Nutrition

6 healthy habits you’re already doing

By John Berardi, Ph.D.

I nside you are secret weapons: healthy habits and skills that can help you get in the best shape of your life. The best part: these are healthy habits you’re already doing and probably don’t even know it.

One of the most damaging myths in the fitness industry is this:

Getting in shape requires a huge lifestyle change.

Every day, we hear stories like these:

  • The celebrity who lost 50 pounds… “simply” by giving up gluten, going vegetarian, and working with a personal trainer seven days a week.
  • The 400-pound client who was boot-camped into shape on reality TV.
  • The blogger who discovered ultimate health and wellness by “only”  swearing off sugar, giving up wine, becoming a yogi and maintaining a constant Instagram halo of serenity.

Who wants to change everything about their lives?

Who wants to be told that everything they love and hold dear is wrong, poison, toxic… and should be replaced by sheer hard work?

And so, surrounded by all these examples, most of us quietly give up on health and fitness, before we even start.

That’s a shame.

Because the truth is, you don’t have to do any of that stuff to get into great shape.

Changing your body and improving your health is as simple as:

  • making small (but strategic) healthy choices, and
  • doing them consistently.

Here’s the really great part:

You’re probably already making some of these healthy choices — or at least have the building blocks to start making them.

You already have your health and fitness secret weapons.

You just don’t know it yet.

Our clients’ most common secret weapons.

We recently surveyed over 1,300 clients and learned that, before working with us, most had a stash of healthy habits they were already following.

We call these “secret weapons”.

They’re small but crucial practices that seem totally ordinary and mundane — but when focused on, and done consistently, they lead to dramatic results.

Many of our most successful clients shared the same secret weapons, including the ability to:

And once they started harnessing the power of these secret weapons, their progress really took off.

So, in this article, you’ll learn:

  • The six most common secret weapons from our most successful clients.
  • What those skills look like, in “easy” and “advanced” form.
  • How you can take advantage of those skills.

Maybe you share these same secret weapons. If so, you can start tapping into their power.

And if you don’t, not to worry — consider this inspiration to find your own. You might be closer than you think!

Secret Weapon #1:
You can probably cook
(even if you think you can’t).

“I’m a good cook, and I like to experiment with new foods. I’m not afraid to try new things, and I already have a few healthy recipes I love to make.”  — PN Coaching Client

preparing food

What it is

Easy version

Even those who say they “can’t cook” have some basics in their arsenal.

If you can chop veggies and wash lettuce, you know how to make a salad.

If you can fry an egg, or bake a chicken breast, or heat up a can of beans, you know how to prepare some protein.

Perhaps you can make yourself a killer bowl of oatmeal or a delicious smoothiein the morning.

Maybe you’re a master microwaver. Or a slow-cooker superstar.

Sure, there’s room for advancement. But if you know how to do any of this stuff, you can cook. And that’s a great starting point.

Advanced version

Where some people only see a bunch of random ingredients — chicken, bell peppers, onions, maybe a carrot or two — you see a meal taking shape. Your brain starts to fill in the pieces.

You think: “I could make chili. Or tacos. Or soup.”

Plus, you’ve probably got some techniques up your sleeve: Maybe you know how to chop an onion like a pro, or you’ve perfected a roast chicken, or you bake the best cookies.

Maybe you’re not cooking the healthiest stuff… yet. But that’s OK.

As you learn about nutrition, you’ll learn how to level up even further, and make your meals extra healthy.

Why it’s awesome

The ability to cook is a truly life-changing skill, and one that will serve you well.

Especially when you consider that what you eat has the power to change how you look and feel.

If you know how to cook, you know how to make magic happen.

You can nourish your body with high-quality ingredients. You can combine random ingredients into a meal.

And you can make it taste good.

How to use it

To make the most of your cooking skills, try this:

  • Learn about our favorite healthy foods, and how to cook with them, by checking out the Encyclopedia of Food.
  • Borrow a new cookbook or two from the library. Or get some new healthy recipe ideas from our Gourmet Nutrition cookbook.
  • Thinking about balance and portion sizes? Next time you cook, try matching your meal to our Calorie Control Guide.

And don’t forget: Cooking takes practice. Experiment, have fun, and don’t worry if you mess up a few meals along the way.

Secret Weapon #2:
You can walk.

“We got a new puppy a few months ago, and we’re bringing her on daily walks through the woods.” — PN Coaching Client

“I take my son for a walk almost every day. And I also walk to work while listening to podcasts.” — PN Coaching Client

Woman walking

What it is

Easy version

Maybe you don’t think you have time to “exercise.”

But you’re already walking, even if it’s just a little bit throughout the day:

  • You walk through your house.
  • You walk to lunch.
  • You park your car at the grocery store and walk to the front door. And then you walk through the aisles, pushing a cart or carrying a small basket. (Which is pretty much resistance training when you think about it. After all, a basket is just a dumbbell that holds produce and milk.)

All exercise is simply movement. And one form of movement is walking.

Therefore: walking = exercise.

Advanced version

You own this superpower if you love to walk and know how to give it that extra “edge”.

For example:

  • Bend your knees a little more while you’re walking, and suddenly you’re lunging.
  • Lift your arms over your head and you’ve got a nice stretch. Speed up a bit and let your arms swing naturally.
  • Pick up the pace. Maybe find a hill. Or take the stairs.
  • Maybe even strap on some weights or a weighted backpack for a little extra challenge.

Walking for the win!

Why it’s awesome

Walking offers loads of health benefits, from head to toe (literally). It can be a gentle recovery activity or a challenging form of cardio, depending on how you do it.

It can be a good stress reliever, or even a form of meditation. And it’s a great way to get outside and enjoy the benefits of sunshine.

Plus, it’s easy to do any time, and doesn’t require any extra equipment other than a pair of shoes.

How to use it

Find small ways to walk more throughout the day.

Depending on your preferences you can go solo, take the dog, make it a family activity, or join a walking group.

Some of our clients’ favorite ways to walk include:

  • taking phone calls while walking around the neighborhood,
  • walking to eat lunch in a different part of town,
  • going for a morning or evening walk with their partner, and
  • taking the dog for a walk or hike in a wooded area.

Secret Weapon #3:
You’re already exercising without realizing it.

“I LOVE being outdoors and having unstructured active time with my family.” — PN Coaching Client

“I know that I prefer to do something ‘fun’ for exercise most of the time such as dancing and group classes. I don’t particularly love to go to the gym and just lift weights or do cardio by myself.” — PN Coaching Client

Little boy playing Frisbee

What it is

Easy version

Lots of people think “working out” means going into a gym and lifting weights. Sure, it can be. But it doesn’t have to be.

If you take part in an activity or hobby that gets you out and gets you moving, you have a big advantage already.

For example:

  • running around and playing with your kids at the local playground
  • playing a game of touch football, hockey, or basketball with your friends
  • gardening or taking a stroll around the neighborhood
  • taking a dance or Zumba class (or just dancing to your favorite songs by yourself at home with the music cranked up!)

If you’ve ever done something fun and caught yourself sweating or breathing hard at the same time, guess what: You’ve exercised.

(And hey, if you haven’t moved your body for a long time, think back to an activity you used to like. What did you love to do as a child? Or what did you wish you could try back then? How might it feel to try out one of those activities now?)

Advanced version

Sure, maybe you hate the gym. Maybe you think you never work out.

And yet you’ve got a sport or physical activity you love.

It might be yoga, hiking, cycling, skiing, swimming, skateboarding, or just about any other activity that involves movement.

The point isn’t to get fit — though you might be hoping for some health benefits. You do it cause it’s fun. And maybe because you’ve got some friends who enjoy it with you.

This is actually exercise of the best sort: the kind you love to do.

Why it’s awesome

We all know that exercise is good for us. But what you may not know is that fun physical activity — the kind that doesn’t even feel like exercise — is even better.

We’re more inclined to do stuff we like. Plus, if we enjoy the activity, we’re less likely to “reward” ourselves with unhealthy treats afterward.

Any exercise you already like is a building block. It can improve your confidence and willingness to try new things.

And that leads to improving your overall physical fitness.

How to use it

Think about what kind of movement you already enjoy.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve last done it, make the commitment to do it at least once this week. Schedule it in your calendar so you look forward to it.

Already enjoying your activity consistently? Try adding one more day to your weekly schedule.

It may not seem like much, but increasing your activity just a little will help you reach your goals faster.

Secret Weapon #4:
You’re willing to accept help.

“I’ve had great experiences working with a personal trainer in the past; I embrace the whole philosophy of expert knowledge and guidance.” — PN Coaching Client

“I know that there are a lot of ways for me to succeed and that with proper guidance I can find the ones that work best for me. I’m open to coaching. Especially having someone to check in with and help inspire me and keep me accountable.” — PN Coaching Client

iStock_000062022106_Small

What it is

Easy version

You’ve learned that It’s hard to accomplish big things by yourself.

And while that might make you feel kinda disappointed, it’s actually pretty awesome.

Because most of us start out thinking we can do everything by ourselves and the truth is… we can’t.

So if you’re at the stage where you know you need other people, you’re already well on your way.

Advanced version

You’re committed to change, and you are actively seeking support from people who know what they’re doing.

That support can take many forms:

  • Maybe it’s asking friends or co-workers what they did to get in better shape.
  • Maybe it’s arranging to meet a friend at the gym or grocery store.
  • Maybe it’s hiring a coach, trainer, nutritionist or a program like ours to guide you through the process and keep you accountable.

Whatever it may be, reaching out and accepting help is a great start.

(Fun fact: A good percentage of people who join our nutrition coaching program have worked with a personal trainer in the past. In fact, that’s often why they decide to work with us in Precision Nutrition Coaching: They know the power and results that come from making yourself accountable to a team of experts and a dedicated coach.)

Why it’s awesome

As PN co-founder, Phil Caravaggio likes to say, “Nothing worth doing can be done alone.”

This is especially true when it comes to making health and fitness changes.

Support from other people can add fun and encouragement to the process. It can allow you to learn from others who have gone before, and it might allow you to prevent mistakes and sidestep slip-ups.

But perhaps the best thing about external support is accountability.

In fact, accountability may be the single most important factor in achieving your goals. It even trumps knowledge, experience, and motivation.

And yet many people shy away from asking for help. They resist accountability and want to prove they can do it on their own.

So if you’re willing to embrace support from others, you’ve got a major superpower on your hands.

How to use it

If you’re truly open to receiving help from an expert, take the leap and ask for it.

(Tip: if you could use some help with your nutrition and would like to have a coach keep you accountable, check out the Precision Nutrition Coaching Program. It only opens twice per year, and the next registration period begins on January 13th.)

Secret Weapon #5:
You’re an organized planner and list-maker.

“I am masterful at scheduling and time management. Whenever I commit to something, I make it a priority.” — PN Coaching Client

Making A Goal List

What it is

Easy version

You use a calendar or a diary. You schedule your kids’ appointments, and your business meetings, and you keep them (at least most of the time).

You have some kind of reminder system for yourself to get things done, whether it’s post-it notes or alarms on your phone.

Heck, even if you’re using an alarm clock to get out of bed in the morning you’re already following a schedule.

You might not be a master planner yet, but you’ve already got the foundation.

Advanced version

You’ve got your calendar all filled out, color-coded, and reminder-ready. Excel is your happy place.

You’ve never forgotten an appointment. In fact, you’re probably always a few minutes early.

Chaos? Bring it on, baby. Organization is your middle name.

These skills mean making time for health and fitness will be relatively easy for you. Now all you need is the right information and a clear plan of attack.

Why it’s awesome

The reason lots of people don’t get in better shape is because they simply don’t make time for it.

People who are successful at fitness stop waiting for the “perfect time”, and they don’t depend on our fickle friends motivation and inspiration, either.

Instead, they depend on what we call the “3 Ss”:

  • structure,
  • systems, and
  • scheduling.

If you can use your organizational capabilities to bring structure, systems, and/or scheduling to your health and fitness activities, you’ll be well on your way to success.

How to use it

Pull up a calendar and look at your schedule. Do you currently have anything involving your health and fitness scheduled?

Carve out time for 1-2 things you want to start doing.

For example,

  • Insert a “cook healthy dinner on Sunday night” calendar entry.
  • Schedule an appointment to “meet Jordan at the gym on Thursday morning”.
  • Or set a daily reminder that pings you at the same time every morning and reminds you to “do 10 body-weight squats and 5 push-ups.”

For more ideas of what to schedule, consider checking out our free Starter Kit for Men or Starter Kit for Women.

Secret Weapon #6:
You have a strong team.

“I have a supportive family who wants to see me succeed.” — PN Coaching Client

“My daughter is my biggest cheerleader.” — PN Coaching Client

“My wife shares similar goals; we’re in this together.” — PN Coaching Client

Mother and daughter makeing yoga in the gym

What it is

Easy version

It might be just one person.

A friend or family member who gets you.

Or your dog, who absolutely insists you take him for a walk in the morning.

Or your kid who is always up for a game of “see who can run the fastest”.

This is the beginning of a support system: a team of people who will help you along your fitness journey.

And you might not even know it yet, but the support of this one person may be the biggest secret weapon you have.

Advanced version

Your support team is a few different people, who each bring something different to the table.

Your spouse and kids already know about your fitness goals, and they’re on board to help.

Plus, you’ve got a few friends who enjoy the same sports or hobbies as you. Or maybe a sibling or co-worker who’s game for a little healthy competition.

Perhaps you’ve also talked to your doctor, who’s monitoring your blood levels and helping track your health improvements.

Bonus: if you’re in a program like PN coaching, you’ve not only got a coach, you’re also tapped into a virtual community of people going through the exact same thing as you.

Together, these people form your team. They’re cheering you on, inspiring you, teaching you, and helping you edge forward, bit by bit.

That is some really powerful stuff.

Why it’s awesome

Earlier we said that it’s hard to accomplish big things on your own.

Having a family member, spouse, friend — or any mix of those people — by your side can make a big difference in the kind of results you get.

Your support system can help cheer you up when you’re feeling down. They can cook and eat healthy meals with you. They can take the kids to school while you do your workout. They can join you for long walks.

They can listen and understand and even know the struggle themselves. And they can be your reason for dragging your butt out of bed early on a Saturday morning.

If you currently have someone (or someones) around you that are 100% supportive of your goals, you arguably have the biggest secret weapon of all.

How to use it

Identify the people in your local support network and thank them. Do something nice for them. Talk with them and see how you can help themaccomplish a big goal.

The best support systems are mutual.

If you can find a way to actively help the people you care about, they’re more likely to help you when you really need it.

What to do next

1. Start to shift your mindset from all-or-nothing to small successes.

Contrary to fitness industry mythology, health and fitness isn’t built from an overnight lifestyle overhaul.

It’s built by doing small, simple practices… consistently.

This is good news for all of us. The more we start adapting to this mindset, the more progress we’ll make.

Recognize that you’re probably further ahead than you think.

Start to look for your own secret weapons: the small, healthy practices that may seem totally ordinary and mundane, but when focused on and done consistently, can lead to dramatic results.

2. Review the above list of secret weapons.

Review the above list of secret weapons and consider which you may already have.

Hint: Don’t forget to review the “easy version” of each — you might have some of these strengths in the making, even if you don’t know it yet!

If you don’t have these secret weapons yet, consider how might you get just a little bit closer to making them part of your arsenal.

Are there some small things you could do to start building these skills?

3. Take stock of your own secret weapons.

Think about what other secret weapons you might have.

What small things are you already doing?

And what skills or talents do you have that might be helpful?

How might these be helpful to you in your fitness journey?

4. Identify some ways that you can start taking advantage of your secret weapons.

How could you start using these secret weapons to your advantage?

For example, could you…

  • Cook up an extra side dish of veggies at dinner tonight? Or try out a new healthy recipe?
  • Park further from the office to give yourself an extra 5-minute walk?
  • Squeeze in one more fun physical activity you enjoy?
  • Ask for advice from a trusted friend or family member who has health habits you admire?
  • Schedule a workout or do some meal planning?
  • Meet up with a member of your support system?

You don’t have to do all these things at once. (See ‘what to do next’, #1.)

Just look for something small. Something simple you can do today, that builds on what you already have.

The best place to start is where you already are.