5 Ways to Prime your Environment for Better Eating

“The greater the friction, the less likely the habit.”

Having the correct information is just half the game when it comes to reaching your health & fitness goals. You also must have habits and systems in place that allow you to consistently implement that information. It’s good to know that a mid-morning protein shake is a healthy snack, but if you always forget to bring your protein powder to work, it’s not going to matter. That’s where priming your environment comes into play. By priming our environment we make it easier to do the right things. Here are 5 simple environment changes you can make now. 

1) Water intake

To develop the habit of having water each morning. Fill up a glass of water immediately after brushing your teeth and put it by your bathroom sink. You’ll be going to the bathroom every morning anyways, so when you wake up and the water is right there, that’s your cue to make action. If you have something like a Yeti that’s even better, fill it with ice water and it’ll still be fresh in the morning. 

2) Workout consistency

Schedule your workouts in your calendar. This is an example of changing your digital environment. And let's face it, that’s just as important as our actual environment. If you’re struggling with workout consistency, each Sunday take 5 minutes and put in the time, place and activity all in your calendar. Just like if your kids had a soccer game or you had a dentist appointment. Don’t just put “workout” on your daily to-do list, that’s too easy to skip. Literally go into your calendar and put “CrossFit class, 12-1pm Tuesday, alert me 60 minutes before.” Doing this proactively also allows you to adjust your schedule. You’ll see that dentist appointment scheduled for 12pm, so you can plan to do a late-night run instead of your normal 12pm workout. 

3) Supplement consistency  

I take about 4-5 pills per day. I keep all of my supplements in my closet and without visually seeing them each night it was a 50/50 chance I’d remember. Then I decided to buy a GoStak, that organizes all of my daily supplements. I now place the GoStak on my nightstand and the supplements are right in my face before I go to bed. I’d now say I’m 90+ percent compliant on my supplements from one shift.  

4) Hide the junk food 

Story time. Trader Joes have these dark chocolate peanut butter cups that I could not say no to. The first time I got them I put them at eye level in the front section of the fridge. Nearly every time I opened up the fridge I would snag a couple. Before meals, after meals, to get coffee creamer, etc. I would eat 5-10 a day, adding a few hundred calories to my intake. I wasn’t thinking about them, but every time I saw them it was a reminder of how delicious they were. The next time I bought them I pledged to put them in the freezer instead of the fridge. I’m not an idiot, I knew they were in the freezer and at any time I could get them. But I wasn’t constantly reminded of them, since I open the freezer maybe once a day. I would now eat 5-10 a week instead of 5-10 a day.
Look around your kitchen, fridge and cabinets. What is visible? It’s fine to have some “junk” in the house, but don’t test your willpower by having it in your face. Put it in the back of the cabinet, off of the countertop, out of your normal sight. For an added bonus, you can also make healthy foods more visible. Put a bowl of fresh fruit on the countertop. If you walk in the kitchen semi-hungry looking for a snack, the fresh fruit is in your face before you can even remember your chocolate in the cabinet. 

5) Fridge whiteboard

Have a new healthy meal you’re wanting to try? Purchase a whiteboard for your refrigerator and any time you have an idea, write it down. Each time you walk by you’ll be reminded of the idea and more likely to pull the trigger. This is just like seeing a commercial for a food and suddenly craving it.



5 Takeaways from “Atomic Habits” Podcast

Habits - 165 The Minimalist Podcast - length (90 minutes)

Podcast link (Apple)

James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits

*The times after each takeaways designated when in the podcast they discuss that topic.

The process of behavior change is identity change (9:00)

Before you change a behavior you need to think of yourself as the type of person that does that behavior. But not in a “fake it till you make it” kind of way.

Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you want to become. (11:00)

Instead of trying to mentally trick yourself, think of each action as a vote. Every time you go to the gym when you don’t feel like it you’re casting a vote that you’re the type of person that exercises no matter what. Every time you don’t give into a food craving you cast a vote for the type of person that has strong food willpower. Over time, this will build confidence that you’re slowly creating the new good habit that you sought. Just like winning an election, no single vote is massively important, but over time they add up until the habit is formed.

Internalizing identities creates unnecessary resistance. (20:00)

“I have a sweet tooth.” “I’m not a morning person.” “I don’t do meal prep.” We’ve all said things like that to ourselves before. Creating this internal identity makes changes harder than it needs to be. Be wary of your vocabulary. Tie this into the idea of casting votes. Of course you won’t be confident about changing a habit you’ve had for 10 years, but don’t think about a massive change, think about casting one vote at a time. Over time, you will build that confidence and see yourself as that type of person.

Layering new habits into previous ones (43:00)

My favorite snippet of the podcast and most actionable for you to apply immediately. We already have hundreds of habits and layering in a desired habit into a current one makes it much easier. Say if you watch Netflix most nights before bed, but desire to stretch more, now you create a routine of every time you watch Netflix you stretch. The current habit can also serve as a cue for the desired one. Maybe every morning you make coffee and drink it while sifting through social media. You can keep the cue of drinking coffee, but now replace the habit with planning out your days meals.

You can also use what James Clear called “temptation bundling”, where you take something you want to do and pair it with something you need to do. If you want to watch the football game, but need to meal prep, combine those activities. Or if the activities aren’t suitable for multi-tasking you allow yourself the want after you accomplish the need. I will allow myself to watch the full football game after I go grocery shopping.

A habit must be established before it can be improved (54:00)

This is simple, but often overlooked. If you don’t download MyFitnessPal, you have no hope of tracking your macros. If you don’t show up to the gym, you have no hope of deadlifting 2x bodyweight. In the beginning stages of forming a new habit, don’t focus on the accuracy or perfection, focus on showing up and improving. The podcast also discusses the “2 minute rule.” (14:00) If the full routine of something seems overwhelming, focus on making the first 2 minutes a habit. If the only time you have to exercise is immediately in the morning, focus on putting on your clothes and cleaning up, that momentum will carry over.

Practice Building Resilience

Article length: 600 words

Reading time: 4-6 minutes

I’m currently reading “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin, a story of a young chess prodigy who was the basis for the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer” and later went on to be successful in martial arts. 

In chapter 5, Josh discusses his struggles with distractions as a child competitor. In one story, he loses a match because a Bon Jovi song was stuck in his head and he couldn’t focus.  Over time these distractions expanded, such as the ticking of a chess clock sounding like thunder in his mind. 

Josh explains how he overcame these distractions, “I realized that in top-rank competition I couldn’t count on the world being silent, so my only option was to become at peace with the noise.”

He did so literally by placing himself in uncomfortable circumstances like playing loud music while practicing, often times music he didn’t enjoy. Also playing in smoky chess shops, something he always hated. 

The result, Josh was more resilient to factors outside of his control and could focus on the chess game more intensely. The sound, temperature and music in the room no longer affected him. By building resilience in practice he was able to lose himself in the game again. 

I find this type of resilience training to also be important in barbell sports. We all like to feel comfortable. Lift with our favorite bar at the gym, workout at the same time every day, listen to our music when going for a PR. But all of this comfortable inevitably makes us less resilient. If you compete at a CrossFit competition you’re going to use the bar in front of you, not bring yours from home. If you lift at a powerlifting meet they aren’t going to change the song just for your lift. Too much comfort in training can lead to massive under performance in competition

Here are several ways you can build more resilience in your training and improve your competition performance as an athlete. These don’t need be done all the time, but should be thrown in here and there. 

*Disclaimer: Don’t get carried away with this. Understand what variables are necessary to manipulate and which aren’t. For example, if you’re a competitive Weightlifter you don’t need to practice lifting in non-Weightlifting shoes, because you’re allowed to wear shoes in competitions. On the other hand, it may be smart to train on different bars, because you’re unaware of what they’ll have at each meet. There are people that think wearing a belt, knee sleeves or whatever makes you weak, but that makes no sense. If you can control that variable during competition you can train with it however you want. Manipulate things in training that will not be constant during competition.  

    

1. Use different implements (barbells, rings, pull-up bars, running routes, swimming lanes, etc.)

This may seem harmless, but you may underestimate how much you rely on your perfect surroundings for a good performance. Try running a different route, using a different pull-up bar than usual or swimming in your "unlucky" lane to build resilience. 

 

2. Train at different times during the day.

This has always been a big mental block for me. I’ve routinely trained in the afternoon or night and when my schedule forces me to train in the AM I automatically reduce my expectations. When I look at my performances though, there’s no drop off, it’s all in my head because I’m uncomfortable initially. 

3. Learn to train through days when technique is feeling off.

You can’t control how things will feel on competition days. So if things are feeling off while warming up, you need to have the confidence that you can still perform well because you’ve done so in training before. 

 

4. Work out with other peoples music or no music at all. 

 

5. Train with different people than usual or train alone. 


There are endless examples, but the most important thing is changing a variable that you’re comfortable with. Less comfort in training equals more resilience in competition. 


Defeating Performance Anxiety with a World-Class Boxer

Article length: 300 words

Reading time: 2-3 minutes

I'm currently reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferrisss, which is essentially a highlight version of the Tim Ferriss Podcast. The goal of Tims podcast is to interview world-class performers in multiple avenues (sports, music, business, nutrition, exercise, actors, etc.) and see what they have in common. What traits, habits and routines do ultra-successful people share.  

In the chapter I read this morning highlighting entertainer Triple H, it described an interesting encounter he had with Floyd Mayweather (49-0 in boxing.) 

Triple H was attending one of Floyds fights and Floyd requested to meet Triple H and his wife before the fight. The book describes Triple H as being excited to meet Floyd, but reluctant to distract him only a few hours away from a major fight. They meet, have good casual conversation, but twice when the conversation gets slow Triple H tries to leave out of respect. 

Floyd responds, "Hunter, I'm telling you: I'm just chilling watching the game." Still hesitant to stay Triple H says,  "You're not wound up about this at all?"
Floyd, "Why would I be wound up? I'm either ready or I'm not. Worrying about it right now ain't gonna change a damn thing. Right? Whatever's gonna happen is gonna happen. I've either done everything I can to be ready for this, or I haven't. 

Even the most confidence of us can overthink our performances leading up to the big moment. Hours before the first pitch, five minutes before the WOD starts, walking in the meeting room to pitch a prospective client. We start to doubt our game plan, triple check notes and over worry. If you currently struggle with game time anxiety, think like Floyd next time. Your preparation is complete. You're either ready or your not. Worrying at this point only can decrease performance. 

Walk-in confident knowing your preparation was enough and swing away. 

Priming and the Placebo Effect

Article length: 470 words

Reading time: 3-5 minutes

I'm currently reading "You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter" by Joe Disenza. This morning two interesting studies popped up, both talking about priming. I've talked about priming before and it's effect on likelihood of college students cheating.

Joe describes priming as, "when someone, someplace, or something in our environment triggers all sorts of associations that are hardwired into our brains, causing us to act in certain ways without being conscious of what we're doing."

The priming effect can occur in a variety of situations, as you'll see with our examples, it occurs when testing intelligence and expectations to an exercise routine. 

In a 2006 study [1] , researchers had 220 female college students read research reports (that were fake) that claimed men had a 5 percent advantage over women in math performance. They then divided these participants into two groups, group 1 was told this advantage was due to recently discovered genetic factors. Essentially, there's nothing they can do about it. Group 2 was told the advantage resulted from the way teachers stereotype girls and boys in elementary school. In this case, the advantage is a result of a bias, not pure ability. Both groups then took a math test. The women who'd read that men had a genetic advantage scored lower than those told the advantage was due to stereotype bias. 

When they were primed to think that their disadvantage was inevitable, the women performed as if they truly had a disadvantage. 

A similar effect was seen in a 1993 study [2] that looked at priming and the outcomes of exercise. 48 subjects participated of 3-90 minute aerobic workout sessions per week. Group 1 was told that the exercise routine was designed to improve both their aerobic capacity and psychological well-being. Group 2 served as the control group and were only told of the physical benefits of the exercise. At the end of the 10 weeks, both groups improved their aerobic capacity, but only group 1, showed a significant boost in self-esteem. 

Their awareness and expectation of the program caused more favorable results. 

Could the priming placebo effect occur when someone begins a new workout routine touted by a famous fitness professional? If that same program was written by someone else would they be as excited and work as hard? Likely not. 

You can use the priming placebo effect in your favor by having high expectations. Buy into your coaches, training, nutrition and mobility programs. Think they're the best out there, even if it's a bit naive. Remember, the placebo effect doesn't say the effects aren't real, it only says the effect isn't due to the cause you think. Whether you get stronger because 4x6 is actually better better than 3x10 or whether you BELIEVE it's better doesn't change the outcome, you still got stronger. 

Resources: 

1 - http://www.medicine.mcgill.ca/epidemiology/hanley/tmp/Applications/WomenMath.pdf

2 - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8475229

 

Power of Priming

Article length: 600 words

Reading time: 3-5 minutes

By now you know what it takes to obtain the fitness results you desire. A healthy diet + structured training program + hard work + consistency is the recipe for success. The hard part is making those decisions everyday. 

What if there was a simple trick you could use to make those decisions easier?

In 2008, Dan Ariely, Nina Mazar and On Amir conducted a research study on students at the Harvard School of Business. The goal was to see how priming the students would affect their likelihood of cheating. 

The students were asked to answer as many math problems in 5 minutes (AMRAP.) Afterwards, one student would be randomly selected and earn $10 for every correct answer. These are smart kids, so 5 minutes of work and the lucky winner could earn some serious dough. The final twist, the students were allowed to grade their own papers. Good ol' honor system. 

The difference comes on how the two groups were primed. We will call group A "general primed" and group B "ten commandment primed."

Before the quiz, group A was asked to write down 10 books they remembered reading in high school.

Group B was asked to recite as many of Ten Commandments from the Bible as they could. 

The results? 

Group A (general primed) scored 33 percent higher than average. Group B (ten commandment primed) scored lower than average.  

Did you guess it? Group A cheated, group B did not. All of the students had equal opportunity to cheat and the same financial incentive to do so. The only difference is how they were primed immediately prior to the quiz. The best part, the students were not aware of the priming. 

Fitness folk can learn from this study. How you prime yourself can make decisions easier or harder. Of course, some of the students who read the Ten Commandments still cheated and some of those who recited past books didn't cheat. But on average, the priming of honesty in the Ten Commandments had a major impact on their decision.  

How can this benefit you? 

What is the first thing you read in the morning? Is it a book that interest you and sparks creativity or Tweet about a reality TV show. One primes you for creative thoughts, the other is mindless nonsense. 

Who are the people in your training environment? Are they pursuing similar competitive goals as yourself or do they spend most of their gym time gossiping and dicking around? 
  
Want to be successful? Prime yourself for success with whatever the goal is. 

How I Prime

I have a simple test. If this person, thing, service, etc. helping me or hurting me in building the life I want? If it helps, add more of it. If it's hurting, remove it. 

  • Watch training of lifters I inspire to lift like before training
  • Don't communicate with people who are complainers, unless you want to be primed to complain 
  • Unfollow anyone on social media that constantly bitches
  • Use of multiple apps, my favorite is Momentum. A Google Chrome extension that prompts me of the single most important task of the day every time I open a new tab (picture below) 
  • Daily prompts via the Five-minute journal

Getting Started

Write down three ways in which you can prime yourself for success and start doing them now. Of course it can be fitness related, but this can work with any aspect in life. 


Like this article? You may like 

Decrease Stress & Increase Productivity with Morning Rituals

Article length: 1,000 words

Reading time: 4-6 minutes

Life is full of decisions. Mostly miniscule, meaningless decisions. From the moment you rise to the second you sleep. 

Unfortunately this can lead to decision fatigue, in which we deplete our willpower throughout the day by having to decide between so many options. This problem is only getting worse today, as there are infinite ways to personalize every purchase we make. How many pumps of hazelnut in your morning coffee? What podcast do I listen driving to work? What to wear at the gym? What documentary to watch on Netflix? It never ends. 

Anchors: How to Supersede Expectations

Article length: 550 words

Reading time: 2-3 minutes

We'd like to believe that our judgements about what is possible and what we can personally achieve is solely an internal process. The anchoring effect will shows us we're wrong. 

Daniel Kahneman defines the anchoring effect: "It occurs when people consider a particular value for an unknown quantity before estimating that quantity." 

Let's try this out. 

Is the height of the tallest redwood more or less than 1,200 ft? (Anchor #1)

What is your best guess about the height of the tallest redwood?

Write it down.

Lessons from "Quiet": Why Multitasking Sucks & How Collaboration Kills Creativity

I read Quiet a few years back and honestly have no clue how I found the book. Susan Cain flipped my mind upside down with the research, stories and application in this book. If you classify yourself as a natural introvert this book will give you insight on ways to make that work for you. How your disabilities can actually help you in some aspects. The book is bombed with examples of great leaders from all fields who considered themselves introverted. Also large touches on ways to structure your days and settings to be the most productive you. 

 The book isn't only about accepting yourself. As most introverts feel that they want to be more social at sometimes, Cain walks you through how to do so without the classic feeling of anxiety. Here are a few lessons I learned from Quiet.  

Sensory Deprivation (Float Tank) - My First Experience

Article length: 1,600 words

Reading time: 5-8 minutes

Take home: My first experience gave more questions than it answered. Sensory deprivation is a critical tool for stress-reduction and big idea thinking. 

So it's been about 30 hours since my first experience in a sensory deprivation tank - with this post I'm not attempting to convince you of anything or talk about any performance benefits. I'm only going to speak about my experience. Keep in mind these are my initial thoughts and will surely evolve as I float more.  

Also, this article is framed with my experience, not necessarily what you can expect. My experience is unique to the business I went visited, the specific tank used and the overall environment. 

WHAT IS IT?

Sensory deprivation tanks are also referred to as "float tanks."

How Meditation Can Improve Performance

Article length: 859 words

Reading time: 3-6 minutes

Take home: Use meditation to switch into a more parasympathetic state, to reduce stress, improve recovery and perform better.  

*Credit reading time/article length idea to Greg Nuckols of Strengtheory. Pretty much stole that idea from him. 

In Stress is Stress, I discussed the basic principles of our nervous system. Comparing the sympathetic (fight or flight) vs. parasympathetic (rest and digest.)  You learned that while the sympathetic system is great when we need to respond to a stressor, it's not ideal to be bathing in it's hormonal milieu all day. 

Peeling Back the Onion - Finding Motivation

What is the reasoning behind why some can exercise nearly every day, while others seem like they would rather go to the dentist? There’s seemingly a rather huge disconnection between these two types of people, and it’s been something I’ve had to try to overcome in helping people with their fitness goals. Each person presents their own challenge.

The first battle in any war is being present. If you don’t show up at the gym, then how can you possibly progress? This is the tricky part. We are all unique in what motivates us. Some need that kick in the butt and others need a calming voice or a friend to exercise with. But one thing is for certain – you must find whatever it is that keeps you going.

I once heard the analogy of exercise motivation being like an onion. Yes, I’ll admit, I’m a little obsessed and biased when it comes to food analogies, but hear me out. Most commonly, those truly motivated people (usually around the New Year) set a health goal and begin their journey. They start with an arguably healthy diet for a few weeks and exercise on a consistent basis.

But then “life” gets in the way, and a few months later they’re back to their old habits. Nobody is perfect and we all need to peel back the onion from time to time, which means finding what truly motivates you. Maybe you say it’s simply to fit in “X” size of jeans. But such a superficial motivation won’t get you through those tough times. You need to peel.


Why do you want to fit in those jeans, and for whom? Keep asking yourself questions until you get to the root of your motivation; you’ll probably be shocked at how deep your motivation lies. This is a continual stream of question and answering that does not stop. It is the act of seeking this root that is going to push you through those ugly days when 20 minutes of cardio feels worse than 50 minutes of world geography.

I personally just competed in my first natural bodybuilding competition and put myself through 24 weeks of pretty intense diet and training. My motivational roots come from my grandmother, who is by far the strongest person I know. When I don’t want to train, when I want to swallow an entire pizza but I know it doesn’t fit with my goals, all I do is think about making her proud, and, suddenly, the right decision becomes much easier.

Sure, looking good at the pool is a nice reward for your hard work, but I encourage you keep peeling until you find your root.

What Batman Can Teach You About Mental Toughness

We all hear the importance of mental toughness, but what does being mentally tough actually mean?

How does one obtain mental toughness? Is it a natural ability or can it be developed?

When Greg asked me to write this article all I could think of was relating mental toughness to my sport, baseball. This is one sport where being mentally tough is equally important as physical abilities.  

If you are not mentally tough then failure is imminent. Luckily for me, I have the support of teammates, coaches and if I’m lucky one day, fans.

Mental toughness in the gym is different, it is all on you. Nobody else is holding you accountable.

It's Not Supposed To Be Easy

Attempting to be proactive, I normally plan out and organize my blog pieces. Given the time of year, I planned on writing about eating during holidays and how to start off the new year primed for success. Blah, blah, blah. 

We've all heard that story.

I'm going to tell you something about your 2015 journey you may not like, but in 2016 you'll thank me for the primer. It's not supposed to be easy. 

Starting January 1st you're going to be bombarded with ads, personal trainers and even friends and family that will tell you it's easy. 

Social Media Beef & Removing Confirmation Bias

Anyone that's in the know with social media fitness can attest to the obscene amount of butthurt that goes down in the comment section. This is even more prevalent if you follow high-profile fitness people, whom may have posts with 100+ likes and comments. 

Whether it's to agree, disagree or just post a funny meme, people love to comment and make their presence known. 

So what's the deal with the title? Why don't I argue on social media?