How To Not Get Strong

If you’ve read Anti-fragile by Nassim Taleb, you will know that the last article or two I have written have actually been partly inspired by what I’ve learned in his book.  He talks about via negativa, which is a theological way of looking at what is good/desirable/positive by examining what something is not.  I’d like to discuss the steps one could take to the path of weakness (with reasons of course), so you can be sure to avoid these steps to get strong.


1. Don’t lift heavy weights.  Weak people stick with light weights.  Getting strong means getting jacked.  Being a jacked guy is out right now (see Bieber) and girls will turn into boydbuilders if they lift anything over 5 pounds (true story).


2. Never lift below 20 reps.  Lifting in low rep ranges does nothing but boost your ego.  You will probably injure yourself from lifting in lower rep ranges anyways, search pubmed for validation of this statement.  Also there is not way to get a decent pump if you lift in low rep ranges, so what’s the point?


3. Don’t progress.  NEVER increase the weight you lift, NEVER increase the sets you do.  Don’t even think about doing more work in less time.  If you try a rep PR you’d may as well jump off a bridge.


4. Don’t work hard.  If you’re in the gym, you should dress incredibly well, be well groomed and smell amazing.  You aren’t in there to sweat or any of that shit.  If you sweat at all you may as well go home because you might grow or gain strength, which we know is a huge no-no.


5. Perform only single joint exercises.  Listen, squats will mess up your knees, you may as well contact an orhopod if you are even thinking of squatting. Deadlifts will make your spine explode (I’ve seen it happen 12 times, literally).  If you ever want control a female on top of you don’t bench, you won’t be able to lift anything after your tricep is torn, your shoulders are frozen and your pec is completely torn off the bone.  If you ever want to be able to put the box of your favourite cereal up on your fridge or lift your hands above your head then don’t press anything overhead.  You will injure yourself doing these exercises.  My body aches from even writing this.



Ego Depletion, Willpower, and Food (addiction?)

Dat Willpower.

I’m currently reading a very interesting book that doesn’t really have much to do with fitness.  It’s called The Self Illusion by Bruce Hood.  I came over a very interesting sub chapter that talked specifically about ego depletion, I have heard of this term before somewhere, but never got a chance to really explore any of the research based around it.



You may have heard the current cliche ‘the brain is like a muscle.’  It technically isn’t (as it’s made as fat), but in terms of physiology, both muscles and the brain run from glucose.  So the brain, like muscles, only have a certain amount of output to give out before succumbing to fatigue.  This has been researched in the field of addiction.


Matt Field has researched the interplay of impulsivity and cognitive processes.  Bruce Hood explained an interesting study by Field at a presentation (from The Self Illusion).  Subjects were to watch a crazy Japanese horror movie called Audition.  Half the audience was to watch the movie without showing emotion, turning away, or showing any disgust to the gory parts of the movie.  The other half was instructed to act as they normally would when watching crazy shit!  After the movie the participants filled out a bogus questionnaire, then were allowed to drink as much beer as they pleased as a reward for partaking in watching a horror movie (sign me up).  The subjects who didn’t show emotion drank half as much as the audience who cringed and gasped at the brutality of the movie.  The studies’ conclusion was that individuals who showed emotion, sapped their willpower and massacred booze instead of drinking in moderation.


Field believes that self-control and willpower is an important foundation for the development of addiction.  If you are continuously ‘sapping stores’ from the self-control/willpower resources, negative consequences will show up in other areas, such as addiction to drugs, alcohol, food, etc.


So what does all this have to do with eating?  Well, there are many events happening to you on a daily basis.  Any kind of stressor, whether that be work-life; marital problems; attempting to conform; watching a scary movie etc, can and will sap your willpower.  This may result in you lacking the willpower to stay true to your current diet, or exercise regimen.


Habits and Environmental Factors

I’ve talked about habits in the past.  This ties directly into changing habits for a healthier lifestyle.  When most people attempt to diet, they decide to all-together stop eating something.  That right there is an exercise in self-control/willpower in regards to what you eat regularly.  Which is why I don’t think (there are a few exceptions) that you should fully cut out anything from your diet.  Allow yourself to consume what you want, albeit in smaller doses or less frequently.  This way you are killing two birds with one stone.  You’re eating more healthier foods, and not sapping all your willpower by doing it.  Which then allows you to stay on the boat rather than fall off to a cold, lonely death (which is where most diets end up).


My spectrum of eating properly has altered drastically from when I was younger.  For me, it feels odd not consuming a crap load of protein with every meal.  It seems odd that some people consume dessert every night.  Since I’m healthy, these are good viewpoints to have.  Although I never really stress about food, I’d say it’d be healthier to stress about not getting enough protein in then stressing about not have cookies and ice cream in your kitchen.  


These are the things I try to teach clients and readers.  To attempt to create new eating heuristics that will last for hopefully a lifetime and not 1 week.  Ideally I’d love for these new habits to form as quickly as possible.  However, as Dr. Yoni Freedhoff pointed out in a recent article, there really is an incredibly large variance in the time it takes for people to form new habits.  Dr. Freedhoff showed research which displayed a period of 18 to 254 days for a habit to form “automatically.”


The important thing to remember, is try and stick with a new habit for an extended period of time.  A habit might also be an environment factor that will suck less willpower out of you.  This is conjecture, but I would venture to say that decreasing psychological stress could also help aid you in having willpower to eat better rather than wasting it on being upset  (or add negative emotion here: ____).  A stressed out individual might even benefit from seeing a physiologist or even a psychiatrist to help them with whatever issues they may have.



If you have ever reduced a stressor in your life and it’s helped you improve your image of yourself, whether it was through eating better or exercising more, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.