No Easy Task: How to Balance Food, Fitness, and the Rest of Your Life

The prompt for this final post in my partnership series with Garmin and Whole Foods asks how to balance food, fitness, and life.

More than with any other prompt, I feel qualified to write this one: one of the things I believe I’ve done best as an adult is to follow an (arguably) extreme diet and chase down (less arguably) extreme fitness goals, and do both in a way that feels … well, normal. And for the past four years, my wife and I have made this lifestyle work with young kids.

But while living it is one thing, explaining it is another. That’s kind of what this whole blog is about, what close to 700 posts and a book are here for.

I’ve thought hard about how to boil down the essentials of balancing healthy habits with the rest of your life into a tidy bullet list to make it seem oh-so-easy. And I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s impossible.

None of it is easy; it’s a choice you make — and sometimes a difficult one. What people chalk up to “balance” in someone else who makes it look easy might look more like obsession when you view it from the inside, on a day-to-day level.

So instead of an “easy ways” bullet list, I’m going to list three things that are hard to do. But if you do them, I think you’ll all most certainly be able to balance fitness and healthy food and the rest of your life.

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19 Great Reasons to Back Down

I don’t have time.
There’s too much conflicting information.
I can’t afford it.
The timing isn’t right.
I have a family to think of.
My spouse is unsupportive.
My body isn’t meant to do it.
Everything in moderation.
I wouldn’t know where to begin.
I’m too old.
I’m too young.
I’m not smart enough.
Nobody I know has done it before.
Surely it’s already been done.
People like me don’t do stuff like that.
I don’t have the right background.
In any other economy …
What would my friends/neighbors/boss/in-laws think?
If only I’d been brought up differently …

Fabulous excuses, all of them. They might even be true.

The thing is, there are so many good excuses out there that no matter what it is you’re thinking of doing, you’re guaranteed to find one that fits.

You have a choice, then. You can let that perfect excuse stop you (again). Or you can use it as the evidence what you’re about to do is worth it. That it matters.

Because really, if there’s no reason not to do it … is there any reason to do it?



A Ridiculously Easy-to-Follow Roadmap for Building a New Habit

Most of the advice we read about habits is fairly general: start small, create accountability, have a reward system, etc.

All great advice. But why so vague?

Because people have lots of different habits they want to change, and general advice can (hopefully) be applied to any of them. People like Leo Babauta and James Clear have broad audiences for a reason.

Of course, the cost of such generality is that nobody gets a tailor-made plan for creating their specific habit. Which makes it easier to rationalize not starting at all. At least, not yet. (Though it’s quite possible that if you search Zen Habits or James’s blog for a specific habit, you might find it. Worth a shot.)

Here’s exactly what has worked for me

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The Most Important Habit to Start Today

So many of us, adults in particular, feel we can’t change anything.

It doesn’t take many failed attempts at change before we begin to doubt our ability, lose trust in ourselves.

This is where the “start small” advice draws its power. By making promises that are easy, ridiculously easy to keep (“I’ll run for 2 minutes,” for example), you start to taste success again. And in this way, day after day, you slowly rebuild that belief that simply says, “I keep the promises I make to myself”.

But where do you start? What habit should you change or create first?

I’ve heard (and had) plenty of ideas, mostly strategic. Like start with the easiest change first or change something that will free up time, so that you can use that time for other, new habits.

But I’ve come to believe that it shouldn’t be even this complicated. There’s a more important first habit to change, because it’s one of the most important habits you can change, period.

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A Midpoint Update on #WriteAndRun31 (and a Brand New Challenge)

angled-cover_largeIt’s been 16 days, and suddenly I remember why I started this.

The first few weeks of running and writing every day have had their moments, no doubt: it’s one thing to start a runstreak, quite another to start a runstreak in the dead of winter.

Several times I’ve opened the door and felt the cold, then quickly searched my brain for an excuse before realizing that none will be good enough. Like it or not, this run is happening. And of course, that’s the point.

A yogi will tell you that when you stop resisting and “breathe into” a tough pose, it gets easy. When it sunk in that there were no good excuses, ever — I’m running today, no matter what — that was the turning point.

At 16 days straight, it’s my longest streak since 2012. And just like that time, the simple act of running more has caused me to want to run more.

Put another way: the more energy you use, the more energy you have. Funny how that works.

It’s no different with writing. The more ideas you put on the page, the more ideas you have.

It all seems so easy, now. Why? And for the past year, two years … why not?

It’s the accountability, plain and simple. Having a group of people who in moments of weakness I imagine myself reporting to, having to explain why I didn’t do my run or my writing today … that’s why.

So who are these people? Here are just a few of their blogs — many of which were started just for #WriteAndRun31:

These represent just a tiny fraction of the bloggers participating, the blogs that were near the top of the feed when I wrote this post or that have caught my attention for some other reason. But just seeing them listed like this makes me feel something special; far better than what this challenge has done for my own habits is seeing so much goodness born into the world as a result.

It’s not too late to join us (never is; your 31 days can start whenever you want). But I’m pretty sure we’ll do something for February, so you could also wait … and waiting may actually help with habit change (see #7, here).

An Even Tougher Challenge (and What It Means for You)

While I’ve written every day this year, I haven’t published nearly that often. The two posts per week I’ve averaged so far this year feels like a lot compared to what I had been doing, but daily is another level altogether. (I only wrote about 40 posts in 2014, not counting podcast posts.)

And yet Seth manages to do it. So I’m going to do it. For a week.

Short version: I’m going to publish a new post on No Meat Athlete every day next week (Sunday, January 18th through Saturday, January 24th). It’ll be the most I’ve posted in a week since 2009.

No promises after that week is up, but I think it’ll be fun, an interesting challenge, and — in the same way that running more has made me more excited about running — that’ll be good for me. And you.

(For those on the newsletter list — I won’t email the new post every day, but I’ll jam two newsletters full of them over the course of the week. If you’re interested in reading each post as it’s published, check back at or pay attention to our Facebook or Twitter accounts.)

Long version: Seth Godin is a huge inspiration, example, and teacher of mine. I had the money-can’t-buy privilege of spending a week in his office last summer, with Seth and 14 other entrepreneurs, artists, and ruckus-makers, and it was everything I expected and a billion times more.

Then, to top off what was already a surreal experience, he put us in his new book, What to Do When It’s Your Turn. (So of course I bought 8 copies to send to friends.)

And so when he announced this new challenge, something told me I had to do it. Fortunately, that something happened to be louder than the voice which was reminding me, “You can’t publish a new post for seven straight days.”

So I’m in.

Finally: Calling All Designers to Help Design Our Running Group Shirts!

If writing isn’t your thing, here’s one more idea to get your creative juices flowing.

We’re holding a design contest for the No Meat Athlete 2015 Running Group shirts. The winning design will be printed on our running groups’ shirts across the world this year (each city’s shirt will be customized with that city’s name), and the winning designer will win 200 bucks and free shirts for their local group.

Interested? I hope so. The deadline is January 31st, and all the details are here.

Alright, that’s all for now. I’ll be back tomorrow (with the third post in the Whole Foods / Garmin ambassador series). And then the next day. And the next day. And the day after that. This should be fun.



Why Everything They Told You About Goals Is Wrong


We hear a lot of “achievable goals” talk these days.

And that talk, I think, is mostly harmful: it creates and encourages a culture of middling, moderation-loving wafflers afraid to lay it all on the line for something that’s worth it.

You’ve heard the quote, I’m sure: Dream no small dreams, for they have no power to move the hearts of men. And I feel pretty confident that if Goethe had lived in the 2010’s, he’d have included women there too. (And been just as into selfies as the rest of us.)

It’s not any more complicated than that. If getting or achieving that thing you want actually requires you to set a goal — i.e., it’s not like taking out the trash, where you just have to get off your butt and do it — then that means there are obstacles standing between you and what you want. Some you’re aware of, some you won’t know about until they show up.

My thesis: you’re more likely to stick it out when you’ve got a goal that’s so huge it makes your palms sweat (and makes your friends laugh) than you are with a lame one that leaves everyone’s eyelashes in place and un-batted.

If your goal is compelling (huge! ridiculous!) enough, then when those inevitable obstacles come up, you’ll plow right over them. Or around them. Or through them. And when all of those approaches don’t work, you won’t be able to sleep until you find one that does.

You’ll be obsessed, and I think that’s a great thing.

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No Meat Athlete in 2015: What’s In Store

Run in 2015

Happy New Year! You might have noticed that at No Meat Athlete we pretty much ignore most holidays, but New Year’s? Always worth a few posts and a podcast episode or two.

I’m fond of calling it my favorite holiday. Partly because nobody calls New Year’s their favorite holiday, but mostly because I really do love it. Goals, possibilities, the feeling of a fresh start … for a self-improvement junkie, it’s even better than Black Friday (my second favorite holiday).

I have more planned for 2015 than ever before with No Meat Athlete, including a full site redesign, new shirts and other clothing (plus a design contest for running group shirts), and more Vegfests than we’ve ever done.

But that’s just the surface-level stuff … here’s what else is on tap for me and No Meat Athlete in 2015:

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8 Stress-Free Ways to Start Healthier Habits Now

December is upon us, and while for most of us that means holidays and parties and more stress than is healthy, it’s also one of my favorite times of the year for thinking about change.

Why? Because you don’t want to be another victim of the New Year’s syndrome, where on December 31 you realize you’re in roughly the same place you were a year ago. Then you resolve to change, and while it feels real in the moment, it’s forgotten by February.

Instead, start now – in early December. So that you can reflect, get inspired, and make intelligent choices about the results you want to create. So that you can lay the groundwork, and take the first few steps to creating the new habits you’ll need.

And so that when New Year’s comes, you’ll be ready.

But there’s just one problem.

Although the month leading up to the day when everybody else likes to announce their changes can be mega-inspiring, it’s also mega-stressful. The sweets, the alcohol, the presents, the in-laws … not exactly a conducive environment for change.

The trick, then, is to start small. Make only the simplest, most stress-free of changes now, to lay a solid foundation for the year ahead.

If the changes you’d like to make relate to your health — or even if they don’t, but you could use some more energy and enthusiasm for whatever other crazy goals you have in mind — here are eight easy, nearly stress-free ways to lay the groundwork before January 1.

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