blame genetics! You have NO idea what somebody’s genetics are like – it’s just easier to say “it must be their genes” rather than “they work WAY harder and are way more disciplined than me.”

We have different genetic makeups: different amounts of fast twitch or slow twitch muscle fibers, different bone densities, different levels of efficiency when it comes to fat storage and fuel consumption.

For these reasons, don’t compare your “reality” with somebody’s highlight reel:

  • If you are a Night Elf, comparing yourself to an Orc when it comes to being a tank/warrior isn’t going to be a fair fight.
  • Conversely, comparing yourself as an Orc to Night Elves on the topic of quickness is a losing proposition.

Just because somebody is muscular or skinny doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Just because somebody might be overweight compared to others doesn’t meant they aren’t in great physical condition.

So, the only comparison you should be making is to who you were yesterday.

Go. Level up.


And that concludes today’s World of Warcraft lesson on Genetics.

Remember, there is only one thing we say to our genetics: Not today!

To recap:

Like in any role playing game, your character has strengths and weaknesses in the game of life, but it shouldn’t determine how you play the game. 

So regardless of your soma type (ectomorph, endomorph, or mesomorph), or your muscle-fiber composition, you can do whatever the hell you want. Training and the correct nutrition can fix nearly any genetic shortcoming, it just might require a very strict regimen and discipline and assistance.

If you want to be an elf warrior, or an ogre wizard, go for it.

I’d love to hear from you:

And what “soma type” are you, and have you changed your fate or decided to do so?

Leave a comment and let me know!


PS: While we’re talking about the Game of Life, I wrote an entire book on this subject that is available in bookstores nationwide: Level Up Your Life.

It’s currently a Kindle book of the Month on Amazon, which means it’s on sale for only $2.99!


Photo Sources: Wizard, World of Warcraft Minis, apple and orange, punch, mushroom, pipe, butterfly, Oky – Space Ranger Inside Out minifigs

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How to Cook Spaghetti Squash Mon, 13 Nov 2017 19:05:56 +0000 I LOVE spaghetti. 

Growing up, I would get made fun of by my family for how much of it I would eat (seriously, two or three massive platefuls in one sitting).

Not enough of a visual?

How about this: as a toddler, I’d run into the dining room struggling to rip my shirt over my oversized head so that I could eat my spaghetti as fast as possible without getting sauce on my clothes.  After dinner my parents would have to practically hose me down in the backyard I was so messy – totally worth it.

Now, in my quest for a healthier lifestyle over the past few years, I’ve learned that…gasp…gallons of pasta at each meal isn’t the healthiest thing in the world!  So, I’ve cut back drastically on my pasta intake – I probably eat pasta once every few months now, when I’m out at an Italian restaurant with friends and feel like letting go for a meal.

If you are a paleo person but love pasta, I feel ya.  This could help.

Maybe you’re not paleo, but you’re looking for an alternative to carb-heavy pasta.  This will help you too.

Today, you’re gonna learn how to cook Paleo Pasta.  Now, this recipe takes a little longer and is a little bit more complex than the easy Chicken Stirfry I taught you how to cook before.

If that was level 1, this is level 2.

Yeah, eating a small portion of regular spaghetti every now and then ain’t gonna kill ya, but I found preparing paleo spaghetti and meat sauce to be a fun challenge, it took me out of my comfort zone in the kitchen by making me do new things, and actually turned out to be freaking delicious and nutritious.

Let’s level up your cooking.



Mmmm Spaghetti Squash Goodness!

  • 1lb. of Grass-fed Ground Beef (my grocery store didn’t have grass-fed, so I went with regular)
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 2 Small Cans of Organic Tomato Paste (check the ingredients – it should only contain organic tomatoes…though look for JARRED tomato paste or make your own.)
  • 1 Garlic Clove (it’s the small part that you’re breaking off a garlic bulb. i’ll explain more later).
  • Pepper…and salt if you want some.
  • Italian Seasoning (it’ll be in the spices aisle – pick the one that’s labeled “ITALIAN SEASONING.”  To be sure, open and smell – if it smells like ITALIAN SEASONING, you’re on the right track.  If you can’t find it at this point, you should probably just sit down and give up).
  • 1 Medium Spaghetti Squash – will make enough for two people.
  • Olive Oil – I like extra virgin olive oil.


  • 1 Iron Skillet/Pan
  • 1 Medium Sized Pot
  • 1 Cookie sheet
  • 1 Sharp Knife
  • 1 Spatula
  • 1 Cutting Board
  • Tin Foil
  • Oven and Stove

If you’re like me (a nerd who generally stays away from the kitchen), half the stuff on the grocery list will be new to you.  I can certainly say I’ve never purchased a spaghetti squash before.  Honestly though, I found it fun to go exploring in new parts of the grocery store and track down these items.  Just keep the ingredient list with you, ask people for help if you need it, and pretend like you’re a contestant on Super Market Sweep (not that I do that…every time I’m in a store….).


Start by pre-heating your oven to 400 degrees.  This will take a while to get warm so it gives you time to chop up your veggies and so on.

Chop your onion in half, and then peel off the outside layer – we only need half of it.  Put the other half in a plastic bag and stick it in your fridge.

After that, start slicing and dicing like a mofo until the onion is all chopped up.  Yeah, you might cry – suck it up.  If you have a food processor or a Slap Chop (you lucky bastard), this will be way easier.  I don’t have either of those, so I did it the old school way.

Next, rip off a clove of garlic – we only need a little bit of it.  Hang the rest of the garlic bulb around your neck to ward off vampires.

Take that little section, break it apart, and then carefully chop off the tiny ends of each section.  Then, use the side of your knife to smush it by pressing down hard on the side of your knife.  Peel off the outer layer, and then chop up the inside of it as small as you can without chopping off any fingers. That would result in a lot of blood, and the vampires won’t care about your garlic necklace, and you’re gonna have a bad time.  If you don’t feel like buying/chopping garlic, you can use garlic powder to add to the meat later, though it’s not nearly as fun.

Grab your two tomatoes (not a euphemism).  No seriously though, grab those two tomatoes.  Use your knife to carefully carve out the top part of it…

Then cut them in half, then chop them up into smaller pieces.  Depending on how you like your spaghetti sauce, cut them to your desired size – bigger chunks in your sauce or no?  The choice is yours, sucka.

Next, take your spaghetti squash, and use your knife to cut it in half.  Because the middle is kind of hollow and full of gooey stuff (like a pumpkin), I found it easiest to cut into the side of the squash, and then work the knife around it the long way.  Watch this video for a good demonstration.  JUST BE CAREFUL.

Love that Spaghetti Squash

Use a spoon and scrape out all of the middle junk in the squash.  Yup, it’s kind of gross. Get over it.

Scoop that Squash, SCOOP IT!

Take your hollowed out squash, and drizzle the insides with olive oil, pepper, and tiny bit of salt. 

Then oil it up, ooooh yeah. Oil that Spaghetti Squash up.

Give them a minute or two to sit and soak in the oil, and then put them face down on the cookie sheet, and stick them in the oven (which is now at 400 degrees) for 40 minutes.

Spaghetti squash down in oven

Making the Sauce

While the spaghetti squash is cooking in the oven, put your skillet on the stove, add a little bit of olive oil, and drop in your diced onions.  After a few minutes, they’ll start to take on a clear/yellowish color as they sizzle and cook.

Now it’s time to add the garlic, and mix that around for a minute or two…

And then add the beef!

Using your spatula, chop up the beef and mix it up with the onions and garlic.

Now, make it rain with your Italian seasoning and pepper.  And by that I mean “sprinkle it liberally.”

Continue stirring and chopping and mixing like a boss until the meat is a nice brown color.

When the meat is done cooking, take the pan off the stove, and place it on one of the other not-hot burners…

OR, you can strain the beef and get rid of the grease.  I chose to strain our meal for the evening.  Use a strainer, collect the grease in a bowl, and then when the grease cools down, dump it into a coffee canister or other container that you can keep in the freezer and then eventually dispose of properly.  Google “how to get rid of grease” if you need help here.

Combining the sauce AND THE SPAGHETTI SQUASH

Now, while your meat is cooking, take your empty pot, open up your two cans of tomato paste, and use a knife to scoop them out and pour in.  Then add your tomatoes.

Put the pot on low heat.  Around now, your meat should be cooked. 

Then dump in the meat, onions, and garlic into the pot and mix it all up.  If your sauce isn’t saucy enough, take your empty tomato paste can and dump in a can-sized amount of water (do one and see how the sauce looks, and then add a second if necessary).  At this point, feel free to add some more Italian seasoning and pepper.

You can leave the pot on really low heat and cover it up, while you’re finishing up everything else. Just stir it every so often so the bottom doesn’t burn.

Putting it all together

Pull your squash out of the oven after the 40 minutes is up, and using a pot holder and a knife/fork, flip the two halves over over.

Having two plates ready, use a fork to pull apart the inside of the squash…it’ll come apart very easily and look like spaghetti. 

Spaghetti Squash

Hollow out one, put it on a plate.  Hollow out the other, put it on the other plate.

This is the point where you say “OHHHH SO THAT’S WHY ITS CALLED SPAGHETTI SQUASH!”

Add your sauce on top, and BAM you have your home cooked, paleo spaghetti meal.  Finish off with a glass of water, red wine (not technically paleo I guess but hey, live a little), or some Drain-O and you’re good to go.

I’m kidding. please don’t drink Drain-O.

Any questions?

The dinner table is set.  Flower in empty wine bottle and Shadow of the Colossus on PS3 are optional.

I honestly had WAY more fun cooking this than was expected.  (thanks Jessie for helping me out and making sure I didn’t chop off any appendages).

If you’re struggling to come up with a fun date idea…nothing goes over better than cooking a meal together – and I think the total cost of the ingredients was around $15.  This meal made full servings for two people with enough sauce left over for two or three more servings.

If you don’t have anybody else to cook for, no worries!  This meal will make plenty of food for you to have for dinner tonight, lunch tomorrow, and beyond.  Plus, you can eat your spaghetti WHILE playing Shadow of the Colossus and nobody will yell at you.

I’m thinking of doing some more “how to cook easy meals” post here on NF real soon, coming from the perspective of a newbie in the kitchen.  They probably won’t all be paleo/primal, but they’ll be healthy and super easy to cook.

Is that something you’d be interested in every few weeks?  If I do, anything else you’d like to see in the posts?

Any thoughts, comments, or questions?

Let’s hear it!


PS: We’ve been adding these recipes and a few dozen more to our Nerd Fitness Academy, which has recipes, meal plans, workout plans, and the ability to complete quests and missions and level up as you get healthier. Check it out!


thanks to Fast Paleo for the recipe inspiration.

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The 10 Things Perpetually Healthy Nerds Do that Unhealthy People Don’t. Mon, 09 Oct 2017 17:30:42 +0000

The 10 Key Differences Between Weight Loss Success and Failure

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The Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting – 2018 Update Fri, 02 Jun 2017 14:00:39 +0000 “…But Tony the Tiger tells us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Grrrrrreat!”

And Tony the Tiger would NEVER lie…


This adage about breakfast has become commonplace that it’s readily and unquestionably accepted as fact:

“Want to lose weight? Make sure you start off with a healthy breakfast, so you can get that metabolism firing first thing in the morning!  “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”

“Want to lose more weight? Make sure you eat six small meals throughout the day so your metabolism stays operating at maximum capacity all day long.”

There are even studies that show those that eat earlier in the day lose more weight than those who ate later in the day or skipped a meal. [1]

So, eat breakfast to lose weight and obtain optimal health.

Case closed…right?

Maybe Not.

Maybe there’s way more to the story: what if there’s science and research that shows SKIPPING BREAKFAST (the horror! blasphemy!) is can help with optimum human performance, mental and physical health improvement, maximum muscle retention, and body fat loss?

After firmly being on “Team Breakfast” for 28 years of my life, I’ve skipped breakfast for the past 3.5 years and will most likely never go back!

I’m typing this from a secure location, just in case Tony the Tiger, The Trix Rabbit, and Toucan Sam come to beat me up.

After all, I’m going to rain on their breakfast parade with science today.

You see, we get more questions about Intermittent Fasting than any other topic at Nerd Fitness. People who are looking for the key to their weight loss struggles or who have heard about it from a celebrity or friend or on the news and want to know what it’s all about:

  • Should I do 24 hour fasts occasionally? What’s this 16/8 protocol people are on?
  • What if I work weird hours and train in the morning? Can I fast still?
  • Does fasting affect men and women differently?

These are all great questions, as this stuff can be complicated and overwhelming. If you have been struggling with weight loss all your life, Intermittent Fasting can HELP, but it needs to be part of a well balanced approach that works for your lifestyle, body type, lifestyle, experience and goals.

A big problem with Intermittent Fasting is knowing how to make it work for YOUR life. Depending on when you work, when you exercise, if you have a family to prepare meals for, it can get tricky to navigate. Not to mention that Intermittent Fasting is just a piece of the puzzle – you also need to eat better and make exercise a priority!

For that reason, I’ve done two things:

In addition to this MONSTER article on Intermittent Fasting, we ALSO offer 1-on-1 Online Coaching to help busy people like you trying to make Intermittent Fasting, exercise, and eating better fit into a chaotic day-to-day life!

You can learn more about how our online coaching program can help you, and schedule a call to see if we’re a good fit by clicking on the image below:

Let’s gooooooo!

What is intermittent fasting?

This seal does Intermittent Fasting by just eating...whenever it can catch fish.

Intermittent fasting is not a diet, but rather a dieting pattern.  

In simpler terms: it’s making a conscious decision to skip certain meals on purpose.

By fasting and then feasting on purpose, intermittent fasting generally means that you consume your calories during a specific window of the day, and choose not to eat food for a larger window of time.

There are a few different ways to take advantage of intermittent fasting, which I learned about back in the day from Martin over at LeanGains, a resource specifically built around fasted strength training:


What it is: Fasting for 16 hours and then only eating within a specific 8-hour window. For example, only eating from noon-8 PM, essentially skipping breakfast.

Some people only eat in a 6-hour window, or even a 4-hour window. This is “feasting” and “fasting” parts of your days and the most common form of Intermittent Fasting. It’s also my preferred method (3 years running).

Two examples: The top means you are skipping breakfast, the bottom means you are skipping dinner each day:

Intermittent Fasting Schedule

You can adjust this window to make it work for your life:

  • If you start eating at: 7AM, stop eating and start fasting at 3pm
  • If you start eating at: 11AM, stop eating and start fasting at 7pm
  • If you start eating at: 2PM, stop eating and start fasting at 10pm
  • If you start eating at: 6PM, stop eating and start fasting at 2AM.


Skipping two meals one day, where you are taking 24 hours off from eating. For example, eating on a normal schedule (finishing dinner at 8PM) and then not eating again until 8PM the following day.

So you would eat your normal 3 meals per day, and then occasionally pick a day to skip breakfast and lunch the next day.

If you can only do an 18 hour fast, or a 20 hour fast, or a 22 hour fast – that’s okay! Adjust with different time frames and see how your body responds.

Two examples: skipping breakfast and lunch one day of the week, and then another where you skip lunch and dinner one day, two days in a week.

How to Schedule Intermittent Fasting

Note: You can do this once a week, twice a week, or whatever works best for your life and situation.

By the way, both those weekly charts above come from our free Intermittent Fasting Starter Guide (with printable worksheets).

Most people struggle with knowing exactly when to eat and when to stop eating, and actually sticking with it. We address all of that in the Nerd Fitness Intermittent Fasting Guide you get free when you sign up for our email list in the box below:

Those are the two most popular intermittent fasting protocols, and the two we’ll be focusing on, though there are many variations of both that you can modify for yourself.

Some people eat in a 4 hour window, others do 6 or 8. Some people do 20 hour fasts or 24 hour fasts. You’ll need to experiment with them, adjust them to work for your lifestyle and goals, and see how your body responds.

Let’s first get into the science here behind Intermittent Fasting and why you should consider it!

How does intermittent fasting work?


Now, you might be thinking: “okay, so by skipping a meal, I will eat less than I normally eat on average (2 meals instead of 3), and thus I will lose weight, right?”

Yes, by cutting out an entire meal each day, you are consuming fewer calories per week – even if your two meals per day are slightly bigger than before. Overall, you’re still consuming fewer calories per day. This is highlighted in a recent JAMA study[b] in which both calorie restricted dieters and intermittent fasters lost similar amounts of weight over a year period.

That doesn’t tell the FULL story, as we already know that not all calories are created equal,  and that the timing of meals can also influence how your body reacts.

Intermittent Fasting can also help because your body operates differently when “feasting” compared to when “fasting”:

When you eat a meal, your body spends a few hours processing that food, burning what it can from what you just consumed.  Because it has all of this readily-available, easy to burn energy (thanks to the food you ate), your body will choose to use that as energy rather than the fat you have stored.  This is especially true if you just consumed carbohydrates/sugar, as your body prefers to burn sugar as energy before any other source.

During the “fasted state” (the hours in which your body is not consuming or digesting any food) your body doesn’t have a recently consumed meal to use as energy, so it is more likely to pull from the fat stored in your body as it’s the only energy source readily available.

Burning fat = win.

The same goes for working out in a “fasted” state.  Without a ready supply of glucose and glycogen to pull from (which has been depleted over the course of your fasted state, and hasn’t yet been replenished with a pre-workout meal), your body is forced to adapt and pull from the only source of energy available to it: the fat stored in your cells.

Why does this work?  Our bodies react to energy consumption (eating food) with insulin production. The more sensitive your body is to insulin, the more likely you’ll be to use the food you consume efficiently, and your body is most sensitive to insulin following a period of fasting [1].

These changes to insulin production and and sensitivity can help lead to weight loss [2] and muscle creation [3].

Next: Your glycogen (a starch stored in your muscles and liver that your body can burn as fuel when necessary) is depleted during sleep (aka during fasting), and will be depleted even further during training, which can lead to increased insulin sensitivity.

This means that a meal following your workout will be stored most efficiently.

During that period, the food you consumed will be used in a few ways: converted to glycogen and stored up in your muscles or burned as energy immediately to help with the recovery process, with minimal amounts stored as fat.

Compare this to a regular day (no intermittent fasting):  With insulin sensitivity at normal levels, the carbs and foods consumed will see full glycogen stores and enough glucose in the bloodstream, and thus be more likely to get stored as fat.

Not only that, but growth hormone is increased during fasted states (both during sleep [5]and after a period of fasting). Combine this  increased growth hormone secretion:[6], the decrease in insulin production (and thus increase in insulin sensitivity [7]), and you’re essentially priming your body for muscle growth and fat loss with intermittent fasting.

The less science-y version: Intermittent fasting can help teach your body to use the food it consumes more efficiently, and your body can learn to burn fat as fuel when you deprive it of new calories to constantly pull from (if you eat all day long).

TL/DR: For many different physiological reasons, fasting can help promote weight loss and muscle building when done properly.

I know Intermittent Fasting can be overwhelming, so I created a free guide and worksheet to help you get started on the right foot.

Sign up for the free Intermittent Fasting Starter Guide and Worksheets when you put your email in the box below:

But why does every health book say “6 small meals?”

Small plate of sausages - eat it on YOUR schedule

There are a few main reasons why diet books recommend six small meals:

1) When you eat a meal, your body does have to burn extra calories [8] just to process that meal.  So, the theory is that if you eat all day long with small meals, your body is constantly burning extra calories and your metabolism is firing at optimal capacity, right? Well, that’s not true.

Whether you eat 2000 calories spread out throughout the day, or 2000 calories in a small window, your body will burn the same number of calories processing the food [9]. So, the whole “keep your metabolism firing at optimum capacity by always eating” sounds good in principle, but reality tells a different story.

2) When you eat smaller meals, you might be less likely to overeat during your regular meals. I can definitely see some truth here, especially for people who struggle with portion control or don’t know how much food they should be eating.

However, once you educate yourself and take control of your eating, some might find that eating six times a day is very prohibitive and requires a lot of effort. I know I do. Also, because you’re eating six small meals, I’d argue that you probably never feel “full,” and you might be MORE likely to eat extra calories during each snack.

Although grounded in seemingly logical principles, the “six meals a day” doesn’t work for the reason you think it would (#1), and generally only works for people who struggle with portion control (#2).

If we think back to caveman days, we’d have been in serious trouble as a species if we had to eat every three hours. Do you think Joe Caveman pulled out his pocket sundial six times a day to consume his equally portioned meals?

Hell no! He ate when he could, endured and dealt with long periods of NOT eating (no refrigeration or food storage) and his body adapted to still function optimally enough to still go out and catch new food.

A recent study (written about in the NYT, highlighted by LeanGains) has done a great job of challenging the “six-meals-a-day” technique for weight loss [10]:

There were [no statistical] differences between the low- and high- [meal frequency] groups for adiposity indices, appetite measurements or gut peptides (peptide YY and ghrelin) either before or after the intervention. We conclude that increasing meal frequency does not promote greater body weight loss under the conditions described in the present study.

Factor in the potential physiological benefits listed in the previous section, and you got yourself some damn good science-backed evidence to consider trying Intermittent Fasting if you want to decrease body fat and build muscle.

Why intermittent fasting?

Intermittent Fasting Apple Plate

Now that we’re through a lot of the science stuff, let’s get into the reality of situation: why should you consider Intermittent Fasting?

Because it can work for your goals. Although we know that not all calories are created equal, caloric restriction plays a central role in weight loss. When you fast, you are also making it easier to restrict your total caloric intake over the course of the week, which can lead to consistent weight loss and maintenance.

Because it simplifies your day. Rather than having to prepare, pack, eat, and time your meals every 2-3 hours, you simply skip a meal or two and only worry about eating food in your eating window. It’s one less decision you have to make every day. It could allow you to enjoy bigger portioned meals (thus making your tastebuds and stomach satiated) and STILL eat fewer calories on average.

It requires less time (and potentially less money). Rather than having to prepare or purchase three to six meals a day, you only need to prepare two meals. Instead of stopping what you’re doing six times a day to eat, you simply only have to stop to eat twice. Rather than having to do the dishes six times, you only have to do them twice. Rather than having to purchase six meals a day, you only need to purchase two.

It promotes stronger insulin sensitivity and increased growth hormone secretion, two keys for weight loss and muscle gain.  Intermittent fasting helps you create a double whammy for weight loss and building a solid physique.

It can level up your brain, including positively counteracting conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. As explained here in this TEDx talk by Mark Mattson, Professor at Johns Hopkins University and Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging fasting is grounded in serious research and more studies are coming out showing the benefits:

Plus, Wolverine does it:

And so does Boy George (who apparently reads Nerd Fitness!):

So if both musicians and adamantium-clawed superheroes do Intermittent Fasting, it can probably work for you too, if you can make it work for your particular lifestyle and situation! If you’ve tried implementing something like this in the past and not had success, or you’re just looking for guidance from a coach to help you implement it into your lifestyle, I hear ya!

That was the specific problem we set out to solve with our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program: helping busy people make lifestyle changes (like Intermittent Fasting) and also build the habit of exercise. You can schedule a call with our team to learn more by clicking on the image below!

What are the drawbacks with intermittent fasting?

Fasting can leave you HUNGRY.

In my own experimentation over the past four years, I have found very few negative side effects with Intermittent Fasting. 

The biggest concern most people have is that Intermittent Fasting will lead to lower energy, focus, and the “holy crap I am hungry” feeling during the fasting period and ruin them. People are concerned that they will spend all morning being miserable because they haven’t consumed any food, and thus will be miserable at work and ineffective at whatever task it is they are working on.

The following are my thoughts and experiences, and your results may vary:

Yes, the initial transition from EATING ALL THE TIME, to intermittent fasting MIGHT be a bit of a jolt to your system; it was for me. However, once I got through the transition after a few days, my body quickly adapted and learned to function just as well only eating a few times a day.

Although I fast for 16 hours per day with no issues, the following might help assuage your fears that skipping breakfast will cause your body to eat itself and your brain to implode:

After 48-hours of fasting in a recent study [12], “cognitive performance, activity, sleep, and mood are not adversely affected in healthy humans by two days of calorie-deprivation.” You’ll be fasting for less time than that.

“So why do I feel grouchy and lethargic when I skip breakfast?” 

In this nerd’s humble opinion, a good portion of the grumpiness is a result of past eating habits. If you eat every three hours normally, and normally eat as soon as you wake up, your body will start get to get hungry every three hours as it learns and becomes used to expecting (and receiving) food every three hours.

If you eat breakfast every morning, your body is expecting to wake up and eat food.

Once you retrain your body to NOT expect food all day every day (or first thing in the morning), these side-effects become less of an issue. In addition, ghrelin (a hormone that makes you hungry [13]), is actually lowest in the mornings and decreases after a few hours of not eating too. The hunger pains will naturally pass!

Personally, I found this grumpiness subsided after a few days and now my mornings actually energize me.

It’s important to understand that Intermittent Fasting is NOT a cure-all panacea. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that if you skip breakfast and then eat 4,000 calories of candy bars for lunch and dinner that you will lose weight.

If you have an addictive relationship with food and you struggle with portion control, track your calorie intake in your meals to make sure you’re not overeating. If you skip breakfast, you might be so hungry from this that you OVEREAT for lunch and this can lead to weight gain. Again, the important thing here is that with intermittent fasting you’re eating fewer calories than normal because you’re skipping a meal every day.

Think about it in caveman terms again.  We certainly found ways to survive during periods of feast and famine, and that remains true today. imagine if you needed to eat in order to be active and alert: what would hungry cavemen do?

They would go find food, and that probably required a ton of effort. It actually takes our bodies about 84 hours of fasting [15] before our glucose levels are adversely affected. As we’re talking about small fasts (16-24 hour periods), this doesn’t concern us.

AN IMPORTANT CAVEAT: Intermittent Fasting can be more complex for people who have issues with blood sugar regulation, suffer from hypoglycemia, have diabetes, etc. If you fit into this category, check with your doctor or dietitian before adjusting your eating schedule. It also affects women differently (there’s a whole section dedicated to that below)

Can I build muscle and gain weight while intermittent fasting?

Intermittent Fasting Encourages Hypertrophy!

You’re damn right you can!

In fact, I have been intermittent fasting for the past three years while building muscle and decreasing my body fat percentage:

Intermittent Fasting Helped Steve!

I still eat roughly the same number of calories I was consuming before, but instead of eating all damn day long, I condense all of my calorie consumption into an eight hour window.

  • 11 AM Work out with heavy strength training in a fasted state.
  • 12 PM Immediately consume 1/2 of my calories for the day (a regular whole-food meal, followed by a calorie-dense homemade shake.)
  • 7 PM Consume the second portion of my calories for the day in a big dinner.
  • 8 PM – 12 PM the next day: Fast for 16 hours.

In a different method, my friend Nate Green packed on a crazy amount of muscle while fasting for a full 24 hours on Sundays – so it is possible. [16]

I’m not kidding when I say this has revolutionized how I look at muscle building and fat loss.

Ultimately, this method flies in the face of the typical “bulk and cut” techniques of overeating to build muscle (along with adding a lot of fat) before cutting calories to lose fat (along with some muscle) and settling down at a higher weight.

I prefer this method to the bulk-and-cut technique for a few reasons:

  • There’s far less of a crazy swing to your weight. If you are putting on 30 pounds and then cutting 25 to gain 5 lbs of muscle, your body is going through drastic swings of body mass. Your clothes will fit differently, you’ll have different levels of definition, and your body will wonder what the hell is going on.
  • You’re consuming less food and thus spending less money. Rather than overeating to put on 1 pound of muscle and 4 pounds of fat in a week or two, you’re aiming to eat exactly enough to put on 1 pound of muscle without adding much fat on top of it.  Yeah, it’s a delicate balance, but there’s far less swing involved. You are just slowly, steadily, and consistently building muscle and strength over many months.
  • There’s never a need to get “vacation-ready”: we all want to look good naked, right?  When you are just adding muscle, you don’t need to worry about getting your body ready before by drastically altering your diet (going on a miserable crash diet for a month). [17]
  • You can make small adjustments and stay on target. Keep your body fat percentage low, build strength and muscle, and if you happen to notice your body fat creeping up, cut back on the carbs. Within two weeks you should be back at your preferred body fat percentage and can continue the muscle building process.

A note on BCAA consumption. Martin from LeanGains [18] recommends consuming Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) as a supplement with regards to fasted training to aid your muscles through your workout.

Personally, I used BCAAs for about 6-8 months during my initial start with fasted training (consuming them before training), though haven’t used them in the past 2+ years. I did NOT notice any adverse affects to not taking them with regards to my performance. Your value may vary!

Does intermittent fasting have different effects on men and women?

Run fast - on a fast

The quick answer is: “yes, Intermittent Fasting can affect men and women differently.” Anecdotally, I know many women that swear by Intermittent Fasting, while others have had adverse effects. Let’s dig into the science and studies.

A recent PubMed summary concluded that “fasting can be prescribed as a safe medical intervention as well as a lifestyle regimen which can improve women’s health in many folds [18].

Now, in that extract, many of the studies cited are focused on specifically calorie restriction (and not just fasting), and they also say that “future studies should address this gap by designing medically supervised fasting techniques to extract better evidence.”

Digging into the PubMed Archives brought me to the following conclusions [a]:

One small study (with 8 men and 8 women, all non-obese) resulted in the following: “Glucose response to a meal was slightly impaired in women after 3 weeks of treatment, but insulin response was unchanged. Men had no change in glucose response and a significant reduction in insulin response.”[19]

Another small study (8 women) studied the effects on their menstrual cycles after a 72 hour fast – which is significantly longer than any fast recommended in this article: “in spite of profound metabolic changes, a 72-hour fast during the follicular phase does not affect the menstrual cycle of normal cycling women.” [20].

Yet another study tracked 11 women with 72 hour fasts (again, longer than we’d recommend) and it found that “Fasting in women elicited expected metabolic responses – included increased cortisol (a stress hormone) – and apparently advanced the central circadian clock (which can throw off sleeping patterns). [21].

Those studies above, in working with small sample sizes, and different types of fasting than recommended here, would lead me to believe that fasting affects men and women differently, and that many of the weight loss benefits associated with intermittent fasting (that affect insulin and glucose responses) work positively for men and negatively for women.

There are also a series of articles[22] out there that dig into the potential reproductive health issues, stress challenges, induction of early-menopause [23] associated with fasting (and calorie restriction) for women.

Precision Nutrition recommends not attempting Intermittent Fasting as a woman if:

The challenge associated with all of this is that there aren’t enough long-term studies, with large enough sample sizes, specifically targeting female humans, with relation to the different types of Intermittent Fasting.

ALL OF THIS TO SAY: It does appear that men and women will have different experiences with intermittent fasting; we’re all unique snowflakes (yep, especially you), and your body will be affected by intermittent fasting differently than the person next to you.

There is enough evidence as cited in the articles and studies above that would give me pause to recommend Intermittent Fasting for women, especially if you are considering getting pregnant in the near term.

If you are looking to attempt intermittent fasting for weight loss reasons, my research has shown me that Intermittent Fasting could be less effective for women than men with regards to weight loss, and thus you would be wise to keep your efforts elsewhere:

  • Focusing on the total calories and quality of your food (here’s how to eat better).
  • Start exercising regularly!
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep.

Now, if you’ve read the above warnings, you are still curious about Intermittent Fasting, and you want to give it a try as a female, that is your choice! You know your body best.

So, get blood work done, speak with your doctor and get a check-up. Give intermittent fasting a shot, track your results, and see how your body/blood work changes as a result of Intermittent Fasting and decide if it’s right for you.

Your milage may vary, so speak with a doctor or find a doctor versed in intermittent fasting protocols and treat it like an experiment on yourself!

Questions about intermittent fasting

Eat the right foods when practicing intermittent fasting!

1) “Won’t I get really hungry?”  

As explained above, this can be a result of the habits you have built for your body. If you are constantly eating or always eat the same time of day, your body can actually learn to prepare itself for food by beginning the process of insulin production and preparation for food.

After a brief adjustment period, your body can adapt to the fact that it’s only eating a few times a day. The more overweight you are, and the more often you eat, the more of an initial struggle this might be.

Remember, your body’s physical and cognitive abilities aren’t diminished as a result of fasting.[24].

2) “Where will I get my energy for my workouts? Won’t I be exhausted and not be able to complete my workouts if fasting?” 

This was a major concern of mine as well, but the research says otherwise: “Training with limited carbohydrate availability can stimulate adaptations in muscle cells to facilitate energy production via fat oxidation.”[25].

In other words, when you train in a fasted state, your body can get better at burning fat for energy when there are no carbs to pull from!

I’ll share some of my experiences, now doing heavy strength training for 3 years in a fasted state: For my first “fasted” workout or two after starting an IF protocol, it was very weird to not eat before training. However, after a few sessions, I learned that my body could certainly function (and even thrive) during my training sessions despite not eating a pre-workout meal.

Here I am pulling 385 lbs. at 175 BW after a 16 hour fast:

3) “I like the idea of fasted training, but I work a regular 9-5 or a night shift and can’t train at 11AM like you do. What am I supposed to do?”

Depending on your training schedule, lifestyle, and goals, go back to the portion above where I talk about the 16/8 protocol and simply adjust your hours of fasting and feasting. LeanGains digs into various options here, but here is really what you need to know:

  • Don’t overthink this. If you can’t train until 5pm, that’s okay. Consume a small meal for lunch, or shift your Intermittent Fasting window to eat all of your meals in the 8 hours post workout. Better to do that than abandon it as a lost cause and have 0% compliance.
  • If you are an elite athlete, speak with a coach or nutritionist about your specific concerns and expectations. Otherwise, make intermittent fasting work for you Consider trying the 24-hour protocol below instead of the 16/8 protocol.
  • If you train later in the day (say, 7pm) but break your fast before training (aka Lunch), make it a smaller meal focused around fats and protein – which should be a solid goal even if you aren’t Intermittent Fasting! Try to time your carb and big meal consumption to happen AFTER your workout.
  • If you exercise BEFORE work, but then don’t eat until lunchtime: consider a protein supplement immediately after your workout, or simply wait until lunch to start eating. See how your body responds and adjust accordingly.

Do what you can, and don’t psyche yourself out! Get started and adjust along the way.

“Won’t fasting cause muscle loss?”  

Another big concern of mine, but it turns out this fear was unfounded. We’ve been told by the supplement industry that we need to consume 30 g of protein every few hours, as that’s the most amount of protein our body can process at a time. Along with that, we’ve been told that if we don’t eat protein every few hours, our body’s muscle will start to break down to be burned as energy.

Again, NOT TRUE! Our bodies are quite adept at preserving muscle even when fasting [25], and it turns out that protein absorption by our body can take place over many many many hours. Protein consumed in a shorter period of time has no difference on the body compared to protein spread throughout the day.    

4) “What about my body going into starvation mode from not eating?” 

Now, the thought process here is that when we don’t feed ourselves, our bodies assume calories aren’t available and thus choose to store more calories than burning them, eliminating the benefits of weight loss with fasting. Fortunately, this is NOT true.

Starvation mode is real, but it is significantly overblown and sensationalized these days. It takes a dramatic amount of starvation, for a long time, before your body kicks into “starvation mode”. We’re talking about 24 hour or 16 hour fasts here, and starvation mode takes significantly longer than that.[26]

In other words: starvation mode should not be factoring into your decision here.

5) How much should I eat while intermittent fasting? 

Simple: Eat for your goals! If your goal is weight loss, you still need to consume fewer calories than you burn every day to lose weight. If your goal is bulking up, you’ll need to consume more calories than you burn every day. Intermittent Fasting isn’t a cure-all, it’s a PART of the puzzle.

To start, begin intermittent fasting and eat your normal sized meals and track your weight and performance. If you are losing weight and happy with the progress, keep doing what you’re doing! If you are NOT losing weight, you could be eating too much – track your calories for a week, and then target a 10% reduction in calories and continue.


Tips and tricks about Fasting 

hungry ant

Don’t freak out! Stop wondering: “can I fast 15 hours instead of 16?” or “what if I eat an apple during my fasted period, will that ruin everything?”  Relax. Your body is a complex piece of machinery and learns to adapt. Everything is not as cut and dry as you think.

If you want to eat breakfast one day but not another, that’s okay. If you are going for optimal aesthetic or athletic performance, I can see the need to be more rigid in your discipline, but otherwise…freaking chill out and don’t stress over minutiae! Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

Consider fasted walks in the morning. I found these to be very helpful in reducing body fat, and also gave my day a great start to clear my mind and prepare for the day. Simply wake up and go for a mile walk. Maybe you could even start walking to Mordor?

Listen to your body during workouts. If you get light headed, make sure you are consuming enough water. If you notice a significant drop in performance, make sure you are eating enough calories (especially fats and protein) during your feasting window. And if you feel severely “off,” pause your workout. Give yourself permission to EASE into intermittent fasting and fasted workouts. This is especially true if you are an endurance athlete.

Expect funny looks if you spend a lot of mornings with breakfast eaters.  A few weeks back I had a number of friends staying with me, and they were all completely dumbfounded when I told them I didn’t eat breakfast anymore. I tried to explain it to them but received a bunch of blank stares. Breakfast has become so enGRAINed (zing!) in our culture that NOT eating it sounds crazy.  You will get weird looks from those around you…embrace it. I still go to brunch or sit with friends, I just drink black coffee and enjoy conversation.

Stay busy.  If you are just sitting around thinking about how hungry you are, you’ll be more likely to struggle with this. For that reason, I time my fasting periods for maximum efficiency and minimal discomfort:

  • My first few hours of fasting come after consuming a MONSTER meal, where the last thing I want to think about is eating.
  • When I’m sleeping: 8 of my 16 hours are occupied by sleeping.  Tough to feel hungry when I’m dreaming about becoming a Jedi.
  • When I’m busy: After waking up, 12 hours of my fasting is already done.  I spend three hours doing my best work (while drinking a cup of black coffee), and then comes my final hour of fasting: training.

Zero-calorie beverages are okay.  I drink green tea in the morning for my caffeine kick while writing. If you want to drink water, black coffee, or tea during your fasted period, that’s okay.  Remember, don’t overthink it – keep things simple! Dr. Rhonda Patrick over at FoundMyFitness believes that a fast should stop at the first consumption of anything other than water, so experiment yourself and see how your body responds.

If you want to put milk in your coffee, or drink diet soda occasionally while fasting, I’m not going to stop you. Remember, we’re going for consistency and habit-building here – if milk or cream in your coffee makes life worth living, don’t deprive yourself.

There are MUCH bigger fish to fry with regards to getting healthy than a few calories here and there during a fast. 80% adherence that you stick with for a year is better than 100% adherence that you abandon after a month because it was too restrictive. If you’re trying to get to a minimum bodyfat percentage, you’ll need to be more strict – until then, however, do what allows you to stay compliant!

Track your results, listen to your body:  

  • Concerned about losing muscle mass?  Keep track of your strength training routines and see if you are getting stronger.
  • Buy a cheap set of body fat calipers and keep track of your body fat composition.
  • Track your calories, and see how your body changes when eating the same amount of food, but condensed into a certain window.
  • Sign up for the NF Email list in the box below and get your free Intermittent Fasting Starter Guide and Worksheets to track your progress.

Everybody will react to intermittent fasting differently; I can’t tell you how your body will react.  It’s up to you to listen to your body and see how making these adjustments change your body.

Don’t expect miracles.  Yes, intermittent fasting can potentially help you lose weight, increase insulin sensitivity and growth hormone secretion (all good things), but it is only ONE factor in hundreds that will determine your body composition and overall health.  Don’t expect to drop to 8% body fat and get ripped just by skipping breakfast.

We cover all of this in the NF Academy, but you need to focus on building healthy habits, eating better foods, and getting stronger.

This is just one tool that can contribute to your success.

To sum it all up

Intermittent fasting can potentially have some very positive benefits for somebody trying to lose weight or gain lean body mass.

Intermittent fasting can potentially have some very positive benefits for somebody trying to lose weight or gain lean body mass.

Men and women will tend to have different results, just like each individual person will have different results.  The ONLY way to find out is with self-experimentation.

There are multiple ways to “do” intermittent fasting:

  • Fast and feast regularly: Fast for a certain number of hours, then consume all calories within a certain number of hours.
  • Eat normally, then fast 1-2x a week: Consume your normal meals every day, then pick one or two days a week where you fast for 24 hours.  Eat your last meal Sunday night, and then don’t eat again until dinner the following day.
  • Fast occasionally: probably the easiest method for the person who wants to do the least amount of work. Simply skip a meal whenever it’s convenient. On the road? Skip breakfast.  Busy day at work? Skip lunch.  Eat poorly all day Saturday?  Make your first meal of the day dinner on Sunday.

After that, get started. Take photos, step on the scale, and track your progress for the next month. See how your body responds. See how your physique changes. See how your workouts change.

And then decide if it’s something you want to keep doing!

4 years later, I have no plans on going back to eating breakfast. Sorry General Mills and Dr. Kellogg!

If you’re worried about all of this stuff, or aren’t sure when to eat and stop eating, it might be worth working with a professional that can help you make sense of all of these questions and help you incorporate Intermittent Fasting into your life. 

I’ve found a lot of people struggle with knowing exactly when to eat and not eat, keeping track of their fast and feast windows, so we have our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program. Schedule a call with our team to see if it’s a good fit for your situation!

I’d love to hear from you:

  • What are your questions with intermittent fasting?  
  • What are your concerns?
  • Have you tried intermittent fasting?
  • Have you had success with it, either with muscle gain or weight loss?

Thanks for leaving your comment, I’m excited to get the conversation started.


PS: I made a Intermittent Fasting Starter Guide to help you condense this article into an actionable worksheet you can follow. You can get yours free when you sign up in the box below:


Photo Source: seal mouth, tony the tiger, anatomy, cog, small plates, apples, fridge, ant, boy girl, kiwi

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That Time I Worked For the Sugar Industry… Tue, 09 May 2017 18:38:47 +0000 Hey, I was young. I didn’t know any better!

And the money was good. So, how could I turn it down? As a high school kid, you make money any way you can, even if it’s something you’re not thrilled about.

And that’s how I ended up spending two summers with my older brother Jack working for Coca-Cola, which I talked about on Steve’s Instagram:

17 year old Stevie-boy here on Instagram

That’s right, your boy Steve – a guy who once wrote an article explaining why Sugar is Worse than Jar Jar Binks – used to work for the enemy!

For two summers, my brother and I would wake up at 5AM, put on the sweet Coke polo shirts pictured above, hop into our Coca-Cola cars (old station wagons with Coca-Cola logos on the side), and stock shelves full of Coke products for 50-60+ hours a week on Cape Cod.

Now, hopefully you know that the above “enemy” comment is in jest.

If you happen to be currently employed by Coca-Cola or a company that sells products or services that are unhealthy, I don’t mean to pick on you or your employer…kind of. After all, Coca-Cola is a company that aims to make a profit by selling products that are delicious. I get it. Give me an ice-cold Mexican Coke made with real sugar in a glass bottle on a hot day, and it’s heaven. I also know they donate lots of money to charity, employ thousands, and do plenty of good things, and blah blah blah.

Okay! Now that that’s out of the way…

Twelve years after working indirectly for Big Sugar and seven years after starting Nerd Fitness, I now know just how detrimental sugar can be to our health, and it brings me to the point of today’s article!

We know sugar is bad for us (right? I hope?), but I wasn’t aware just how insidious this stuff has become in society and until I learned the history behind sugar’s rise in our day-to-day lives – and the rise in our obesity rates.

The History of Sugar

The history of sugar is both fascinating and pretty messed up. For starters, in the 1960’s the sugar industry actually paid scientists to downplay the connection between sugar and heart disease and instead promote saturated fat as the culprit.

Screw facts and data; there’s money to be made!

This is how we ended up with hilariously depressing ads like the one below from the 1970’s, touting sugar as a great path to weight loss and healthy living:

If you know anything about sugar, you can’t help but look at that ad and start laughing. “Use sugar to help you BUILD willpower? And NOT overeat.” Seriously!?

Fortunately, these days we’re MUCH better off and way smarter, and silly tricks like that can’t work anymore.


Wrong! As pointed out in “The Case Against Sugar” by Gary Taubes: “Academic researchers in 2015 were doing the bidding of Coca-Cola by taking its money to fund a Global Energy Balance Network and ‘shift blame for obesity away from bad diets, and instead only focus on not enough exercise.’”

We know here at NF that you can’t outrun your fork (it’s one of our Rules of the Rebellion), and you can’t out-train a bad diet, so telling people to ONLY focus on exercising more without worrying about what you put in your bodies is horrible advice.

Luckily, this group was shut down amidst widespread scrutiny and pressure by the public!

Also, pesky things like “facts” and “experimentation” kept getting in the way.

With all of the information coming out about how unhealthy soda can be in recent years, soda sales have steadily dropped to 30 year lows. This is AWESOME news, but don’t expect Coke and Pepsi to go quietly into the night.

Like any animal or company that’s been cornered or attacked, they’re adapting and fighting to stay relevant.

Thus, the strategy they’ve adopted is marketing “healthy” soda alternatives to find another pathway to connect their sugar water with our bloodstreams.

If you’ve picked up a Vitamin Water, a Naked Juice: Green Machine, or a Smoothie King fruit smoothie lately, and patted yourself on the back for making the healthy choice, your head is in the right place…but your blood sugar level will say otherwise!

These beverages, despite everything you’re told on their labels and what they advertise, are as bad for you (or worse) than drinking a soda:

  • 20 oz Vitaminwater Power-C: 120 calories and 31 grams of sugar
  • 20 oz Smoothie King “Pure Recharge” Mango Strawberry: 210 calories and 50g of sugar
  • 20 oz Naked Juice Green Machine (100% real juice, no sugar added): 270 calories and 53 grams of sugar

At least when you drink a soda you know you’re making an unhealthy choice!

Shame on these other companies for convincing you their products are pure and healthy when they often have as much or more sugar as a can of Coke.

If you’re currently pissed off that you’ve been dutifully chugging Vitaminwater for the past few months instead of soda, assuming it’s healthier, I don’t blame you! The marketing and packaging leave you no choice BUT to assume it’s healthy and good for you.

What’s as funny as it is depressing is that even Coca-Cola executives themselves know their “healthy” marketing of these beverages is horseshit.

In 2015, when taken to court over the unsubstantiated health claims of Vitaminwater, Coca-Cola actually used the following defense (seriously): “No consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking Vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.”

I read that quote and my eyeballs almost fell out of my head. Are you furious yet? I am. Let’s fix it.

How to Not Let Sugar Run Your Life

I get it. Sugar is awesome. It’s delicious and makes us happy…temporarily.

It also makes us fat.

And holy **** is it addicting. It targets the pleasure centers in our brains, and is more available now than it has ever been in the history of our species. Unfortunately, our lizard brains have not adapted to its widespread availability instead of scarcity, which means our bodies can’t say “no” or “just a little.” This means we can ACTUALLY get hooked on the stuff. There are even studies that claim sugar can be as addicting as cocaine.

So the solution is simple: do more cocaine, less sugar!

Hahahaha, kidding. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t currently have pants on as I type this, but my advice would be to probably avoid both sugar and cocaine as much as possible.

Unfortunately, avoiding sugar is more than just giving up soda (though that’s a DAMN good start!). Other problems arise because sugar is in EVERYTHING and often hidden.

Why can’t we just tell the truth, people?

We talk a lot about a nefarious shadow organization making us fatter and lazier in our monthly story-driven adventure, Rising Heroes.

I thought it would be fun to create a dragon to slay. However, when you read that stuff above about:

  • scientists being paid off
  • calorie sugar bombs being marketed as healthy
  • companies claiming “there’s no way anybody could consider these drinks healthy,”

It’s like there really is a conglomeration of bad guys aiming to make us unhealthy.

Here’s how you can fight back. Follow these 4 quick rules to keep sugar from ruining your life:

1) Whenever possible, minimize liquid calories. This includes frappucinos and sodas, but also “real fruit smoothies” and “healthy” Naked Juice drinks, Gatorade, and even things like apple juice, orange juice, grape juice, cranberry juice, etc. Every once in a while? Sure. Just make it a rare treat (“treat yo’ self!”) – you’ll actually enjoy it more and be healthier!

I personally prescribe to the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy because I have the willpower and restraint of a 5-year kid in a candy store. I don’t keep sugary beverages in my house so I’m not tempted and have to waste willpower trying not to drink them.

I’ve found that drinking sparkling water like LaCroix can really help me THINK I’m drinking soda, and provide me with the same level of happiness and fizzy satisfaction – without the sugar.

To answer your next question: here’s a whole article on “Is Diet Soda bad for me?” High five!

Still here? Good. Here’s a picture of a puppy:

Okay, back to business.

2) Don’t trust the front of the label, and learn to recognize sugar’s aliases. A label is required to list ingredients by amount, so by adding multiple types of sugar with weird names, a company can get away with moving sugar down the list.

Look for the following names: Agave nectar, Brown sugar, Cane crystals, Cane sugar, Corn sweetener, Corn syrup, Crystalline fructose, Dextrose, Evaporated cane juice, Organic evaporated cane juice, Fructose, Fruit juice concentrate, Glucose, High-fructose corn syrup, Honey, Invert sugar, Lactose, Maltose, Malt syrup, Molasses, Raw sugar, Sucrose, Sugar Syrup.

If you only look at two numbers on the back of a box, look at grams of sugar and total calories. You want minimal sugar and fewer calories. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Do the best you can!

Oh, and if a product says “no sugar added” on the front of it, you can bet your life savings on it having a RIDICULOUS amount of sugar.

Note: please don’t bet your life savings on this.

3) Be skeptical, because sugar is in practically everything. When in doubt, eat things with fewer ingredients. We consume 130 pounds of sugar per year on average (holy crap), which means the white stuff in in way more foods than we realize. Not just candy and soda, but practically everything.

Nature Valley Granola Bars? Plenty of sugar. In fact, most “protein bars” have tons of sugar. And, until outraged customers complained, “Nature Valley” Granola Bars were made with high fructose corn syrup. Mmmm, nature.

Pasta sauce? Should just be tomatoes right? Nope. Add in heaping tablespoons of high fructose corn syrup too and you’re getting closer.

Wheat bread? That’s gotta be healthy, right? Check the ingredients. I bet one of the top 5 is “high fructose corn syrup” too.

Hell, look at what’s advertised as a “balanced breakfast” these days on TV! Cereal and skim milk, fruit, a glass of orange juice, and toast. Or, in other words: sugar and sugar water, sugar, sugar water, and pile-o-carbs.

4) Track your sugar intake, and minimize it over time. As I cover in “Star Wars Explains Why We’re Fat,” everybody has a different amount of “gimme gimme gimme” in our brains that craves instant gratification.

This means we all have different abilities to get addicted to things, including sugar. Some people can eat sugar (or have one drink, or try drugs) and not get hooked, while others struggle with addiction instantly – once is enough to get hooked for life.

This comic explains human behavior and addiction quite well…with dinosaurs.

If you are somebody who is actually hooked on sugar, start by tracking your sugar intake each day (actually look up the sugar content of everything you consume!), and see how many grams you’re eating every day. Don’t worry about total numbers, just focus on eating less sugar than the day before. Repeat.

Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma said it succinctly: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Eat real food (meat, vegetables, unprocessed stuff), keep your calorie total down, and stick to mostly plants along with healthy protein. Done!

We’ll continue digging into this battle against Big Sugar, shadow organizations, and false advertising in future posts. It’s amazing how heavily the deck is stacked against us when we try to be healthy, and how tough it is to find the actual truth!

I have no problem with sugar and people making choices that don’t line up with their health goals occasionally.

What really grinds my gears is when sugar is snuck into products and falsely marketed as healthy. We’re going to fight, and it starts by educating ourselves on how much sugar we’re actually eating.

Over the next week, your mission is to read the labels on the food and beverages you’re consuming. Specifically keep an eye on how many grams of sugar you’re consuming. Then over the next few weeks, try to drop that amount down by 10% each week. And then let me know how you did!

I want to hear from you: did you find this post useful? Hit reply and let me know if this article is actually gonna help you start to remove more sugar from your life!


PS: We’ve recently overhauled our monthly story-driven experience, Rising Heroes. We’ll be opening doors for it next Monday, a few weeks later than normal – if you were waiting to get in, sorry for the delay. I promise it’ll be worth it – we’ve unrolled some big updates! 🙂

PPS: If you want to learn about the history of sugar and a contrarian viewpoint to “calories in, calories out no matter what they are,” check out Taube’s book “The Case Against Sugar. It’s thought provoking and entertaining.


photo credit: Julien.Belli: Always Coca-Cola, wuestenigel: Macro of Decoration Crystals

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