In 2009, I was way more concerned with where I was going to drink my next beer than I was with making gains.
I guess I made “gains”, but they were fat gains, not muscular gains or lean gains.
Sometimes, I wonder how I ever got to this point.
I’ve heard of people “swallowing the red pill” or “jumping down the rabbit hole”, but this is a bit extreme. My hobby of evidence-based nutrition has consumed my life for the last 5-6 years.
This wasn’t always the case.
I used to be a real “half-assed” kind of guy.
I would struggle to make it to the gym 1-2 times per week.
I would eat decent meals some of the time. The rest of the time, I was dining out, snacking in between meals, and drinking 2k+ calories worth of booze every Friday and Saturday night.
I also looked like this:
Ain’t nothing more “American” than that.
I remember that particular day well. I was on a lake vacation with friends in the summer of 2007. It was the 4th of July.
I drank a 24-pack of beer, a fifth of butterscotch brandy, ate 3 cheeseburgers for lunch, a large pizza for dinner, and snacked in between.
It makes me shake my damn head that I was ever that gluttonous and repulsive.
Fast forward to 2015. This was me at the gym training last week:
These days, I get more excited by the clanging of iron and the feeling of a nice pump than cracking the top on a Budweiser.
I still enjoy the occasional drink, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t still love junk food.
But I have my priorities lined up.
With the New Year approaching, how can you make a similar change?
How can you get the ball rolling in order to start forming positive habits?
Here are a few tips to get you started.
How To Change Who You Are
Step 1: Get mad at yourself.
The trend in fitness and self-improvement lately has been to love yourself for who you are.
To not have guilt when you make poor decisions.
To have compassion to your faults.
That’s fine, but whatever happened to getting pissed off and using that emotion to elicit positive changes?
I didn’t start to make positive changes until I looked at myself in the mirror and demanded that I change.
I stopped accepting mediocrity.
I decided it wasn’t good enough to go to the gym “some of the time”.
It was unacceptable to use excuses like “I have kids” and “it’s my genetics” as a crutch.
I didn’t want to be 50 years old with Type 2 diabetes and a low quality of life.
I realized it was irresponsible to be a poor role model for my girls.
I made a choice to be the best physical version of myself I could be.
All of that started by getting pissed off – really pissed off – at the bullshit excuses of the “old me”.
You don’t want to beat yourself up when you mess up. Because you WILL mess up.
But that doesn’t mean you should accept it.
Allow yourself to be upset, disappointed, and disgusted by you.
Instead of sulking in your bedroom, use your emotion to sharpen the blade and start kicking ass.
Even Arnold – the GOAT – used to look at himself in the mirror and say to himself,
Arnold, you’re such a pussy. How do you expect to be a champion when you can’t even stick to your diet? Wake up and get on point. Stop being a little crybaby.
Seemed to work out okay for him, right?
Step 2: Fake it ’til you make it.
One of the most difficult parts of changing your life is the disruption of homeostasis.
You’re used to things the way they are. You will resist the change as soon as motivation wears off.
Motivation is bullshit – if you rely on motivation, you’re doomed for failure.
You’re going to have days where you don’t feel like training or eating right. Nobody crushes the fitness game and loves every minute of it.
When you need to change yourself and you’re not “there yet”, a simple trick is to pretend to be someone else.
Fake it ’til you make it.
You may not be a fitness weirdo just yet, but ask yourself:
If I were one of these “fitness freaks”, what would I do?
How would I behave?
What would be important to me?
After you answer those questions, go be “that person”.
If you could look into your crystal ball and see the “future you”, what behaviors would you partake in? Would you call the pizza guy 5 times per week, or would you eat mostly whole foods and emphasize protein?
Would you pass up on training to put on sweatpants and turn on Netflix? Or would you skip Happy Hour to crush your legs on a Friday?
It’s okay if you’re not on team #fitfam just yet.
Pretend like you are anyways.
Soon, you’ll have your own place at the table.
Step #3: Jump into the deep end with no lifejacket.
I’m a teacher by day.
The absolute BEST way to learn a skill (and fitness is a SKILL) is to completely immerse yourself in it.
You will have apprehension about this. This reaction is natural. We all fear the unknown.
If you want to be a “macro counting, squatting, deadlifting, whole foods eating freak”, then do it. Do all of it. Don’t look back.
Take the plunge.
It took me a long time to take the “full plunge”.
First, I trained.
Then, I started tracking protein.
But even then, I was “iffy” and “spotty”. I would sometimes hit my macros; it just depended on the day.
Finally, I jumped “all in”. No more half-assed behaviors for me. I realized I would never know how good I could be by doing things halfway.
I should have jumped in the deep end much sooner. It would have saved me a few years’ worth of aggravation.
I had a friend whose father was transferred from Cincinnati to Mexico City for work when I was in 5th grade.
By the time he returned 3 years later, my friend could speak in machine gun Spanish as fluently as if he had lived in Mexico his entire life.
Think he would have done that taking a Rosetta Stone course?
Of course not.
The best way to learn is to jump in without a lifejacket and immerse yourself.
You’ll make the maximum amount of progress in the least amount of time that way.
Step #4: Put in your reps.
You need to realize that you will NOT be at the finish line soon.
You won’t be perfect on Day One.
Or Day One-Hundred, frankly.
Improvement is an ongoing, continuous process. It’s never complete.
You’ll make progress slowly and incrementally. It’s the only way it’s permanent and lasting.
The more reps you do, the better you will get.
This holds true for everything.
- The more times you try to hit your macros perfectly, the better you will get at dieting and macro counting.
- The more times you bench press, squat, and deadlift, the better you will get at bench pressing, squatting, and deadlifting.
- The more times you say “no” when you’re offered food you don’t want, the better you will get at saying “no” to others.
You have to put in your reps – in fitness and in life. You can get better at anything. The reason you can’t teach “an old dog new tricks” is because the “old dog” is stubborn as hell and doesn’t want to change.
If you want to change and put in your reps accordingly, you will get better over time.
Step #5: Find people who share your common interests.
If you’re surrounded by people who aren’t interested in living the fit life, odds are good that you won’t either.
Look around. Unless you’re in your gym, you will realize that most people don’t actually lift or eat well.
Most people are ordinary.
Most people shuffle around in a half-daze and let life happen to them.
Most people are waiting until Friday night and loathing their time at work.
Most people gorge at dinner, put on sweatpants, and lie on the couch until they pass out.
Most people would rather binge watch Bravo than meal prep for the next day.
Most people avoid hard work at all costs.
Don’t be “most people”.
It helps to find people with your common interests.
When I began living the fit life, I started by using IF and Leangains. I was interested in Martin Berkhan and Andy Morgan.
I joined Berkhan’s (now defunct) Leangains Facebook page. I joined the Leangains subreddit. I joined Fitocracy and the Leangains group on that site as well.
I went on Bodybuilding.com’s message boards.
I read everything on fasting and minimalist training I could find.
I read every word on Leangains.com and Rippedbody.jp.
My friends came around after I lost 80 pounds and gained a 6-pack.
They started asking me questions, and I converted a few to the “dark side”.
If I didn’t have the internet and others to talk to and shoot ideas off of, it wouldn’t have happened.
Find others with the same interests as you and befriend them.
There is real strength in numbers.
The Final Step: Be selfish.
You’ve got it all lined up and it’s going well.
You’re getting stronger, putting in your reps, mastering those habits, and you have a support team around you.
And all of a sudden, you begin to realize that not everyone is supporting you.
People get upset when someone challenges their way of thinking.
When you’re kicking ass and improving yourself, it reminds others that they might not be getting the same results.
I get labeled as selfish on occasion for a few reasons:
- I never eat “community lunches” at work.
- I meal prep and eat the food I brought every day, without fail – even when lunch is catered or someone invites me to dine out.
- I never miss a workout.
- Not for Happy Hour, not for an afterschool activity, not due to a vacation, not because a child is sick.
- I find a way every time.
- I don’t waste time.
- That means I work through my lunch every day.
- I don’t sit around and “shoot the breeze”. I have work to do.
- It takes discipline to own a business, teach 5 classes, train on point, diet intelligently, and raise 2 daughters. Especially when my wife is a white-collar engineering executive who works 50+ hours per week.
- I don’t do “normal things” very often.
- I don’t watch pro sports – ever.
- I watch less than 4 hours of television per week.
- I work every Saturday and Sunday for a few hours, minimum, sometimes more.
- During my free time, I don’t watch TV or play video games – I work.
These behaviors have allowed me to build a successful business, change myself physically, and set myself up for long term gains.
But others sometimes see them as “selfish” since there is so much “time for me”.
To this, I shrug my shoulders and say “meh”. Whatevs.
Every successful person is selfish to an extent. If you don’t do things for yourself, your long term aspirations are doomed.
— Jason (@anymanfitness) December 17, 2015
If working my ass off and not doing what “normal people do” makes me “selfish”, then I’m okay with that. I genuinely don’t care what other people think.
When others want to “chit chat”, I want to go get shit done instead of sitting around wasting time.
When others want to have drinks and catch up, I would rather go be productive.
Allow yourself to be “selfish”. Get some “you time” to improve your life.
You’ll be glad you did.
Yours in improving,