Don't be like me. Be the best YOU possible.


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Last week, I wrote a post on threads that created a bit of a (mini) viral moment.

My post got 9500+ likes, was shared by prominent podcasters, creators, and even reshared by Mark Cuban.

It was an honest look at 5 reasons I'm able to stay effortlessly fit with a low body fat percentage at age 39:

I wrote this to show that two things can be true at the same time:

Yes, I work really hard to take care of myself. I strength train 4 days per week, I weigh out the ingredients in my protein shakes, I prioritize sleep, I go for walks, and I make sure I eat a well balanced diet for 90%+ of my meals. (I also still enjoy adult beverages and pizza occasionally.)

I'm also a lucky S.O.B.!

I was born on 3rd base. I was raised upper-middle class in a great town, with two loving parents, and I have pretty good genetics (except for the acne and pale skin, thanks DAD!).

I have never been overweight, and I don't have any chronic illnesses.

I don't have sick parents to take care of nor children to watch. I don’t carry the invisible load that so many parents and caregivers have to carry.

I have almost complete autonomy over my schedule. I have the money, time, and mental bandwidth to dedicate to my health. I’ve been training in a gym for nearly 25 years. Strength training has become like brushing my teeth for me - I just DO IT, even when I don’t feel like it.

And that’s the good stuff!

I also have plenty of flaws and insecurities that also contribute to making me LOOK fit. I grew up scrawny and weak and often felt too small, so I train to feel strong and confident. I am intrinsically driven (probably to a fault), overly competitive (to a fault), overly comparative (definitely to a fault), and I am STILL broken on the inside (therapy for the win!).

I spent a lot of my 20s and 30s focused on the wrong scoreboard, getting big and strong and staying lean to make sure I looked the part of a fitness business owner!

As a result of all these things, I can pretty effortlessly have 6-pack abs and look like the typical “fitness influencer” (which I have no interest in being). There are more than enough shirtless influencers selling ineffective, unnecessary, expensive supplements to their audiences.

I share all of this to make a point:

I don’t want you to “be like me!” and do what I do in the hopes you’ll look like me.

Because I’m me!

I work hard, AND I also acknowledge how lucky my circumstances are. I'm able to focus time and energy on my wellness because so many of my other basic needs are already covered.

And even then, I spent a lot of time trying to be other people, and only in the past few years have I come back around to trying to just be a better Steve.

By the same token, you are you!

You have unique circumstances, flaws, constraints, strengths, and struggles.

Once we can learn and truly accept these things, we can get to work making the best YOU possible.

Back to the post: As soon as I hit publish, it clearly struck a nerve and took off like a rocket.

Let’s talk about the responses…

The 3 different responses to my post

With this post blowing up and it getting almost 10,000 likes, hundreds of shares, and hundreds of comments, most replies fell into one of three categories:

  1. People who read the whole post and appreciated it. They appreciated the honest transparency, and shared their personal privilege, struggle, or experiences in staying fit or trying to get fit! This was 90% of the replies.
  2. People who read the first sentences, missed the point, and then replied with something like “yeah try saying that at 59/69/79!” I get it, the internet is full of performative, unhelpful lists from out of touch influencers, so they automatically assumed my post was similar. I wish they HAD read the whole post, because my guess is they would have agreed with what I was trying to say. Oh well.
  3. People who read the post and projected their beliefs onto my intended message. These are people who said things like “you’re letting people off the hook” or “everybody has the same 24 hours, etc.” “you’re giving people excuses.” Unsurprisingly, every single one of these replies was from a single man in his 20s. I was unsurprised because I used to be that guy who couldn’t comprehend other people’s challenges!

Let’s spend a bit of time on that 3rd group, because I think it’s important to dive deeper.

I’ve come to realize, after 15 years of studying human behavior and the wellness industry, that eating less and moving more is a tiny fraction of the puzzle.

Of course that’s true.

However, it’s so much more complicated than those two things, especially for people who have complex, overwhelming, chaotic lives!

I also know that shaming people who are struggling with their weight is completely ineffective and counterproductive. It’s as if the “hey you need more discipline” people think they’re sharing something that the rest of us have never heard before!

I shared this on Instagram too to paint the picture clearly:

Most people want to be healthy, and aren’t looking for ways to be let off the hook. They are trying their best! So my philosophy, and that of Nerd Fitness, is “meet people where they’re at.”

This quote from author F. Scott Fitzgerald explains the nuance required to help people:

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

For ME personally: I have no problem saying “I am lucky!” and also “I work hard!” I’m very aware that due to my circumstances, I have the freedom to prioritize working hard on my health. I also work hard to meet people where they’re at in their lives and empathetically provide guidance and support.

For YOU: it might be saying “I’m never going to look like Gal Gadot/Ryan Reynolds” which can then give you the freedom to say “Dammit I’m going to become the best version of me!”

This self-compassionate acceptance is an amazing first step. It then allows us to work on an actual solution that fits your lifestyle and goals without mismatched expectations or unrealistic advice.

(I actually used to write articles like “How to look like Daniel Craig in Casino Royale!” before realizing that it wasn’t helpful. Even if somebody did Daniel Craig’s exact workout, they will never look like him, because they are not Daniel Craig. This is a recipe for letdown.)

If you happen to be in the fitness industry: holding these two truths can be powerful.

Thought 1: “People are living with different situations that might make their ability to make change in their life more difficult!”

It’s not “letting them off the hook.” It’s not giving them a pass to be lazy. It’s being a kind human.

Thought 2: “I can help you become the best version of yourself.” We can acknowledge the reality of the situation, and then get to work on making changes in that reality.

Together, these two thoughts create a virtual hug, saying “This sh** IS hard!” and also “Let’s see what changes we can make to level up!”

Starting with acceptance of reality is a great foundation on which to build the next steps for your personal journey!

Your Weight and Your Worth

I’ll leave you with one final reminder:

Your appearance is not correlated with your worth.

Your weight is not a moral failing or a lack of discipline.

It’s so much more complex than that.

Let’s work on ourselves at our pace and also develop some compassionate acceptance of who we are as humans.

I acknowledge how lucky I am, and I wanted to share a behind the scenes look at how the wellness industry often sets the wrong expectations and promotes unrealistic standards (and then sells unhelpful solutions).

I’m trying to combat this with Nerd Fitness and this newsletter, even though it often feels like trying to mop the ocean or hold back the tide!

I don’t want to tell you, “here’s how to look like me” but rather, “here’s how to become the best version of you.”

The leveled-up version of you.

This is how I want to help you.

Let’s see where we can get together, okay?

For the Rebellion!

-Steve

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Level Up Enterprises Inc. - 1831 12th Ave S. Unit 271, Nashville, TN 37203
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Hi there. I'm Steve.

I founded Nerd Fitness way back in 2009. Wherever you are coming from, I’m glad you are here. Every week, I send out a short email that’s guaranteed to make you live a tiny bit better, think a little deeper, and overcome the obstacles that get in the way.

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