Motivation 009. Why You Quit (And How Not To)

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Motivation 009. Why You Quit (And How Not To)

Most people are embarrassed of being disciplined. It’s weird. People wonder why you’re not lazy, thoughtless animals like they are. If you’re out at a restaurant, they’ll nudge you “Have another drink!” But the quiet implication is: “What, do you have body image issues or something?” “There’s no harm in indulging once in a while.” “Fitness is like all things in life — it’s good in moderation.” Meanwhile, they continue their stagnant descent into a state of illness. Losing muscle mass. Gaining fat. A pound, half-a-pound every six months.

There’s a reason for this common social pressure to be unhealthy. If there is a consensus that fitness in the extreme is mentally unhealthy, then the group’s physically unhealthy habits acquire this glimmer of virtue. “Treat yo’self.” And all of a sudden, you become the weird one for going to the gym instead of the bar. You become the boner killer when you order a water instead of an IPA.

And that stigma — that embarrassment you feel pressuring you to participate in the group’s self-deceiving indulgence in illness under the moniker of moderation and mental health — that will kill you. And that’s the real truth of your ability to continue with your fitness commitment after you’ve lost a few pounds. After you’ve accomplished that fitness goal that everybody congratulates you for, will you continue out of a commitment to live? Or will you accept your participation trophy of social praise and return to your current weight?

Because here’s the truth: You are either extremely strict, or you’re losing muscle and gaining fat. Once you let the line break, you’re done. Once you have the mindset of, “I’m good at fitness! I don’t need to count calories,” or “I’m doing great! I can relax a little,” you have at that moment ceased to gain progress. You’ve taken your foot off the gas. You’ve caved. That small mental compromise is the difference between accomplishing your dream goal of being as strong and fast as you can possibly be (which is a real possibility) and being satisfied with a cheap consolation prize of pounds lost on the scale. There is no middle ground. There is no “relaxing” your fitness habits. There is either up or down; there is either pushing your death date back, or pulling it toward you.

When you are in your 60s, you will either be in great shape for 60, or terrible health. And your decision today, either to get started, or to keep going, or to double down on being strict with your diet and exercise, hangs on one decision: Will you participate with American culture in self-deception, or will you commit yourself to a mindset of extreme consistency? If you choose a middle ground -- if you choose moderation -- you are choosing self-deception. If you choose to cave into the coy smile and gentle nudge of your friend’s habitual self-deception, you will cave again tonight, and tomorrow, and the next day, and that mental compromise you’ve made will go unnoticed until you’re back where you started.

People quit their fitness commitments because they are satisfied to undervalue the small mental compromises that sabotage their fitness.

Notice it. Do it. No slack. No exceptions. No uncounted calories. No unstarted or unfinished workouts. Commit to your program for a certain duration of time. Complete the program for that duration, getting back up after any slip ups, calling them what they are, and moving on. Get up. Refocus. Shake off your sense of shame and failure. And commit to a next 30 days or 6 weeks or 12 weeks. Commit. Execute. Don’t look back. Don’t look up. Don’t like to the side. Don’t get bogged down in failure. Don’t try to see the finish line . Don’t take your cues from your friends.

Your choices are yours to make. Your goals are yours to set. And the consequences of compromise are yours to face, or to ignore. Who you choose to be today is who you will be in 6 months. So choose: Better, or worse?

 

Motivation 008. Do It Anyway

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Motivation 008. Do It Anyway

 

The things that keep you from working out aren’t “big” things. They aren’t cataclysmic events in your life. They’re little things I like to call “flinching moments.” They’re the few seconds right before the pain of sacrifice where you either choose to do it, or talk yourself out of it.

  • The little twinge of embarrassment, because you feel like you look stupid at the gym.

  • That little dip in despair because you think about far you have left to go.

  • That little pain of feeling stiff, or out of breath, right at the beginning of your workout.

Those are the prison bars keeping you trapped in your body, keeping you trapped in discomfort and embarrassment and weakness. Not the lack of family support or lack of finances or lack of time. Those are easy to overcome. Do 100 burpees to beat yesterday’s time every day and count your calories—you’ll be pretty healthy.

It’s the “flinching moments” that keep us trapped. Should I do the rep? Should I go for the run? Every single step of progress you make in getting stronger and healthier requires you to push through a flinching moment. It requires you to run when your joints hurt and you question the efficacy of your exercise.

  • “What difference does it make whether you work out or not?” That’s your prison guard talking.

  • “You deserve some indulgence! You worked so hard!” Prison guard.

  • “What’s one day off? You’re gonna work out tomorrow.”

If you don’t want to be as healthy and strong as reasonably possible, I’m not going to try to convince you to want that. I can’t. You have to convince yourself.

But if you do want that, life is too short to live in your own prison. Life is too short not to go to the gym. Life is too short not to go on a run. You get 70 years on this earth if you’re lucky. Who do you want to be at 50? 60? 70? The decisions you make today will determine whether you’re the old lady or the old man that people ask, “How do you have so much energy at your age?” Or you could be huffing and puffing just to get off the couch.

These flinching moments will tell you that they are insignificant. They’re not. They’re portals into another possible universe where you’ve made your body an advantage, rather than a disadvantage, in your role as husband, wife, father, mother, pastor, employee, student.

The pain comes now with no immediate reward. But they are portals into a universe where you’re not passively disabling yourself. There’s no shame in flinching. So flinch. But do it anyway. Pick up the weight. Run the miles. Count the calories. Stay on the path.

Motivation 006. It's Time To Write Your Origin Story

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Motivation 006. It’s Time To Write Your Origin Story.

I don’t need to remind you what it feels like to be fat and bloated. I don’t need to remind you what shame feels like. You don’t need me to tell you what despair about your body and your health feels like. You don’t need a lesson in what it’s like to feel embarrassed about your body.

I want you to imagine right now two different conversations with yourself. One is with yourself six months from now, and one is with yourself today. First, you need to have an honest moment with your six-month-from-now-self. So, imagine—you’re sitting in front of yourself six-months-from-now. What do you look like? What do you feel like? I don’t know you, and I can already tell you. In six months, you look and feel exactly the way you look and feel right now in this moment.

And what you need to do is be honest about that. And confess it to yourself: “The way you look like this is because for the next six months, I never really tried to make your body any stronger, or healthier, or faster, or better, or more comfortable. I tried to try. Which means I half-assed a fitness program for a couple weeks and gave up. But the reason you are exactly the same as you were six months ago is because I did everything exactly the same.”

Now: it’s time to have an honest moment with yourself right now. You okay with that? You okay stagnating for another six months, literally cutting in half the chances you’ll make any change six months after that? Listen: lots of people are fine with remaining the same. They’re fine suppressing their embarrassment. They love lying to themselves: “No, I love my body. It’s beautiful without qualification. I’m confident. Very confident.” Maybe that’s you.

Or maybe it’s not. Maybe you want to look at yourself six months from now and you want to have questions for your six-months-from-now-self. You want to ask: “How did you get that muscle definition?” “How did you lose that fat?” “What does it feel like to look in the mirror and like it? What’s it like?” And you respond: It’s awesome. It feels great. I have lots of energy with my kids, throughout my day. I feel confident going to the gym. It was really hard at first. I didn’t like it. I felt insecure around all these meatheads at the gym. But I made myself do it, because I knew I wanted to look and feel like this. So I stopped coddling myself, and I pushed it. And when I got discouraged because I didn’t see results fast enough, I kept going.”

Guess what? You’re writing your story right now. Imagine a documentary crew is making a story about your success 6 months from now. What’s that story gonna be? What extreme measures are you gonna take? What crazy level of discipline are you going to reach so that you can write a plot twist in your story? Your six-month-from-now-self is either going to be answering questions like “How did you do it?” or you’re gonna be the one asking someone else that question.

Because I guarantee you: Someone else, right now, is having a moment of clarity. They’re looking at themselves and all the excuses they’ve made and all the odds are against them, and they’re looking at themselves six months from now and they’re having a moment of honesty that will transform their lives and their bodies. People do it every year. People do it every day. That’s why I know it’s possible for you.

It’s time. It doesn’t matter how you slept last night, or if you are disorganized, or if you think you need rest. It’s time to start exercising and eating right every single day. No more excuses. No more blogs. Pick your program. Fall in love with the pain of doing hard things. Fall in love with your process. Obsess over it. Buy it nice things. Have a crush on it. Become the origin story of yourself. Or, remain a faceless, changeless observer in the crowd of your own life.

Choices are the ink that write the story of your life. Which story are you writing? What you choose to do right now will determine the path you choose.

012. iPhone: The Death of Your Intensity

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012. iPhone: The Death of Your Intensity

We are hypnotized by our iPhones. When you reach for your iPhone, check for notifications, browse endlessly through memes, and twitter away your time staring at a piece of glass, realize that this isn’t an act of free will. These actions are products of highly sophisticated algorithms intended for the single purpose of compelling you to pick up your phone and scroll. Social engineers in California have become rich because most people are happy to trade whatever it is they have to pay to be on the cutting edge of information. The iPhone and its applications — the Podcast app, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Imgur, all of it — consumes for most people an average of 6 hours per day.

What does that really cost us? What does it cost us to be connected all the time? And what are we really getting from it? It’s costing us, I think, our souls. We are angrier, and more offended, on our iPhones. We’re less aware when we’re hypnotized by the glass. We’re literally addicts. How often do you find yourself lingering in your car, in your apartment, with your family, just staring at this little piece of technology?

This applies to working out as well. One of the most common things I see in the gym is some guy who’s out of shape, sitting on a piece of workout equipment, literally just scrolling through his phone. It’s a tragedy. Women, I find, don’t do this as often, because they more often use interval programs that require very short breaks between sets, for which they use their iPhone timer — I think that’s fine. But there is this zombie population in the gym who literally might as well be at Starbucks. In fact, you’d probably get more health benefits by going for a 30 minute walk with a cup of coffee while scrolling through your phone than “Going to the gym” and looking at your phone for such ridiculous durations of time that you end up doing 5 or 6 sets and then going home.

Depending on who you are and what your habits are, the iPhone might be the #1 reason you’re not in shape, even though you’ve been “working out” for several months. Yes, the real reason is probably your diet. But if you find yourself using social media during your workout at all, I would guess you will only get 25% of the benefit from that workout you could get if you had your full focus on performing your routine. Not only will you be able to fit a higher volume into your workout, but you’ll have more intensity and focus during each set, pushing yourself harder, getting more benefit from each rep.

So, what’s the solution? There is only one solution: Go analogue. This doesn’t mean you should never use your iPhone. Sometimes it can be really helpful. For instance, again, if you’re using your iPhone to guide you through your workout such that it is timed so that you are unable to leisurely browse through your phone, then that’s fine. The problem with phone use is that it punctuates your workout with distractions that poke holes in your discipline, weaken your drive, and sap you of focus. This iPhone issue has been a real problem for me this past year. So, I did a couple things to fix it, and my workouts have significantly improved. Here’s what I did:

  1. Get the Freedom App. I love this app. It requires you to delete your social media apps from your phone in order to work, but what it does is — it blocks a selected list of websites that you choose for a duration of time that you choose. So you download the Freedom App to your phone, click “Start 1 Hour Session,” for example, and then you won’t be able to access the sites you choose for 1 hour. If you feel like you can’t give up your phone during your workout, this is a great first step. And if you click the link here (click here), it gives you a discount with the code FREEDOM30 so that it only costs $20 for the year.

  2. Find another way to listen to audio. I dug up my old iPod Nano. It took me a few hours to set it up again, and to figure out how to sync podcasts with iTunes, and all that stuff. But it was 100% worth it. Now, when I leave my house to go to the gym, my iPhone actually stays either at home or in my workout bag. If you need to listen to music or podcasts during your workout, you can get an MP3 Player or iPod from Amazon for very little money. One tip: Don’t get an iPod touch. Then you’re creating the same problem for yourself. Get an MP3 player that has no wifi access like an iPod Nano or even an iPod Classic. But most people have an old one lying around. I found an old 8gb Nano from about 10 years ago, and it works great.

  3. Use an analog alarm clock. Don’t let your phone wake you up. Get some autonomy. Don’t initiate your consciousness into reality by jacking into the matrix that saps you of strength and willpower. Get up with an old school, beeping clock. I use my $13 Skmei wrist watch, which works very well for me.

  4. Use a paper notebook. I suggest the MoleSkine Professional Notebook or the official TheoFit Strong 4-Week Workout Journal. Don’t be dependent on self-quantification apps. I know that I recommended them at one point, but they are only helpful for those who have enough willpower not to look at their phone.

Again, there’s no moral requirement to ditch your iPhone during your workout. But if you ever find yourself mindlessly scrolling between sets, you shouldn’t be wondering why you’re not seeing results in the gym. That’s why. It compromises the amount of sets and reps you’re able to perform in your limited time at the gym, and it drastically reduces the intensity you’re able to bring to the table — thereby compromising your results.

I’d like to end this podcasts with a challenge for you. Try this for one week: Only use your iPhone at times you’ve pre-scheduled for 7 days. In other words, if you haven’t made a previous appointment with your iPhone, it is on airplane mode in a basket in your closet. Try it. You might think that’s impractical—that people need to get ahold of you. But, if you use iMessage on your mac, you can get most of your texts, and if you schedule two 15-minute appointments for your iPhone in your day, then you can call back any unexpected calls you’ve missed in that time. That’s the challenge. Try having an appointment-based relationship with your iPhone for 7 days, and take note of several things. Take note of how strong your desires are to go get your phone out of its hibernated state and check for notifications, and then ask yourself: “When in my life do I feel compulsions this strong for other things?”

For most of us, the only times we feel such strong urges are when we are harmfully addicted to something. And then ask yourself: “Why can’t I just be present in this moment, doing what I’m doing? Why do I have to go check on insignificant notifications that only make me depressed?” Frequent iPhone use is increasingly correlated with mental illness. Do yourself a favor and complete this challenge. 7 days — only using the iPhone when you’ve made appointments. See if you can, and how you unfold spiritually as a person in that time. Or, if you try and fail, don’t judge yourself — take it as an opportunity to seriously reflect on your relationship with your iPhone: “What am I using it for? If I only have so many years on this earth, how many of them do I want to spend like a rat in a cocaine experiment?”

If you’re depressed, anxious, distracted, full of mental fog, don’t download the Headspace app — put the iPhone away, and face yourself. It’s possible what you find in an hour of iPhoneless existence is something you haven’t encountered in years. I certainly did. And it has drastically increased my focus, output, and intensity in my workouts. It has also made it much easier to be strict with my diet.

Try it. iPhone used during appointments only. Let me know what you think in the TheoFit group.

If you’re interested in reading more about this topic, check out this book by kinesiologist Andy Galpin: Unplugged: Evolve from Technology to Upgrade Your Fitness, Performance, & Consciousness.

Motivation 007. When You're Insanely Hungry

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Motivation 007. When You're Insanely Hungry

Getting hungry feels a lot like going crazy. That emptiness in your stomach feels like a vacuum sucking your sanity away. You're not even thinking with words anymore. Just images and smells and tasteful imaginings.

You can feel the hunger sizzling in your brain, like acid, eating away at your willpower.

  • "After all, what's life about if you can't even enjoy a donut now and then?"
  • "After all, it would be rude for me not to eat this French toast crumble this nice lady made."
  • "After all, if I'm gonna exercise, I need a few extra carbs."
  • "After all, I'll just eat a little less later."

These voices in your head are lies. They are like a seductress leading you down into the pit of death. Don't you remember the despair you felt when you decided to go on a diet? Don't you remember the helplessness and the self-hatred you felt when you looked at yourself in the mirror?

Do you really want to add one more piece of evidence to your inner demon's case against you? Do you really want to give power and authority to that voice in your head that says, "You don't have any control over your own body. You can't change. You haven't changed. You'll never change."

Now is the moment when you assert your authority over your inner demon. Now is the moment you can look back upon and say, "I did it! I was victorious! I took control of my body, and I took control of my life." This is that moment.

You can't delay this choice. It is upon you now. Will you take control of yourself, or will you surrender to despair? Will your future self remember this moment as one of those character-forging moments in your journey to a better, stronger self? Will this moment be a battle story? Or will this moment be one more in a long string of selectively forgotten moments when you wanted to change, but didn’t?

The moment cannot be delayed. Make the choice now. Write your own story of victory with the blood of agony that only you can shed.


Now Get up, and go get a glass of water. Drink it. Savor that water as the nectar of life. And consider your choice made.

010. When Self-Hatred Has Its Boot On Your Neck

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009. When Self-Hatred Has Its Boot On Your Neck

If you want to be better, you have to meddle in a dark power inside you. You have to tap into something that will be a little bit toxic. That power is self-hatred—that feeling you have when you take an honest look at your body and your life and say, “Oh my God. This is ridiculous.” Now, the world will train you to silence that voice. “No, no, no—you’re fine. You don’t need to change. All that body stuff is just vain people on Instagram. You’re not a fitness person. You’re happy. You need to love yourself.”

No. You have to hate yourself. It’s the difference between getting it done every day and giving up after a couple days. But here’s where self-hatred can be bad: When you fail, and you hate yourself so much that you actually just decide to give up. How do you deal with that? Here’s how:

First, recognize that you have tapped into something that is necessary for discipline, but it is an unstable power source. This is how it’s unstable: It gets you up in the morning or gets your into the gym, but when you tap into self-hatred and then don’t go to the gym anyway—or you eat the donut anyway—then, you’re screwed. Then, self-hatred puts its boot on your neck and you feel overwhelmed, crushed, disabled, sapped of strength by disgust. And you’re tempted to abandon self-hatred altogether, because it’s so painful.

But don’t. Even though self-hatred hurts you when you fail, and even though self-hatred is cruel to you, it plays fair. And this is the second point. Listen to your self-hatred when you fail. It’s going to say, “Gotcha! I won. I was right. You’re lazy. You’re gross. You’re weak. You’re worthless.” And here’s what you say: “Today, you’re right. I failed. I was lazy. I was weak. It wasn’t pretty. But tomorrow, I’m going to remember this feeling. I’m going to remember your boot on my neck. And tomorrow, you will know the feeling.”

That’s what you do with self-hatred. You yield. And you say, “Okay. You got me today. And you know what? You’re right.” Don’t tell yourself that self-hatred has nothing to say to you. Most of the things it’s saying to you are truths you have neglected for a long time. And it hurts to hear them all at once.

And, what about self-love? What about self-care? Shouldn’t I love myself? Yes, but you’re now learning that self-love doesn’t always feel good. That was a childish conception of self-love. In fact, we now have to make a distinction between sinister self-love real self-love, and between sinister self-hatred and real self-hatred. And here’s the confusing part: sinister self-love and sinister self-hate are actually the same thing. It’s this habit we have of indulgence which destroys us. Death by self-love. Weakness by self-love. We don’t see things that make us weak as forms of sinister self-hatred—things like indulging in comfort food, and taking unearned rewards that make us fat and slow and weak and undisciplined.

So we opt for more complex, raw version of self-hatred who is every bit as much our friend as self-love. We need it for its power. We need it like the dark side of the force—to give us power when we are facing something that is just too much.


And when you fail, and self-hatred turns the knife against you and says things that hurt you, laugh it off. Shake it off. And critique your self-hatred when it says anything that smacks of finality. When you hear it say, “See? I knew you were a failure. I knew you were weak.” You say: “I did fail today. You’re right. Today’s decisions were made out of weakness. But I’m not a failure. I’m not a weak person. In fact, I’m gonna use you to make me strong. Say what you need to say. Today you can do your little victory dance. Tomorrow, I’m going to remember this. And I’m going to make you look as stupid as I feel right now.” Keep self-hatred your energy. Your focus. Your determination. Use it for your purposes. It’s powerful. But if you know how to listen to self-hatred, and if you know what to say to it, you’ll crush it better than someone who doesn’t.

Motivation 005. When You Don't Want to Go to the Gym

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Motivation 005. When You Don't Want to Go to the Gym

It’s time to actually show up. No more prep. No more practice. Showing up to the gym for the first time, or at all, is intimidating. You don’t even want to pull into the parking lot. You cringe when you walk through the door. Your joints are stiff. There are a bunch of knuckle-dragging apes blocking the water fountain. The lights are too bright. All your equipment is always taken. You have a million reasons not to go.

Review your workout — what muscle are you working today? Where will you do your ab workout? Where will you complete your cardio? Would it be better for your phone to be off? I see a ton of people in the gym sitting still, hypnotized by their phones. I promise you, they’re not getting in better shape. Turn the phone off when you’re done reviewing your workout. You can turn it back on when you’re doing cardio if you need it. But treat this like business.

Can the gym suck? Yes. Does it feel like you don’t belong there? Yes. Is it a reminder of how out of shape you are? Yes. Are you going to the gym because you love the pain of exercise? No. You’re going to the gym because you can choose what kind of pain you experience — The pain of working out for an hour a day, or the pain of being out of shape every day for the rest of your life?

Your whole future hangs on today. Your whole future hangs on this moment right now. Will you work out or not? If you don’t, you’re just enforcing your reason not to go tomorrow. Don’t tell yourself, “I can take a day off.” No. A day off easily turns into a week off. And that turns into a life off. That’s what you’ve already been doing. To give up today is to give up forever. To work hard today is to incrementally transform who from a weak person to a strong person.

Everything hangs on your choice right now. You’re not doomed to your fitness level. The screaming voices in your head, “I can’t! I can’t!” are liars. You get to choose whether to believe your self-doubt, or whether to disprove it. If you can get to the gym today, today will serve as scientific evidence for your future self that you can make your body do things it doesn’t want to do. You can choose to be disciplined. Don’t beleive the voice in your head that says you can’t. It wants you to be weak. It wants you to beleive that you can’t really change your body or change your life. It wants you to believe that you will forever be plagued by chaos and disorder and frustration and self-hatred.

It’s time to throat punch that voice. The idea that you are too weak to go is a lie. Get up. Get going. Go to the gym.

Go.

Right now.

Because you can.

TheoFit Q&A #2. What To Do After A Diet, Why I Don't Wear Captain America Shirts, And A Mini-Rant on "Fat Positive" Research

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TheoFit Q&A #2: What To Do After A Diet, Why I Don't Wear Captain America Shirts, And A Mini-Rant on "Fat Positive" Research

QUESTION 1. I’m not sure now is the time (since most people here are currently in a deficit), but I would love to hear an episode on maintenance. My 13 week cut ends this Saturday, and I am typically the type to fall off the wagon a bit when in maintenance mode.

ANSWER: This is a great question because, of the people who are disciplined enough to reach their goals, it is common, once you’ve reached your goal, to fall back into a place halfway between your original state and your goal, and remain there and get discouraged. For me personally, the #1 time my willpower breaks is when I have to switch from being in a calorie deficit to being in a calorie surplus. Because, remember — if your goal is fat loss, you want to be in a 20-25% deficit. But you can’t stay in a deficit forever. Once you hit your fat loss goal, you don’t want to go right into a 10% caloric surplus and start gaining muscle —  you need to rehabilitate your metabolism. Otherwise, your body will be adjusted to burn very few calories in order to do what it needs to do. But your want it to be doing the opposite. You want your body to be burning as many calories as possible when you do start trying to gain muscle so that you can eat as much as possible. For instance, if you go right from a cut to a bulk, a 10% caloric surplus for you might be 2500 calories. But if you take 2-3 months to rehabilitate your metabolism in the way I’m about to describe, your 10% caloric surplus could allow you to eat 3000 calories.

The only exception to this is if you’re really skinny and have to eat more than you’re comfortable with in order to gain muscle. If that’s the case, you probably don’t need to do a cut anyway — you just want to gain strength and muscle, so might want to aim for a 15-20% surplus and adjust week-to-week if you end up gaining more fat than you’re comfortable with.

So, this is what you do after a diet — and some of you already know this — it’s called “Reverse Dieting.” This is where, when you’ve reached your fat loss goal, you continue your exercise routine, but add 100 calories a week gradually until you’re in a 10% caloric surplus, working your way up from your 25% deficit. So you may be adding 100 calories per week in order to go from 2000 calories a day to 2800 calories a day, to take you from a deficit to a surplus. Then you can start bulking muscle.

I’ll cover what it means to bulk in another episode. Your routine doesn’t change much, except you might cut back on some of the long-distance cardio. But that’s for another day.

The short answer to this question is this: If you want to maintain your fat loss results and transition out of your calorie deficit, add 100 calories per day one week at a time, probably of carbohydrates — so we’re talking about adding 25g of daily carbs one week at a time.

This is easier said than done. The hardest part about Reverse Dieting out of your cut and into your bulk. One of the ways I stay consistent in my caloric deficit is I use its simplicity to my advantage. Eating less becomes the form of discipline I’m accustomed to. So generally, when I start eating more, I feel like I’m cheating on my diet and becoming less disciplined, even though it’s a scheduled part of my diet program. So the hardest part is not letting yourself shift into an indulgence mindset where you accelerate that extra 100 calories a week to 1000 extra calories a day — and, all of a sudden, you’re overeating and indulging because all the rules you once knew that kept you on track are out the window.

So, in this time, it’s important to shift your conception of what it means to be disciplined. The tough part is that the solution here has to be psychological, since the primary reason Reverse Dieting is so hard is for a psychological reason. So, try to get excited about the fact that you can be excited about your workouts again. When you’ve been in a calorie deficit for more than a month — maybe even two or three months — your workouts are flat, and you feel terrible. But when you start slowly adding those calories back to your diet one week at a time, you can look forward to getting that glisten back in your eye when you go to the gym. Think about adding 5 pounds onto your lifts, 10 pounds, 20 pounds, 50 pounds. Getting 10 reps instead of 5, 15 instead of 10. All this is to come. But if you add all your calories all at once, you’re going to get all those strength benefits at the expense of all your fat loss goals. You’re just going to gain that fat back to get strength if you add all your calories at once. And more than that, you’re not going to be able to eat as many calories, because your metabolism will still be adapted to a low caloric intake.

Now might be a good place to note that when you lose weight, your metabolism isn’t “damaged.” It’s just adapted. So when you hear about how abusive these TV shows are and how these people who were fat now burn less calories than they used to, the response to that are several things — (1) Of course they burn fewer calories; they weight less. (2) It takes several months for your body to re-adapt to a higher caloric intake. So after a long time in a caloric deficit, your TDEE gets lower and lower (and if you’re confused about what your TDEE is, check out the Core Series article on counting your calories at theo.fit/core). But if you progressively re-introduce calories over time after you reach your fat loss goal, your metabolism will re-adapt to a higher intake and your TDEE will naturally increase, with no damage done. One final reason that those fat loss shows may so negatively affect the metabolisms of people on the show is that they don’t focus at all on retaining muscle — it’s mainly just high-paced cardio that probably results in serious muscle loss. So, when you’re trying to win a show based on total weight lost, rather than trying to lose fat and retain muscle, you’re becoming less healthy, because the number on the scale actually encourages you to lose muscle, which is just a terrible metric for overall health — especially if you want to create something sustainable.

Long story short: Try to shift the psychology of your program from having very reliable train tracks of restriction to keep you in line to something else — like a program that has more weight lifting requirements that will stimulate strength and muscle growth. When you’re in a 10% caloric surplus, diet isn’t the hard part — pushing yourself to work hard enough to stimulate muscle and strength growth is the hard part. So try to shift your hardcore discipline mindset from restriction in diet to output in your workout. Great question.

QUESTION 2. What's in your workout bag?

ANSWER:

ANSWER: Several things! I’ll link all these in the show notes — currently:

QUESTION 3. Do you have a captain America workout shirt?

ANSWER:

No! If you have a Captain America shirt, I don’t judge you. I love Captain America, and I’ve seen people with those shirts, and I’ve had a little twinge of temptation to get one. But I don’t wear that shirt for the same reason I don’t get a Batman tattoo even though I really want one — The reason you like superheroes is because they look cool in those outfits and with those symbols, but you don’t look cool in those outfits and symbols. The exact opposite, actually. The only reason you should wear a fake Captain America outfit workout shirt is if you want people to look at you and think, “That guy’s not Captain America…” Because that’s everybody’s first thought. You’re just not Chris Evans. And in every way that you’re not as perfect as Chris Evans, that will be the first thing that sticks out to people who see you.

So again, I don’t begrudge those people. I think it can be a genuine expression of fandom, and if you wear it as a fan and not trying to convince yourself that you to some degree participate in the coolness of Captain America, then by all means, please do wear the shirt. But I caution against the delusion that wearing it somehow tricks people into thinking, “Is that guy … does he have that shirt because there’s some chance he has some Captain America qualities?”

QUESTION 4. For a few months now I've been getting back to the gym, starting off with cardio on the treadmill for 15 minutes then going up to 20 minutes. Along with eating healthy I have loss some belly fat and I feel more comfortable than I did before. Yet, I still have some belly fat and I know that cardio alone just won't do, but it was a good starting point for someone like me who hasn't been exercising for years. I'm ready to start lifting weights and I've been coming up with some lifting weight workout plans and days to attend the gym. Tell me if this sounds fine: On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays I'm going to lift weights then right after do some cardio on the treadmill. Then on Sunday, instead of heading to the gym, I have some weights, they're 5lb weights (not very heavy, I know) to work out just to add some workout productivity. Question: On Tues, Wed, and Friday I don't know if I should walk and lightly jog or just walk after the weight training and how long I should be on the treadmill. I don't want to overexert myself by working out 5 or 6 days a week but slowly escalate to that as I progress with the days I have planned. Some advice would be great.

ANSWER: Hey, this is a really great question! And it’s such a great question, I developed an entire workout program around it called the CORE SERIES, which you can access at theo.fit/core. The short answer is: Yes. What you’re doing is good. I do deal with this in the weightlifting program articles in the CORE SERIES, but just to briefly answer your question — yes, you can walk on a treadmill incline for 30 or 45 or 60 minutes after your weight routine. That’s what I recommend to people who are trying to do as much as possible without burning out. And you’re also right to start lifting weights. Unless you’re a genetic freak, you’ll always have some degree of flab if you’re not lifting weights. The only people who aren’t genetic freaks who get in great shape without weights are people who have the level of willpower where they can throw themselves into a bodyweight program that lasts like an hour and a half 4-5 times per week. I actually have a bodyweight program too, that I’ve tried to develop to get as much results as lifting weights in the gym. You’ll never get anything that does as much for you as lifting weights, but you can get a lot done with a bodyweight program if it’s designed properly, which mine is.

QUESTION 5. I get that I have to hit my calorie deficit, but what percentage of that has to be healthy food?

ANSWER: Great question. The short answer is this: When it comes to immediate fat loss, a healthy diet is much more about how much you eat than what food you eat. So we have a myth that if we eat a diet rich in micronutrients — like vitamins and minerals — we are eating a healthy diet, even if we are over-consuming macronutrients — like proteins, carbs, and fats — to the point where we are gaining fat. But if your immediate health or physique concern is fat loss and muscle retention, hitting you deficit is much more important, and the amount of micronutrient-rich food you eat is less important. There’s now an infamous story about a Kansas State Professor who ate a calorie deficit of only junk food and twinkies for 2 months and lost 27 pounds because he consistently hit his calorie deficit.

Having said that, generally speaking, unhealthy food — like processed food and junk food — is less filling than healthy food. For example, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice is less filling than eating an orange. Typically conceived healthy foods — like kale and spinach and broccoli and lettuce — have very few calories in large volumes. So, if you ate 500 calories of Kale, you’d be very full, and probably have a stomach ache. But you could eat 500 calories of cashews or peanuts in a single handful and forget you even ate them 30 seconds later.

However, I don’t like Kale. So thankfully, this isn’t the kind of diet where I tell you that there are certain “superfoods” that are essential to your diet. There aren’t. Kale has no special properties at all. And I never eat it. There are dozens of low-calorie foods you can choose to eat that fill you up. We’ve listed them elsewhere, but here we can just list a few:

  • Canned tuna.

  • Celery.

  • Romaine lettuce.

  • Sugar-free Jell-O.

  • Broccoli.

  • Chicken.

  • Fish.

  • Spaghetti squash.

This is just a random list of low-calorie foods I use to fill up.

The point is this: From a psychological perspective, eating a lot of green foods and lean beef, and cutting out processed food, allows you to feel more full while eating a caloric deficit. If you cut out processed foods from your diet, you might even eat a larger amount of food than you did when you were in a caloric surplus — it’s just not as many calories.

Also, eating nutrient-rich foods will enable your body to function and think better. So, aside from feeling less full because you’re eating processed foods in a calorie deficit, you’ll also probably feel a bit sluggish and drained as well. Whereas, if you eat micronutrient-rich foods like vegetables and lean meats like top round steaks and chicken and fish, you’re going to feel more clear-headed, you’re going to feel healthier, and you’re not going to be perpetuating your cravings for bad food during your diet.

So, in summary, the benefits of eating micronutrient-rich food in a calorie deficit is: (1) You feel more full, (2) You function better mentally and physically, and (3) You teach your body to crave micronutrient-rich foods, rather than keeping them craving micronutrient-poor and calorie-dense junk foods.