Give Up Labels, Get Results

Identity Seekers
Can you do stuff without attaching it to your bio? Some people can't.
Here's an example: marijuana use is on the rise in Colorado. There are two types of users, not just here in Colorado, but everywhere.
The first type of user usually has a pot leaf tattoo -- often somewhere obvious, like the neck. He wears ganja garb, acts aloof, and more often than not speaks in a manner that says "unemployable." This guy is responsible for all the stereotypes you've ever heard about potheads.
He (and the millions like him) made it his world and identity. And it's because of him that many people think it's not possible to use marijuana without also becoming lazy and useless to society.
The second type of user doesn't advertise his favorite mind-altering substance on his skin, or his clothing, or in his character. His medicinal and recreational pot use is none of your damn business -- because he keeps it that way. 
Oftentimes this user has a successful job, a type-A personality, or he's a high level exec who uses a calculated amounts in order to relax. And maybe he’s not a smoker. But he could be a THC mint eater, using a measured dose to de-stress, not fry his brain.
Sure, there's a spectrum between these two, but I've met both kinds of marijuana users. And chances are, you have too without even knowing it. But if you're like half the population, you assume that the only type of user is the first guy. 
Do you see the distinction here? There are those who can't experience the benefits of certain things without making it their identity. And there are those who can.
We don't have to become the things we use or enjoy. 
Diet and Exercise Are No Different
I can go for a run without labeling myself a runner. I can have a meal without meat and not call myself a vegetarian. And yes, I can even work out at a CrossFit facility without calling myself a CrossFitter. I can do these things without becoming a stereotype.
In the past I've called of myself a bodybuilder because one of my biggest goals has been building my body with muscle. 
The label was literal, and it's been an effort to make building muscle approachable to women. I've wanted them to see that average, non-steroid using gals like me can intentionally build a muscular body. 
So the label served a purpose. But I realize now that "bodybuilding" is a group  with its own (often accurate) stereotypes and I no longer want to identify as a member. It might've been cool in the '70s, but it's just like any other fitness clique, cult, or club.
Your Message to The World
Do you introduce yourself to people by extending your hand and saying, "Hi, I count macros with an app on my phone before I eat food!"
Or maybe you tell the world that your identity as a human being is about avoiding grains and non-organic dairy. That's what you do if your social media bio, T-shirt, or bumper sticker lists your diet of choice. 
Congrats, you've become your diet; kind of like the pothead who's become a walking stereotype. But what if you chose to just let your results speak for themselves? 
Shouldn't they? 
Fit people shouldn't need to wear clothing that broadcasts their clean eating or working out like a beast. Why? Because if that's what they do, and it actually works, then the results will be obvious.
If your fit lifestyle is all that great, you'll either look the part or perform it. If it's all that great, then it'll inspire people and pique their curiosity. It'll make them ask questions to find out more.
But if you get preachy and beat them over the head with it, most people won't want to know more. (Except those needy for a cult to join.)
It's kind of like religion and politics. Show your beliefs through your actions, so that you can influence and teach. But become a pretentious zealot and you'll turn us away... or just attract more of your kind. 
You know who's often just as bad as the stereotypical pothead? 
Those who blindly bash pot: people who don't know the difference between the strains, haven't done any research, and know nothing about folks who've advanced their lives as a result of using it responsibly.
Anti-people are more determined to have strong opinions than they are to learn. They refuse to hear the opposition because their thinking is formed by absolutes. They cherry-pick the evidence that lines up with their biases.
Kneejerk reactions and stubborn confidence are all they need. Same can be said about fitness.
It's like the powerlifter who bashes CrossFit, the CrossFitter who bashes bodybuilding, and the bodybuilder who bashes running. Dieters are just as bad.
Psychologists call it out-group bias. You think less of people who aren't in your group. But just because you're not into running or "clean" eating (or whatever) it doesn't mean that others aren't having a better life because of it. 
It's harder to admit that different things work for different people when your food/exercise choices are your religion. But instead of becoming a member of a dietary Hezbollah, think in terms of results instead of labels.
Results > Labels
What results do you want?
Sure, when you're proud of your work, you may want to identify by the way you eat or train. But you can be disciplined without the label. The way your body looks and performs is due to your practices, not your cliques. 
Seek results and you'll have the advantage of choosing the best parts of all diet and workout strategies. 
You won't be confined to anyone else's set of rules. After committing to a diet or workout program for a while, you should eventually be able to take off the training wheels and make it your own.
Diet and exercise are just tools to improve your life. Don't become them. 
Don't be a tool.

Anatomy of The Perfect Diet

The Origin of "Diet"
Do you hate the word diet? I don’t blame you.
Even dieters who say they love their diets leave out the word diet and instead say they’ve “gone paleo” or “become vegan”. Diet is a dirty word because it represents the elimination of fun food, the obligation to count stuff, cook, chop vegetables, or yearn for more. 

Read more: Anatomy of The Perfect Diet

The Competition Cycle

In the Beginning
Golden era bodybuilders learned by experimenting on themselves. They invented their own strategies, shared ideas, and fine tuned their physiques in order to become more and more fit.
The look they achieved on competition day wasn't just a snapshot of a pretty body that would go back to being unrecognizable the rest of the year until they prepared to look "stage worthy" again. 
And their competition physiques didn't require a manual from a coach telling them what vegetable, protein, and starch combination they must eat for breakfast on Mondays, and what body part they must train on Tuesdays. 
Are you kidding? They were curious and self-motivated. They didn't have to join "teams" in order to learn how to look good or gain recognition.
Individuals Vs. Instruction-Followers
Maybe I just have a romanticized perception of what bodybuilding used to be: An individual competition made up of people who were inquisitive enough to try stuff; and through experience, became intelligent about hypertrophy, nutrition, fat loss, longevity, health, and their own bodies. 
Getting on stage was a celebration of self-knowledge and capability. Building your body was something spectacular because it created a look that, back then, meant you probably had your act together in the other areas of your life. 
But from what you'll see so often online, it appears to be all about sacrificing other aspects of your life in order to become a martyr for the competition. 
Living an "unbalanced" lifestyle is often glorified among competitors because it means you're willing to surrender other priorities, like long-term health, job success, family, and enjoyment of life, just to win a trophy and to call yourself elite.
So the question is this: If you win a competition by painstakingly following a coach's instructions, are you really the winner? Or is it your coach?
Maybe the trophy should say, "First Place Instruction-Follower."
The Cycle and The Herd Mentality
Bodybuilding is not the art and science it used to be. It's a cycle of conformity. 
Those who compete follow their coach's instructions, then when they win some awards, they become competition coaches who give their competitors the same meal plans and workout instructions that they followed as competitors. 
Then those competitors continue the cycle by becoming competition coaches. 
There's no innovation or individuality. 
And as a "team-sport", the new, naïve and starry-eyed competitors buy all the team apparel, hash-tag all their social media posts with the team name, and represent their team at all local bodybuilding events. They pay to join a group of walking billboards. 
It's this herd mentality that makes local coaches a lot of money, and these are often the same coaches who profit from screwing up their clients' long term health and fitness.
I'd rather lose than follow.
The Two Sides of Competing
If you've never done a physique competition, I don't want to discourage you. There's major opportunity for growth when you prepare to get on stage.
As a teen, my bodybuilding coach gave me the tools to think for myself long after training with him. He had me do several competitions and I'm grateful for those experiences. They got me comfortable with experimenting, strategizing, and fine-tuning. They also turned me into a lifetime lifter.
Then last year, I did a figure contest and discovered that, sometimes, the best thing you can learn from a coach is that you don't really need one.
There are two sides of competing, and you need to know about them both. Tomorrow, T Nation will publish my article about the beautiful and the ugly aspects of bodybuilding.
Hope you check it out.

The Personal Responsibility Diet

Your Fitness Filter
You're an adult. You make thousands of decisions for yourself every day. Some little, like what pajamas you'll wear to bed; some big, like what course of action you'll take regarding your livelihood, health, and future. 
You are your best expert. So when I tell you about fitness, weight training and food, I expect you to pass everything you read through your own little filter of what you've already tried, what's practical for you, and what will and won't work given your own set of circumstances and current health. 
You're a critical thinker, not an automaton who is going to blindly follow recommendations without first considering your own body, schedule, abilities, and the context of the other things going on in your life. 
You're also surrounded by a wealth of information. There are plenty of people who share their thoughts about fitness to the masses, and you continually have to weigh the pros/cons of every option for yourself.
Information Overload
I'm not going to pity you if you're confused by all the conflicting information you read and hear on a daily basis. We all have bodies. We are all responsible for our own bodies. Some of the ideas you'll read may be worth your while to investigate, others may not. That's up to you to decide.
We all have to start somewhere with gathering information, testing out what might be useful, and discarding what doesn’t work. This is called trail and error, and you are not helpless. 
You know where a gym is. You know where to find the produce and the deli in your grocery store. 
Learning how to get in shape is like learning any other skill. It just takes time, and you can take all the time you need. In fact, the more slowly you integrate healthy behaviors into your life, the better they'll stick.
So if you're totally out of shape, and you blame it on the diet industry, the media, or other people giving you too much information, I'm calling BS.
The truth is, you're either uncomfortable changing the lifestyle you've grown accustomed to, or you simply don't want to make the effort of figuring out which information will work for you. 
Nutrition isn't Religion
People who write about diet and fitness will disagree with one another. And some will villainize those who have a differing perspective. We're all trying to help people become healthier, but our understanding of what's healthy conflicts. 
The most acrimonious health experts are as fanatical about their beliefs as ISIS, the KKK, and Westboro Baptist church.  
But nobody's going to hell over their views on carbs, cardio, or supplements. Fitness is not a religion and it shouldn't be your identity. It may look like mine because all I post online is fitness-related stuff, but that's only because the rest of my life really has no business on the internet. 
Weaklings and Wackos
The only way to develop the skill of getting fit is just to start. Make some commitments, stick with them, drop what doesn't work, and continually try stuff until you figure out what does. 
No expert can contrive every scenario and combination of body type and goal to know what will be a perfect fit for you, personally. And what will work for you personally will change depending on your activity level, your schedule, your physical abilities, your preferences, finances, and priorities.
Sometimes -- ironically -- trying something counterintuitive to your beliefs will work wonders for your health, and free you up from stagnation and self-sabotage. That's why it's dangerous to get attached to dietary dogma and assume you must eat the same exact way for the rest of your life. 
There's no need to become a fitness zealot when you find something that helps you; because chances are, if you allow yourself to fall in love with this whole fitness thing, your needs will change and you'll find something that works even better later on. 
Commit, but don't get brainwashed. Succeed, but don't be a sucker. 
Take responsibility for your own body and stop making "too much information" your biggest excuse. Listen to differing opinions, and form your own through experience. Then tell people about what you've learned if you think it's helpful. 
Scoff at the idea of helplessness. And stay above the fanaticism. The world has enough weaklings and wackos.

How to Get Your Act Together

The Preparation Advantage
Chefs do this thing called mise-en-place, which is French for "everything in its place."
The purpose is not just to make sure you have all the ingredients, but to make sure you're organized and ready to cook, and in turn, it makes the actual cooking part a breeze. 
Mise-en-place is about doing all the little things up front in order for the most important things to happen without a hitch. 
Everything that can be assembled ahead of time is. Veggies get chopped, meat gets thawed and seasoned, stuff gets measured, or at least brought out so that it's accounted for. Then as mealtime approaches, it'll only take a bit of effort to cook.
Mise-en-place gets your mind focused, deletes distraction, and simplifies cooking so that you, as a chef, can go from having to consider many components to just a few.
The Missing Link
Think about those who struggle with getting in shape. It's usually not that they're ignorant about choosing better food or getting off their couches, it's that they're disorganized, distracted, and complicating the process.
Their lifestyle mise-en-place is mucked up. Their meals are haphazard -- flipping between inadequate and excessive. Their workouts are hit or miss. And they usually lack structure, direction, or preparation. 
When nothing is in its place, everything seems like a good excuse to stop eating well and training hard. 
I'm not talking about household or environmental tidiness, although those too can have an impact on your mental clarity and discipline. What I'm talking about is a lack of planning, a lack of preparing for setbacks, and a lack of doing all the little things up front to make the important things happen without a hitch.
Lifestyle mise-en-place eliminates the excuses before they arise. You cook the food ahead of time. You have the healthy stuff ready to go. Potatoes, check. Chicken, check. Veggies, check. Slow cooker stuff, check. And whatever healthy foods work for you personally, check.
Mise-en-place also means you've got what you need to work out. You've carved out the time. Your clothes are laid out. And you've got a plan so that there's no hemming and hawing or flaking out on the last second. You know exactly what to do.
It's making a commitment through your habits, so that the hard stuff is easier to pull off. 
Mental Preparation
Let's expand mise-en-place. Because being fit includes mental preparation too. 
Have you thought about what you're going to do when your diet feels like it's too hard to stick with? Have you considered what actions you're going to take after you've slipped up with either your eating or your workouts? More importantly, have you considered what might cause you to slip up in the first place?
Get those three questions straightened out and you'll master your fitness. Let me help... 
1. When your diet feels like it's too hard:
You start eating in a way that seems healthy and disciplined. You feel like you're "behaving" yourself. And at first you're proud of making such changes, but over time it gets harder and all you want to do is eat everything you gave up, with abandon. 
You're tempted to go back to your default eating patterns, the ones that feel comfortable -- but also the ones that make you feel shackled to a lifestyle you hate and a body you're not proud of. 
Mental mise-en-place:
Mentally prepare to avoid blaming yourself. That may be tempting to do, but it won't help.
Go back to the drawing board. The plan you're following is inadequate if it's making you constantly feel like you're on the verge of giving up. 
Consider the possibility that your energy expenditure is too high for the amount of calories you're taking in. Trying to under-eat and over-exercise in an attempt to lose a lot of weight isn't something you'll be able to sustain. Your cravings should be a red flag.
2. After you've slipped up:
You anchor your nutrition and your fitness together, so when one sinks the other goes down with it. You stop working out when you screw up your diet. Or you give up on trying to eat healthfully if you can't make it to the gym. 
Mental mise-en-place: 
Mentally prepare to move on. Mentally prepare to go to the gym at your worst. Even when you've overeaten. Even when you've taken some time off. Go when you're feeling fat or unmotivated. Tell yourself those feelings will pass. 
When you work out at your worst, it'll be that much easier to work out at all other times. It'll help you solidify the routine.
You can start slowly too. Write your workout down, tell yourself you'll just do the first exercise, and then see how you feel after that. Chances are, you'll end up doing the rest of it. 
When you're feeling shit, train simply for the pleasure of accomplishment. Because it's something you have complete control over, and it’s a guaranteed job well done that'll carryover into other things you do.
Likewise, if you feel like saying "screw it" with your diet just because you haven't been working out, change your thinking. 
Realize that when you eat well you'll have the energy to be more active, and you'll feel better about yourself in general. It's all the more important to take care of your nutrition when you're not working out.
3. When you can't seem to stay on track:
You keep trying to eat well and exercise consistently only to end up getting caught in a cycle of all-in or all-out.
You diet hard, you train hard, you suffer; then you fail miserably and feel unmotivated to try again.
Mental mise-en-place:
Mentally prepare to make smaller adjustments with your diet even when you're motivated to make big ones. Remind yourself of how those big "improvements" often lead to big setbacks. 
If your dieting patterns inevitably lead you to a place where you're tempted to shove the junkiest food you can find in your mouth, then you're not getting enough nourishment, or the right kinds of food at the appropriate times of day. 
I see this happen most often with people who pride themselves on being able to stave off hunger during the day. Sure, they may stave off hunger in the early part of the day, but then end up making up for it at night. 
Skipping a reasonable 400-calorie breakfast or lunch won't compensate for that 3000 calorie splurge you'll want as a result at night.
Likewise, when it comes to working out, your first step is consistency -- not becoming a superhero in your first workout. 
After a long period of inactivity, it's more important to have workouts that you can do consistently, instead of doing one really hard workout that leaves you incapacitated for several weeks until your next attempt at being a superhero.
The Effort is the Reward
Mise-en-place gives you the advantage on consistency.
You think ahead. You prepare for downfalls. You get your stuff organized. And you eliminate all the potential obstacles ahead of time -- both mental and physical.
When you've accounted for all those things, then you can savor not just the outcome of what you're doing, but the consistency of training hard and eating healthfully on a continual basis. The continual effort is also the reward.
Five Final Tips:
Tip #1. Know what your main goal is and have a plan to make it happen. Write and organize your workouts for that specific goal, or hire a trainer who can help you reach it. 
Tip #2. If you've never kept a food journal, do it. Don't worry about calculating anything. Just jot down what you eat at mealtimes and about how much. Notice how these things make you feel. Pay attention to the signals your body gives you.
Tip #3. Notice when you're reaching for food for the wrong reasons. If you can't control your anxiety, anger, sadness, or any emotion, realize that food won't fix it. It's bad as a band-aide.  Don't snack just because you're bored, or it's free, or because everyone else is snacking on the same nutritionally void shit. 
Tip #4. Eat meals on purpose. Then stop and wait till your next meal before eating. Don't skip them if you have a tendency to overeat later on. 
Tip #5. Keep a workout log no matter how advanced or inexperienced you think you are. This is essential if you weight train with a specific goal in mind. Write what you're going to do before you get to the gym. Then follow everything the log tells you to do. It makes you prepared, efficient, and focused -- which is what mise-en-place is all about.

The Ultimate Fitness Goal

You could win a Super Bowl and still end up morbidly obese.
You could become an Olympic gold medalist and years later wind up afraid to be seen in public because of your weight. You could even become a fitness model, shredded to pieces with a six pack, and later need to request two seats when you fly. 
You could set records, earn titles, acquire fame, and still end up with type-2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, and the inability to control your food intake or get around without a motorized chair.
Accomplishing your wildest fitness dreams doesn't guarantee lifelong fitness. 
The most recent season of The Biggest Loser proved this. All the contestants were former athletes who experienced massive success and then let themselves go.
Winning Big vs. Winning Forever
Athletic achievements make legends. But eventually the shine wears off. And without the demands of your sport, the pressure of a contest, a photo shoot, or a coach telling you how to work out and what to eat; it's possible to forget what it takes to be fit on your own without all those things.
And if your diet and workout regimen were difficult to manage during your glory days, then you're going to be even further away from knowing how to master fitness on your own once those days are over. 
So you can win big and still set yourself up for long-term failure if all you know about fitness is how to follow someone else's instructions... especially if those instructions were totally unsustainable to begin with.
Being Healthy Without a Babysitter
Winning big is not an achievement that keeps giving. 
Recalling your "glory days" won't help you get off multiple medications or save you from a heart attack. To continue being fit you have to continually put in the work and become conscientious with your eating. 
That's where autonomy comes in. It means self-rule. And it's the ultimate achievement when it comes to fitness. Why? Because once you're there, you'll know how to live, work out, and eat on your own for best results -- without having to consult someone else. 
How do you become autonomously fit? Many ways. You may start by seeking guidance and coaching, but eventually take what you learn there and expand on it. 
You research. You read. You try things. You assess. You revise what doesn't work. You get honest with yourself. And while it may be a rough road at first, you eventually become stronger, fitter, healthier, and able to be in shape with or without the demands of an upcoming event or the guidance of a coach. 
Those become inconsequential to your overall fitness. And without the extremes of overkill dieting or excessive exercise, maintaining your fitness eventually becomes easy. You start slow, commit, and watch your progress take off.
Then, as a byproduct of autonomy, you're ready to do whatever event or competition you want without having to "get" in shape. You'll already be there. 
The Dumbest Fitness Goal 
If becoming a legendary athlete doesn't promise lifelong health and fitness, just imagine how flimsy achieving a goal like weight loss is. 
When people make their primary goal a number on the scale, they don't realize that permanent weight loss (and leanness) is the byproduct of these other things: eating well, working out consistently, and living sensibly. So why not just make those efforts the goal?
Striving to see the scale go down doesn't mean it'll stay down if you never master the healthful living, eating, and working out parts on their own. Achieving autonomy means that you've mastered those things.
In addition, trying to become a lower weight -- at any cost -- usually makes people do the types of things that backfire and lead to a higher weight. Which is why prioritizing the scale is usually just idiotic. 
Yet weight loss continues to be a top priority for most overweight people, and it's perpetuated by TV, most especially, The Biggest Loser. T Nation has published my article on The Biggest Loser and the four biggest fitness lies that come from that program. Hope you check it out and drop me a line in the comments section if you want to discuss it there!

Common Sense: The New Eating Disorder

Meet Edith.
My friend, Edith, doesn't eat fried food or junk food. It doesn't beckon her. Yet there's a theory which states that you ought to eat moderate portions of somewhat shitty food or else you will deprive yourself and end up bingeing. 
So should Edith reintroduce fried food and junk food into her life in order to have small portions of shit in her diet and not binge, as the theory suggests? 
The Appetite and The Average Western Diet 
If you have a hankering for a particular food, researchers believe that it's because you continually eat that food. They say the environment in your gut -- your gut microbiota  -- actually develops as a result of what you eat. You create an ecosystem for that bacteria with your diet, and in doing so, you become driven to continue eating the way that accommodates it the best. 
If researchers are right, this is both good and bad news. Chronic junk food eaters will continue craving junk as long as they're eating it, and it may even take some time for them to rid their guts of the microbes that keep them wanting it. 
But the good news is, if you're like Edith, and you pack your diet with nutrition, you'll crave more of that instead. 
Aside from the gut-microbe research, you don't even have to see a study to know how acquired taste works. In psychology there's a thing called the "mere exposure effect" which states that the more you're exposed to something, the more familiar it becomes, and the more you like it. Exposure leads to affinity. 
Edith's favorite foods don't sound appetizing to most people who eat a westernized diet. They don't expose themselves to her favorite meals. But she still craves them. When she visits other people who don't eat the same things, she actually misses and thinks about her usual food. 
Health Food Junkie Problems
She looks forward to the type of things she eats on a daily basis, but since those things aren't what the average American craves she's somewhat alienated. She can't tell her friends about delicious salads, chicken, or the fish she bakes on weekends. And they make fun of her when she talks about protein powder being one of her favorite snacks, and crudités being go-to at parties.
Edith gets a lot of crap from people because she doesn't have a desire for candy, chips, or any of the sort. But she does treat herself almost daily to nuts, nut butters, and very dark chocolate. She feels completely satisfied with these things, and contrary to the way most people think, they don't leave her feeling deprived.
When people offer her Halloween candy or breakfast pastries, she says no without feeling like a martyr because there's nothing inside of her that would make her want it. 
It's not that Edith has loads of self discipline. (She doesn't think she does.) It's just that she's gone so long without high sugar treats that they no longer make her feel compelled to want it. And if she knows that a food doesn't do her any favors, she simply doesn’t seek it out or pay money for it. 
Remembering the Past Without Repeating it
Years ago, Edith experienced what it was like to go overboard on that stuff and it took her a while, but she weaned herself away from it, and eventually lost a taste for it. (Ironically she binged on exactly what people tell you to eat moderate amounts of in order to avoid a binge.)
Part of the reason she'd rather not indulge in those things is because it disgusts her. She'd prefer to steer clear of her former body and the addictive feelings she used to have when consuming those things.
So back to the original question: What should Edith do about that theory intended to guilt her into eating junk she doesn't even care for? In essence, it states that Edith has an eating disorder because her thinking is "black and white" and that she's setting herself up for a binge. 
She and I discussed it for a while, and I asked Edith for a one-sentence reaction to that theory. Her response? "That was probably made up by a 35-year old who felt guilty for eating like a 5-year old."
Edith is not a liar and I know how she eats. Sometimes she has big meals, sometimes she has small meals, but she never feels out of control, nor does she feel like the way she eats is burdensome or hyper-restrictive. So the theory is flawed. Avoiding junk food doesn't make her binge.
And I'm betting there are a lot of people like Edith. I'm one of them. So is my husband. She's not an anomaly.
Do What Works
We're not saying it's not possible for you to do really well having moderate amounts of shit food. Weight Watchers takes that approach, it has a massive following, it's been around for decades, and there are a bazillion other diets like it. So if that approach works for you, knock yourself out. But before you disparage anyone opting out of it, ask yourself this:
Is it really better to have moderate portions of sugary, high fat foods that lack any semblance of nutrition if you can achieve the same satisfaction with something that has more health benefits?
I don't know about you, but I like health benefits. So I'm with Edith. Her eating is nutritious. Her energy is up. She looks fantastic. She exercises as hard as she wants. And she doesn't feel deprived. 
Edith has acquired a taste for higher quality food, things which help her achieve the body she wants (while maintaining the food preferences she wants to hold on to).
You can call that an eating disorder if you like. But I call it common sense.

The Competitive Personality

The Rising Action and The Crescendo

Certain people crave competition. It's not necessarily a need to win, a need to feel better than other people, or a need for validation. 

No. It's just that they don't feel like they're living out their highest potential unless they're preparing for something big. They want a little healthy pressure.

These types of people want to work toward an event -- a date on the calendar -- when they can say, "Here's my hard work. Yay! Now let's kick back a while and then find something else."

If life is an ongoing series of songs, then those events are the big crescendos. They're the climax. And what's cool is, the discipline and anticipation are even more exhilarating than the event itself.

Competition Addiction

I'm craving an event. Doesn't matter what it is. If I have to prepare for a hotdog eating contest I will.  

But the kind of competition that makes the most sense given my interests, experience, and knowledge would be just to do another figure contest. After all, if I'm writing articles about fitness and bodybuilding, I ought to be in the trenches.

I've added some muscle since competing last April. I've healed my digestion. I've learned a few priceless things about staying healthy on the road to the stage. I definitely have a bigger butt.

Related: The Flat-Butt Fix

And I'm a journalist at heart. So if things get weird, which they inevitably will (preparing for any competition will have hiccups) then I'll be able to report it back to you in interesting ways.

The Illusion of Extremes

The more disciplined and consistent a person is, the more "extreme" her routine will appear to those who don't have the same experience. 

For instance, the daily routine of a competitive gymnast would seem pretty normal to her, but it would freak me the crap out. Of course she wouldn't think anything of it; because to her, hours of strenuous training is a small price to pay for something she's driven to achieve.

She's passionate about her sport and she's taken years to gradually work up to that level of discipline.

Self-discipline is easy when you know the reason for it, and that reason sets you on fire. 

So comparatively speaking, preparing for a local figure competition is nothing. Being conscientious about the amount of food I eat and the quality of it, while building muscle, are things I enjoy doing anyway. Knowing there's a competition on the horizon just makes me more deliberate about that lifestyle. 

Related: Redefining the Female Bodybuilder

Although it may look a little anal retentive or extreme to outsiders, competition prep just gives me incentive to kick it up a notch and rise to the occasion. It turns up my passion a little louder.

What's Your Passion?

What do you do that makes discipline feel easy? I'd love to know. It doesn't have to be fitness related. 

Would someone peering in from the outside world think that your routine is a little over-the-top?

Also, are you a competition addict? Or do you find discipline inherently satisfying without the need for an event?



Make Your Resolutions Stick. Finally.

It's Time to Bury Your Fitness Failures
It's no wonder resolutions feel like a joke to most people. Unachieved goals, promises that peter out, the sparkling motivation that hits a roadblock or fades after just a few weeks of consistency.
If that sounds familiar, I don't blame you for not wanting to try again. Because the hope and excitement that come with starting will always lead to disappointment when you fail.
But take heart. Bury the defeat in your past. Because it's not what you're about, and there really is a way to make healthy behaviors stick. 
The problem is, most people start trying to make big changes before giving these goals enough thought. They jump the gun. 
So stop resenting the idea of setting big ambitious goals or New Year's resolutions. It's not that you can't succeed, it's just that you need to straighten a few things out in your head before you get started.
Hear me out first, think about what I'm going to tell you, and then decide if you're ready for lasting change.
The Foundation of Success
It's the groundwork before the work.
To change your behaviors permanently you must first change your attitude. To change your attitude you must first change your perception. To change your perception you must first change your awareness. Awareness is your starting point.
Some people do this groundwork without even knowing it. They build unrelenting determination. They figure this shit out and succeed. 
Now it's your turn to do the same. 
Step #1: Become Aware 
Start with becoming aware of your circumstances and the need for change. Why do you want to improve your diet? Find something deeper than just seeing the scale go down, or fitting into a smaller pair of jeans. 
A recent study was done on West Point cadets and their graduation rate. The ones who were extrinsically motivated were more likely to drop out. The cadets who were intrinsically motivated were more likely to graduate. 
Extrinsic motivation might be what you say motivates you -- but in the long run it doesn't hold a candle to your inner drive, and the things within you that'll set your heart on fire. 
Scale weight and pant sizes are extrinsic motivation. Sure, celebrate those when you do well with them, but don't make them your driving force getting you to the gym or inspiring you to eat well. Because they'll fail you in the long run.
To gain intrinsic motivation, figure out how changing your behaviors would change you as a person, and why that change would matter. Answering a few of these questions might help you dig a little deeper:
Would you be less of a push-over, and develop a stronger sense of character if you built a stronger body? 
Would you become emboldened to do more with your life if you took control of your fitness? 
Would you become more capable of taking care of your family or your job requirements if you felt fully capable of taking care of yourself? 
Would you live longer, get around more easily, be a better role model, and respect yourself more if you got your shit together health wise?
Would your sense of self worth depend less on other people's opinions if you knew for a fact that you were a badass with your fitness? 
Would you require less validation from other people if you earned more self respect through consistent training and sound nutrition?
Would taking control of your fitness help you fight addictions that make your life worse? 
Would it prevent you from following in the footsteps of loved ones who haven't mastered their own fitness?
See how inconsequential and stupid pant sizes and scale weight are compared to these big-picture things? 
Before you think about all the outside things you'd like to achieve with your fitness, become aware of why they might be important to you in the first place. Become aware of the things that would change your life. 
Arbitrary numbers trivialize the big things that fitness can do for your life. Don't let your motivation hinge on these numbers.
Step #2: Change Your Perception
Your perceived roadblocks aren't as bad as you think. From healthy eating, to time management and the gym itself. Your perception of all that needs to be revamped. 
Perception Change 1. Realize that you don't have to be a monk with your diet or a ninja with your fitness. Just start with the basics. Start with clearing your diet of the most obvious crap. The details will come later.
There are ways to have nutritious food available when you're in a jam. But you have to think ahead and put in a tiny amount of footwork to have those healthier options available. 
Healthy eating is exponentially easier for those who cook. The benefit of mastering your kitchen is appeasing your appetite for delicious stuff with food that's healthy. You'll never have to feel deprived if you know how to cook.
Effective training is less complicated than you think. And the newer you are to it, the easier it'll be to make fast progress. Look for a program with basic weight training movements for beginners. Start with what's simple. Then expand after you've mastered it. Get a good book, like The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.
Perception Change 2. Start questioning the things you perceive as roadblocks. The more you see them as such, the less likely you'll be to overcome them. 
Lack of time? Lack of energy? There are ways to schedule workouts around your other priorities. Single moms with kids and jobs are able to do it. You just have to look harder for opportunities.
Perception Change 3. Don't let your insecurity become what keeps you out of the gym. Don't let your own prejudices become a barrier for your health and fitness. 
Intimidated by the other people who go to the gym? Get over it. Scary looking people go to the store. Scary looking people go to the airport. Yet they don't stop you from shopping or flying. 
Here's something ironic: You, as a beginner, are far more judgmental than the regulars at the gym. 
Why? Because we've seen it all and you're nothing special. But, you, walking into the gym for the first time in a long time will be on high-alert. And you have pre-judged us. You think we’re concerned about what you're doing or wearing? We aren't. 
Just do your thing, and ask us if you need any help. Because we're a lot nicer than the assholes you made us out to be in your insecure mind.
Got any other perceived barriers? Question the hell out of them. Then entertain the opposite of what's been rattling around in your mind. Because your mind has probably been holding you back.
Step #3. Change Your Attitude
It's your outlook. It's how you feel about the changes you want to make, and your willingness to do so. It's the final step driving your effort. 
If you have a defeatist attitude, then you won't consistently put forth the effort to get shit done. Thinking that you have to accept your circumstances, and that you're a victim who has no power to change, is a defeatist attitude. If that's you, snap out of it.
If you have an unrelenting attitude then not only will you get shit done, you'll exceed your expectations. 
Think about adopting that kind of outlook. It's the one that makes you seek answers when things go awry. It's the one that makes you do the searching, learn the stuff, read the books, and test things out instead of gathering secondhand information from other people. Your fitness is not their responsibility. 
It's the kind of attitude that makes you show up at the gym with a plan day-after-day even on days you're feeling timid. 
Does that sound like too much? If so, then your attitude isn't where it needs to be for you to make permanent change. 
Your determination to figure shit out when it's new, hard, and scary is a sign of how long you'll stick with it when it ceases to be new, hard, and scary.
Yes, fit people know how to make their fitness more challenging and more effective, but it's never as daunting as it is when you first  decide to start. You'll never have to go through that getting-started hump again if you face it and overcome it. But you have to have the right attitude for it. You have to have the balls.
Ready? Or Not. 
What's your answer? If you've worked through these things, you may have realized you're not really ready to make a commitment. 
Maybe it feels good to play a victim and you'd rather stay put and wallow than overcome your circumstances. Or maybe doing some research, reading a couple books, or preparing healthy meals feels like too much work for you. That's okay. You're not ready yet.
But if you are ready, and you've thought through these steps, then there's not a lot that can hold you back from achieving your goals and resolutions. 
Just realize that if you're wanting any major changes to stick, your awareness, perceptions, and attitude need to be on your side first. 
Your thoughts need to be your advantage not your downfall.

Your Inspiration Stinks

The Ego in Inspiration
There's this growing online trend among my generation. They say that their biggest goal in life is to inspire, and they post memes and messages like the one you see here:
Their mantra? "Aspire to inspire!" 
It's become such a popular idea that most instagram users posting half-naked selfies make sure to hashtag their pictures with #AspireToInspire.
It sounds commendable at first. Their goal is essentially to become a person who other people will look up to and say, "I succeeded because of you!"
But then you realize, wait a minute, shouldn't I want you to succeed, even if it's not because of me? Shouldn't I want you to pursue things without giving up because of your own grit, because of your own self worth, and because of what doing so would mean to your loved ones? 
The desire to be someone else's inspiration translates to this: "I want you to tell me that you succeeded because of how great I am."
Vomit. No really, we need to puke all over this idea because it's gross. Why? Three reasons:
Reason to Vomit #1: First, It's Asking For Validation
Making this statement means that we're asking other people to remind us of how much of an impact we have in their lives. Why not just have a damn impact, help other people, and then not require the credit?
Needing others to say that we're the reason they succeeded is a sign of both narcissism and insecurity -- wrapped up in one weird little ball. 
Reason to Vomit #2: It's Disempowering
If we need someone to give us credit for their success then we are not empowering them to succeed on their own. And chances are, they would've succeeded without our inspiration.
Inspiration is the spark that starts the fire. But it's the work that keeps the fire burning. The person doing the work can get that spark anywhere. And if we're not assholes, it's up to us to make others realize that they had what it took to make those changes all along.
But, if it's more important to hear about how big a role we played in someone's success, then we've got issues.
Reason to Vomit #3. Inspiring People Don't Try to Inspire
The truly inspiring people are busy doing awesome shit, and people feel inspired because of it. Not the other way around. 
Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, and Oprah didn't try to become inspiring before they became visionaries and hard workers. Yet they've been hugely inspirational to more people than you'll ever meet in a lifetime. 
Did they inspire people by trying to inspire people? No. They were creating, innovating, helping, doing, and investing their time in things that would make other people's lives cooler. 
They didn't need to be reassured that what they were doing was valuable. They saw a need for their work and just did the work.
Reason to Vomit #4. We've Got to Aim Higher
The goal to inspire people is sad. Why? Because inspiration comes from a multitude of places, it's fleeting, and it's often shallow. The average person can get inspired by the dumbest things on a daily, hourly, and minute to minute basis. 
Here's what I'm talking about: I watched The Biggest Loser this week, and the female trainer had nice quads. Her quads inspired me to do an extra set of squats the next day. Then, a Foo Fighter's song came on during my drive home from the gym and it inspired me to think about writing this post. Then, I saw a Rachel Ray magazine and it inspired me to roast some tomatoes. 
Did these sparks of inspiration change my life? Not really. I could've pulled inspiration from anywhere if I was in the mood to roast some tomatoes.
Inspiration comes and goes. So when we say we want to be someone's inspiration to never give up maybe what we're really saying is, "I want you to idolize me."
Influence Over Inspiration
Want to change the way people think and behave? Be influential. How? There are many ways...
Do awesome shit. Be so busy investing your effort into stuff you love that you don't have time to wonder who it's inspiring. 
Inform, entertain, or do both. Be a leader, or find a good leader to follow. Be helpful. Work on things that will improve people's lives. Create. Put thoughts in people's minds that weren't there before. Give people material that will make them more productive, happier, or at least well-informed. 
Notice common problems and think of solutions. Then share those solutions.
Sure, if you inspire people, that's a cool thing. It just sucks as a goal. Add value to people's lives and as a result you'll become inspiring. But you won't even really care about being an inspiration because you'll be too busy doing your awesome shit.
Spread Ideas, Not Just Selfies
There are already a bazillion professionally good looking people in the world who get paid to be good looking. And even they don't really change lives -- unless they're doing things that matter.
Let's do more of what matters. 
Because in the end, the people looking for inspiration will find it, with or without our half-naked selfies.