How to Start Eating Healthy (Without Giving Up Food You Love)

How to Start Eating Healthy (Without Giving Up Food You Love)


Is this breakfast part of a healthy diet?

So you want to start eating healthy, eh?

Amazing!

We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people like you transform into actual superheroes, and we focus on proper nutrition to do so.

These are the exact strategies we teach our Online Coaching clients, and we’ve used these tips to help them lose weight and get in great shape without being miserable.



Plus, we use fun LEGO photos and gifs to keep you entertained.

In this Ultimate Guide, we’ll cover everything you need to start eating healthy today:

Let’s jump in!

The Truth About Healthy Eating

What foods make up a healthy diet?

It’s really easy to tell people the following advice: 

“To lose weight, just eat more REAL food.”

“Just eat less fast food and junk food.”

“Try to eat more organic vegetables watered by unicorn tears, farm-to-table meals served by centaurs, and kale omletes made with eggs from chickens that you raised since birth.”  

Okay so maybe people don’t say the last one. 

But it’s not far from what healthy people say to people who can’t seem to get healthy.

In my opinion, these positions are completely out of touch with reality and it makes me plum dog mad.

No one likes being told "just eat better."

For starters, fast food is crazy delicious and dirt cheap, and often the only way that many busy parents can feed themselves and their kids.[1]

Next, applying morality and guilt to food consumption (“I’m being ‘so bad’ by eating this cookie”) creates an emotional rollercoaster – my least favorite kind of roller coaster.

I mean come on, we don’t need to be told that freshly grown fruits and veggies are better for us than junk food.

We don’t need to be told that organic grilled chicken and kale salad is healthier than a Double Whopper with Cheese.

Snape knows he should eat veggies to be healthy. But HOW DO YOU DO IT!

We all know this! 

So rather than “trying harder” to eat healthier we’re going to use things like “science” and “human psychology” and “excessive quotation marks.” 

Cool?

Here’s what you need to know: If you’re just trying to be healthier and maybe lose some weight, there’s no need to start funneling kale smoothies, mainlining chicken and broccoli, and abandoning your loyalty to the Burger King.

You can lose weight and be healthy while still eating these foods occasionally. 

Heck, people have lost weight by eating Twinkies[2] and drinking soda and eating at McDonald’s 3 times per day.[3]

I share this info not to promote those foods, but rather to make a big point:

If you are terrified of giving up all “junk food”…

You do not need to give up fast food if it brings you joy.

You do not need to feel shame for eating ice cream. 

You do not need to use terms like “cheat meal” or “guilty pleasure” when talking about a chocolate chip cookie.

Food isn’t good or evil, my dear friend! 

It’s just food! 

Let’s bring it all together:

If we have certain health goals, we can give ourselves the best chance of success by getting strategic about what foods we say “YES” to, and what foods we say “SOMETIMES” to. 

These YES foods give us more energy and have fewer calories on average than “junk food,” which means we’re likely to eat fewer total calories without realizing it.

And thus, we end up with the Triforce of Awesome:

  • A longer lifespan.[4a]
  • A smaller waistline.[4b]
  • A happier, healthier existence.[5]

Healthy eating can help you be awesome in multiple ways.

So what are these magical foods we’re talking about?

I thought you’d never ask.

What is Healthy Eating?

IS this egg part of a healthy diet? Let's find out!

Removing all the morality and science of food, let’s talk about a realistic definition of “healthy food”:

“Foods I can eat frequently that give me enough fuel to get through the day AND don’t make me miserable.”

Most doctors, websites, and books have generally the same list of “healthy foods”:

  • Protein like poultry, meat, low-fat dairy, and legumes. 
  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Healthy carbohydrates like rice and quinoa.
  • Healthy fats like almonds and olive oil.
  • Occasional full-fat cheese and dairy.

(A more complete list of healthy foods is below). 

Why is it that these are the foods that happen to end up on every list on every website when it comes to “healthy eating?” 

Why do all sites advise more of less the same foods for a healthy diet?

Simple.

They are full of vitamins and minerals while also being lower in calories than ultra-processed foods that are easily overconsumed.[6]

They also fill us up, making us feel satiated, and keep us under our calorie allotment for the day.[7]

Now you’re starting to get it:

If we can prioritize these foods on our plate even occasionally, we’ll feel full more often while eating fewer calories… 

Which leads to sustainable weight loss and maintenance

This man is stoked he gets to lose weight sustainably through healthy eating...and punching his enemies.

Let me drive this point about into your brain (not literally). 

Each of the following foods contains 200 calories in the quantities shown (courtesy of wiseGEEK):

2/3 of a bagel is 200 calories.

This handful of pasta is 200 calories.This handful of turkey is 200 calories.This plate full of apples is 200 calories.

And here’s a huge plate of broccoli, also 200 calories:

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

In this context, the realization that we might overeat certain foods compared to others starts to become more clear:

  • If we accidentally overeat broccoli, we might eat an extra 20 calories. And who accidentally overeats broccoli?
  • If we accidentally overeat spaghetti, we might eat an extra 500-1000 calories. 
  • If we accidentally eat a family-sized bag of Sour Patch Kids, we might eat an extra 2000 calories (and have no tastebuds left on your tongue)[8].

Which brings me to the next point:[9] 

We humans are terrible at estimating how many calories we eat.

Like, really really bad at it. I bet the proportions of the above foods surprised you. 

We consistently eat much more than we realize, by as much as 47%+.[10]

To make matters worse, we also OVERestimate how many calories we burn through exercise. 

One study showed that Fitness trackers like AppleWatch or Fitbit do not estimate energy burned through exercise accurately, some by as much as 90%![11]

Our Fitbit trackers might not be super accurate when reporting calories burned. Take this into account when referencing your calorie needs.

That’s why we made this fun infographic:

This infographic shows calorie discrepancies from fitness trackers compared to actual calories burned.

So when we “can’t lose weight,” it’s not because we have a broken metabolism. 

It’s not because we have bad genetics[12].

Or that we’re not eating for our blood type.

It’s because we consistently eat too much food without realizing it.

Deadpool tries to match his calorie goals...when not saving the world and whatnot.

Because we always have a ready supply of new energy from recently eaten food, more than we need, our body NEVER has to dip into our stored fat to burn for fuel. 

And when we think we’ve out-exercised our bad diet, we really haven’t.

So it’s time to stop “trying harder” and instead “try differently”:

In order for us to get healthy, we need to find ways to include more foods that fill us up AND taste good.

Luckily, I have that list riiiiight here!

How to Start Eating Healthy (Healthy Food List)

A plate that that contains a portion of protein, healthy carb, veggies/fruit, and unsweetened drink.

There are three big macronutrients that we’re going to focus on as we build our plate like the image above:

  • Protein: building blocks for our muscles.
  • Carbohydrates: our bodies will burn as fuel. 
  • Fats: can be burned as fuel, and also helps with nutrition absorption!

#1) PROTEIN: Priority Numero Uno. 

Protein is amazing. 

Your body uses protein to rebuild your muscles and keep you strong, especially if you are exercising or strength training regularly. 

Protein is both good for you AND highly satiating.[13] 

Protein can come from any number of sources, including:

  • Meat (beef, bison, pork).
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck).
  • Eggs![14]
  • Fish and shellfish (salmon, tuna, shrimp).
  • Legumes (black beans, chickpeas).

Not a meat-eater? Read our massive plant-based guide!

A serving of protein is about the size and thickness of your palm.

A serving of protein should be about the size of your palm, like so.

*The 4 oz serving is for an uncooked piece of meat. Cooking reduces about 25% of the weight, bringing it down to about 3 oz.

When building a plate, aim for the following amount of protein:

  • Dudes: 1-2 servings (6-8 oz or about 170-228 g): two palms
  • Dudettes: 1 serving (3-4 oz or about 85-114 g): 1 palm.

If you’re curious, here’s how much protein is in a serving of food:

  • 4 oz (113 g) serving of chicken has around 30 g of protein.
  • 4 oz (113 g) serving of salmon has 23 g of protein
  • 4 oz (113 g) of steak has 28 g of protein. 

As we cover in our “how much protein should I eat per day?” you can target anywhere from 80% to 100% of your bodyweight in pounds per gram of protein, with an upper limit of 250g[15]:

  • If you weigh 150 pounds (68 kg), target 120-150g of protein.
  • If you weigh 200 pounds (90 kg), target 160-200g of protein.
  • If you weigh 250 pounds (113 kg), target 200-250g of protein.
  • If you weigh more than 250 pounds (113 kg), target 250g of protein.

#2: VEGETABLES: The difference-maker when it comes to healthy eating and weight management.

Vegetables are the key to healthy eating.

They are nutrient-dense: full of all the good nutrients that your body can use to function at optimal performance. 

Next, they are voluminous but calorie-light, which means you can eat lots of them, you’ll feel full, but you’re unlikely to over-consume calories.

A serving of veggies is about the size of your fist.

A serving of veggies should be the size of your first (or greater).

Remember this is what just 200 calories of broccoli looks like (holy crap). This is at least 5 full servings:

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

Here’s a quick, non-complete list of veggies that can fill your plate:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccolini
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Spaghetti squash[16]
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Onion
  • Asparagus

Target 2 servings of vegetables on your plate – it should take up ½ the plate! 

“But Steve, I don’t like vegetables…yet!” 

That’s cool, I didn’t eat vegetables until I was 22. Now, they’re a main staple of every meal I eat. 

If this is you, read our guide on “how to make vegetables taste good.”

To recap portion sizes of protein and vegetables:

A reminder of the protein and veggie serving sizes.

#3) HEALTHY CARBOHYDRATES: Fuel and fiber! 

These are the foods that can be an important part of a diet, provided you eat them in the right quantities for your goals. 

These foods are also great to consume right after a strenuous strength training workout to help your muscles and liver refill their glycogen stores (their energy tanks[17], essentially). 

Examples of healthy carbohydrates:

  • Rice
  • Legumes, lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Whole grain bread (or pasta)

This is a list of REAL food, minimally processed, that also have plenty of fiber[18]

If you’re wondering how fruit factors into this equation, that’s the next section.

Back to healthy carbs: when consumed in appropriate amounts, these are great foods that can help you feel full and give you energy and all that jazz. 

Just make sure you know what an actual portion of these foods are! 

A LOT of people accidentally overeats carbohydrate-heavy foods, even healthy ones, and then wonders why they aren’t losing weight.

To help you get better at eyeballing serving sizes:

Showing you a serving of carbs

1 serving of a starchy carbohydrate is 1 cupped hand (uncooked), or your two hands forming a cup (cooked). 

Here are some images to help you learn proper portion sizes (thanks to SafeFood):

This pic will give you an idea of how carbs should fit on your plate, so you can start eating healthy!

#4) HEALTHY FATS: No longer the enemy!

Fat had a bad rep in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but now things are swinging wayyyyy back in the other direction.

In some circles, dietary fat is considered a superfood – the healthiest thing on the planet that also does your taxes for you.

Let’s get to the truth:

Fat is neither a superfood nor evil. 

Fat can be part of a healthy diet, and is not evil, to the frustration of Dr. Evil.

It’s just a macronutrient that you can eat that can help you reach your goals in the right quantity, or keep you from your goals if it’s overconsumed.

When your doctor tells you to eat more healthy fats, she’s referring to polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats[19].

Healthy fat can be found in foods like:

  • Avocado 
  • Almonds 
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Almond butter 
  • Peanut butter

Now, science has recently come around on saturated fat too[20] – once completely vilified, but now cautiously considered okay for moderate consumption. 

Saturated fats can come from things like:

  • Whole milk
  • Full fat dairy
  • Coconut oil
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Lard
  • Fatty cuts of meat

Fat can be good for you provided you’re eating the right quantity for your goals. 

However, like carbs, fats can be overconsumed accidentally too. 

To help you gauge: a serving size of fat is roughly the size of your thumb!

A serving of fat should be about your thumb!

THIS is a single serving of almonds (162 calories):

Knowing the correct amount of almonds to eat can help you with your calorie goals.

THIS is a serving of olive oil (119 calories, taken from Runtastic):

Your thumb is about one serving of olive oil

As you can see, if you’re not careful – you can accidentally eat an extra 500 calories of “healthy fats” by absentmindedly eating too many “heart-healthy” fats. 

Many folks in our Coaching Program had us analyze why they weren’t losing weight, even though they “only ate grilled chicken and veggies.” 

When we dug into it, they had been preparing all of their food in an extra 500-600 calories worth of olive oil they weren’t accounting for. 

Homer just realized he eats too much olive oil.

To recap carbs and fats: feel free to include a starchy carb on your plate in the form of rice, potatoes, pasta, or legumes. Healthy fats can spice up a meal, provided you’re using an appropriate portion size

A reminder of the serving sizes of carbs and fat.

I realize that was a CRAZY amount of info, so let’s put it all on the same Healthy Plate:

A plate that that contains a portion of protein, healthy carb, veggies/fruit, and unsweetened drink.

  • 1-2 servings of protein (¼ of plate)
  • 2 servings of vegetables (½ of plate)
  • 1 serving potatoes, rice, or pasta. (1/4th of plate)
  • 1 serving of fat (size of your thumb)
  • 1 zero-calorie or low-calorie beverage (water, diet soda, tea)

I know that not all of your meals are going to be perfectly segmented like a bento box. For example: 

  • A fatty cut of meat like chicken thighs means your fat and protein are commingling. Cool.
  • Lentils and legumes mean your protein and your carbs are attached at the hip. Swell.
  • A burrito bowl with chicken, rice, guacamole, and cheese means all of your macros are cohabitating. Neato!
  • Salmon cooked in olive oil and coated in almond flakes means your fat and protein have fused. Stupendous!

This plate and serving size stuff above is just to help you get started thinking about healthy food differently and in proper portion sizes:

  • Trying to lose weight? Reduce your portions of carbs and fats.
  • Trying to gain weight? Increase your portions of carbs and fats! 

Remember, all calories count

I can already predict your next series of questions:

  • “What about beverages?” Simple. Liquid calories count too. So stick to low or zero-calorie drinks like water, tea, coffee, and diet soda. 
  • “How about condiments?” Grilled chicken slathered in 1000 calories of buffalo sauce means you’re still eating a calorie bomb!
  • “But what about things like Paleo or Keto? I thought low carb = healthy?” I address that in the “which diet is right for me?” section. Keep reading.

What’s the Deal with Fruit? Is Fruit Healthy?

Yes, fruit can be healthy, as this LEGO has figured out by cutting into it.

As we lay out in our “Is Fruit Healthy?” Guide, fruit is absolutely healthy and can help you reach your goals – in the right quantities. 

Fruits are full of nutrients, packed with fiber, and can make for a great snack or part of a protein-focused breakfast!

Watermelon can be part of a healthy diet. Just maybe don't eat the kind that dances.

Personally, I blend up frozen mixed berries in my post-workout smoothie.

Just remember that fruit, like every other food, obeys the laws of thermodynamics.

So, simply be aware of the calories (and carb and fiber content if you’re following a lower-carb diet).

Here’s a list of the calorie, carbohydrate, and fiber content of some common fruit:

  • Apple: 95 cal, 25g carbs, 4.4g fiber. 
  • Banana: 105 cal, 27g carbs, 3.1g fiber. 
  • Orange: 45 cal, 11g carbs, 2.3g fiber. 
  • Pear: 100 cal, 28g carbs, 3g fiber. 
  • Peach: 59 cal, 14g carbs, 2.3g fiber. 
  • Strawberries (1 cup): 47 cal, 11g carbs, 3g fiber. 
  • Pineapple (1 cup): 82 cal, 22g carbs, 2.3g fiber. 
  • Grapes (1 cup): 62 cal, 16g carbs, 0.8g fiber. 
  • Raspberries (1 cup): 65 cal, 15g carbs, 8 fiber. 

Fruit is a better, healthier alternative to nutrient-empty food from a vending machine.

Fruit is healthier than what you'll find in a vending machine, plus you'll lower your chance of getting stuck in one.

Where fruit can get you in trouble is if you start to move in the direction of “fruit-like”:

#1) Fruit juices (cranberry juice, orange juice, grape juice): these are high calorie, sugar-filled beverages. 

For example, here are the calories in one 8 oz (or 1 cup)[21] serving of: 

  • Apple Juice: 114 calories[22]
  • Orange Juice: 119 calories[23]
  • Grape Juice: 14 calories[24]

#2) Dried fruit: notoriously easy to overeat because they are so small. Since the water has been taken out, all that’s left is the sugar and fiber. 

Here’s 1 serving of raisins, which is 108 calories and 21 g of sugar:

Since the water is taken out, raisins have a lot of sugar and calories.

If you are saying “oh man, I eat 5x that many raisins when I eat them…” then multiply those calorie and sugar numbers by 5!

3) Fruit Smoothies: Just because it’s a fruit smoothie doesn’t mean it won’t make you fat! Have you seen the calorie count and sugar content of smoothies and ‘green drinks’? Yikes.

  • Green Machine Naked Juice (15.2 oz or 450 ml bottle): 270 calories, 53 g of sugar.
  • Smoothie King Banana Boat (20 oz or 591 ml smoothie): 450 calories, 70 g of sugar.

A man realizing how much sugar is in his drink.

**If you prepare your smoothie at home with a blender, it can actually be healthy since the fiber is intact. Here’s my personal recipe.**

To recap: fruit is healthy, provided you stick to fresh or frozen and not fruit-like food, dried fruit, or canned fruit packed in syrup. 

If you enjoy a small glass of orange juice occasionally, or you pack a serving of raisins in your lunch and it makes life worth living, by all means! 

Just don’t chug OJ by the gallon, drink a 64 oz “real fruit smoothie,” and eat raisins by the handful and then wonder why you’re not losing weight.

Are Cheese and Dairy healthy?

Is cheese and dairy part of a healthy diet? This LEGO is clearly skeptical.

We get questions about these two types of food frequently. 

Let me start by saying I’m assuming you’re not doing Paleo (which says “NO dairy and NO cheese”), or plant-based (which says NO to all animal products).

I’ll also assume you’re not doing Keto, which almost requires you to load up on dairy and cheese to eat enough fat every day! 

Let’s pretend you’re just curious if cheese and/or dairy can be consumed on a “healthy diet:”:

YES, you can still eat cheese and be healthy.

YES, you can still eat dairy and be healthy.

And there was much rejoicing:

Yes, both dairy and cheese can be part of a healthy diet. Rejoice!

Like the healthy carbs and fats listed above, it all comes down to your calories consumed in a day, and if these foods fit into your daily calorie goals:

  1. Want to put cheese on top of your salad of chicken and vegetables? Great! 
  2. Want to eat greek yogurt, a scoop of protein powder, and frozen berries for your breakfast? Amazing! 
  3. Want to eat a bowl of cereal with skim milk (or whole milk) in the morning with your kid before school? No problem.

This is true for higher-fat cheeses or full-fat dairy too – the food just needs to fit into your goals! 

Luckily, all dairy comes labeled, and most cheese will come with a nutrition label on it too. 

Just ensure that you’re choosing appropriate portion sizes. For reference, here are four different servings of cheddar cheese (about 113 calories a serving):

A serving of cheddar cheese is about 113 calories.

And here’s a serving of greek yogurt (120 calories in 142 grams):[25]

a serving of Greek Yogurt

And although nobody in the history of the world has ever eaten just one serving…here is a serving of ice cream:

A serving of ice cream is about the size of a tennis ball, cleverly shown here.

(A scoop of ice cream the size of a tennis ball is about 127 calories, cleverly shown above.)

So, dairy and cheese are both perfectly acceptable healthy food options! Just make sure they fit into your goals. 

If you are NOT losing weight, and you consume a lot of dairy and/or cheese, consider measuring your intake and see if it’s in line with your expectations! 

What’s the Best Diet for Me? Keto vs Paleo vs Plant-based.

Yoda knows a lot about healthy eating (and fixing R2)

“Low fat diets? Low carb diets? No carb diets? I don’t know which one is the BEST diet!” 

“Help me, Steve Kamb, you’re my only hope.”

Okay, you’re probably not saying that, but it’s an excuse to pay homage to Star Wars so I can use the great photo above.

You probably do have questions though about what’s healthier, a low fat diet or a low carb diet.

Low carb diets are all the rage right now, but are they healthy and will they help you lose weight

Will a low carb diet help you lose weight? Maybe!

Maybe.

It may depend on how your body regulates glucose (blood sugar):[26]

Some who don’t regulate glucose well may do better on a lower-carb diet.

Others who do regulate glucose well might do better on a lower-fat diet. 

Studies show that people who follow EITHER a low fat OR a low carb diet will still lose weight, as long as they are in caloric restriction and can adhere to the diet for at least a year.[27]

So, it comes down to: “which diet are you more likely to stick with for a year or longer?”

I personally lost 22 pounds over 6 months on a lower-fat diet (and eating plenty of carbs), but everybody is different.

This means you’ll need to experiment and see which is better for your lifestyle, and your day-to-day well-being.

Experiment with different kinds of diet until you find one that works for you!

But I bet you have questions about the big popular diets too. 

I’ve written a huge guide that covers all popular weight-loss diets together, but we’ve also written individual ultimate guides that cover:

Let’s look at each of these diets and explain why they will help you lose weight, at least temporarily:

Truth #1:  Every diet works in the short term.

Truth #2: Nearly every diet fails in the long term.

Let’s address these two truths individually: 

Why does every diet work in the short term

Why DO diets work in the short term? This ape wants to know so he can eat healthy.

All the diets above have a clever way of restricting calories without you needing to count calories, which leads to weight loss: 

  • Paleo Diet: eliminate everything but veggies, meat, fruit, and nuts. 
  • Intermittent Fasting: skip an entire meal!
  • Keto Diet: remove an entire macronutrient from your diet (carbs).
  • Military Diet: Only eat specific foods in certain quantities.
  • Plant-based Diet: Only eat foods from plants.
  • Carnivore Diet: Only eat meat! Eliminate everything else. 

Of course, there are plenty of benefits from following certain diets for certain groups of people. For example, Larry went Keto and it helped him reduce inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis. 

However, 99% of the reason why these diets result in short-term weight loss is that they get us to eat fewer calories! 

The problems arise when we get to Truth 2: 

“Nearly every diet fails in the long term.”

Put another way: 

Temporary changes create temporary results. 

If somebody “goes Keto” for 60 days, they’ll most likely lose weight, and might even feel better! This is cool. 

BUT! 

(There’s always a but…)

If they spend those 60 days in misery, dreaming of carbs, counting down the meals until they can “go back to eating like normal,” they will put all of the weight back.

The weight loss you obtain through diet will only stick as long as you stay on that diet.

In order for restrictive diets to create permanent results for somebody, they need to be adopted PERMANENTLY! 

For most of us mere mortals, we can’t stick with a restrictive diet for 30 days, let alone a year or a decade. 

For these reasons, I strongly advise you to change how you think about dieting.

You need to determine how likely you are to stick with a restrictive diet permanently:

  1. How averse are you to change?
  2. How likely are you to stick with your changes?
  3. Have you tried a restrictive diet in the past and failed?
  4. Do you have a healthy relationship with food?
  5. Do you have an “all or nothing?” mindset?

Like playing a video game, you need to determine what level of difficulty you are willing to attempt. 

Playing on “Ultra Hard Difficulty” (like Keto) gives you less room for error, but it can also produce impressive results quickly – if you don’t rage quit.

And 99% of people rage quit restrictive diets like Keto.

So what’s the best diet for you? 

I’ll give you the same answer that I give people when they ask me, “What’s the best workout plan?”: 

The best diet is the one that helps you reach your goals, that you ENJOY, and that you’ll actually stick with permanently!

Personally, I don’t follow any sort of restrictive diet

I’m a big fan of small changes that eventually produce big results, like my boy Optimus Prime:

Optimus Prime wants you to eat healthy.

This is why I’ve SLOWWWWLY adjusted my diet over the past decade, so that no change was too drastic and I could stick with it permanently.

It’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle change. Permanently.

And that’s what I would recommend for you: 

Small, non-scary, permanent changes over a long time period! 

You need to start thinking in terms of “days and years,” not “weeks and months:”

How to Grocery Shop, Cook and Meal Prep!

Marge knows how to buy food to eat healthy, Yoda is just here for moral support.

Okay! Now that you’ve determined your healthy eating strategy, it’s time to take action. 

There are three big steps you’ll want to master if this is your path: 

Step #1: Grocery Shopping!

You can read our full guide on “How to grocery shop”, and we even have a video that keeps things fun too:

Here’s how to grocery shop like a pro:

  • Stick mostly to the outer rim. This means you’re mostly buying meat, fruit, and veggies[28].
  • Read the nutrition label! Just because it says it’s healthy on the front doesn’t mean it is. Read the nutrition label and learn portion sizes. This can help keep you below your daily calorie goal
  • Don’t shop hungry! It may seem silly, but you end up buying way more junk food accidentally if you shop while hangry (a mix of hungry-angry, never a great emotion).
  • Make a list. Before you go grocery shopping, write down everything you should get. You can even put “non-healthy” food items on the list. But then you can only buy what’s on your list! This means no candy in the check-out aisle, or buying Oreos just because they’re on sale! Plan ahead. Stick to the script, sister.

Step #2: Learn to cook!

Once you get cooking you'll feel like the Swedish Chef.

In the next section, we share recipes for basic healthy meals that you can cook at home. 

Here’s why cooking at home is amazing: 

  1. You know all of the ingredients. When you eat at restaurants or pick up fast food, there are often hidden calories in the cooking oils and sauces that are sabotaging your healthy efforts. Because of this, it’s really hard to have an idea of how many calories you’re consuming. When you prepare food at home, you know what you’re getting.
  2. You can recreate healthier versions of your favorite foods. Making homemade tacos or pizza with homemade dough can be a great date-night experience, makes your stomach happy, AND can help you reach your goals!
  3. You save money. If your budget is tight, grocery shopping and cooking your own meals is a great way to balance your budget and free up some cash! Our most successful coaching clients work with their coaches on building the habit of cooking at home.

Now, if you’re somebody who only ever uses your kitchen to heat up microwave meals, that’s no problem. 

You can get by eating healthy with just a microwave!

Here are the guides you should check out: 

Step #3 (BONUS): Meal Prep and Batch Cooking!  

This step isn’t necessary, but if your goal is to make healthy eating a habit for you and your family, batch cooking can be the difference maker! 

By “batch cooking,” I simply mean setting aside time to prepare larger quantities of food at the start of the week, so that throughout the week you already have meals to eat!  

Personally, batch cooking changed my life.

Batch cooking can change your life, as this sheep knows!

And every single success story we’ve featured on Nerd Fitness (like this one) involved some sort of batch cooking (planning your meals for the week ahead). 

Follow these rules, and you will crush it in the Healthy Eating Department[29]!

19 Healthy Eating Meals You Can Cook Today

This LEGO is making a tasty meal of fish and veggies, so he can eat healthy.

“Okay Steve, you have me convinced I should be eating more healthy foods. But I am a nerd and I need specific instructions to follow!”

I got you. 

As a kid raised on LEGO and K’nex, I am the exact same way! 

Clearly we love LEGOs here at Nerd Fitness

Here are options to get the ball rolling on healthy breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners. Use these as inspiration or starting points for your meal planning! 

3 BREAKFASTS (Unless you do Intermittent fasting!)

Breakfast 1: Prosciutto-Wrapped Mini Frittata Muffins (4 muffins)

A Frittata like so can make a great healthy breakfast.

    • Calories: 440
    • Protein: 32g
    • Fat: 24g
    • Carbs: 16g

Breakfast 2: Kale Breakfast Salad (1/4 of recipe)

Who says you can't have salad for breakfast?

    • Calories: 331
    • Protein: 15g
    • Fat: 12g
    • Carbs: 14g

Breakfast 3: Breakfast Meal Prep Bowls (1 bowl)

If you do a little prep work, you can have a tasty breakfast for every day of the week!

    • Calories: 204
    • Protein: 10g
    • Fat: 10g
    • Carbs: 19g

3 LUNCHES

Lunch 1: Spicy Tuna Cakes (4 cakes)

Fish is a great addition to healthy eating, so grub down on meals like this!

    • Calories: 368
    • Protein: 20g
    • Fat: 20g
    • Carbs: 28g

Lunch 2: Chicken Zucchini Enchilada (1 enchilada )

Who says you need tortillas for enchilada?

    • Calories: 154
    • Protein: 16.7g
    • Fat: 7.2g
    • Carbs: 6.1g

Lunch 3: Lettuce Wrap Sandwich (1 sandwich)

If you lose the bread, a sandwich makes a great low calorie meal.

    • Calories: 279
    • Protein: 26g
    • Fat: 19g
    • Carbs: 10g

3 SNACKS (Unless you’re on “Team No Snack”)

Snack 1: Green Protein Snack Pack (2)

Edamame can give you a protein packed snack!

    • Calories: 234
    • Protein: 22g
    • Fat: 16g
    • Carbs: 32g

Snack 2: Avocado Egg Salad (1/4 recipe)

If you made a big batch of this salad, it'll make a great snack for healthy eating!

    • Calories: 330
    • Protein: 18g
    • Fat: 25g
    • Carbs: 8g

Snack 3: Baked Chicken Wings (1/5 of batch)

Chicken wings can be a great low carb or paleo friendly snack for healthy eating!

    • Calories: 440
    • Protein: 34g
    • Fat: 33g
    • Carbs: 1g

3 DINNERS

Dinner 1: Big-o Bacon Burgers (2 burgers)

If you use mushrooms instead of a bun, you can have an easy paleo burger!

    • Calories: 450
    • Protein: 34g
    • Fat: 40g
    • Carbs: 2g

Dinner 2: Vegan Portobello Pizzas (1 pizza)

Low carb and vegan pizza? Woot!

    • Calories: 165
    • Protein: 7.7g
    • Fat: 10g
    • Carbs: 14.5g

Dinner 3: Ground Beef Veggie Skillet (1/4 of dish)

If you mix your beer with veggies, you have a low-carb and paleo friendly meal. Healthy eating for the win!

    • Calories: 261
    • Protein: 29.5g
    • Fat: 1.8g
    • Carbs: 8.5g

All of these meals are nutrient-dense and low in calories, so they’ll give you the best chance at weight management without feeling miserable

Does all that seem like too much?

Watch this video from Nerd Fitness Prime where Coach Justin shows you how to make 7 “No-Cook” meals:

Meals covered in this video:

  • Egg and Avocado Rice Cakes
  • Cheese and Turkey Roll-ups
  • Chicken Pomegranate Salad
  • Shrimp Pineapple Salad
  • Smoked Salmon Wraps
  • Greek Yogurt (with Protein Powder)
  • Two-Ingredient Desserts

Want some more ideas? Check out 26 Easy Meals You Can Cook

Just remember, quantity counts:

  • If your goal is weight loss: Keep an eye on the fat and carbs portion of your plate!  
  • If your goal is weight gain, then you can ratchet up your total calories consumed by increasing your fat and carbohydrate portion of your plate! 

Not sure how to make these meals work or how to adjust them for your goals? 

This is exactly what we do with our Online Coaching Program!




How to Simplify Nutrition (3 Steps)

In the video above, Coach Staci walks you through her step-by-step plan for simplifying nutrition.

Yeah, I’ve thrown a lot at you today.

But as Staci mentions above, you can start off small, with some simple steps. Once you get these down, we can work on adding some more simple habits.

To start eating healthy:

  • Have a glass of water with every meal.
  • Have a vegetable with every meal.
  • Have a source of lean protein with every meal.

That’s it!

When someone joins our coaching program, these are often the steps we have them take. 

Yeah, sometimes they’ll bulk, thinking this is not enough…

A gif saying "is that it?"

…but consistency is where people start to see real progress.

Don’t overlook the power of simple and consistent habits.

Will You Commit to Healthy Eating?

When not fighting crime, Batman eats healthy.

As we start to wrap up this guide, I have one BIG final question for you:

“Why the hell are you reading this?” 

Sorry to be so blunt, but your answer matters! 

If you are trying to eat better because somebody told you to, or because you think you should, you’re setting yourself up to fail. 

You might be excited and motivated to eat healthy today, and that’s great! 

The start of a new activity, even a diet, can be very exciting as these apes know!

But next week, Oscar in Accounting will put cake in front of you at work, and ask you to “live a little” and eat some cake “just this once.”  

And then you’ll discover apps are half-priced at Chatchki’s during happy hour, and you figure “well I already had cake, might as well split some shrimp poppers and extreme fajitas with Meredith.”

This is how it always happens: Motivation abandons us when we need it most. 

And then one “ehh” choice becomes three bad choices which becomes “crap, I failed at my diet! I’m a loser. Okay I’ll just try harder next month…”

If you are committed to this goal of eating healthier, you need a DAMN good reason to start eating healthier in the first place!

Here are some examples you can build off of:

  • “I want to look better naked and start dating again.”
  • “I want to do epic stuff like running my first 5K.”
  • “I don’t want to die early like my dad did.”
  • “I want to find out what I’m capable of.”
  • “I want to feel pride, not shame, when I look in the mirror.”

There are many tough days ahead, many happy hours, and sabotaging coworkers. 

Having a great reason WHY can be the light in the darkness that helps you navigate the maze of temptation.

Frodo isn't afraid of the dark...or eating unhealthy.

In our Nerd Fitness Coaching program, we call this “The Big Why,” and having a reason can be the difference between success and failure:

It’s our Big Why that stops us from living emotionally and chasing instant gratification from a donut or six slices of pizza when we’re sad or stressed.

It’s our Big Why that allows us to say “Yes, I can have a slice of pizza, because I planned for it in my ‘calorie budget’ today. I’m not gonna feel bad about it either, because my breakfast tomorrow is gonna be great.”

It’s our Big Why that allows us to get back on track after a vacation or after just one day of poor eating, instead of letting things slide for a week or a month.  

Have your Big Why, and remind yourself of it constantly! 

Write it down, put it on a post-it note on your bathroom mirror, staple it to your forehead. 

But have a REASON you’re committing to change.

It will be crucial when life starts to get busy next week and you want to give up. So let’s talk about next week (and beyond!)

Healthy Eating: Next Steps!

You now know what it takes to eat healthy!

This guide has provided you with all of the tools you need to start making healthier choices, but if you are looking to go a bit further…

#1) Our 1-on-1 Online Coaching program: a coaching program for busy people to help them make better food choices, stay accountable, and get healthier, permanently.

You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click on the image below for more details:

#2) If you want an exact blueprint for leveling up your nutrition, check out Nerd Fitness Journey! Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

If you follow our Nutrition missions, you’ll learn to eat healthier while earning XP! Sah-weeeet.

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Join The Rebellion! We have a free email newsletter that we send out twice per week, full of tips and tricks to help you get healthy, get strong, and have fun doing so. 

I’ll also send you tons of free guides that you can use to start leveling up your life too:

Healthy eating will change your life. 

But it needs to fit INTO your life too. 

Small changes, not dramatic shifts!

You don’t have to give up the foods you love, you just need to PLAN for them. 

Learn how to make a plate like we lay out in this guide.

Prioritize protein, and always put a fruit or vegetable on your plate before filling the rest of it up!

This will get you 90% of the way towards a great healthy eating strategy.

And when in doubt, whenever you’re not sure if you should eat a particular food, ask yourself “What would Batman do?”

Ask yourself "What would Batman eat?"

Seriously, this has been studied with children, and it helped them make healthier food choices by giving the decision-making over to somebody they looked up to [22]. It’s called “self-distancing,” and there’s no reason it can’t work for you too. 

Oh, and when you eat a bad meal – who cares?! “Never two in a row,” right? Make the next meal healthy. 

YOUR MISSION, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT: 

Start eating healthy today with literally one change:

  • Try a new vegetable.
  • Cut one soda out of your day. 
  • Prioritize protein in your next meal. 
  • Swap out one high-calorie drink for a zero-calorie drink.

I don’t care what the change is, just as long as you make one!

Okay enough about me, let’s talk about you: 

What’s the ONE change you’re going to make today?

For the Rebellion!

-Steve

PS: Make sure you read the rest of the articles in our “How to Lose Weight 101” Series! 

###

All photo sources can be found right here: Leia eating breakfast, stuffed veggies, stormtroopers and egg, fruit ninja, Caution: Cheese Hazard, Fish soup, Yoda and R2, Happy Monday, almond serving size, olive oil, raisins, serving of cheddar, yogurt, Shopping, dinner on the beach.



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How to Get In Shape Fast (in 4 Steps)

How to Get In Shape Fast (in 4 Steps)


This Stormtrooper is ready to get in shape!

This step-by-step strategy guide will tell you everything you need to do to lose weight and get healthy starting today.

I know you have lots of questions, and I promise I’ll answer every single one of them (yes, even that one).

These are the exact strategies we tailor to each 1-on-1 Online Coaching Clients, and I’m excited to share them with you today.



In this guide we’ll discuss:

Four easy steps to obtain the Nerd Fitness “Triforce of Winning!”

“But Steve, ‘tri’ means three…”

…don’t worry about that, because Triforce!

Nerd Fitness Triforce of Winning

Either way, you got this.

You can read our overall philosophy below (which has helped hundreds of thousands of people), and help you get started today!

Step 1: WHY Do You Want to Get In Shape? (Inspiration)

A LEGO doctor in a cape, who knows how to treat DOMS.

Let’s start here: WHY are you reading this guide? 

Do you want to get in shape to:

  1. Start dating again?
  2. Win a weight loss competition at work?
  3. Eventually play with your newborn son?
  4. Grow old with your significant other?
  5. Prove everybody wrong who said “you can’t do it?”
  6. Because you just want to look good naked?

Have a freaking reason, friend!

Write it down, hang it up in your bedroom, tattoo it on your face, write it down on a piece of paper and staple it to your forehead.

Whatever.

Just keep that reason for wanting a better life at the front of your mind at all times.

With our 1-on-1 Coaching Clients, we call this “Your Big Why.”

This reason is going to help you keep going when it’s raining or you’re tired or you had a crappy day at work and you just want to binge-watch the Office and eat takeout.

In addition to having a good reason, many people get inspired by reading success stories of folks like them.

Luckily for you, we have lots of those stories on Nerd Fitness with many more to come. These are real people who love video games and books and work desk jobs (click on each to hear their full story):

#1) LESLIE THE SINGLE MOM WHO GOT STRONG AS HELL:

Leslie found her perfect workout.

#2) JIMMY THE AEROSPACE ENGINEER WHO TURNED HIMSELF INTO SPIDER-MAN:

A before and after of Jimmy, who turned himself into Spider-Man.

#3) STACI WHO STARTED POWERLIFTING AND FOUND CONFIDENCE:

Staci followed the paleo diet.

#4) JEFF THE DOCTOR WHO TRAVELS 2 WEEKS EVERY MONTH – HE FINALLY GOT HEALTHY:

#5) CHRISTINA WHO GREW STRONG  TO DO PULL-UPS AND BEGAN TO HIKE THE WORLD:

Christina started rocking pull-ups after Nerd Fitness Coaching

Maybe success stories aren’t your thing.

Completely understandable.

Instead, perhaps you like to get your inspiration from slightly nerdier articles from your favorite stories:

Or maybe you’re a video fan! 

Well then, videos like these might make you want to run through brick walls.

#1) Here’s a video that states “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”

#2) Some tips from the Terminator might get you motivated too:

#3) You might shed some tears of inspiration with this one:

…like to read?

This article will make you want to start strength training today.

Why all the focus on inspiration and motivation?

Because getting in shape will never be “easy”.

The first week – while you’re excited – is fun.

It’s the rainy days and snow days and busy days at work when you DON’T want to work out that will decide whether or not you actually get in shape.

But…

You can start building the habit of exercise

Unless you can find the discipline to push through those tough days, it becomes easier than ever to give up at the first sign of resistance.

And the name of the game is “consistent adherence.”

In other words, not skipping a workout and consistently eating healthy.

Step 2: How to Eat (Nutrition)

If you want to get in shape quickly, start making slightly better food choices!

80% of your success when it comes to getting healthy will depend on your diet – unless you are running marathons on a daily basis, you cannot outrun your fork, and you can’t out-train a bad diet.

If you’re not losing weight, it’s because you’re eating too many calories!

If you aren't losing weight it's because you're eating too much. Crap.

So, if you can work on making SLIGHTLY better food choices, and filling up your plate with plenty of protein and vegetables, you’re less likely to overeat calories!

Whether you want to count calories, cut out certain foods, or attempt a new diet altogether, this is the most important step you can take.

Here are some resources to level up your nutrition:

Now, most people can’t stick with nutritional changes because they try to make TOO many changes at once, their stomach freaks out and they run back to their comfort foods.

Sure, you can do things like the Keto Diet or Paleo Diet, but restrictive diets are really tough to stick with for the long term.

And temporary changes create temporary results! 

Getting in shape requires you to go when you don't feel like going

My advice? Pick one food change every few weeks, and stick with it.

Here are some examples of nutrition adjustments you can make to get in shape:

These small changes can lead to big successes in the long run.

I know how changing your diet can be overwhelming sometimes, and sticking with changes in the long term is really tough.

It’s why we built a 10-level NF Diet that tells you exactly how to transition your diet slowly so you can lose weight the right way and transform your physique permanently!

Step 3: What to Do For Exercise (Move!)

Let's learn how to get in shape!

Okay, so now you should be all fired up and inspired and thinking,

“Hey Steve, this Nerd Fitness stuff is cool. I’m ready to get in shape.”

Perf. Let’s get started.

A) Pick goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely). 

Be incredibly specific with your goals so that you can actively plan what steps are needed to achieve those goals:

“I’m going to lose 25 pounds this year by going to the gym 3 times per week for the next 6 months.”

That’s a good goal.

Alternatively, you could also work on a reoccurring habit that will indirectly help your goal.

EXAMPLE: “I’m going to walk to Mordor by walking a mile every day for a month. If I go for a walk, I win.”

This allows you to review your day/week with a simple question: “Did I do what I set out to do?”

Whichever method you decide, it’s important to be deliberate in your actions:

  1. If you are setting goals – be SUPER SPECIFIC, write them down, and plan them out.
  2. If you are building new habits – add them to your calendar, set phone alarms or alerts, and do them EVERY DAY.
  3. Understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Optimus Prime didn’t transform in one move. This is NOT a diet, or a quick fix, but a LIFESTYLE CHANGE. Don’t expect results overnight, or abs in two weeks. Slow, steady progress.

Next, we need to…

B) Identify your Kryptonite.

Think back to the last time(s) you tried to get in shape and lose weight.

  • How successful were you?
  • How long did you stick with it?
  • What made you fall off the wagon?

If you failed, congratulations!

You already know which “get in shape” method doesn’t work for you.

It’s simply the wrong piece of the puzzle you’re trying to solve.

Getting in shape is like solving a puzzle.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So unless you enjoy not getting results, don’t try to get in shape the same way you did last time…it AIN’T gonna work!

If you counted calories, ran on a treadmill, and did kickboxing and you’re not happy with the results, it’s time to try something new.

Ask yourself:

  • Did work get busy or you went on vacation?
  • Was it because you actually hated exercising?

Whatever it was, you need to pick a different strategy this time.

C) Find an activity that makes you happy, and do it all of the time.

  • Do you like to run? Awesome, do that (just do it right).
  • Do you like to lift weights? Awesome, make sure your workouts don’t suck.
  • Maybe you like yoga, or dodgeball, or Ultimate Frisbee, or rock climbing, or whatever!

If you tell me that “I don’t like to exercise,” then you just haven’t found the activity that makes you happy yet.

Here are 40 Ways to Exercise Without Realizing It.

We’re genetically designed to be active, so find something you enjoy doing.

The start of a new activity, even a diet, can be very exciting as these apes know!

So if you “don’t like exercise,” it’s time to try new things until you find something that you DO like.

Sign up for a new class, join your company’s running club for a day, try out something in your basement or living room, just keep trying new stuff until you find something that you like.

And then do it as often as you can. As long as you’re consistently under your daily caloric energy expenditure, you will lose weight.

D) Supercharge your results and build a great physique.

This Muppet knows strength training will help him gain muscle and lose weight.

And last but not least, learn how to get strong.

Getting stronger is one of the BEST things you can do to lose weight and get in shape.

Your body processes calories differently when you are strength training compared to other forms of exercise.

Coach Matt explains this in our video for body recomposition:

If you want more here, check out Losing Fat and Gaining Muscle (at the Same Time).

A quick explanation:

Your body needs to burn extra calories to rebuild all the muscles you just worked out during a strength training workout.

Therefore, after resistance trainng, there will be fewer calories to go around to store as fat!

This leads to lower body fat percentage and tighter muscles.

WIN WIN WIN!

Michael Scott would call strength training and healthy eating a win win win

My Advice: don’t overcomplicate things.

Here is a basic beginner bodyweight workout today that you can do in your own home too:

Here are 8 more Home Workouts for you to wet your whistle with.

Oh, what’s that? You enjoy working out in a gym?

Great! Here are 6 Beginner Gym Workouts you can start today.

This little sheep is stoked you can lose weight and gain muscle with strength training.

And if you need even more examples, here are 15 Circuit Training Workout Routines to follow too! 

To recap…

Here’s how to start getting in shape today:

  1. Determine your goals or habits you want to establish.
  2. Determine why your previous attempts didn’t work.
  3. Pick a fun exercise that makes you happy, and do it. A lot.
  4. Get stronger than you were yesterday.

If you’re overwhelmed at the very idea of how to get in shape, I hear ya. 

From bootcamps to “What is CrossFit” to Weight Watchers to paleo to vegan to Klingon, how are you supposed to make sense of all this information to find the right path?

The truth is that there is no ONE path that works for everybody.

So, if you want a coach to build a workout program and diet plan that’s specific to YOUR unique situation, check out our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program.

Nerd Fitness Coaching Ad

Step 4: Who is On Your Squad? (Support)

Your squad will be important for getting in shape.

Last but not least, you need support.

Yes, I understand it’s kind of fun to be an army of one: the lone ranger trying to succeed against insurmountable odds….but it’s not necessary.

Once you decide to get in shape, want to know the best way to guarantee success? 

Here are 5 ways to find support while getting in shape:

#1) Consider making it public.

  • Tell your friends, start a blog, and/or inform your co-workers and ask them to keep you accountable!
  • Unless you like being called a quitter, you’ll probably think twice about skipping out on your workouts.
  • Maybe your word isn’t your bond, and you need a different kind of motivation and support to succeed.

#2) Put your money where your mouth is.

My buddy Saint said he would pay his friends $500 if he didn’t get in absolutely incredible shape for his wedding six months down the road.

Saint didn’t have $500 to lose, so he decided instead to just get in great shape…and it worked.

Saint bet a friend he could get a six-pack.

#3) Build your own Jedi Council.

Find people who are:

There could even be a droid out there you’re looking for…

Obi Wan Says You Should Have a Jedi Council

These are people that you can turn to when you need advice or help. If you don’t know anybody in real life, keep reading…

#4) Find a workout buddy, hire a trainer, or hire a coach!

There are going to be days when you want to sleep in and skip your workout. There will be afternoons following a crappy day of work where all you want to do is play Halo.

Find somebody who’s at a similar level of fitness as you, and work out with them!

He/she will push you on days when you’re dragging, and vice versa.

You can inspire and support each other, feed off of each other’s success, and offer up tough love when the complaining gets too much (and yes, there will be complaining).

Now, let’s say you’re the ONE person in your group of friends that wants to get in shape.

Or you’re the only person in your office who doesn’t stuff his face every day. Maybe you don’t have anybody to turn to for support or advice…

Welp, we’ve got you covered: 

The Nerd Fitness community – a persistently amazing, always inspiring, never judgmental group of people who want nothing more than to help you succeed.

I have never been more excited and proud to be part of a community.

Or if you want to take it to the next level…

#5) Join our coaching program: If you like the cut of our jib, consider hiring one of our nerdy trainers to keep you accountable and answer any questions you have.

I’ve been working with an online trainer for 4+ years now and it’s the best money I spend each month.



Real Talk: How Quickly can I get in Shape? How Fast Can I lose Weight?

A LEGO going very fast on their mountain bike.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Pick a goal that you hope to accomplish in the next 30 days and then start working towards it.

Keep it simple but specific, and get started today.

But I know your next question:

“How fast can I get in shape, Steve?” 

We have a full article right here answering that question, but I’ll give you the short honest answer here:

You can expect to lose around 1-2 pounds per week safely if you start reducing your calorie intake (80% of the equation) and moving more (20% of the equation).

I know there are absurd diets like the Military Diet that says “Lose 10 pounds in 7 days!” But don’t believe it.

Temporary changes create temporary results

And our goal is for you to be slightly healthier today than you were yesterday.

And then healthier and happier next year compared to this year.

It means you should be thinking in terms of Years and Days, not weeks and months:

Instead of asking “How quickly can I lose weight?” instead ask “What do I need to do to build the right habits NOW so they become automatic LATER?”

Join the Rebellion – start fixing your nutrition with small changes today.

If you just finished reading these 2,500 words and you’re still overwhelmed, you’re not alone! 

This stuff overwhelms the best of us. If you are looking for a bit more hands-on instruction, or you really want the peace of mind knowing that you’re doing the correct program, I got ya!

We have three options that have both helped thousands upon thousands of people like you get started:

#1) Most involved: Our 1-on-1 coaching program where a NF coach will get to learn your situation, your lifestyle, and your experience, and then build a workout program and nutritional strategy that fits into your busy life.

We get to know you better than you know yourself, and we’ve got the results to prove it! Consider checking out our coaching program if you’re looking for that next level of expert guidance and accountability.



#2) Go-At-Your-Own-Pace, Do It Yourself: Nerd Fitness Journey. This is our app that allows you to get in shape while building your own superhero..

Tons of bodyweight workout plans (no gym required), a nutritional program that won’t make any scary changes, video demonstrations exercises, boss battles, daily wins, and group challenges!

Oh, and you’ll earn XP and receive loot the whole time.

Sign up for your free trial right here:

And don’t forget to…

#3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion. You’ll meet individuals who are attempting to get in shape the 1st time or the 50th time, all who want to better themselves alongside of you. 

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our Rebel Starter Kit, which includes all of our “work out at home” guides, the Nerd Fitness Diet Cheat Sheet, and much more!

Big things come from small beginnings, so pick the tiniest change or action you can take to get started, and then repeat that every day.

As you start to build the habit, you can increase the ‘difficulty’ and try something a bit more challenging, but it all starts with habit building.

Educate yourself, find your inspiration, and create your support group. 

Welcome to the Rebellion.

Any questions?

-Steve

###

Day 346, Lunar School Bus, Not All Heroes Wear Capes, Family PortraitMountain Biker



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Stay in Shape While Traveling (5 Workouts)

Stay in Shape While Traveling (5 Workouts)


This LEGO knows all about staying in shape while he travels.

Ever said, “I’d love to get in shape, but I travel too much”?

If so, this guide is for you!

Today we’re gonna teach you exactly how to get fit no matter what type of business trip you’re on.

We’ll cover:

It’s time to get you a specific action plan that you can take with you on your next trip.

This is the philosophy we teach to all of our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Clients. Many travel quite a bit, so having “worldwide accountability” and a specific plan for travel has been a game-changer for these Rebels.

Are you trying to learn a new exercise, lose weight, or build muscle, but find doing it on the road a challenge? Let us help you – click below to learn more.



5 Travel Workouts You Can Do Anywhere

Where's this LEGO going? Will he workout once he gets there?

Without access to your favorite gym, it can seem like you are doomed to remain sedentary until you get back home.

Have no fear! These 5 workouts you can do anywhere and at anytime!

#1) THE 20-MINUTE HOTEL ROOM WORKOUT

Set the alarm clock to 15 minutes from now and see how many circuits you can do!

  1. Bodyweight squats: 20 repsDo a proper bodyweight squat to work out your legs
  2. Incline push-ups: 15 reps (feet on floor, hands on edge of bed or desk)Staci doing an elevated push-up
  3. One-arm luggage rows: 10 reps (each arm, use your suitcase as your weight)
    Jim doing a luggage row
  4. Reverse crunches: 10 reps

The reverse crunch is a great way to engage your core during your bodyweight workout.

Click right here for more advanced hotel workouts you can try.

#2) BEGINNER BODYWEIGHT WORKOUT

No gym required for this workout!

If you have a body, you can do this circuit! If you’re a brain floating in a jar, email me. I’ll think of a workaround for you.

  1. Bodyweight squats: 20 reps.
  2. Push-ups: 10 reps.
  3. Walking lunges: 10 reps each leg.
  4. Dumbbell rows (using your luggage/laptop bag as a weight): 10 reps each arm.
  5. Plank: 15 seconds.
  6. Jumping jacks: 30 reps

Run through this circuit three times. If you don’t have milk in the hotel room for the rows, find something of roughly the same weight with a good handle. Your luggage might work perfectly.

3) THE PLAYGROUND WORKOUT

Throughout the world, you’re often never that far away from a playground or a park.

Get a workout in there!

  1. Alternating step-ups: 20 reps (10 each leg).
  2. Elevated push-ups: 10 reps.
  3. Swing rows: 10 reps.
  4. Assisted lunges: 8 reps each leg.
  5. Bent leg reverse crunches: 10 reps.

4) ADVANCED BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES CIRCUIT

Was that Beginner Bodyweight Workout too easy for you?

Then try out this more advanced circuit!

  1. One-legged squats: 10 each side [warning super-difficult, only attempt if you’re in good enough shape].
  2. Bodyweight Squats: 20 reps.
  3. Walking Lunges: 20 reps (10 each leg).
  4. Jump step-ups: 20 reps (10 each leg).
  5. Pull-Ups: 10 reps [or inverted bodyweight rows].
  6. Dips (between two chairs): 10 reps.
  7. Chin-ups: 10 reps [this might be tough in a hotel room, so try an inverted bodyweight rows with underhand grip].
  8. Push-Ups: 10 reps.
  9. Plank: 30 seconds.

5) THE ANGRY BIRDS WORKOUT

This is Nerd Fitness. There’s no way I’m going to miss including a nerdy-themed workout.

  1. Bodyweight Squats: 30 reps.
  2. Push-Ups20 reps (or 40 knee push-ups).
  3. One arm rows: 30 reps (each arm).
  4. Planks: – 60 seconds.

6) SPEED RUN WORKOUT

If you’re busy on the road, it might seem like you have no time to train.

Enter the Speedrun Workout.

In the video above, Coach Matt walks through exactly how to sneak in a workout, even with “no time.”

How to Eat Healthy While Traveling

What should you eat when you travel? How about fruit (the non-LEGO kind)

Here’s what I do specifically while traveling:

#1) Skip meals strategically. I know that if I skip breakfast, it means I can eat a slightly larger lunch and have an extra drink with dinner and STILL come in under my daily calorie expenditure.

#2) Prepare for bad meals. I love me a good steak dinner with a side of mac and cheese and sweet potato fries and dessert and a few beers. When I’m on vacation or celebrating, that sounds like heaven to me.

The "cheers" scene from Shaun of the Dead

However, I know if I always eat like that, I’m going to pack on lots of weight.

So I plan ahead for a big meal, that way I can enjoy it guilt-free and not see the scale budge. I eat protein and veggies for lunch, strategically undereating so that I can overeat for dinner – and not gain weight in the long run.

#3) Never eat 2 bad meals in a row. We have a big “never two in a row” rule at Nerd Fitness, as I explain here:

Believe it or not, even sticking with your goals 50% of the time carries with it the tremendous potential for improvement. So, if you eat a so-so lunch, follow it up with a nutritious dinner. Eat too much pizza for dinner? Cool! Make your breakfast part of your plan.

This is NOT “100% or nothing.” Every decision counts, every meal counts, so any decision where you are SLIIIIIGHTLY better than you would have been otherwise is a win in my book.

If you’re interested in the Nerd Fitness philosophy on proper diet, make sure you read our article “How to Start Eating Healthy,” which will teach you how to build a plate like this:

If your meal plate looks like this, you're doing great!

Curious about my default diet these days? You can read all about it right here. And here is the specific diet I followed – while traveling frequently – to lose 22 pounds sustainably.

Here are some other strategies for healthy eating on the road:

#1) Ask your hotel for a mini-fridge

Fill the fridge with your own nutritious snacks – just make sure they don’t charge you for taking out the other foods! Fruit, sliced veggies, and some deli meat will provide you with some sustenance until you can order a proper meal.

Here is a post with some ideas for healthy snacks you can buy and store in your room.

#2) Travel with a cooler

If you know the hotel can’t accommodate a mini-fridge, or you’re on a road trip, no problem!

Bring a mini-cooler or cooler bag. If you use a bag, it’ll fold up for easy packing.

Is it weird to travel with a cooler? Sure. But we embrace weird around these parts.

We like the weird at Nerd Fitness if it makes you stay in shape. Skating dog optional.

#3) Bring non-perishable snacks with you

I’ve eaten almonds forgotten in a backpack, months later, and lived to tell the tale.

Lots of dry food like nuts and jerky won’t spoil anytime soon, so store some in your travel bag. Munching some beef jerky is a much better idea than the pizza in the airport terminal. Here are some good almonds to purchase, and here’s some recommended beef jerky for you to try out.

#4) Focus on protein and fiber

When choosing meals or snacks, make sure the foods you pick are full of protein and fiber.[1] This will help keep you full, so you’re not tempted to eat the donuts waiting for you at your work conference.

What are protein and fiber-rich foods? Hard-boiled eggs will store well, and can be bought at many convenience stores. That’s a good protein source. Deli meat, jerky, and nuts will also do the trick for your protein requirements.

Fiber-rich foods? Fruits and vegetables for the win. Always bring an apple with you.

#5) All is not lost if you order fast food

There’s a common belief amongst our coaching clients, that the moment you step foot in a fast food store, you lost. You made a terrible decision by even walking in. Might as well order whatever, because you already failed.

This is 100% NOT true. What you order while out will make all the difference. For example, I eat a chicken bowl from Chipotle almost every day. To the point that it’s weird.[2]

Why? Because it’s more nutritious than anything I’m going to make at lunchtime, given my schedule.

Remember, what you order is more important than where you order from.

Let’s dive into that last point a little more.

What Are Some Healthy Fast Food Options?

Can you eat healthy while traveling at fast food, like McDonald's?

Let’s outline an entire day’s worth of eating, provided by a drive-thru window (we cover this in our fast food article).

Most of these can also be found at your average airport terminal.

#1) BREAKFAST:

Location: Starbucks

  • Sous Vide Egg Bites, Bacon & Gruyere: A great protein source. Go ahead and order some black coffee with it too.
    • Calories: 310
    • Protein: 19g
    • Net Carbs: 9g
    • Fat: 22g

Location: Dunkin’ Donuts

  • Sausage Egg and Cheese Bagel (no bagel): Sausage and egg are a breakfast staple. Plus, cheese!
    • Calories: 370
    • Protein: 16g
    • Net Carbs: 3g
    • Fat: 33g

#2) LUNCH:

Location: McDonald’s

  • Bacon Ranch Grilled Chicken Salad (Use the Balsamic Vinaigrette): It’s mostly greens, grilled chicken and a little bacon. No customization required. Your salad comes in under 400 calories.
    • Calories: 320
    • Protein: 42g
    • Net Carbs: 6g
    • Fat: 14g

Location: Subway

  • Oven Roasted Chicken: Grab it with lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, onion, green peppers, cucumbers, and olives, with oil and vinegar as dressing. Also, feel free to add bacon and guacamole to increase your calories. Your nutrition info will look like this if ordered as above:
    • Calories: 490
    • Protein: 24g
    • Net Carbs: 11g
    • Fat: 35.5g

#3) DINNER:

Location: Boston Market

  • Three-Piece Dark: Lot’s of protein, decent fat, and no carbs.
    • Calories: 300
    • Protein: 37g
    • Net Carbs: 1g
    • Fat: 16g
  •  Green Beans: Keep it simple.
    • Calories: 90cals
    • Protein: 1g
    • Net Carbs: 4g
    • Fat: 5g
  • Fresh Steamed Vegetables: Following our “simple” strategy.
    • Calories: 60
    • Protein: 2g
    • Net Carbs: 4g
    • Fat: 3.5g

Location: Chipotle

  • Salad Bowl (with Carnitas): order it with Fajita Vegetables, Fresh Tomato Salsa, Sour Cream, Cheese, and YES for Guacamole.
    • Calories: 710
    • Protein: 34g
    • Net Carbs: 12
    • Fat: 51g

The above should help give you some ideas on what to order when you’re depending on fast food.

Want some more ideas? Check out our guide on healthy fast food.

How Do I Eat a Healthy Continental Breakfast?

What's a healthy breakfast for you to eat while you travel?

So your room comes with a free complimentary breakfast.

Might as well take advantage of it!

Pooh never passes up breakfast, especially when he travels.

Go ahead and load up on these:

  1. Eggs. We mentioned earlier to prioritize protein with your meals. Just about every hotel continental breakfast will have some eggs. The quality might be so-so, however. If they have some hot sauce around, this can make just about any scramble tolerable.
  2. Sausage. Continuing with our protein theme, if there is sausage at the buffet, grab some. Granted, it’ll often have some sugar in the form of maple syrup included. But we’re going with the best we can here.
  3. Bacon. We love bacon around these parts so much, we wrote an entire post on it. The fat in bacon will help keep you full until you’re next meal. Plus, if the eggs are crappy (the eggs will probably be crappy), you can mix in some bacon to bring up the tasty factor.
  4. Fruit. It can’t all be about meat. Go ahead and grab some fruit for your plate. Apples are relatively high in fiber, which is why they’re my go-to. Bananas also have decent fiber, as well as vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. Are there berries available? Grab some for their antioxidant potential (we talk all about berries and antioxidants in this article).
  5. Toast. I know, I know, we might be attracting the Carb Police on us for this one. But you can do a lot worse at a breakfast buffet than a little whole-wheat toast. If you put some eggs and bacon on it, you have yourself a pretty decent breakfast sandwich with some fiber to help keep you full.

Alright, prioritize the above on your plate. Plus, minimize:

  1. Juice. If I could give you one single piece of diet advice, it would be this: try not to drink your calories. There’s a lot of arguments on diets, but this advice is widely accepted. An orange has plenty of vitamins in it, plus a lot of fiber to help balance out the sugar. OJ? Zero fiber, and it’s mostly just high-calorie sugar water at this point! Skip the juice and eat the whole fruit.
  2. Pancakes/Waffles. Don’t eat these, unless you are good at portion control! The high-calorie batter itself will have sugar in it, plus it’s designed to have more sugar (maple syrup) poured on top. Stick to toast.
  3. Cereal. This breakfast food is often packed full of carbs, calories, and sugar. For example, the third ingredient for Cheerios is “sugar.” And that’s Cheerios. Don’t even get me started on Fruit Loops or Frosted Flakes. Again, stick to toast.

The above advice should get you started on loading up properly at a breakfast buffet.

How To Make Staying Fit A Priority on the Road

This LEGO is ready exercise, no matter where he travels to.

If you are trying to get healthy but need to travel frequently, I want you to make exercise your constant.

I don’t know if you were a Lost fan, but my favorite episode, “The Constant,” involved a character named Desmond who had to find the one “constant” in his life in order to stay sane.

Something Desmond could focus on as his mind traveled through time.

Desmond should have made exercise his "constant" when he traveled (through time).

You had to be there.

I’ve traveled quite a bit over the years: sightseeing countries, sleeping on buses, exploring temples, and visiting a new town seemingly every other day.

During all this chaos: exercise became my constant.

Steve always travels with rings, so he can do his training from any part of the world.

I knew that without a doubt, no matter where I was or what I was doing, every other day I would find a way to work out – no excuses. I might have had to add in an extra day between workouts maybe a handful of times.

What I’m trying to say is this: if you are serious about prioritizing your health, even while traveling, then start treating exercise like YOUR constant.

Make it a reliable, consistent thing in your schedule, no matter where you are in the world.

No matter what.

Sound difficult? Start by asking yourself the following:

“If I HAD to still get my workouts in, even if I am traveling or on vacation, how would I do it?”

Most answers will be something like this:

  1. “If I had to work out, it would mean that I need to wake up SUPER early tomorrow morning to hit the gym before the conference starts.”
  2. “If I had to get my run in, it would mean I could only go for a 20 minute run instead of my normal 60-minute run.”
  3. “If I had to get my workout in, that would mean I need to actually PAY for a day pass at a real gym, because I know hotel gyms are crappy.”

This is the most important question you can ask yourself before your trip: “How do I make this work for me?” 

Then, structure your environment and schedule to make it happen:

  1. Add it to your calendar.
  2. Set up a text reminder.
  3. Plan your schedule around it.
  4. Have your coach or friend remind you.
  5. Research the nearest gym or park.

Again, ask yourself – what if you HAD to work out, no matter what. How would you get it done? What would you need to change?

And then do whatever you can to make it your constant.

How to Overcome Jet Lag (and other tips)

This Merman wants to help you avoid jetlag.

We need to address a few final points: sleep, jet lag, and hydration.

All of these are going to impact your ability to follow the advice above. 

#1) SLEEP

When I’m sleep-deprived, I often don’t have the energy to exercise…when the reality is that exercise is often the thing that will give me energy (foreshadowing).

Also, if you’re lacking shuteye, you’ll get hungrier.[3] When you’re sleep-deprived, your brain sends signals for more energy, which means more calories. This is troublesome if you’re trying to hold out until you can order a nutritious chicken salad.

Prioritize sleep.

Two good tools to help with this are earplugs and an eye mask. Some hotels have a way of being bright and noisy.

Is Cinderella suffering from jetlag?

#2) HOW TO DEAL WITH JET LAG

Sleeping might be tough if you’re dealing with “jet lag.”

Jet lag is the phenomenon of traveling from one time zone to another, but still being stuck in the former time.

For example, you fly from New York to London.

It was night when you left New York. It is now morning in London. You may or may not have slept on the plane.

What time is it?

Your body can have some serious trouble getting back on track, because our circadian rhythms (our biological clock) are thrown off by the geographic change.

My solution: work out (click here for that section).

Studies have shown that a good sweat can help change your circadian rhythm, which might help you adjust to the local time.[4]

If you’re able to, work out as soon as you get settled to help combat jet lag. I’ve personally found this to be super helpful in adjusting to the local time. 

#3) STAY PROPERLY HYDRATED

Air travel dehydrates you.[5] The cabin’s air is environmentally controlled, with lower moisture than you find here on the ground.

  • Humidity on the good old fashioned Earth: 30-60%
  • Moisture in an average airplane: 10-20%

Yeah…that 10-20% is less than the Sahara desert.

That’s pretty dry…

On top of that, the pressurization of the cabin itself causes you to expel H2O.

Something something, physics. Something something, less water.

The low humidity and pressurized environment create a perfect scenario for you to lose lots of water. 

And if you’re dehydrated, it can make you tired, which can go back to that whole hunger and calories thing.

Drink water.

Above All Else, Preserve Momentum While Traveling!

No matter where you travel, keeping going like this man here.

Whatever you’re currently working on improving in your life, you can continue working on that while traveling.

You only fall off the wagon if you resign yourself to the fact that it’s impossible to stay fit while traveling!

Why not have the opposite mindset, and ask “How do I make this work for me?”

Batman is curious on how to stay in shape while traveling.

Millions of people manage to stay healthy despite a hectic travel schedule, and I want the same for you.

Here are some final tips to help you while traveling: 

  1. Travel day? Pack some healthy snacks with you in your bag – apples and almonds are my go-to.
  2. Going out to dinner with co-workers? Find the restaurant online, scour the menu, and “pre-order your dinner” in your mind so you know what to order when you get there. Order the “meat + veggie + potato” option on the menu, and ask for double veggies instead. Aim for something like steak tips, or grilled chicken, salmon, etc.
  3. Traveling with your family? Let them know that you’re making a concerted effort to eat better and that you’d like their support.
  4. Going out with friends? Let’s say you’re going out with buddies, and you have no choice but to eat fried food and drink tons of beer (I hate when that happens). Compensate by being extra diligent on the days before and after – no drive-thru meals, no late-night vending machine stops, no bad snacks while at the convention.

Pick your battles. Plan ahead. Make eating a priority.

If you want any help as you head out on the road, I got you boo.

Here’s how Nerd Fitness can help you get in shape while you travel:

#1) Our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program: a coaching program for busy people to help them make better food choices, stay accountable, and get healthier, permanently.

Lots of our clients travel full-time, and their coach is one of the few constants they have every day.

You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click on the image below for more details:

Your NF Coach can help you lose weight and get healthy!

#2) If you want a roadmap for getting in shape on the road, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app will help you exercise and eat better, all while you build your very own superhero…no matter where on Earth you are!

Interested?

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Join The Rebellion! We have a free email newsletter that we send out twice per week, full of tips and tricks to help you get healthy, get strong, and have fun doing so. 

I’ll also send you tons of free guides that you can use to start leveling up your life too:

Alright, that’s about it for this guide. Now, your turn:

Do you travel for work?

Do you upcoming vacation this summer?

What struggles do you have while on the road? What kind of questions do you have about staying in shape and traveling?

Leave a question in the comments and I’ll help in any way that I can.

-Steve

###

All photo citations can be read right here: Backpacker, Decathlon, Good Party, Newtonmas, Apples, Model Train DisplayCalifonia Dreamin, Angry Hulk, Dirt Bike.



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4 Steps to Talk to Anybody (People Skills)

4 Steps to Talk to Anybody (People Skills)


These legos feel awkward talking.

If you find yourself struggling to talk with people, or you want to try and meet NEW people, you’ve come to the right place!

Today we’re gonna teach you how to master a conversation, instead of staring at your feet hoping somebody else will come talk to you.

These are the 4 steps you can master to talk to ANYBODY about ANYTHING:

By the end of today’s article, your friends will need a muzzle to shut you up.

Believe it or not, we actually often work on “social skills” with our 1-on-1 NF Coaching clients.

Many clients are bettering themselves to start dating again, so we work hard to help them level up all areas of their lives.



Okie dokie, without further ado, let’s jump in.

Step 1: How to Make Small Talk – and Not Suck at It

Small talk can make you happy.

The main reason we human folk seek to connect with one another is that it scratches a social itch.

Our social needs are just like hunger and thirst—we eat, drink, and talk to people because there’s a gap between our actual state (hungry/thirsty/lonely) and our ideal state (satiated/quenched/connected).

Your brain is saying, “Dude, mind helping me out a little? I’m not where I want to be.”

The whole idea here is to feel better after than we did before.

You ever talk to people who are in a super sour mood?

Hank from Breaking Bad frowning at table.

It’s kind of contagious, isn’t it?

Unless you happen to be friends with people who can make crankiness charming (such as professional comedians), it’s usually a bit of a bummer.

Let’s not be bummers!

Let’s be those other kinds of people, the ones who leave our conversational partners in good moods after they talk to us.

Engaging in happy small talk isn’t just good for the people we talk to, by the way—it helps us as well. “Fake it ‘til you make it” is more than just a catchy rhyme.

The idea that acting a certain way encourages us to be that way has been around since Aristotle’s time. Take a look at his quote (from over 2,300 years ago!):

“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way.

We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.”

Turns out the man knew what he was talking about.

A team led by Fritz Strack showed in 1988 showed[1] that simply holding a pen in your mouth in a way that simulates the muscle movements of smiling makes cartoons seem funnier than when you hold it between your lips like a straw; other studies have shown[2] that merely crossing your arms can make you more persistent!

So the next time you’re feeling surly and looking for a change, challenge yourself to talk to someone in a more upbeat way and see if that helps shake it off.

I’m not suggesting you bop around like sunshine and fairy dust, but isn’t it powerful to realize that by simply chatting with another person in a positive way, you can walk away from the conversation with both you and them feeling better off?

(Feel free to give a little mental fist bump to Aristotle when you see how well this works.)

Step 2: Talking to Random People

Be thoughtful in your conversations.

Good small talk adapts in real-time, thoughtfully and attentively applying to whatever is happening in the moment.

This may sound overwhelming at first, especially if you like to plan things to say out in advance. The trick is to take a step back and pick one thing, anything, on which to focus your attention.

There’s a finite list of what this thing will be:

  1. Whether it’s sunny, rainy, or snowy, that’s weather.
  2. Whether it’s a street parade, an art exhibit, or a hot tub limousine driving by, that’s scenery.
  3. Whether it’s someone with crazy shoes, a guy doing back handsprings, or a woman swinging from a chandelier, that’s people.
  4. Whether it’s a cute baby, a fluffy puppy, or a cool book, that’s belongings.

See how all of a sudden you can imagine having one or two prepared responses that can still perfectly apply to even the most novel of situations?

Now, this may only get you as far as your first or second line within a conversation, after which you may need to start coming up with stuff in the moment.

But the same logic of “step back/pick one thing” applies here too, and will help you keep from getting overwhelmed or panicking about what to say.

Here’s an example of small talk:

You: “I think I literally saw a cat and a dog raining down from the sky today.”

Them: “Ha! I know, right? I thought it was supposed to be spring.”

You: “It must be really tough to be a weatherman. You’re either stating the obvious or you’re a liar.”

Them: “My cousin is a weatherman.”

Curveball! You haven’t prepared anything about weatherman cousins! But this is interesting and novel enough to justify a conversational tangent all its own (and could fall under the category of jobs, if you wanted to add it to your earlier list). Try a simple question.

You: “Oh, interesting. How’d he or she get into that?”

Before you know it, you’re having a unique conversation, not banal “small talk”.

You’re also learning things about your conversational partner (and they about you), which will help you build from one-off conversations with strangers to consistent friendships and relationships with people.

Challenge yourself to identify these “one things” (weather, books, back handsprings) as you’re out interacting with people.

Use the comfort of a prepared line to open with if you like, but with the goal of finding something interesting that’s happening in that moment to comment on. Your conversations will instantly be more thoughtful, and the people you’re talking to will feel it, too.

Step 3: When to Be Quirky

Hairless cat with mask on white

My cousin Kim met my fiancé for the first time a few months ago.

As soon as we all sat down, she said to him, “Tell me every single thing about yourself, starting from birth, and ending with right now.”

I thought it was just about the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.

If my friend Jess is at someone’s house for the first time, she’ll say, “If I were the bathroom, where would I be?”

She gets the answer– and a chuckle.

My friend David struck up a conversation with a cute girl in Jiffy Lube by asking her if she thought the guy in the waiting room looked like a beagle.

He called me to thank me for introducing him to his girlfriend.

These examples all have in common the theme of turning awkwardness into awesomeness. They’re about being confident, not being smooth.

Sometimes dialing up the awkward dial can be just what everyone needs to loosen up a little, like when my friend Mike starts his presentations at work by saying, “If I seem incredibly nervous, it’s because I am indeed incredibly nervous.” It’s a bold strategy, to be sure, but it can be incredibly refreshing.

There’s something undeniably fun about someone who says, “I’m hugely overcaffeinated right now, so I may pass out at some point. How was your weekend?”

In short, don’t feel pressure to rigidly adhere to some abstract notion of what small talk should be, losing all of your own delightful personality in the process. You’re a member of the Rebellion, after all!

You challenge conventional wisdom and embrace the weird every day– let small talk be no exception.

Step 4: How Can I Be Fun to Talk To?

Board with nails

Remembering the little things? Sweet. Remembering every little thing? Creepy.

I happen to be in possession of a frighteningly good memory; I remember specific conversations (as well as where they took place, and what we were wearing) with people who couldn’t pick me out of a lineup.

I’m absolutely the person who goes up to people and says, “You’re a chiropractor? We sat next to each other on a plane from L.A. to San Francisco about a year ago, right?” Yes, right… but it didn’t matter. The dude was thoroughly creeped out, and I couldn’t blame him!

I’ve had to learn to hold back a little (okay, a lot) and not spew forth with every single thing I remember about my last conversation with someone the next time I see them.

Instead of: “how was that conference you went to in Phoenix?” go with, “You were going out of town when I saw you last, right?

Instead of: “Is your upper left molar feeling any better?” go with, “Hey, how’s it going?”

Like a good hairdo or pocket square, it sometimes takes a bit of effort in conversation to make it seem effortless, but it’s far preferable to freaking people out.

Take your time.

With each conversation, you’re watering a healthy plant, not dousing a fire. 

In fact, leaving a bit unsaid is probably the best way to ensure future conversations, and give you something to talk about next time!

Besides, when you’re imprecise, you allow the other person to narrow in on a topic that they are comfortable with, rather than forcing them to talk about their upper left molar!

How Do You Interact with Others? (Start Talkin’)

These Troopers are stoked they know how to have a conversation.

With these four keys in mind, you’re ready to start small talkin’.

Challenge yourself to approach one person a day and strike up a conversation, even if it’s brief.

Like everything else we do in life, good social skills can be learned, developed, honed, and improved. 

Though, it’s really tough to practice unless you commit to TRYING it out.

And who cares if the conversation goes poorly?

Failure is awesome.

Odds are you will NEVER see that person again in your life, and your life is no different now than it was 5 minutes before the conversation.

Of course, the opposite could be true: you could meet somebody awesome.

Panda's hugging with "you're my best friend" subtitled at bottom.

And there’s only one way to find out which outcome you’re gonna get.

If you’re feeling really rusty, give it a shot with a friend or family member and ask for a little feedback afterward.

If you’re feeling bold, approach someone you wouldn’t normally talk to. If you draw a blank, ask a question.

Breathe, smile, listen.

Most of all, remember why you’re doing this, and remind yourself that you’re not imposing on someone by having a pleasant conversation with them—you’re making their day a bit brighter, and you should never be made to feel bad about that.

As always, I’m very interested to hear what you think, and how these lessons feel when you take them out for a spin.

We all crave regular social interaction; you might be surprised by how easy being good at small talk really is!

What are your major hangups with small talk?

Where do you plan to give these tricks a try?

-Lindsay Miller (good friend of Steve, and the Relationship & Social Skills expert of Nerd Fitness!)

PS: Like developing your social skills, getting healthy can be really intimidating, which is why we’ve built services and products to help you overcome the chaos and feel confident in the actions you’re taking every day:

#1) 1-on-1 Online Coaching: A coach from Team NF gets to know you better than you know yourself and builds a workout program and nutritional strategy that fits your busy life, your body type, and your goals.

#2) If you want an exact blueprint for learning new skills, check out Nerd Fitness Journey! Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

You can even join our private community of nerds, many of whom are also trying to improve their social skills!

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Just want to learn more about what we do? That’s great too! Grab your free Nerd Fitness Starter Kit by clicking in the box below and I’ll send it right over!

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photo source:  lego small talkhappy, thoughtful, mw3016chi © 123RF.com, catchyimages © 123RF.com, storm trooper



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