Leo Babauta on Habits, Simplicity, Running & Diet (Plus the New Zen Habits Book!)

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Today I’ve got new interview with author Leo Babauta, so the appropriate thing to do is to start by telling you all about his blog, Zen Habits.

But that would be dumb, because you already know about Zen Habits.

I’d like to think that’s because I’ve linked to it more often than to any other blog, and that I somehow manage to mention Leo in just about every podcast episode we make. But that’d be giving myself too much credit.

In truth, the real reason is that so many No Meat Athlete readers have come from Zen Habits — a massively popular blog that’s twice been named by Time Magazine as one of the best in the world. It was Leo who gave me my first big guest post opportunity, A Beginner’s Guide to Trail Running back in 2010, and whose support of NMA since then has been helpful beyond measure.

But Leo’s impact on me goes far beyond this.

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Can’t Keep Up? 7 Small Steps for Simplifying Your Life

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post about personal development, but our most recent podcast episode about daily rituals reminded me that I left out a critical part.

That part? Simplicity. While the rest of the post was really about growing and becoming more, simplicity for me is about making room for this growth, by being happy with less.

You don’t need to be a minimalist to enjoy simplicity. All you need to do, really, is do it. Like everything else, start small and try to take daily action … then one day, you’ll look up and realize you’ve changed.

I’d love to call myself a minimalist. But if I’m honest, I can’t — one look at my office, with books, journals, NMA shirts, product samples, and to-do lists scattered about confirms this.

But even without going to the extreme, I’ve eliminated some gigantic distractions from my life over the past three or four years, and gained an appreciation for the simple over the complex. And it’s been transformative.

Not quite minimalist

Just a few of the things I purposely live without now: a smartphone, a microwave, cable TV, paper towels, a running watch, a coffee machine, and clothes in excess of 33 items per season. Oh yeah, and you might be aware that I don’t eat animal products, another minimalist choice, even though simplicity was never the aim of that one.

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The Moment When the Fear Dissolves

A few months ago I started a personal blog, inspired by the week I spent with author (and one of my heroes) Seth Godin. I was hoping to publish a new post for each of 30 straight days, but I failed at that, quite miserably.

But one post there was about fear, something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. It’s something I’ve let control me at times in the past, but recently — really, right after the events that inspired this post — things have been different: I’m beginning to understand what people like Seth and Steven Pressfield mean when they talk about “dancing” with fear.

So today I want to share that post, from early August.

The most valuable part of my five days with Seth Godin last week wasn’t the chance to ask him specific questions and get his input on what I should do next.

It also wasn’t the vegan lunches he made each day or the magic tricks he performed or the stories he told (all of which were marvelous).

Instead, for me, it was his admonition that I and the other 14 people there stop living in fear.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Personal Development

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m kind of a nerd for personal development, but I realized the other day that I’ve really never taken the time to explain it.

The name doesn’t exactly sell it well; I much prefer self-improvement. (Both are better than self-help, though.) I say “nerd” because there’s nothing cool about it … “trying” isn’t looked upon so favorably by the masses who determine what’s cool. But I’d argue that reading or listening to something motivational, inspiring, or educational every single day is without a doubt the most important daily practice in my life.

My nerddom is to the point that more than once (in the past year alone) I’ve bought out-of-print cassette tape programs from the 1980’s on ebay, and either listened to them on a boombox in my car (really) or converted them to MP3’s. Which, I’m told by some new friends, is lame because not only do people not listen to cassettes anymore, they also don’t use ebay anymore.

But although I like to think the themes I learn from these books and tapes underlie my posts — those of taking responsibility, dancing with fear, thinking big, persisting, engineering habits — I’ve never written explicitly about personal development here. So that’s what I’m doing today.

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Being Okay (with Being Just Okay)

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Last week I went on my first long run in months. Long, here, is generous.

It was six miles, a shortened version of a mostly flat (for Asheville) route I ran dozens of times when I was training for my hundred last summer.

Twice I stopped to walk. It was hot, but that’s not much of an excuse.

It was defeating to realize just how far I’ve slid since the hundred last July. It’s like when you go back to the gym for the first time in months or years, and struggle under a bar that’s a fraction of what you used to lift for double-digit reps. Or when you get on the scale after months of avoidance and see a number that quantifies how much you’ve let go with your diet and habits … and just how far you have to go to get back.

But something was different with this six-mile run. There was no guilt, no frustration, no overwhelm at the size of the task of getting back into marathon or ultra shape.

Because I’ve been on the roller coaster enough times now to know that this is how it works. Three different times I’ve started over in the gym, sliding back to 140 pounds after bulking up to almost 160.

More than once in my seven-year quest to get to Boston, I went six months without running — sometimes frustrated, sometimes injured, sometimes both. Once, I was pretty sure my days as a marathoner were over.

And from the time I first signed up for a hundred-miler to the time I actually ran one, I went through a lull in running where running 100 miles seemed a mere fantasy. Or perhaps a monkey I’d have to learn to be okay with carrying around on my back.

This, I realized, is the price of shunning moderation.When your approach to doing big things is to so pour yourself into them that you don’t want to think about them again for months or years, this is how it has to go.

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The Not-So-Secret Secrets to Succeeding at Anything

A few months ago, Rich Roll wrote a great post called “Why You Should Stop Lifehacking and Invest in the Journey.”

As I read the post, I found myself nodding along, as expected. When I look at the biggest accomplishments of my life so far, it’s clear that shortcuts had little to do with them.

How about you? Look at what you’re most proud of in your life, and you’ll surely find that hacks weren’t the reason you did it.

It’s not that “hacks” — in fitness, diet, business, whatever — aren’t valuable. It’s absolutely worth learning the tricks and the insights that will help you make quantum leaps along the way. Soak up every bit of knowledge you can about what you’re trying to do … and that includes the hacks.

But when a hack works — and not just for a day or a week, but for good — it’s usually because it comes on top of a foundation of fundamentals that you’ve practiced for years.

It’s those fundamentals that the internet hackarazzi ignores.

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The Small-Steps Approach to Healthy Habits (And Sharing Something New)

Happy Marathon Monday! Wishing the best to everyone running and cheering today — and congrats to Jason, Joe, and of course, Meb. (And to Greg, whose wife’s Twitter post made my day.)

On a day that makes you proud to be a runner, to be part of a community who understands you, I’m excited to share something I’ve been working very hard on — something that I hope will take our little part of the running community at No Meat Athlete to a new level.

I’ll explain more below, but first, here’s an 8-minute sample of an interview I did with author and nutritionist Sid Garza-Hillman as part of the new project. In this segment, we talk about the “small steps” approach to habit change that underlies the whole 2-hour interview (and we actually did a second interview for another hour, too!).

(If you’re reading in email or an RSS reader, visit the post to view this video.)

A Better Way to Make Healthy Changes

At the beginning of the year, I sent around a survey to part of the NMA audience. I asked about a few frustrations people have with their diet and fitness, hoping to use our new community site to address the biggest one or two.

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3 Painless Ways to Start Eating Right When Nothing Else Will Work

small steps imageYou know what you’re supposed to eat.

You don’t need another blog post telling you this food is good and that one is bad … those rules seem to change every day anyway. (Hint: “Eat whole foods” is one that’s a constant.)

It’s not that you don’t want to eat healthy. You even understand that, over time, your taste buds will adjust, and you’ll actually crave raw fruits and vegetables while becoming less interested in processed and fried foods.

You know how important it is. Not just for you, but for your family. And that if you don’t start soon, it’ll one day be urgent. And — maybe — too late.

And yet …

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