Posted January 7, 2019

How to Eat Right and Exercise When You Absolutely Hate to Eat Right and Exercise

I totally get it.

I have days and even weeks where eating vegetables and limiting sweets is more of a challenge than they should be. I have periods of the year where working out is the last thing I want to do, and often gets pushed to the side in favour of other pursuits, such as work, changing lightbulbs, steam cleaning my carpet, or standing in line for a back alley dental appointment.

I have a lot of clients who feel the same way. Some actively avoid eating vegetables in favour of literally eating anything else. Some feel their workouts are a low point of their week in spite of the sparkling conversationalist and witty raconteur they spend an hour or two with each week in yours truly.


Sometimes it can simply be a matter of framing. Instead of saying “I hate vegetables,” enthusiastically screaming inside your own head that “I FUCKING LOVE VEGETABLES!!” can make a massive difference in how you approach them. Maybe look at cooking them differently or having them prepared somewhere new. My wife and I love watching Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain because the focus is on people, cultures, communities and cuisine. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to cook something like a potato, and how much variation rice can have from one region of the world to another. So instead of only steaming broccolli, throw in some eggplant, bake some butternut squash, slap together a Greek salad, or get wild with asparagus.

Did that work for you? Cool.

Oh, it didn’t? You actually still hate vegetables? Well, I feel your pain. If given the choice between a pack of cookies or a salad, I’m going to crush those golden discs of deliciousness 9 times out of 10 over a bowl of my foods food.

That being said, there are a lot of other things that I hate but will still do:

  • paying taxes
  • shovelling snow
  • emptying the dishwasher
  • picking up my dogs’ poop when they go for a walk
  • wearing pants

These things are all terrible and uncomfortable at the best of times, but they still get done. In Ray Dalio’s book Principles, he talks about cause and effect relationships, but specifically first, second and third order effects from our decisions and actions.

The first order effect of paying taxes is I have less money at the moment. The second order effects are I don’t get charged additional interest on missed payments, and the third order is I don’t get collection letters or an affected credit score as a result of missing for a long time.

If I don’t empty the dishwasher, I have fewer clean dishes to make and eat food from later, which will likely make my wife mad, and no one likes when their spouse is angry.

And pants just suck, but being cold sucks a lot more.

So for exercise, I totally get why someone may not enjoy it. You sometimes hurt or have some discomfort from the work, you sweat and likely smell kinda bad during the activity, and then you get DOMS following the workout for a few days. Those are some strong first order effects that makes Netflix and Chill sound way more appealing.

However on the second order benefits, they’re a bit less immediately tangible, such as improved health variables, better body composition, and energy to do other things you may enjoy, such as Netflix and Chill, but with more energy and fitness.

It’s like saving for your retirement when you’re 20, versus wishing you’d saved for your retirement when you’re 60. Sure, a 401k or RRSP sound boring as hell compared to bottle service at the club or a vacation overseas for a month, but like Jay Z said”You know what’s more important than throwin money away at the strip club? Credit.”

There’s a highly scientific term that describes long term planning for benefit down the road versus chasing instant gratification.

dan John had a great concept in a presentation I saw him give in Norway a few years ago where he implored his athletes and clients to “eat like an adult,” by which he meant to prepare food and eat foods that would give second and third order benefits versus just chasing the first order taste satiating benefits.

Now the great thing about eating is that we have multiple chances each day to do it. You could choose to eat more vegetables in one meal, spread them out throughout the day, or whatever you like. You’re not required to eat any specific way or on any specific schedule, but it may help to simply plan things out for a couple of days ahead of time so you’re not scrambling to find something at lunch on Wednesday and only having some form of street meat or pizza available within a 5 block radius. Being hangry tends to lead to poor choices when it comes to food intake.

As for exercise, while you may not quite feel like you’re in the mix of Eric Prydz music video “Call on Me” (Google that for a blast from the past), the idea of better health and function 30-40 years from now may be too obtuse of a concept to justify, especially if you hate every first order benefit.

For this, I try to get clients to think of a performance goal they’d like to train towards, a goal activity they’d like to accomplish, or even just include the odd game or challenge within the mix that doesn’t feel like an “exercise,” but may feel more like playing or just having fun. this can work really well with people who aren’t super analytical and need a specific linear justification for every exercise, and can accept that sometimes things should be done because they’re fun, and the pursuit of fun is reason enough to do it.

Or, when in doubt, exercise like an adult.

Make it a part of your work week, scheduled out like your meeting with Gladys from HR or like how you’re (supposed to) brush your teeth every day. Do you ever get excited to brush? Probably not, unless you’re some extreme weirdo, but who am I to judge with my non-pants lovin ass?