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


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.

The truth is that I’ve changed profoundly in the five and a half years since hitting “Publish” that first time on a brand new blog. More than in any other period in my life, for sure, and it seems the rate of this change is only accelerating.

It’s easy to point to the external changes — going vegan, having kids, quitting grad school, moving to Asheville, qualifying for Boston and becoming an ultrarunner, getting rid of most of my stuff. But I assure you that the changes I’ve made on the inside during this time have been far, far bigger than these.

And when I step back to think about it, there are just a few people whose influence is largely responsible for all these changes. Two, maybe three.

Without a doubt, Leo is one of them:

  • It was because of two pieces of advice from Leo — “one change at a time,” and “start small” — that I finally succeeded in changing my habits.
  • It was Leo who taught me how to meditate. Starting (shocker) with just two minutes at a time.
  • It’s because of Leo that I have a mostly minimalist home, and a disdain for clutter.
  • It was Leo’s example of moving his family from Guam to San Francisco (despite the pain of leaving behind a lot of other family) that inspired me and gave me the confidence to move my family to new place full of adventure.
  • It’s because of Leo that I write in Ommwriter, use Google Chrome, largely stay away from social media, started drinking tea, and cancelled cable TV.

And to repeat, these are just the outside changes. They’re dwarfed by the ones on the inside, and Leo’s influence is responsible for many of those too.

What’s really special about all this, though: I suspect dozens, maybe hundreds of other people — bloggers, writers, entrepreneurs, minimalists, parents — could write a post just like this one. Maybe they already have. Because they feel that Leo “took them under his wing,” and gave them special attention and love that surely nobody else could have gotten. Surely. 😉

Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change

Leo is working on a new book, one that he says is his best yet, a culmination of all that he’s learned about creating habits and making change in nearly a decade of writing Zen Habits. It’s a print book, but he’s publishing it himself, so that he can put his touch on every step of the process. Even more interesting, he’s funding it with Kickstarter.

As you might imagine, it’s a no-brainer for me to back this project. In fact, I went ahead and got six copies of the book, so that I could give away five of them and share just a little bit of what Leo has done for me, with you.

I’ll randomly select the winners from the comments on this post next Wednesday, November 26th, announce the names in the comments section, and email the winners.

Cool? So, action steps:

1. Listen to our interview, where we talk about forming habits (of course), making changes with and without support, our shared approach to bringing about change in others, Leo’s first 50-miler, and his experiment in living purposely without goals. And of course, his new book, Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change.

2. Check out Leo’s Kickstarter page.

3. If you’d like to enter to win a copy of Zen Habits, just leave a comment about why you’d like to win! (Here, not on the Kickstarter page.)

4. If by chance you’re one of the five to six NMA readers who have never read Leo’s work, go ahead and dive down a Zen Habits rabbit hole for a few hours. I hope you’ll get a sense of why Leo’s work has helped me so much over the years.

5. We’re cranking out two new NMA podcast episodes almost every single week, and I don’t usually post them to the blog. To get lots more inspiring interviews like this one, subscribe in iTunes or check out our podcast archives page.

Hope you enjoy the interview!

Click the button below to listen now:

Download here.



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  1. Why do I want a copy of his book? Quite simply, I need more zen in my life.

  2. I have been vegan three times in my life, and all three times I found that I wasn’t able to make the habit stick. Leo’s online content has already been helping me on my latest try, and I can only imagine how helpful this book would be for me!

  3. Would love a copy of this book! Reading Leo’s blog right now, thanks for the link as I’d never knew about it before.

  4. Arun Kristian Das says:

    Awesome interview. I first discovered Leo’s blog because of his prior appearance on your show. Very helpful resources.

  5. I need guidance in taking wise steps to create positive transformation in my life. I truly hope I can get this book.

  6. I really need to read more Zen Habits, unfortunately reading blogs is something that has fallen by the wayside in the grad school grind. That being said, I’d love to have Leo’s book to read during my winter break!

  7. I love zen habits! who doesn’t need a little more zen in their life? I’d love a copy of the new book and think its really cool its a kickstarter!

  8. I love Leo’s writing, ideas about habit forming, and general zen philosophy. That’s why I’d love to win his book.

  9. I actually backed his book and can’t wait to get it! If I were to win another copy I would give it to someone I feel directed to. Thank you for all you! You two are wonderful.

  10. Stephanie C. says:

    So happy you are now doing 2 podcasts a week because they are our preferred material to listen to during our long runs. My husband and I feel we learn something from each podcast and I’ll admit this one was one of the best! The couple of hours we’ve spend “with” you each week has been the catalyst for many small changes that have add up to larger changes that resulted in healthier, happier and more content life for us both. Leo Babauta’s book promises to be another positive contribution to that path!

  11. I would like a copy so that I can have “book in hand” instead of “computer in eye”. Mr. Babauta’s blog is amazing, but I don’t like to sit in front of a computer more than I have to and I can’t go back and read all the archives.

  12. It would be great to get a copy, I became aware from Zen Habits to No Meat Athlete which habits I really have, their impact on my life and I am on a road of slow change. Marathon – each year minimum one (maybe two 🙂 ), to try 50 K, eventually 100, and then who knows… Gradually changing mine habits, is the only way and it would be harder without these two sites with motivation, tips and a know-how.

  13. I would love a copy of this book as i don’t sit in front of the computer very often, i prefer to curl up on the couch or out in the garden with a book, therfore i haven’t read much of his blog, i feel the book would be able to bring me up to speed with what his blog teaches.
    I started running a couple of years ago and have changed for the positive in so may ways, i would love to continue with my transformation and from what you have said i reckon the life philosophy in this book will only prove to be a wonderfully helpful and positive tool for me 🙂

  14. I’m new to Leo’s blog but already appreciate the simplicity it has begun to unfold in my life. Would love to continue with the book.

  15. Nevin Duffey says:

    Prior to April, 2013 I believed a 5K was beyond my reach. I could not run more than a half mile without stopping to walk. On October 2nd, 2014 I ran my first marathon, finishing with a time of 3:32:03. Between those dates I made a lot of lifestyle changes; the amount of changes made were far less than the abundance of lessons learned. During this timeframe I adopted a plant-based diet, increased the amount of miles run (and the quality if each individual run), discovered NMA, and overall FELT BETTER. I learned, and continue to be amazed by, how far patience, body and environment can lead. Learning, and the sharing of ideas, lessons and experiences drives us a global community. I would like to win a copy if this book to continue with my journey as a no-meat athlete, as well as to share its insights to inspire others who are also seeking a more active, peaceful and humanitarian lifestyle.

  16. I would really like to read this new book. In fact, I’m going to do everything that you have suggested and check out his blog and listen to your interview. I learn so much from you so it will be neat to hear from someone you admire.

  17. I don’t think I’ll ever be a minimalist or free from clutter (preschool teacher and teachers love stuff) but if I could get closer and STOP procrastinating….

  18. I’ve been following you and Leo for many years now. You both truly inspire me! I would love to receive this book!!

  19. I’m always trying to make changes too sweepingly and too quickly – would love to have this book for guidance!

  20. His first book was great. Living minimally is the way to go. I would love to see what he has to say in this new book.

  21. Amy Skelton says:

    Hi, I would love to read Leo’s book Zen Habits, because I love his website and think it would help me chill the heck out! Thanks!

  22. I think you mention Leo in all of your podcasts. I’d love a copy of his book to read and discover his work for myself.

  23. How do I get rid of cramp during exercise ? I cycle road and MTB! Cheers Math

  24. I’d love to have a copy of this book. If it’s as good as the website, it’s likely to be awesome.

  25. The idea of getting rid of clutter while living with small children is appealing. 🙂

  26. This was a great episode. I really enjoyed hearing Leo talk about his (and his wife’s) transformation to a plant based diet. There’s not just one path!

  27. There are some habits is really love to create (and that I have struggled to create for quite a while…) so having a copy of Leo’s work condensed and curated into a book sounds like a wonderful tool!

  28. love ur blog. Will love Leo’s too I’m sure. I’m working through metastatic breast cancer with mindfulness and meditation as I go through treatment. This book sounds just like what this former runner needs to get me to the other side of this disease. And running again. Namaste.

  29. Kayla Kemper says:

    i would love to win a copy of Leo’s book because I really need to bring focus (and zen) back into my life and running, the world is full of so many distractions that it is easy to get off track! Thank you for this opportunity!

  30. I would love a copy of Leo’s book! Just like going vegan, I want to model my change after someone’s example of doing it the right way. Also, I truly believe simplicity is a leap in the right direction for my life as I’m growing up.

  31. I just backed the book but if I win I’ll give the second book to someone who deserves it!

  32. I need this book! I have a serious problem with change. Even necessary ones!

  33. I’m one of the 6 people who have never read his work. Sounds like exactly what I need though. I would love to dive into his book after losing a few hours (or more) in the blog!

  34. I would love a book so that I could give it to my friend and colleague, Shelley, who first introduced me to Zen Habits. The struggles of life have been piling up for her lately, as they do for all of us at times, and I know the book (she’s the biggest book lover I’ve ever seen and would love to read Leo’s wisdom on paper rather than a screen) would be a welcome gift.

  35. I am at a stage in my life where I am going through a lot of changes and definitely would love a book that gives advice on how to center yourself and sort through the clutter. Some of the positive changes I’ve been making so far is incorporating trail running and vegetarianism for the last year though I have struggled with making vegan ism a habit though that is my end goal. Thank you, and would love a copy to help me on my journey!

  36. I love reading your posts about Zen habits and it inspired me to start a long list of habits that I need to implement, and some habits to break. I started 3 months ago and some have stuck, others have not. I’m trying to make this happen by the time I get married (9 months from now) so that I can be the best version of myself when I combine my life with someone else’s. It would be great to have this book so I can carry it around with me for extra inspiration and a print copy is more convenient because I will write my own notes all over the pages.
    Long time reader, thanks Matt!

  37. I’ve listened to Leo on your website a couple of times now and have always gotten something new from those conversations. I’ve just started dipping into the content on his blog. I would love to have this book (I prefer to do most of my reading in that form) as I’d love to really sink into his approach and mindset.

  38. To learn something new to live a better life.

  39. Sandra, Italy says:

    I’d love to have the opportunity to have Leo’s wisdom on print! I loooove my books, cuddle them, fiddle with them, dog ear them, highlight them, fold their pages… All pretty hard to do with a blog!

  40. I would love a copy of this book! I am new to Leo’s work, and it sounds like something that could really help me out a lot.

  41. Dan Springborn says:

    I appreciate the info that both you and Leo have shared over the years. I would love to read the book to get more input and value from Leo.

  42. I love books and need some Zen in my life. I’m eager to study Leo’s approach.

  43. Seriously? Mediating for only two minutes to start? That right there is reason enough to check this book out and all associated with Leo. I need to be more zen or at least teach my OCD to be more zen.

  44. Renee Casterline says:

    Loved listening to you and Leo talk about the possibilities in the publishing world these days!

    What struck me in the interview was the discussion about believing that you can change, and the quality of relationship that we have with ourselves and how that impacts our ability to change. I would love to have a copy of the book to read more about that idea. I checked in on the Kickstarter campaign. It’s awesome to see the support for this project. One way or another, I’m going to get a copy of this book!

  45. I’d like a copy because I’m in the process of eliminating animal products from my diet and could use help making this lifestyle a new habit.

  46. i am really trying to create new and better habits!

  47. i just signed up for a half marathon in April. I need help focusing on the small steps in front of me instead of the mountain.

  48. I always wondered how I came upon the zen habits site which I frequent quite often. I finally figured it was through this site haha! nthe o meat athlete and zen habits sites have made a profound impact on me. It has helped me focus more on what counts and what actually helps me progress in life. I would love to see how Leo formats his book as opposed to his web posts which I enjoy very much for their simple yet meaningful messages. Been a big fan of both of your works! keep it up!

  49. Leo’s journey is so inspirational, and seeing how far he has come by making small changes gradually makes me think I can do it too! I would love a copy of his new book to help and inspire me to make my own small changes.

  50. I would love to make even more changes in my life towards less clutter, more clarity and fulfillment. How awesome if I am one of the lucky winners.

  51. I am one of the few who have never heard of Leo or read any of his books; however, you’ve now got me super curious about Leo and what I could learn from him and his new book.

  52. I would like a copy of Leo’s book because I read his posts on tumblr and find them so insightful. I would like to enrich my life by reading more.

  53. I need something to help me make some positive changes in my life.

  54. Mike Rodriguez says:

    The book sounds very interesting and inspiring. I believe it will help me and others make positive life changes.

  55. Linked to today’s post from Zen Habits – stress assess … i’m immediately hooked, sent the link to my family. scanned past topics and saw many that i NEED to read — i’m in. thanks for sharing.

  56. I’m 52 years old and never in my life has changing some habits been more important. As Bonnie Raitt says, “Life gets mighty precious, when there’s less of it to waste.” Thanks for all you do, Matt and Leo.

  57. I’d love a copy of this book help me simplify and declutter my life.

  58. To simplify in order to experience life in the moment; and hopefully my changes will be a catalyst for others in my life to make positive changes, which will influence people in their lives, and on and on.

  59. i would love a copy of the book, Leo has such good ideas, some of which I have put into practice. Still a way to go yet, but life is good with less possessions and more Zen.

  60. Jayne Allen says:

    I stumbled upon this pin and am excited for this discovery of ideas and inspiration which will help me unfold the next chapter of my life. Living with simplicity and attention is my ideal, but the demands of my career and family consume me. I am searching for ways to bring balance and harmony into my life. Thank you for sharing!

  61. Leo and Matt thank you for your kindness in sharing your knowledge and experience. I would love to get this book so I can continue to live my best life and guide and help others to learn to do the same!

  62. silverio cueva says:

    i want to discover what is zen is about. I meditate, a vegetarian and i run marathon. I think i deserve to win.;p

  63. I’ve always been on the quest of revealing my best self. Conquering bad habits and installing new, uplifting ones is a huge part of that. I love reading Leo’s blog especially when a bit of stress has set in. He has a calming voice that seems to bring me back from all the running around my mind likes to do. Having the book to dive into when the internet is unavailable would be such a bonus.

  64. Thank you for this interview and for the chance to win a copy of Leo’s new book. Hearing it touches on the idea that we don’t stick to habit change because we don’t believe we can is intriguing. Looking forward to reading it (whether my copy is won from NMA or purchased on Kickstarter) and implementing the wisdom within. All the best to you both!

  65. I first heard about Zen Habits on one of your podcasts last year, so I subscribed to his blog and have learned a ton from his posts! His ideas have helped me so far with breaking habits, forming new habits, and beginning to rid my life of stuff–both physical and mental. Thanks for introducing me to Zen Habits, NMA! I will definitely keep on listening and reading for continued inspiration.

  66. Great conversation Matt, thanks for sharing! Listened to it on a long run through the woods the other day.

    It’s always cool to hear two people that have really inspired me come together and share ideas. Looking forward to Leo’s new book!

    Keep up the great work!


  67. Thanks for all the good work Matt. I’ve really been enjoying the podcasts lately. I would love to add Zen Habits to my collection of Leo’s books.

  68. I’ve been reading Leo’s amazing blog zenhabits as well as his other blogs mnmlist and Unscholarly for 3 years now.
    His writings really inspire me! also read almost all his e-books Zen to done ,the power of less and focus.
    I want to get his new book but I can’t afford backing either digital book nor the print book .
    that ‘s way I would really appreciate receiving this book!!

  69. Really enjoyed this post, Matt, and have found NMA and Zen Habits both incredibly inspirational over the years. That said, I’ve always had issues remaining consistent with forming new habits on a personal level. For years I’ve been trying to establish the consistent practice of writing (both creatively and through blogging), meditating and running, but I’ve let my own fear and procrastination (which, as I know Leo has pointed out quite well on ZH and you here on NMA, is based in fear) get in the way. I’d love for those who need Leo’s new book to receive and progress well with it, and I know I’d certainly appreciate receiving it as well, whether through this effort or by purchasing it directly. Thanks again for all you do!

  70. Definitely need some zen in my life right now.

  71. Great Interview! Would like to win a copy of this book =)

  72. Alright, the winners are in! They are:

    – Dan Springborn
    – Elizabeth
    – Ciry
    – Sarah
    – whaleyg

    Congrats! I’ll send you all emails to get your addresses, and send you the books as soon as I receive them (I think Leo said they ship in March, so it’ll be a little while).

    Thanks for reading/listening!

    • You made my day! Thanks soooooo much! I’ve been following you both since the very beginning. Looking forward to reading Leo’s book! Yeahhh!


      What brings me happiness? Sunshineandkale and cool BOOKS! 🙂

  73. id love to win… so i can read it of course 🙂


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