The 10 Key Differences Between Weight Loss Success and Failure


At some point in the past two days, you probably said something like the following:

  • “Alright, time to lose this gut. “
  • “This year I’m gonna tone these arms and fix these love handles.”
  • “Holy crap I really let myself go. Is that Cheeto dust…on my forehead? Yikes.”

And thus, we begin our search for the promised land of effortless, enjoyable weight loss:

We want that one workout that scientists hate that finally melts the fat off our midsections and makes us look like Wonder Woman.

We gorge on acai bowls and omega-3 supplements and get excited about the latest article that says red wine is a health food as we polish off another bottle.

We go through a series of follies in search of a get-fit-quick fantasy that never actually comes to fruition, like Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Reality paints a much different picture:

A flat stomach doesn’t come in a bottle or in a workout DVD.

It comes from boring consistent action over months and years. Gross.

I have seen tens of thousands of people collectively lose millions of pounds since I started Nerd Fitness almost a decade ago.

At the same time, I have also seen hundreds of thousands of people chase the latest health fad, lose a few pounds, and end up a year later right back where they started. Every year, I have seen packed gyms in January become ghost towns in February.

No wonder a 2016 British study declared, “We’re doomed to stay fat.”[1]

So what gives?

This year, what will separate the people who make new years resolutions and STICK with them, and those that give up after a few weeks?

With over 40,000 students in our flagship online course, the Nerd Fitness Academy, 150 1-on-1 coaching clients, and 10 years with thousands of emails and success stories, I created this monster resource that dives deep into the key habits that will actually help you get in shape this year.

Here are the 10 key strategies that separate the Healthy from the Unhealthy – start doing these things today and you’ll actually make progress that lasts:

1. have a Growth Mindset.

Your mom was right: you are a unique snowflake.

That means there are ton of things that affect why you’ve gained weight over the past decade(s) and why you struggle to lose it:

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Stress level
  • Home environment
  • Mental health
  • Activity level
  • Nutrition

All of these things play a factor in what you look like and how healthy you are. Despite these various factors, I’ve seen a common thread in people who build healthy habits and stick with them:

A Growth mindset.

Let’s get nerdy for a second (you’re reading Nerd Fitness after all). I assume you’re familiar with Groot, the tree-like superhero from Guardians of the Galaxy. He can grow and change his shape to suit the situation. He also only says, “I am Groot,” but that’s less applicable here.


Unhealthy Person: “I have bad genetics. My parents are overweight. I am busy. I have children. I have a slow metabolism. I’m never going to be able to lose weight. This plan won’t work for me because [excuse to let myself off the hook]. I’m the fat guy/gal and that’s all there is to it.”

Habit Building Badass: “I have bad genetics. My parents are overweight. I am busy. I have children. Soooo….How can I make this work for me in my situation? I know people like me who have lost weight, which is a great sign. I refuse to accept that I am a lost cause. I am Groot.”

Key Takeaway #1 - Have a Groot Mindset

Even if it isn’t your fault where you are, accept that it’s your personal responsibility to deal with it.

We all have emotional, visceral responses to what we see in the mirror or how we feel when we wake up. We need to cut through the emotion and get to the truth: we alone are responsible for our fate, and that means we alone can fix it.

Like Groot, you can change and grow.

You’ll learn that your excuses are moot – if busier, older, fatter, poorer, and more injured people than you can get in shape, you can too.

So, decide TODAY that this year that you are a“a healthy, habit-building badass” and then simply do the things that perpetually healthy nerds do. With each meal or each decision, ask yourself “what would a healthy person do?” And then do that.

2. know Your “Big Why”.

The road to perpetual weight loss and healthiness is fraught with peril.

Even the best-laid plans and New Years Resolutions will end up in a ditch on the side of the road unless you have a damn good reason.

After all, life gets busy and it’s Taco Tuesday and a new video game just came out and your kid is sick and you just don’t feel like exercising and it’s cold. There will ALWAYS be something.

You will never not be busy.

That perseverance will from a damn good answer to the question: “Why?”

Not just “Because I need to lose weight,” but two levels deeper: WHY you want to lose weight. That’s the motivation and answer you need to be reminded of to persevere over the next few months.

If your answer is: “I’m here because my doctor/wife/husband thinks I should lose weight. I know I should exercise more and do more.” you are doomed. You will give up at the first sign of adversity.

Compare this to the raw, deep, honest answers we get from Nerd Fitness Academy members when we ask about their “Big WHY”:

  • “I’m here because my dad died of a heart attack at age 45, and I don’t want my kids growing up without a father like I did.”
  • “I’m here because I want my husband/wife to look at me the way he/she used to, and I want us to grow old together.”
  • “I’m here because I just got dumped and I want to get healthy so I can start dating again. I don’t want people swiping left on my photos anymore.”
  • “I’m here because I want to look in the mirror and be proud of what I see. I want to stop hiding behind others in photographs.”

Find Your Big Why

Why are you here? Why do you want to build healthy habits?

Is your reason for being here more important to you than cake? If it isn’t, you’re gonna give up at the first sign of adversity.

Write down your Great Big Why and go deep, my friend. Way down. And ask yourself “Why?” to the answer of each of your questions until you get to the root of your reason for being here.

Once you write that answer down, hang it up somewhere you can see it every day: fridge, cubicle, bathroom mirror. Accept responsibility for your current situation, be compassionate, and also accept that you CAN change, and your identity can change with small wins that prove it.

3. don’t go on a diet. adjust Your nutrition.

Perpetually unhealthy people have a love/hate relationship with diets.

Mostly hate.

They go on diets all the time – especially in early January, and then they go off diets. And then they go on another diet. And then they find another diet that’s supposed to promise even faster, easier weight loss, so they switch to that one.

Unhealthy people get dieting wrong from the start, and this is what dooms them.

Unhealthy people go on a diet for a month or two, and they can’t wait to go back to “eating normally.” The problem is that their “eating normally” is the reason why they’re overweight in the first place.

Temporary changes to one’s eating results in temporary changes to one’s weight and physique.

Like an addict chasing the next high, somebody consistently has to chase the next diet because their normal eating is the problem in the first place!

And yup, dieting sucks.

Starvation, eliminating favorite foods, and trying to use willpower to avoid candy and sweets is a terrible strategy, so stop doing it.

No wonder people abandon diets as soon as they start them; they think, “If this is what it takes to be skinny, I’d rather stay fat and happy.”

This year, never go on a diet ever again.

Instead, come to terms with this: “My concept of ‘normal eating’ is broken, which means it needs to change permanently in order for me to get healthy.”

Think about that for a second.

If you “never get to be done” with your nutrition, and you can’t go back to how you were eating before, then the ONLY way permanent success happens is if you actually enjoy your new “normal.”

Don't do diets, adjust your nutrition

Stop going on diets!

No more diet pills, cleanses or crazy 30-day strategies.

Nothing you do can be temporary, or the results will be temporary.

Instead you are going to make deliberate, incremental permanent changes to your daily nutrition, slowly, over a period of many months.

Eat to line up with your goals.

If you are afraid of giving up something, don’t! Make the unhealthy foods more of a treat and less of a daily indulgence:

  • If giving up soda forever is scary, slowly cut back from 12 a day down to one a day.
  • If giving up pasta forever sounds like a life not worth living, learn about portion sizes and make it an experience (only at restaurants, for example).
  • The same goes for diet pills and supplements – Supplements cannot replace a good nutrition strategy.

When you think about getting healthy this year, think in terms of days and years, not weeks and months: