Stop Waiting for a Guarantee

Every few weeks, I get a message on Twitter or other social media like this one:

@NoMeatAthlete Curious about a plant-based diet, but worried about how it will affect my recovery from long rides. Thoughts?

Yes, I have some thoughts. And they don’t fit into 140 characters. Here goes.

Sometimes, you just need to try things. Without a guarantee that they’ll work. 

I’d actually be more sympathetic if you were worried about dropping dead on the spot from a lack of protein. Sudden death isn’t reversible and isn’t gradual, so you’d be right to want to confirm that it’s not a risk before diving in.

But feeling a little sluggish when you get on the bike? Noticing, after a month maybe, that your times are dropping off? Unless you’re a pro athlete, none of this is cataclysmic.

I’m not saying that will or won’t happen. Nobody can say that for sure. A lot of athletes choose this diet precisely because of what it does for their recovery … but it’s totally possible that for whatever reason, it just won’t work out for you.

And what then?

Not disaster! You either tweak your diet and keep trying, or you go back to whatever you were eating before. Nothing goes suddenly, surprisingly, and irreversibly wrong.

But when you try something new — even if it doesn’t work out and you go back in a month — you’ve gained something.

First, you gave yourself the chance of discovering something that works really well and changes your whole life. If it doesn’t, it’s as if somebody gave you a (free) lottery ticket that didn’t happen to turn out a winner.

But unlike that lottery ticket, trying something new comes with consolation prizes.

In this case, you gave yourself a month of trying new foods, maybe found a new restaurant. You gained new perspective when you learned about another way of cooking, going to barbecues, ordering from a restaurant menu. Maybe you even learned something new about protein, iron, and B12.

Most importantly, you gained the experience of doing something unfamiliar, something that wasn’t as easy as standing still. And learning, if it didn’t work out, that “failing” isn’t so bad.

This isn’t about veganism. I’d say the same stuff to someone stressing over Paleo, in fact.

It’s not even a diet thing. Marathon training? Starting a blog or podcast? Going back to school? The same applies to all of those.

So why, then, don’t we all try these things?

Because we’re afraid. Of the uncertain. Of failing. Of looking silly.

And I get it. Change is risky, and where you are is safe.

But maybe “comfortable” is the better word. Because one day, a day that’s impossibly far off but a day that’s coming nonetheless, you’ll look back one last time at all the things you did … and remember all the things you didn’t.

“Safe” is risky. Because comfort, it turns out, is addictive.

Stop looking for a guarantee; you’re not going to get it. If the risk is small and the damage not hard to undo, then you’d better jump. Before it’s too late.



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  1. AMEN. Seriously. I get this all the time from people. Just admit you’re afraid to take action.

  2. One of my favorite sayings:

    Comfort: It’s a killer.

  3. Ryan Jensen says:

    The only way real growth is ever experienced is by stepping outside of your comfort zone!

  4. Yes! Comfort is addictive!!! Every morning I snuggle in bed and hear the alarm and I just want to stay warm and snuggly!!! It’s so easy to seek comfort. But I for one was sick of seeing so many other people do amazing things while I hit the snooze button. I love reading your blog 🙂 I wish it could be mandatory reading for all!

  5. Been there, I was afraid to try Whole30 because of how it would affect my running, and it did take some time, but it works!

  6. Love this, Matt. I’ve been struggling with some of the same lately, trying to figure out the best diet by reading arguments and evidence for different styles of eating. But how much harm can come from just trying one for awhile and seeing how it goes?

    Also, I’ve been really enjoying the more frequent blogging and podcasting. Thanks!

  7. Jeanette says:

    Just doing exactly what you are describing. Lost 22 kgs already, would really like to lose some more. Vegan for a while now, but should I go McDougall, Engine2, FOK??? All these starches scare me silly. Staying where I am is driving me nuts.

    But, you are so right. Sometimes, you just need to try things. Without a guarantee that they’ll work. Just stay alert.

    I never thought I’d die without bacon, or eggs. Cheese, going without it proved a lot easier that I thought. So, I’ll make up my mind today. Not listen to all these selfconfessed carnivores. Make up MY mind.

    Jeanette (from The Netherlands)

  8. Well this is so very true! I am not at all vegan, but I have been enjoying your blog & podcast lately as lot of it makes so much sense also for non-vegan 🙂 I listened to your 14 things I wish I knew before going vegan on my long run today. Thank you! I was tired after race yesterday, so you made my long run enjoyable an feasible 🙂 I might give this vegan thing a go. Maybe at least the “vegan at home” way 😀 😀 😀

  9. Thanks for the wonderful insight!
    I think my times have dropped off since 1992 when I started running. Not because I’m vegan.

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