Fitness: A Focus on Big Wins, Wins

Ramit Sethi, finance guru and overall funny guy has an interesting tid-bit in I Will Teach You to Be Rich (fantastic book btw) where he talks about a familiar story of people he knew trying to get fit… Quoting from his book:

Here was a common situation: John was forty-five pounds overweight, he ate poorly and hadn’t worked out in years, and he was ready to make a change. So ready, in fact, that he told us he wanted to cut his calories by 50 percent and start working out five times a week.

“Whoa, whoa,” we told him. “Let’s take it slow.” But he insisted in going from zero to five workouts overnight.

Predictably, he dropped out within three weeks.

0–100. We think that it’s all or nothing. In SO MANY areas in life.

Let me walk you through a little bit of my yesterday — you’ll see why in a second:

  • around 15 dark chocolate covered almonds
  • 7–8 large handfuls of peanuts and almonds
  • a beer
  • a huge bowl of white rice
  • sangria with extra apple liqueur
  • a margarita with extra tequila (testing out some cocktail recipes…)
  • clif bar as an afternoon snack on top of large meals

and there was probably more. These were additions to my large (1,000 calories) meals.

Now the excuse-makers will blab on and on about “high metabolism” (meanwhile doing absolutely nothing to boost their own metabolism). Yes, I do have a high metabolism. Does that mean I don’t notice extra fat after pizza or wings nights? Nope. At some level, the human body is the human body. Given enough years and habitual actions, the body keeps the score. Don’t listen to the “genetics is everything people” — those people are disempowering and doing nothing for themselves, usually.

Currently I’m sitting at around 10% body-fat, able to run 7:30 miles for a very long time, and knock out 25 strict pull-ups.

Oh yeah — I work out for only 20 minutes a day usually.

I’m not saying any of this to brag. Seriously.

I’m saying this to give hope to anyone who isn’t at their fitness goals. All it takes is key Big Wins. The small things even out.

You need to commit to moving in some way every day. This could be HIIT. Could be a 40 min walk. Could be a jog. But you need to do something, every day. (Seriously, a walk is NOT hard — unless you are disabled in some way.)


The body’s natural mechanisms will realize that “hey this person is active a lot, therefore we need to optimize for movement, not fat storage.” This sounds silly, but it’s true. If you move, your body will change how it starts treating you. For instance, since I do pushups, pull-ups, run some almost every day, the glucose from my white rice isn’t going straight to my gut. It’s going to the muscles since my body is conditioned to know it will need it in the future.

Make deals with yourself. Example:

Today around 4pm I really wanted a beer. So I made a deal with myself. If I do 15 burpees right now, I can have the beer. Done.

Other deals I regularly make:

  • Pizza night? Better do a longer run.
  • Big night out with drinks? 15 extra minutes in the gym.
  • Bad meal for lunch? Okay, grilled chicken, sweet potato, and brussel sprouts (doused in olive oil) for dinner. Still tastes great.
  • Day of sitting at work? 20 minute walk right when I get home.

It’s about keeping tabs on yourself. Get into a natural habit and it becomes automatic. None of those things taxes me heavily — okay the long run on pizza day can suck, sometimes.

Cut the eating window down. I can’t stress this enough.

Make a deal with yourself not to eat before 10 am or 11am. Or, no calories after 8pm.

You will save so many calories just by ex-ing out a window of time to fast regularly. Soon enough, your body will realize you just aren’t eating in that time, and won’t send hunger pangs.

A side-benefit to all of these Big Wins is that you will feel absolutely amazing about yourself. You will feel accountable and on the right trajectory.

Don’t feel that to reach your fitness goals you have to do everything right. No, no, no. You need to nail down the Big Wins, and fiercely protect them.

My fiance knows well enough now, that I will never give up a workout nor eat at 9am. It’s just not going to happen.

Again, none of this is to brag. My hope is that at least one person will read this, set down some habits and follow them religiously. Then, you don’t need to beat yourself up for the bowl of ice-cream or extra beer. Those things even out.

Thanks for reading!

Any feedback please comment below and I’d really appreciate any claps.

Working on The Habit Loop.