Wednesday, January 24, 2018

How a single busy mom lost 100 pounds with Nerd Fitness

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):

#1 LESLIE HAD A GREAT BIG WHY

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.

#2 LESLIE HAD SOMEBODY TO LOOK UP TO

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.

#3 LESLIE MADE AN INVESTMENT IN HERSELF

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.

#4 LESLIE STOPPED THINKING IN TERMS OF WEEKS

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!

#5 LESLIE CELEBRATED HER SLOW START

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!

#6 LESLIE KEPT FINDING NEW DRAGONS TO SLAY

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!

-Steve

PS: Just a quick heads up: The NF Coaching program has really exploded over the past 8 weeks (a great problem to have!), and we’re operating with a waiting list for the foreseeable future.

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!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

5 Hacks for Effortless Habit Building in 2018

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, be it 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 that dives deep into the key habit building techniques that will actually help you get in shape this year.

Why do we suck At Building 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.

Why?

Simple: Building new 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 workout 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/PS4’s 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 quicker
  • 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 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 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 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.

Habit Building 101: the Three Parts

THERE ARE 3 PARTS TO A HABIT:

#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 outine/action above that 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:

“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 bad habit, or begin a good 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 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 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. and you’ll be less reliant on willpower and motivation and more likely to do the new 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 or 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. 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 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 – its 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! I knew somebody who put his TV in his closet and cut his TV viewing by close to 100%.
  • 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]This is called the Seinfeld Technique, from Jerry Seinfeld who talked about writing new jokes every single day [[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 its 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 its 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 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: friend or group of friends to build the habits with you: a recent study [2] showed that:

Among the weight loss patients were 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 do 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 prostitute 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][[3]]You can learn more about that study here[[2]].

4) DON’T PICK HABITS YOU HATE: “Steve I know I should run so I’m trying to build a running habit.” 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 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:

DO WAY LESS.

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 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 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!

And please: ONLY BUILD ONE HABIT AT A TIME. 

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 right away, 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.

-Steve

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, habit building story based 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

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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

Thursday, January 4, 2018

How Kenney the Tabletop Gamer Lost 120 Pounds and Found His Voice (Literally).

“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 fitness 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….

-Steve 

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!