I finished reading Scott Adams book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” and it’s probably one of the better personal development books I’ve read. I say better because its full of comedy and not the usual “I’m smarter than thou” books which sound re-hashed most of the time to me. You probably don’t know who Scott Adams the person is but you do know who Dilbert is. Scott created Dilbert. Without getting into the books 38 chapters and telling you how great it is I want to focus on just two of them, Diet and Fitness.
Dilbert on Diet
This is a good time to remind you that nothing in this book should be seen as advice. It’s never a good idea to take advice from cartoonists, and that’s a hundred times more important if the topic is health related. I don’t know how many people have died from following the health advice of cartoonists, but the number probably isn’t zero.
Yup, that’s how he started off the chapter on diet. Pretty funny if you ask me. He would also go on to add how you should always have your “bullshit filter” on when talking diet related topics when discussing it with smart friends and going over scientific studies. The one thing which he mentions a lot in the book is simplification and in this case his diet plan is “I eat as much as I want, of anything I want, whenever I want.”
But how can anybody get away with that? As Scott would say it takes a bit of reprogramming your food preferences to determine what you want. Scott had a bit of an ice cream addiction and would eat it twice a day. Knowing it was bad for him he reprogrammed his thoughts to think about how he couldn’t go more than two days without broccoli. Those little thought changes made huge improvements in his diet and overall health. As he said “Once you want to eat the right kinds of food for enjoyment, and you don’t crave the wrong kinds of food, everything else comes somewhat easily.”
Breaking the Simple-Carb Addiction
The willpower you need to resist simple carbs such as white potatoes, white bread, and white rice has to come from somewhere, and as I mentioned earlier, studies show that using willpower for anything reduces how much you have in reserve for other temptations.
This hit home for me. I know I need to cut back on the simple carbs but I find myself trying to resist some of it so much that I’ll give into other things so easily because I don’t have the mental strength to say no. Scott’s system (he’s big into systems as he says goals are for losers while systems are for winners.) would be to have an attractive alternative. His example of saying you couldn’t have the delicious bread but you could have anything else you wanted that wasn’t a simple carb, and you can have it right now, suddenly the bread would be easy to resist. This seemed simple enough to me.
The rest of the chapter talks about addressing food addictions, reprogramming them with better alternatives, and creating a system that works for you because no two people are the same. To summarize.
The Simple, No-Willpower Diet System
- Pay attention to your energy level after eating certain foods. Find your pattern.
- Remove unhealthy, energy-draining food from your home.
- Stock up on convenient healthy food (e.g., apples, nuts, bananas) and let laziness be your copilot in eating right.
- Stop eating foods that create feelings of addiction: white rice, white potatoes, desserts, white breads, fried foods.
- Eat as much healthy food as you want, whenever you want.
- Get enough sleep, because tiredness creates the illusion of hunger.
- If your hunger is caused by tiredness, try healthy foods with fat, such as nuts, avocados, protein bars, and cheese, to suppress the hungry feeling.
- If you’re eating for social reasons only, choose the healthiest options with low calories.
- Learn how to season your healthy-yet-bland foods.
He ends the chapter with “The only way to succeed in the long run is by using a system that bypasses your need for willpower.”
Dilbert on Fitness
My challenge in this chapter is to convince you that if you get one simple thing right – being active every day – all of the other elements of fitness will come together naturally without the need to use up your limited supply of willpower.
He goes onto say how any form of exercise that requires willpower is unsustainable and to stay fit in the long run you need to limit your exercise to whatever level doesn’t feel like work, just as kids do. When willpower is taken out of the equation and you achieve a solid baseline of daily physical activity, your will naturally increase your workout. You’ll do it because you want to, and because it will feel easy, and because you know it will feel good. No willpower will be needed.
I think about how many people have quit P90X, Insanity, or any other Beachbody program because their using willpower to get them to do it. Scott is saying that willpower doesn’t work when fitness feels like work. I know I’m not alone when I say that sometimes I feel obligated to do a Beachbody program with me being a coach and the entire program feels like work which causes me to dread doing it. In those cases I’d rather play 4 games of softball, ride my bike 20 miles, or snowboard instead of following along to a dvd. Its kind of why I never finish a Beachbody program in the time suggested to do a program. I’m always adding in fun activities to break it up.
His other point about increasing your workout got me thinking. Ever since Beachbody introduced T25 and P90X3 I’ve noticed my results have gone backwards and I feel like it’s because these workouts are half the time of P90X and Insanity which were ones I looked forward to doing even with them being an hour-long. The hour felt easy and I knew I’d feel good after getting my ass kicked for an hour. I barely feel anything after T25 and P90X3. I’m guessing because the feeling I get after a 25 or 30 minute workout is not nearly the same as 60 minutes. If anything I’m have to use willpower to want to do them which is probably why I’ve only made it through about 35 days of each.
Scott goes on to talk about motivation with exercising should be to do the right amount of exercise today is whatever amount makes me look forward to being active tomorrow. Soreness is like a penalty for exercising and what we should be looking for in the beginning is light exercises that reduce stress and boosts energy so you become fitter and naturally increase your exercise level.
In The End
Scott does a really good and humorous job of breaking down health and fitness to a simple via a not-know it all approach. I know sometimes as a Beachbody Coach we take things to extreme levels or set people up to fail from the get go in which we really need to be taking it slow and not have people tap into their willpower because it will set them up for failure. I really liked his approach to how he eats and do some of those already.
The rest of his book is full of unique advice on everything from career to relationships to happiness and is worth a read. But if you’re struggling with diet and fitness then hopefully a couple of these tips from a cartoonist will help.