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.

But it turned out that there weren’t just one or two areas where people needed help. Instead, there were about 20 topics — topics that kept coming up, over, and over, and over. Everything from finding the time and motivation to eat healthily, to losing those last few pounds, to workout-specific nutrition strategies based on natural foods, to how to keep from getting injured and run a fast marathon or ultra.

Even more puzzling: a lot of these were topics I had written about on my blog before. So why were people still struggling with this stuff?

Then I realized the fundamental problem.

Even in a long blog post, there’s only so much you can say (and I’m no stranger to a 2,000 word post). And while podcast interviews are fun, they’re really light conversations meant for casual listening — not serious learning.

And neither blog posts nor podcasts offer much in the way of continuity … no easy way for someone to digest the information, come back and get detailed answers to their questions, and repeat.

In short: blog posts and podcasts are “for everyone.”

We needed something that wasn’t for everyone — something for the person who is more serious about learning and improvement than just the casual reader or listener, and wants information that is more targeted, in-depth, and action-focused. And an environment where you’re surrounded and supported by like-minded people, who share your attitude and passion for thriving on a plant-based diet.

This all led to an idea that I (with a lot of help) have been working hard to develop for the past few months. A place where we bring in well-known experts for in-depth, actionable audio seminars, host followup live Q&A sessions for deeper interaction, and provide private forums for focused discussions.

Tomorrow, I’ve got another interview snippet from the Academy — this one with our second guest, Michael Arnstein, winner of the Vermont 100 and owner of a sub 13-hour 100-mile time. And no, that’s not a typo: seven minutes and forty-six seconds per mile. For 100 miles. On not just a plant-based diet, but a raw one, based almost entirely on fresh fruits and vegetables. And that was the topic of our conversation: the natural, plant-based foods Mike eats and recommends before, during, and after workouts to maximize your performance. 

So check back for that one, or if you prefer, go here and I’ll send you an update when it’s posted and when the Academy opens.

Until then, enjoy the rest of running’s finest day!



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  1. Really looking forward to the Michael Arnstein cast it’s amazing what he can achieve on purely fruit and veggies – as I’m interested to know how he adjusted from the very beginning of how he started his diet and what problems he encountered as his body adapted to the diet
    Hope you all had great runs today on Patriot’s Day

  2. Can’t wait for the Academy! This is just what I’ve been looking for!!

  3. I remember meeting Sid along with you at the San Francisco Sports Basement during your book tour.

    Sid’s small steps reminds me of Stanford professor BJ Fogg’s work on tiny habits, which I covered in “How to Make Tiny Habits Big”.

    Your comment on building pent-up energy by doing less than a person may be capable of is really insightful.

    Prof Fogg says if you want to develop a habit of flossing your teeth, begin with one tooth. Now, obviously nearly no one will bother just doing one tooth, so more will be flossed and soon a habit is formed.

    Another insight on this topic is about how you introduce the formulation of the new habit.

    So, back to flossing… given (presumably… hopefully) that a person already has the habit of teeth brushing prior to bed, the flossing activity (it’s not a habit yet) begins by placing the floss next to the tooth brush. Hard to avoid it there.

    Good luck with the Academy, Matt!!


  4. Wondering if any of you have wrestled with the problems of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)? I was vegan for 2 years but developed more food intolerances during this time. I had started out not able to tolerate gluten or dairy. Now I can not tolerate most nuts, some seeds, all legumes and have problems with IBS and systemic achenes if I eat yams, rice bread of heavier starch. I would love to hear if anyone has been able to turn this around on a vegan diet or if you needed to go to the SCD or Paleo which are so high in animal protein. Thanks All. A great site and I believe in the health of the diet but am not there now because of the problems listed above.

  5. Hi Lara
    I have found that using greeen juices to realkali my stomach and colon has really helped me
    to slow down polyps growing in my small intestine – try Jason Vale’s website for finding recipes,
    also Kris Carr nd Robyn Openshaw – good luck

  6. Thank you. I will check those sights out. Do you think the green juices work better than blended salads?

    • Hope this doesn’t feel like an intrusion, Lara and Penny, but I have some suggestions.

      Re salads/green juice — doesn’t have to be an either/or. You can boost your nutrition and improve digestion by eating, juicing and blending a wide array of green veggies. Of course juice is easier to assimilate than blended veggies, which is easier than whole food.

      Kale, red chard and spinach are good choices, but beware eating/juicing/blending them (and all cruciferous veggies) raw if you thyroid issues because they contain natural chemicals called goitrogens (goiter producers) that can interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis.

      The other thing I’d consider is doing all you can to ensure you have a healthy microbiome in your gut. Of course, it’s hard to know w/o tests, but it would do no harm to take probiotic supplements and eat prebiotic food (fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and keifer).

      You can learn more about synbiotics (pre + probiotics) in an article I wrote called, “How to Feed 100 Trillion Guests”

      More about microbiota here:

      Hope this helps.


  7. Not sure possibly, as I tend to eat a large very mixed green salad most days too – spinach, kale, avocodo, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumber with additional things like cashews, brazil nuts, sunflower, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and drizzle Udo oil mixed with Manuka honey as a dressing – let me know how you go –
    Jason Vale has a new dvd for free download today if you go on his site which you might find interesting

  8. Joe and Penny. Very helpful advice. I have food sensitivities so I know that I have dysbiosis. I am taking probiotics and eating fermented food, but still seem to be having problems. I’m afraid that nuts, seeds and avocado are problems.

  9. Hi Joe
    Many thanks for your comments really useful and helpful.

  10. thanks for sending through Sid’d book it arrived safely here in GB yesterday xx

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