The overthinkers guide to fitness, nutrition, and sleep

Knowledge has little to do with how fit you are. In fact, much of how I help my online clients is helping them stop thinking so much to get some clarity on this fitness stuff.

And admittedly, fitness can be really complicated. This post will give you some strategies to help you not let your over-thinking tendencies slow your actions, or your progress.

Health and fitness is hard enough as it is.

Overthinking is a problem because of the “over” part. Overthinking means you’re not acting, or you’re acting in a frazzled confused way, not in the consistent, steadfast, resilient way you need to.

This article is to help you stop being overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated, so you can take action and crush your fitness goals.

Fitness

There are approximately a bajillion ways to exercise. That’s a really big imaginary number.

The shear number of options, and speed you can become aware of these options, can make exercise selection stressful and overwhelming.

It becomes easy to lose sight of your goals and attempt to do ALL THE EXERCISE! You only have so much room for exercise; you don’t have time and your body can only handle so much. Choose something based on what we enjoy and what fits our goals.

The most important thing in picking an exercise type is whether you’re likely to do it or not. So if you like doing Zumba or Pilates or running or yoga or WHATEVER, keep at it. You should be stoked you’re being active.

That said, for most of us without the genetics of a fitness model, strength training is the best option for shaping our physique.

You don’t need to completely drop what you’re doing. However I really encourage you to add 2 or 3 days of resistance training into your workout routine alongside whatever fitness stuff you’re into. Email me if you are unsure how to do this :)

Ok, so you’re going to start lifting because all the cool kids are doing it. Where do you start?

The important thing to remember is that as long as:

  • You’re lifting heavy stuff
  • You’re numbers in the gym are going up on average(“I lifted more weight than I did last month! High fives for all!”)
  • You’re feeling the exercises in the muscles you’re trying to work
  • And you’re staying pain free,

you’re doing great.

Many different lifting protocols work. The trick is to pick one and stick with it.

Simpler is better. The programs I write for my online clients always are founded on these 5 fundamental movements:

Push: Ex. Push-ups, Bench Press

Pull: Ex. Dumbbell Rows, Chinups

Squat: Ex. Goblet Squat, Lunges

Hinge: Ex. Deadlift, Glute Bridge, Kettlebell Swing

Carry: Ex. Farmer Walks

Picking an exercise program and sticking with it is one mental struggle. The next is maintaining focus in the weight room.

You have a heavy ass weight in front of you. Time to tune out all of the TV’s, gym banter, and Pitbull rudely interrupting the chorus blaring from the stereo.

Before you step into the weight room. Put all of your problems in a box. Don’t worry, those problems will still be in that box when you leave the gym.

Pick just 3 things to focus on during any given lift. Here are some cues I use with brand new clients to get them looking like they’ve been lifting for decades.

The “Cue” part is what you’re trying to accomplish. The “Think” part is a condensed version of the cue, what you say to yourself during the lift.

The first two cues are established during the setup for the lift. Your job is to make sure you maintain those cues throughout the lift. The 3rd cue is the execution of the lift itself.

Sumo Deadlift

  1. Cue: Set up with with your back flat and your hips high Think: Butt out, chest up

  2. Cue: Brace your abs like you’re about to get punched in the stomach Think: Brace!!!

  3. Cue: Stand up and squeeze your butt cheeks hard Think: Push the Earth away with your heels

Back Squat

  1. Cue: Root your feet into the floor Think: Root!

  2. Cue: Pretend your core is a cylinder. Compress that cylinder like a piston Think: Compress the cylinder

  3. Cue: Pull your hips in between your legs on the way down Think: Squat!

Military Press

  1. Cue: Brace your abs hard like some dickhole is about to punch you in the stomach...again.. Think: Brace!

  2. Cue: Squeeze your thighs, and butt cheeks HARD. Think: Squeeze!!!

  3. Cue: As you press the weight overhead don’t lose the tension you created in steps 1 and 2. Think: Stay tight!

Dumbbell Row

  1. Cue: Back flat Think: Chest up

  2. Cue: On the way down, let your shoulder reach forward slightly, Think: Stretch my armpit

  3. Cue: Pretend there’s an orange (any citrus will do) in your armpit. As you pull your elbow back, make orange juice
    Think: Make some mothafuckin’ orange juice!

Farmer walks

  1. Get tight and walk around with the damn thing in quick, controlled, small steps Think: Caffeinated penguin/don’t drop the weights on my toes.

As you advance in the gym, there will be other things to focus on to improve your lifting technique. However, even then, focusing on only 3 short cues during a lift is the best way create intentional, graceful, and consequently safe and effective exercise.

Nutrition

Most mainstream, one-size-fits-all diets, fit very few people. They’re overly strict and not realistic for the vast majority of folks who have better things to do other than devoting their entire lives to getting ripped.

The tricky part is building nutrition habits that not only yield results but are sustainable and realistic in the long term.

How do you do this?

Like this:

  1. 3 square meals a day plus one snack
  2. Eat to 80% fullness
  3. 80% of your food should come from protein and colorful fruits and vegetables.
  4. Enjoy the occasional chocolate bar/cupcake/cheeseburger etc.

I’ll refer to the above behaviors as the “big 4”.

If you have a tendency to overthink your nutrition, this is all the information you really need. I’m of the mind that we shouldn’t make things any harder than they have to be. Fat Loss is already hard enough. I have sort of a nihilistic approach to nutrition--nothing really matters.

What about gluten? Dairy? Antioxidants? Cleanses? Organic? Carbs? Supplements?

None of that shit matters right now. All that stuff is minutia. Even if it has some effect, it’s so small to the point of being nonexistent.

I’m asking you to put all of that minutia tucked away in a drawer somewhere you’ll forget about it. It’ll acquire lots of dust and years later you’ll stumble across it realizing it wasn’t improving your life and you should probably just throw it in the garbage.

Hammer in the big 4 nutrition habits and you’ll get as lean as you want.

Nutrition science does get quite a bit more complicated than that, but practicing and mastering the big 4 works incredibly well for my online fat loss clients.

You don’t need to be on a diet for the rest of your life (Hooray!). You need to build sustainable, long term, dietary habits.

Building an approach to fat loss that works in the long term requires consistency, which requires persistence, which requires patience and the practice of self forgiveness.

To build consistency you need a plan to make these changes work for you.

So how do you build consistency? One step at a time.

Our million mile per hour brains make it hard to stay focused on the step that’s right in front of us. That is the exact step you need to focus on! You’re always thinking about the future (probably), rather than being present and getting done what we need to do right now.

Not being present and focused is what prompted Luke Skywalker to leave Dagobah and not finish his training. Yoda had that part right. If you aren’t present on the task in front of you, you won’t complete it.

Again, the basics of nutrition i.e. all you really need to know are as follows:

  1. 3 square meals a day plus one snack
  2. Eat to 80% fullness
  3. 80% of your food should come from protein and colorful fruits and vegetables.
  4. Enjoy the occasional chocolate bar/cupcake/cheeseburger etc.

Focus on building one of these habits at a time. Break it up into as many steps as you need to keep moving forward, to keep building momentum no matter how shitty life gets.

This could look something like this:

  • Wk 1: I will add veggies to one meal a day at lunch
  • Wk 2: I will add veggies to 2 meals a day at lunch and dinner
  • Wk 3:I will add veggies to 3 meals a day at breakfast lunch and dinner
  • Wk 4: I will add veggies and protein to 1 meal a day at lunch

And so on and so forth. The trick is to keep moving, keep working on the habit no matter what, even if that means scaling the difficulty of your habit down during a busy period at work or during a tough personal time.

Focusing on the process rather than outcomes is what I attribute much of my clients unrelenting persistence to. This means you set goals based on things you can control, rather than outcomes you can’t.

For example:

  • You have no control how fast you lose 5 lbs (outcome), even if you do everything “perfect”.
  • You DO have control over what you eat (process/action).

Focus on the actions you need to complete and you will reach your end goal.

Celebrate every single little victory. Celebrate it when you eat more vegetables than you did yesterday. Give yourself a high five whenever you make it to the gym. Celebrate when you were mindful about what you were eating. Celebrate all of it.

Keeping your focus on the variables you can control will stoke your motivational fire, keep you focused, and keep you going when you don’t feel like pressing onward.

To stop over-thinking nutrition you need to focus on what you’re doing well.

Then you need to figure out how to do that positive thing again and again and again.

In summary,

  1. Eat lots of vegetables and protein
  2. Change your nutrition habits one step at a time to make sustainable changes that turn into a lifestyle
  3. Reflect and celebrate every thing you do well nutritionally/fitness-wise
  4. Bonus: Writing down everything you eat, as well as your reflections is immensely helpful.

Nutrition science is, in fact, complicated. However, for most of your purposes you should devote your energy to staying focused, patient, and persistent with eating more vegetables and more protein and listening to your hunger cues.

If a diet seems too good to be true, and makes grandiose promises, it probably is. Don’t get distracted by the alluring promises of the newest, shiniest diet.

Stay focused, and keep pressing onward knowing that if you’re getting better at the basics you’re killing it.

Sleep/Stress

This has been a huge struggle for me. This is where an overthinky brain has a field day.

When you’re lying in bed, there is nothing to do but OVER-THINK. And you know that over-thinking is making it harder for you to go to sleep, which makes you think more.

This is something I still struggle with, but have made huge strides. I’ll probably always have to do more work than some to sleep well, but the point is, with certain practices in place I can get plenty of quality sleep.

It’s tough to quiet the brain. Here are some things that have helped me get to sleep and stay asleep through the night.

Get off the damn internet before bed!

Stop reading crazy shit before bed. The last thing you need before bed is to get all ragey about the debates.

If you absolutely must use a screen before bed (kindle comes to mind), use the red filter that comes standard on Iphones. For a laptop, download f.lux.

Again, it’s better to avoid screens if you can, but ya know, sometimes watching an episode of Futurama you’ve literally seen 20 times can distract you enough to pull yourself out of your hectic brain.

Journalling

Even if you don’t journal before bed it sets you up for a quieter brain come sleepy time.

Just write your thoughts. Don’t worry about what you’re writing, whether it has structure, or grammar, or whatever. Write as if no one will ever read it. Do this once a day if possible.

Bedside Notebook

Having a notebook and pen by the bed to jot down random thoughts or things for your to-do list is amazing.

Remembering “Oh balls! I need to do XYZ tomorrow” is a recipe for insomnia if you don’t write it down somewhere. The anxiety of potentially forgetting this super important thing has kept me awake on numerous occasions. Write it down knowing you won’t forget about it come the morn. Let it go, then pass the eff out.

Gratitude alphabet

This next one has been a complete game changer for me. Friend and fellow coach Chelsea McAlexander told me this little mental trick and it’s changed my life--not exaggerating. Thanks Chelsea! :)

Go through the alphabet. For each letter, think of something you’re grateful for that starts with that letter. It’s rare I ever get as far as the letter M before clonking out.

For example:

“A: I’m grateful for Apples, B: I’m grateful for my Best friend who is always there for me, C: I’m grateful for the Cute puppy I saw today” etc.

Most times when our brain goes batshit, we’re focused on negative stuff. Giving ourselves something positive to focus on eclipses the negative, stressful thoughts so we can calm down.

In general, the practice of gratitude helps with focus and not wasting energy on dumb shit. This is a wonderful way of falling asleep and ending the day on a good note.

Meditating

Nothing profound here. That said, meditating, has been huge in getting my neurotic ass some z’s.

Even if you meditate in the morning you’ll find it easier to drift off to sleep. Your day will be more relaxed and focused. You’ll find it easier to process and deal with the obstacles your day throws at you.

How to do it:

  1. Commit to meditating for 1 minute a day.
  2. Find something you do everyday as your trigger to remind you to meditate.
  3. Set a timer(there are plenty of apps for this).
  4. Sit down and breeeeeeathe--in through your nose, and exhale through your mouth.
  5. Focus on your breath. Your brain will want to think of other things. That’s OK. When you catch this happening, just redirect your attention to your breath.
  6. Try to make your breaths out last twice as long as your breaths in.

That’s it. The more you practice meditating, the less you find your mind wandering. Just like anything, it takes practice, but it’s well worth it.

Conclusion

Moving past the tendency of over-analysis takes time, but it starts with action and ends with consistency. Over time you’ll find your actions, positivity, and focus will edge out the mental static.

One thing I don’t want you to do is try to implement all of these strategies at once. Pick something to work on and own it.

There will be mistakes and slip-ups. That’s part of the game. Be resilient. Don’t take slip-ups personally; get better because of them.

Keep an open mind and be gentle with yourself. This stuff is hard and takes time.


Oh, and don't forget to grab a free copy of "Insanity Free Fat Loss: 10 Secrets for Long Term Success" to burn body fat (and keep it off) without dieting or obsessing about your health.

Posted on Oct 12, 2016