Posted by on Jul 21, 2015

Thom is a Fitocracy Coach that trains clients all over the world using the Fitocracy app. He’s also a Veteran Strength Coach, Post Rehab Trainer and Functional Nutritional Consultant that has 12 years and over 600 clients under his belt. Would you like to train with Thom? We can hook you up.


Ok, so if you are still reading the odds are you are contemplating making some changes and getting healthier. Awesome, sounds like a plan!

But before we begin, I think it’s important to discuss HOW you are going to move forward, and not just get wrapped up on WHAT you are going to do.

Mindset is key, and that starts with setting realistic (stay with me reader, this is important) and manageable expectations and behaviors.

After training people for over a decade , helping them to get healthy, lose weight, get stronger, overcome injuries and illnesses, and just general start to enjoy life again, I’ve observed a few things about the difference between people that stick and people that don’t.

Regardless of the program you chose, the diet you follow, no matter how diligently you START, these habits or qualities will ultimately determine if you sustain the changes. And heck while I’m being all blunt and stuff, here are two things I might as well tell you.

  1. If you want to be healthy, you’re going to have to exercise for the rest of your life.
  2. If you want to be healthy, you’re going to have to eat well 90% of the time too.

There I said it. Still reading? Ok, let’s get to work on setting up the mindset to actually  do that.


Here is the Rockstar Checklist of Awesome:

1) I’m open to learning new things and let go of some old, incorrect beliefs.

2) I’m a progressionist, not a perfectionist.  I see that small, consistent change is the best, least painful path to long term health.

3) I know this isn’t a quick fix, it’s a lifestyle improvement. I will not beat up on myself. I will be patient, just like I would if I was trying to support my best friend while they did the same.

4) Thoughts become words become deeds. I can choose a positive thought, and that will make the challenges I face easier, and enable me to help others as well.

Embracing these ideas will help you SO MUCH I can’t even begin to describe. For some it will seem obvious, but at least for myself, I find I need to remind myself of these pretty much every day to be effective and to help people create the best mindset for success.

Now let’s explore each of these points and explain why they are so important.

1 – Be the person whose cup is empty.

There is an ancient Zen parable about a student that comes to a Master to learn Zen, then almost immediately starts to tell the Master all of his past knowledge, all of the things he THINKS he knows, and begins to ply upon the Master all sorts of questions.

The Master replies by pouring tea into the prospective students cup, past the point of filling it, until it is overflowing.

The student says “Master the cup is already full, stop it’s overflowing.”

The Master explains “Like this cup, your mind is already full of ideas, yet you ask to learn, until your mind is empty I cannot fill it with more.”


Ok, granted, a human brain is a tad more capacious a storage system than a cup of tea, but you get the idea…

Constantly when I issue meal plans to people I get push back, usually from people whose primary goal is weight loss.

“But fat will make me fat, right, everyone knows that…”

“Bacon ???? Wouldn’t a bagel be a better breakfast, don’t I need fiber?”

“Shouldn’t I just track macros [and eat whatever I want]?”

“I heard salmon has mercury, can I eat a snicker’s bar instead?”

Okay, that last one I made up, but in fairness I did have a client bust my balls for 30 minutes about how they were worried red meat would give them cancer (btw, red meat is good for you), and when I checked their nutrition log for the last week they had had a box of Oreo Cookies for supper the night before….

Oh yeah, better watch out for that grass fed beef – that’ll get you every time.

One of my favorite quotes about training comes from that famous gym rat my buddy Al. He also dabbled in Physics a bit – you might know him by his more formal affectation Albert Einstein.

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again and expecting a different result.”

You’ve tried and failed over and over to increase your energy and lose weight. Why are you surprised if when you finally break down and hire a pro, they say things to you that are significantly different than what you thought would work?

Empty your cup, be prepared to try something different for a couple weeks, then check your weight and your measurements again. If you don’t feel better, if you don’t look better, fine I’ll give you your money back.

2 – Be a Progressionist, not a Perfectionist.

Perfection is just addiction in disguise.

Let that sink in.


Understand that your mind has helpful AND harmful voices. That is NOT a helpful voice that is talking. And the harmful ones unfortunately don’t wear name tags. They disguise themselves as helpful voices.

When you beat yourself up, when you say, “Yeah, well, I guess I did okay but I thought I should’ve done better.”  What are you really doing? Is it helpful? Think about the last time being a perfectionist HELPED you succeed?

…keep thinking, I got all day.

When we are going to try to start something, it’s best to just DO IT. It’s okay to make little mistakes along the way – but you need to keep moving forward and working on your goals.

We can sit there thinking of all the things we might get wrong. Or you accept that you are going to mess up once in a while, but heck, you’re going to get a lot of things right too, and these will be great things that you won’t get to do sitting on the couch worrying about the things you will mess up that no one will care about anyways.

So don’t expect perfection, just look for progress.


A lot of times when we start eating better and exercising we are replacing bad habits like smoking, drinking, eating poorly, not sleeping well, etc with more positive habits like doing squats and eating broccoli.

You don’t need to get it 100% right. Any change in that direction is better than yesterday.

One of my favorite bands is Radiohead (yeah, I’m that old). What I loved about Thom Yorke (other than he’s the only other guy I know that spells his first name right) was that he wasn’t afraid to try new things, reinvent his sound, and yes some of the songs sucked. But they also made some amazing ones.

You gotta free yourself to swing for the fences. Life is hard enough without you getting in your own way.

So just chill out, congratulate yourself and decide which voice you are going to use when you talk to yourself. Use the same voice you would use if your best friend, or your child was trying to do the same thing.

Would you pick them apart, and focus on the things they struggled with? Or would you be their biggest fan and cheer them on?

Get better everyday, accept setbacks, and push on. Most of all, be kind to yourself.

This is a long haul, you need all the friends you can get.

Newsflash, the more you use this voice, the more powerful it will become, and the better you can be an example and help those around you.

Yes, the old soldier in me says attention to detail is important. Striving to do a good job is important. But accepting that measurable constant improvement is the path to greatness, NOT nailing it right out of the gate, is even more important.


3 – Be Patient.

Remember what I said about having to do this for the rest of your life?

No, I’m not saying that the Rockstar program is going to take forever to deliver you results. But there is some truth to the old adage “A watched pot never boils.”

There is a time for analysis, and a time for action. Guess which one needs to happen more often?

Bingo, action.

If you are constantly checking the scale, or driving yourself crazy thinking “is this working?” – you cripple your ability and will to ACT.

Be honest with yourself, are you JUST doing this until you lose ten pounds and then you plan on stopping?

What is more likely is that you want to stay healthy for the rest of your life. You don’t ever want to feel like this again.


That isn’t going to get fixed in a week, but it is going to start getting easier quickly, as long as you focus on the actions, and being positive and optimistic about things, and not expecting the last 5 years of bad decisions to change overnight.

And while we are on the subject of being positive…

4- Open yourself up to the positives.


Ok I get it. I know about negative thinking.

I’ll share a bit of my story with you. I served in the Canadian Army for ten years. I ran away from my family of two alcoholic parents to get an education by joining the Army. Let me tell you, when you say to yourself “I think I’ll join the Army to get more structure and get away from all the bullshit.” well… you’re in a tough place.

I’m telling you this to explain that we all have baggage, and we all have negative thoughts.

I’m not one of those, “the Army saved my life” recruiting posters either. The Army is a tough go and if you don’t get your head on straight it eats you up and spits you out. Thankfully I had some solid friends that helped me, and I made out ok. I learned a lot from some excellent soldiers, and while I knew I didn’t belong in the Army for the rest of my life, I knew I had a purpose.

And I knew getting down on myself or indulging in self pity wasn’t going to get me anywhere. And I could start a sentence with an “And” and let it go…

I knew I could help people, I knew I loved training, and I knew that there were qualities that made the difference between surviving tough times, and perishing.

Right now, if you’re trying to change your habits, you’re in a tough time. Okay, maybe you aren’t dodging bullets, but you’re under pressure.

You can chose your mindset. You can decide how to meet your challenges. Frame your challenges asopportunities to grow. Don’t look at them as do or die, because they aren’t.

You’ll get another chance to improve tomorrow.

Mental energy is finite. If you talk yourself into a hole, and start allowing all the negatives to surround you. Well you’re fucked.

Instead assemble a team of positive voices around you. The best part about the Rookie to Rockstar program is that you get connected immediately with 10 – 20 other people that are in the same place as you. Get out there, interact, spread positive energy, it comes back to you ten-fold.


See, life is like a radio station. Back in the day, again showing my age, we had radios that had knobs. You like Country? Turn the knob to a country station. You hate Country? Turn the knob to a Metal station. The radio station doesn’t disappear (unless you have some messed up definition of Schroedinger’s cat in your head) you just aren’t receiving it anymore.

It’s the same with positivity and negativity. It’s just a choice. There are thousands of signals we (imagine yourself as an antenna) are receptive to. It’s just a choice, a quick flip of the knob whether you dwell in the negativity (which for me would be the country music, except for Johnny Cash — love that guy) or indulge in the positive signals. The environment doesn’t change (not immediately, at least), just what you chose to be receptive to. Chose to be positive.

It isn’t always easy I know, but over time it’s like a muscle, it gets stronger and with it you become stronger.

The mind is an incredibly dynamic and powerful feedback system. What you put in to it it adapts to, and it above all other systems can change the fastest. So decide the kind of information you are going to put into it. Once your mind is ready to accept new information (cup is empty) you will grow. Once your mind is ready to accept that it won’t get 100% in the first try (being a progressionist) and that it might take a while to get good at doing healthier things (being patient) and most of all once your mind starts receiving a lot more positive images and messages (being positive) you will start completely changing how you behave and all the healthy new habits you acquire will become second nature.


Again, here iss the Rockstar Checklist of Awesome. Repeat after me.

1 – I’m open to learn some new things, and let go of some old, incorrect beliefs.

2 – I’m a progressionist, not a perfectionist. And I see that small consistent change is the best, least painful path to long term health.

3 – I know this isn’t a quick fix, it’s a lifestyle improvement. I will not beat up on myself. I will be patient, just like I would if I was trying to support my best friend while they did the same.

4 – Thoughts become words become deeds. I can choose a positive thought, and that will make the challenges I face easier, and enable me to help others as well.

Regardless of what methods or theories you chose to employ for exercise and nutrition, these are things that determine long term success. After over 900 clients, and a decade of doing this, these are simply my beliefs. Take them or leave them.

I know this is a risky article to write, and it will probably result in at least a few snarky emails coming my way. But I’m incapable of bullshit. I’d rather to offend than to misdirect. January only comes once a year, and the sad truth is most people only try to get healthy once or twice a year, they fail and it’s many months of a lower quality of life before they try again. If this article helps just a few people  to make a change they otherwise wouldn’t have I’ll consider it a Sunday night well spent.

Let’s do it right this time.


Featured image courtesy of Anirvan and used under Creative Commons license.

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