Introversion, Extraversion, & Energy

Today we’re discussing a very simple principle to better know yourself and capitalize on your strengths.

Out of all the different “personality tests” and “personality types” that exist, it’s one basic personality distinction that has ACTUALLY been incredibly helpful to me:

INTROVERSION VS. EXTRAVERSION*

(*I’ve seen this word also spelled “extroversion” but I hear that “extraversion” is technically the more science-y way to spell it.)

Now before we get a little more into the details of what it means to be extraverted or introverted, I’m going to immediately point out that everyone is a bit of both.

No one is purely one or the other – you probably exhibit some characteristics of each type.

That being said, almost everyone leans at least a bit to one side or the other.

More introverted people tend to value time by themselves. They tend to be more quiet, thoughtful, and reserved. They’re often self-aware and insightful. Being out around crowds, in very stimulating environments, or socializing with others is “draining” or “exhausting” to them.

More extraverted people are outgoing, love being out around others, and thrive off of social energy. They’re often friendly, talkative, and can be excellent at meeting and charming others. Being alone for too long is “isolating,” “lonely,” or “boring” to them.

(Do you immediately see yourself relating a little bit to each? Or that you really lean toward one side?)

It’s quite useful to take some time to think about which one you lean towards (and how much you lean toward it), and see if you can optimize your lifestyle to match that tendency.

Matching your lifestyle to your specific level of introversion/extraversion will tend to make you happier, but it will give you something else:

ENERGY.

Possibly more than anything, the introversion/extraversion dichotomy describes how you get your energy.

Remember how being out around others is “exhausting” to introverts?? That’s a perfect example. Introverts get energy from being alone; being out with others requires them to spend energy. They need to get some time alone afterward to “recharge.”

If you’re an introvert, one of the things you can do is schedule and prioritize time alone. Treat it as vital. Make sure that you’re aware, in advance, that being around crowds and engaging in social activities is going to be draining, so try to time-constrain these activities.

If you’re an extravert, on the other hand, one of the most powerful things you can do is start spending more time with more people throughout the day. Seeing more people – even if it requires sort of ‘doing more,’ in a sense – may actually leave you feeling more energized.

(This works in almost the same way as active recovery, where doing certain activities more frequently is also counterintuitively energizing.)

If you think you might be more the extraverted type, experiment with packing your schedule more with seeing friends, getting out of the house, or at the very least getting work done with other people around – in a coffee shop, for example.

(I’m typing this in a coffee shop right now, by the way.)

If you’re an introvert, and you find yourself stuck with others the majority of the day, try scheduling some sacred time to yourself to journal, do something you enjoy, or just be alone with your thoughts. Does that sound like it would be lonely or boring to some? It’s likely very energizing to you. Protect that time.

If you’re an extravert, and you find yourself plopping down on the couch after work to flip on the TV, try using that time to go see people you enjoy instead. Does that sound too exhausting to some, after a long day of work?

You may find that you actually do have the energy to do it, because seeing them will energize you and leave you feeling better. Try it out and see.

Take some time to get familiar with how introverted or extraverted you are. And – while of course always prioritizing basic emotional self-care match your lifestyle to your introversion/extraversion level.

IMPORTANT NOTE

Okay, this is a little bit complicated, but here goes: You may be somewhat of an introvert, but you may be spending too much time alone for your specific level of introversion. Similarly, you may be somewhat extraverted, but actually spending a bit too much time with others for your specific extraversion level. (A lot of extroverts who constantly work around people seem to experience this social burnout, and a lot of introverts who keep to themselves don’t get quite enough social time). Find the golden amount for you. Be sure to experiment. Try being around people more.* (Or maybe less, if necessary.) Find the perfect amount to maximally energize you.

*Especially people you like.

You may be surprised with the incredible amounts of energy you gain by getting this right.

Best of luck, as always.

-Dolan.

Always. Be. Active. Recovering.

ACTIVE RECOVERY – that’s a hot phrase.

The definition: “Low intensity exercise that a person performs after higher intensity exercise to improve their recovery and performance” (1)

(Basically, some easy exercise you throw in to the mix, to help you feel better.)

Now I’ve heard the phrase before, but I’ve always just dismissed it.

It always just sounded like a sneaky way of trying to get me to do more work.

“I’ve already done my exercise,” would be the thought, “I’ve paid my price, can’t I just relax now? I’m not about to go do more. Sounds miserable.”

I was so wrong.

Active recovery is the exact opposite of “miserable.” It feels amazing. And it helps you, in general, feel so much better, and so much happier.

The gist is simple – sometime after you’ve done some more intense exercise (maybe later that day, or maybe the next day), throw in some active recovery – a gentle swim in a pool is a perfect option, but so is yoga, gentle hiking, easy walking, brisk walking, or doing a walk-jog (just go on a walk, and while you’re out, jog whenever you feel up to it). Even using a sauna counts, in my book. (Really.) If your fitness level is high enough, going on an easy run may actually count as active recovery for you.

(But you have to get it right so it’s not too hard. I think for most people, a nice walk, or a gentle swim in a pool, are just the right amount of intensity.)

Now here’s a crucial perspective change:

Active recovery is not about calorie-burn.

It’s not about going hard, burning, or trying to “sneak in” more exercise.

It’s about taking care of your body in a way that feels really good – helping your muscles and cardiovascular system recover, and releasing all kinds of feel-good hormones. It’s about self-care. (Self-love, even?)

Which is a really big shift from the way most people view exercise (i.e., “I’m gonna go as hard as I can and punish my body because the harder I go, the more calories I burn, and the more fat I lose!!! No pain, no gain!!”)

For active-recovery, you have to shift your mindset. You gotta think “I’m doing this gently, I’m taking care of myself. Frequency over intensity, a little sweat and slightly harder breathing, over intense calorie burn.”

Oh, and yes – it really does help you recover better and faster.

Which is kind of counter-intuitive.

You’d think that after some intense exercise, just resting as much as possible would be the best thing to do.

(And YES, it is CRITICAL to rest deeply after workouts. It is important to just relax, get some deep sleep, take some time to just totally unwind, and completely indulge in some hard-earned lazy do-nothingness.)

BUT, if you can introduce a little active recovery between workouts, you WILL FEEL SO MUCH BETTER. Your body will love you for it. And you’ll know. Those feel-good chemicals will flood your system. You’ll recover faster. Your overall energy levels will improve.

You may just feel like Superman.

(Or Superwoman.) (Or Superthey.)

And if you haven’t done any intense exercise yet?

If you have nothing to active-recover from?

Just start active-recovering anyway.

Just start getting out there with this sort of mindset. Aim for feeling good, for finding just the right amount of intensity FOR YOU that doesn’t feel painful, just helps you breathe a little harder, and gently pushes you. Get out and go on a walk, or treat yourself to a sauna.

Just start taking care of your body and active-recovering. Do it as much as you can.

(You can throw in some more intense exercise later.)

What you’ll notice, though, by throwing in very gentle active recovery as much as possible, is that not only will you feel better, but you’ll start to be able to do things you never thought possible.

Your fitness level will improve sneakily, to the point where you find yourself actually being able to pull off exercise you didn’t think you could do.

You may find yourself out on a walk for the first time ever thinking “you know what, I feel pretty good, I’m gonna jog for a brief stretch.”

Or you may find yourself going on runs, or cycling, for the first time in your life, finally feeling like it’s an achievable (and actually somewhat enjoyable!) activity.

And if you’re already at a high fitness level, you may start to find that you can recover, run, train, at an entirely new leveland still feel great.

I find it helps to keep in mind these words when approaching active recovery:

Self-care. Gentle. Enjoyable. Breathing. Sweating. Warm. Low-effort. Endorphins. Frequency. Feel-good. Self-love.

My last two tips when it comes to implementing a philosophy of frequent active recovery into your lifestyle:

1.) Drink a lot of water.

Water is incredible and underrated. It helps with just about everything. For various reasons, drinking lots of water helps you lose weight, build muscle, feel good, and recover incredibly well. Ever since I started carrying a hydro-flask around with me wherever I go (and thus having frequent access to lots of water), I’ve experienced a noticeable improvement in my recovery time from workouts.

2.) (Optional) Try bone broth.

“Bone broth? The hell is that? Sounds creepy. And difficult to come by.”

^That was my first reaction to hearing about this nutritional game-changer. Bone broth is actually very similar in taste to chicken broth, and you can easily buy it at Costco or really any grocery store. (It tastes a little…”bonier”…that chicken broth, but if you add a little salt and pepper – maybe some garlic powder – it tastes great.) I now sip some out of a mug most mornings for breakfast, or whenever I feel like it, as a snack.

Bone broth is actually sort of a miracle food because it’s hydrating, low calorie, and incredibly high in protein (including collagen protein, which has anti-aging properties and is great for joints and skin. This is critical because your body stops producing collagen as it ages, leading to joint deterioration, but radio-labeled studies show that consumed collagen actually goes directly do your joints and other places where it’s needed in an almost comically convenient manner.)

Bone broth is so satiating that it’s extremely useful for fat loss, its protein content is good for muscle maintenance, and its collagen content keeps your connective tissue healthy. It even helps you sleep better.

In other words, it’s a great health/ recovery food.

Try having a hot mug of it with some spices for breakfast, or as a go-to snack. Anyway.

THERE YOU HAVE IT.

In short – yes, get deep rest. Get good sleep, take full days off.

But also consider throwing in some gentle, loving, easy exercise for active recovery – and keep it so gentle and enjoyable that you can really up the frequency of it.

Test it out, and watch what happens. I think you’ll be very happy.

Expected-Value: Blackjack Tactics for Smarter Decisions

Expected Value (EV) is a concept I first picked up from Blackjack. Photo by Drew Rae on Pexels.com

Alright, today we’re discussing a mental model that can can be useful in helping you make decisions: Expected Value.

Expected Value, often abbreviated “EV,” is a term I first learned about from blackjack, and it encapsulates the amount you would “expect” to make from a certain number of hours of play.

But it is an extremely useful model for decision making elsewhere – in investments, and in life.

To explain the concept, I’ll start with a simple money example.

Say I’m flipping a coin.

If I flip heads, you win a dollar. If I flip tails, you lose a dollar.

Question: How do you feel about that game? And, importantly, do you overall expect to make money at that game?

No. If you were to play it over and over again, you’d probably break even. Sure, you might get lucky, or unlucky, given just one coin toss. But in the long run, flipping that coin a hundred times – you’d win the same amount that you’d lose.

Now consider this:

Say I offer you a game where tails, you lose a dollar, but heads, you win two dollars.

How do you feel about playing that game?

That’s a great game to play. Overall, you’d expect to make money from a game like that. Sure, you might flip tails the first time and lose, but if you kept flipping it, you’d win more money than you’d lose. (It’s a positive EV game.)

At it’s core, that’s the ENTIRE concept of “Expected Value” right there.

Now make sure you understand that, because things are gonna get real interesting real fast.

Say I offer you a dice. (Or “die” I guess, is singular).

If you roll a 1 through 5, you lose one dollar. But if you roll a 6, you gain six dollars.

You can play as much as you want.

How do you like that game?

Think it through for a second.

That’s actually a positive EV game. (Don’t worry if you didn’t catch it.) Your wins, though rare, will eventually more than make up for your losses.

What’s funny is – and this is key – if I just hand you that die for one roll, you’re more likely to lose than win.

After all, you have a 5/6 chance of losing, and a 1/6 chance of winning.

But, with repeated play, the wins from that 1/6 chance will slightly more than make up for all the losses.

To make this concept super obvious, let’s change the payouts:

Roll a 1 through 5, you lose a penny… but roll a 6, you win $1000.

Great game, right? With just one roll, odds are, you’ll lose. You’ll lose a whole a penny. But if you can play as much as you want, you’ll make great money, because the wins more than make up for it.

There it is, you’re an expert in Expected Value.

The mathematical formula for expected value is:

(%odds winning)x(amount you’d win) – (%odds of losing)x(amount you’d lose)

How do we apply this to life?

Well, in investing, if you have some possible investment that has a somewhat decent chance of working out – but the payout in the case of a win is significantly higher than the amount lost in the case of a loss– it may be a good idea to invest some money in it, since the Expected Value might be very high.

Repeated, positive EV investments will ultimately payout – as long as the odds of winning are decent enough, and the payout for winning is high enough.

(Of course, since you can’t guarantee any specific investment will work out, it is critical that when EV investing, you make small enough investments that you can in fact do them repeatedly, even if you incur losses. In blackjack, that’s called bankroll management.)

But perhaps my favorite application of this way of thinking is applying it to trying new things – exploring new hobbies and passions; going new places.

Considering trying a new hobby you’ve always thought about?

Or going somewhere new?

There’s always a possibility you’ll love it and it’ll be life-changing.

What are those odds of that? No idea, probably slim. Maybe 10, 20%?

But if you think about it, the expected value on that is actually really high.

10%x(LIFE CHANGING)–90%(tiny money/time investment) =

HUGE POSITIVE EV.

So if you’re considering going somewhere new, trying something new, or picking up a new hobby you’ve always thought might be fun: the sheer possibility of loving something in a way that is life-changing makes most new adventures very high in expected value.

^I feel like this is pretty insightful, so I’m just gonna take a second to pat myself on the back for that.

Of course, odds are, you won’t fall in love with the first new thing you try.

But that’s okay. If you explore, adventure, travel, and trial enough, the positive EV from trying new things will absolutely eventually pay off.

So get out, learn new skills, go new places, and try new things.

[Especially if you can do it inexpensively], the expected value is enormous.

Dream Lifestyle Without $1,000,000?

Photo taken by my good friend Christina @christinaachristou on her phone as we strolled around Catalina Island.

People don’t want to be millionaires. They want to experience what they think only millions can buy.

Tim Ferris, The 4 Hour Workweek, 2007

What do you think millions would buy for you? Peace of mind? The funds, and permission, to finally do all the things you’ve always dreamed of doing?

Is there any way to experience any of those things now?

My previous internal dialogue used to be something like, One day, when I’m a millionaire, I’ll finally be free to travel – maybe go to Hawaii!– and do bucket-list activities like go scuba diving in crystal clear waters, or maybe even try jumping out of a plane. Oh well. One day. Better work and save up for it. Can’t afford it now.”

Faulty logic and poor math.

Last summer, I flew to Kona International Airport in Hawaii using google flights to find a killer deal on roundtrip airfare – it was around $400, round trip. I worked at a hotel at the time, and using the worker discount, booked this hotel in Hapuna beach:

I shot this off an ancient iPhone SE btw.

The hotel cost?

$142.22/night

(For a world-class Hawaii hotel.)

I recently got back from Catalina Island (shown below).

Thanks again @christinaachristou for snapping these pics as we explored!

Here, I got to experience my bucket-list dream of scuba diving (on a beautiful day, in clear water, alongside some adorable, bright orange Garibaldi fish and a 300 lb seabass.) Tempted to try scuba too? Want to know how much it’ll cost you?

$105.

(For Scuba diving once you’re in Catalina.)

I shit you not. You can throw in a tip to your instructor if you want, which we did.

Of course, you have to pay to get there first – surely that would make it impossibly expensive?

Nope. Boating to the island costs 44$ round trip with a Groupon, and my friend and I payed $149 to stay for a night at a cute little hotel on an off-day (but we split the cost, bringing it down to $74.50). Leaving a car on the mainland by the port, and splitting parking, cost another $20.

So, not including food (and some $5 happy-hour margaritas!), that’s a total of 105 + 74.50 +44 + 20 =

$243.50.

(For an entire bucket-list scuba-diving vacation.)

Again, that’s for a lifelong-dream activity of scuba diving off a beautiful island, including travel and lodging.

(A hard-earned beer after facing my fears and breathing 30 feet underwater in the ocean.)

This Thursday, weather permitting, I’m going skydiving.

Living the millionaire adventure lifestyle without one million in the bank.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com. (Sorry, this is the one photo in the whole article not taken by myself or a friend! I’m going in two days!)

Again, using a Groupon, and then adding in all fees and gear expenses, how much is it running me? To jump out of a plane and freefall over gorgeous coastal views???

$188.

(To skydive.)

What’s my point?

If I can use workarounds to book a $700-something Hawaii hotel for $149, get a gorgeous trip to Catalina and back (including a hotel stay, boat rides, and scuba diving) for $243.50, and go skydiving for $188, maybe you don’t really need millions to do the things you’ve always dreamed of doing.

Maybe you can do them now.

Good luck, find workarounds, and go adventure.

10 Days of Nutritional Ketosis

Not perfectly scientific but it’ll do. Oh, and trust me, I’m sucking in as hard as I can in both pics.

“Try Keto!” they said. “It’ll be fun!” they said. “You can have bacon!” they said.

They weren’t wrong.

Well, not about the bacon.

But that’s how they get ya. It certainly wasn’t fun. The ketogenic diet is a high fat, medium protein, extremely low carb diet that trains your body to burn stored fat by basically forcing it to – by starving it of carbohydrates.

In keto world, a lot of things are upside-down. Fat is good. Sure: olive oil, avocado, nuts, healthy fats are all good – but we knew that already. In keto, so is red meat, bacon, mayonnaise, and skin-on chicken.

And protein? The pillar of health and fat loss? Eat it with care when you’re in keto-world – you certainly need it, but too much will knock you out of ketosis.

Fruit? Absolutely not.

Even having too much of certain particularly sugary veggies is a no-no on this diet.

What really is “ketosis”? Well, usually, your body loves to burn carbohydrates for fuel. When it runs out of them, it eventually – kicking and screaming – has to turn to stored fat. In doing so, your body starts releasing “ketones.” (That’s where the name of this infamous diet comes from.) When you have testable levels of ketones in your blood (or urine), you know for sure that your body is in high-gear fat-burning mode.

Which is cool, right?

Well, yeah, except for that it sucks. Here’s my experience.

Experiment: Rapid Ketosis for Aggressive Fat Loss

You can enter ketosis by just following the prescribed keto diet – fats, meats, veggies, and absolutely minimal carbs – and let your body slowly suffer its way there. (The transition is, hands down, the hardest part. Once you’re in ketosis it gets just a bit easier.)

The thing is, this approach can take three or four days, or even up to a week or longer, to shift your body into full nutritional ketosis.

Boring.

My goal (which I achieved), was to do it in 24 hours.

The recipe for that included:

  1. Already eating a healthy, fairly low carb diet.
  2. During transition day, chugging coffee and tea, and fasting throughout the day.
  3. Adding MCT oil (or MCT powder) to my morning coffee to help boost ketones.
  4. Chugging water like you would not believe, constantly, all day.
  5. Constantly moving & aerobically exercising during transition day.
  6. Adding exogenous ketones – supplementing with KetoCaNa.

Wait, what’s that last point? “Exogenous Ketones” and “KetoCaNa”?? It’s basically just drinking ketones, the stuff of ketosis. When you’re transitioning into a ketogenic state, this is very helpful.

Anyway, the rapid transition worked: I woke up the next day in nutritional ketosis with a blood ketone level of about 1.5 mmol/liter.

How did I know?

I tested it.

Urine test strips allow you to pretty accurately see exactly what’s going on in your body, and they are an absolute must for any keto-adventurer. They’re like $7, too.

Anyway, the tests were clear – success: zero to ketosis in 24 hours.

Getting into ketosis is hard enough, but actually adjusting to it was another thing altogether.

The next day or two were pretty rough. Plus, at first, even eating “keto foods” would briefly pull me out of ketosis. Soon things got a bit easier as I transitioned into a deeper, more consistent state of ketosis – at which point yes, I could eat red meat and bacon, and still stay in fat-burning mode. But damn, it still wasn’t fun.

Results:

I lost fat while doing the experiment.

While my scale weight fluctuated wildly, my body fat percentage – the important factor – did seem to improve.

Solely in terms of results, considering it was just ten days, I’d say: not bad.

However, the process? Out of every diet I’ve experimented with, this was the hardest. Keto is the worst. It beats out paleo, slow-carb, and intermittent fasting to take first prize as “most miserable diet out there.” It works, though.

Ultimately, for most people, I wouldn’t recommend it. I eventually had to stop, because it was interfering with my sleep too much. It was…a lot.

Experimental Weakness:

The biggest experimental weakness with this little ten-day test is that I didn’t do it longer.

Rumor has it, your body eventually adjusts to being “fat adapted,” and the keto diet eventually gets easier …or so they say. I couldn’t stick around long enough to find out.

Further, I wasn’t using any great body-fat percentage calculator. In retrospect, calipers would have been a good call. Meanwhile, low-tech photos did the trick as a means of tracking changes.

Conclusion:

The rapid ketosis transition worked, and Keto can certainly help you lose fat, but damn is it rough. (If you’ve had better luck making this diet tolerable, let me know.)

Meanwhile, for anyone looking to lose fat, I’d recommend the “Incredible Fat-Loss” approach detailed in this article which I believe can be just as effective but much more enjoyable.

That’s the approach I’ll be going with moving forward.

I bet I can even top Keto with it.

EMOTION HACKING

Feeling better already? Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

Today’s topic: EMOTIONS, and how to “hack” your own – so you can consistently feel really good.

*Disclaimer before we continue – I’m not a doctor or psychiatrist. Consult a therapist, psychiatrist, or other medical doctor if you suspect you even might have clinical depression, anxiety, or any other psychiatric issues, and before doing anything mentioned below. Consider this article informational in nature and do anything mentioned here at your own risk. None of this is medical advice*

HEADS UP: This post will NOT cover cognitive techniques such as CBT, DBT, focusing on gratitude, thinking positively, etc.

Instead, this post will focus on the chemicals that create your mood, and physiological interventions that will immediately and significantly adjust those chemicals with minimal effort. In other words, this post will cover anything that acts on your body like a drug to make you feel better, without the need to alter your thinking.

(As a rule of thumb, I always start with these when trying to feel better.)

Fundamental Concept:

Every one of your emotions is correlated to specific hormones and neurotransmitters in your brain. Specific interventions can cause your brain to produce more of these “good” hormones and neurotransmitters and make you feel significantly better.

Experiment:

Instead of viewing the world through the lens of “thoughts and feelings,” consider viewing the world through the lens of “hormones and neurotransmitters.” Use relevant interventions.

Key Players:

All of your good emotions basically come down to a few key hormones/neurotransmitters. They are as follows:

SEROTONIN: The overall good-mood neurotransmitter.

Serotonin feels like: a pleasant, relaxed, happy, easy-going, sunny day.

Lack of serotonin feels like: a tense, irritable, depressed, anxious, stressed, grey, overcast day. Not so much “tears” – more “tense, agitated, bleak.”

ENDORPHINS: The natural painkilling “exercise-high” neurotransmitter.

Endorphins feel like: euphoria, a “runner’s high,” a massage, sex, chocolate, a nice buffer against sadness or tears.

Lack of endorphins feels like: Tears, sadness, easily emotional.

CATECHOLAMINES: Including Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Epinephrine – the pleasure/ motivation neurotransmitters.

Catecholimes feel like: “WIN,” “YES,” “JACKPOT!!!”, drive, motivation.

Lack of catecholimines feels like: Boredom, lack of drive, lack of sparkle or motivation.

GABA: “Gamma aminobutyric acid” – the calm neurotransmitter.

GABA feels like: absolute, deep, peaceful, relaxed, fearless, utter calm.

Lack of GABA feels like: anxiety, fear, extremely tense, fight-or-flight, terror.

OXYTOCIN: the “love”/ “bonding” hormone.

Oxytocin feels like: Warm, meaningful connection, peaceful, calm, loving, cuddling a kitten.

Lack of oxytocin feels like: empty, lonely, meaningless, unsafe.

Keep in mind, there’s a lot of overlap here, since certain activities usually trigger multiple chemicals. For example, sex and chocolate raise your endorphins, but they also trigger dopamine as well. With this in mind, doing something to trigger even one of the above “happy chemicals” will usually end up triggering some of the others.

Interventions:

Using the list above, identifying whatever you are most lacking – and then getting more of that – will help you the most. While good nutrition, hydration, and sleep will help with ALL of the following, there are certain things you can do to specifically elevate certain chemicals.

SEROTONIN:

Serotonin is excellent because it helps, to at least a degree, with just about any bad mood. (For example, raising serotonin is clinically helpful for anxiety, but also depression.) Serotonin is triggered by SUNSHINE and EXERCISE. Getting outside in the morning sun and getting some sort of exercise as frequently as possible – even if the exercise is not that intense – will trigger serotonin. Ideally, you want to get some amount of daylight – NOT filtered through ANY glass but through being outside – during early morning and around sunset, because it’s not only good for your mood but is excellent for your circadian rhythm.

In addition to exercise and sunshine, one of the most powerful ways to raise serotonin (if you are clinically short in it) is through an SSRI – Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor. SSRIs are antidepressant medications that require a prescription. If you suspect you may benefit from an SSRI, please see a doctor or psychiatrist.

These are the most powerful serotonin boosting methods I know. If you still want other interventions, try this:

A SEROTONIN LAMP. I use this one. Weirdly enough…they actually do help. A bit. I didn’t expect it to work, but I tested it anyway. Sure enough, it does improve my mood, somewhat. I also have a sunny, beautiful picture as my desktop background – so even if it’s all grey out, and I’m not getting serotonin-triggering sunlight, my mac shows me a retina display of a golden-hour sunset and my serotonin lamp illuminates my room.

I hear that St. John’s Wort, and 5-HTP, are two different options that can also help boost serotonin levels, and can be easily bought without a prescription, though I’ve tried them and haven’t had any success with either of them myself. But other people swear by them. (Note that St. John’s Wort and should not be combined with any prescription SSRI medications.)

ENDORPHINS:

Endorphins are triggered by lots of things, but primarily EXERCISE, TEMPERATURE, and PHYSICAL CONTACT.

While easy or moderate exercise can trigger serotonin, it’s the more intense exercise that’s really good at triggering Endorphins. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) – e.g., short bursts of sprints –  and resistance training are excellent for this. Play around with finding the “minimum effective dose” – you may realize even a very short, fast sprint will give you a huge dose of endorphins. Or just a tiny bit of heavy weight-training work in the gym might do the trick. When you start exercising purely for the emotional benefit, you’ll quickly get addicted.

One of the coolest emotion-hacking tips (no pun-intended) is that temperature can dramatically boost your endorphins. While cold (such as cold water exposure) can certainly do the trick, I personally enjoy brief heat exposure. A hot shower, bath, hot tub, hot spring, or sauna can actually mimic exercise and work wonders for boosting endorphins (it’ll also release serotonin). This is another go-to method I use regularly.

Any type of massage can also help boost endorphins. Getting a loved one to massage you, getting a professional massage, or just using a massage gun on yourself can all work.

Finally, though it won’t do as much as the above interventions, taking a few deep breaths (rhythmically and slowly) will raise your endorphin levels. While it may not be the most powerful method, it can be done at any time, which makes it pretty useful.

CATECHOLAMINES:

This category of neurotransmitters, which lumps together dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, has to do with drive, excitement, anticipated intense pleasure, and winning.

These neurotransmitters are fascinating because they are associated with getting things done, accomplishment, and success – being “on it” ….but also with addiction; with continually wanting more of something (like TikTok) that triggers dopamine release.

After a very long time, I’ve finally found one supplement that is extraordinarily helpful with naturally boosting catecholamines in a healthy way:

TYROSINE.

Tyrosine, or L-Tyrosine, is an amino acid that is an essential component in the production of dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. I had very low expectations when experimenting with this supplement – since I’ve never had a non-prescription mood-boosting supplement (other than caffeine) really do anything – but by my experiments, tyrosine actually made quite a noticeable difference in my mood. I’ve also easily and drastically reduced my coffee intake since taking it.

To use tyrosine: Try ONE to THREE 500-mg capsules, ONCE to TWICE daily, morning and midday, so as not to interfere with sleep. Start with one capsule and add more as needed if you don’t notice anything after 10-30 minutes. Take before coffee, because you may not need much caffeine after.

Also, BLACK COFFEE and tea can help trigger catecholamines as well (though caffeine can come with its own problems). Some of the other best ways to trigger catecholamines are PLAYING COMPETITIVE GAMES, solving interesting problems, and ACHIEVING ANY TYPE OF (EVEN SMALL) GOAL.

Music can also do the trick.

Medically, if necessary, catecholamines can be boosted by certain drugs such as Wellbutrin.

GABA:

Gamma aminobutyric acid is extremely calming. The most direct way to raise GABA that I know of is through prescription medications such as benzodiazapenes.

However, you can significantly raise your GABA through INTENSE EXERCISE, which releases GABA, and helps you experience calm after the exercise is completed.

Try using intense exercise such as sprinting or boxing, or just a little bit of good-form heavy lifting, to release any pent-up fight-or-flight chemicals, and like with endorphins, see if you can find a minimum amount of time that gives you a maximum feeling of calm afterward. Jumping up and down, clenching your muscles, and shaking — and then relaxing — can all release that “fight-or-flight” energy and trigger GABA. So can laughing.

But one of the other best ways to boost GABA is indirectly, by focusing on oxytocin:

OXYTOCIN:

Like serotonin, oxytocin is one of those chemicals that seems to help with everything. (Though I suspect oxytocin may have an even stronger effect.)

The best way to raise oxytocin is by CUDDLING A LOVED ONE, or CUDDLING A PET – especially if you’re thinking of how much you love the person (or kitten!) when you do it.

However, you don’t need to have either of those handy to trigger this hormone. You can also boost your oxytocin through any type of close friendship or SENSE OF COMMUNITY.

SPENDING TIME WITH PEOPLE YOU REALLY ENJOY really does act like a drug, significantly improving your health and mood. Even having a positive, friendly interaction with a stranger – or just wishing someone well – can boost oxytocin, to a degree. If you really want to maximize your oxytocin when interacting with others, try bringing a sense of giving into the interaction – of actively giving love, of helping another, of reassuring your loved one (or pet that) that they’re loved, of caring for the other person.

From an evolutionary standpoint, humans are tribal creatures. Any sense of “tribe,” “companionship,” or “connection,” in virtually any form (as long as it’s with people you enjoy) will significantly elevate your mood. And like I mentioned, it’ll trigger GABA as well.

Priorities Checklist

That’s a lot of different chemicals and interventions to think about. Whenever I get a lot of information like that, I always ask: What’s most important? If I had to forget about everything except for one or two concepts, what would I remember? If you find yourself feeling bad, what do you focus on first?

EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) go through a specific assessment flow when working with new patients – they always check for critical life-threats first. Pilots go through a pre-flight check, following a specific series of steps before they take off.

With this in mind, I propose a basic Emotion-Hacking Priorities Checklist.

Before I lay it out, I want to remind readers that your body, generally speaking, naturally produces ALL of the above chemicals on its own – so long as you give it the basic building blocks it needs: food, water, and sleep. The importance of those three basic factors cannot be overstated; these three core factors are directly involved with the production of all of the feel-good chemicals.

I also want to re-emphasize that out of all the interventions we’ve gone over, some are going to have a bigger impact than others.

With that in mind, here’s a “pre-flight,” “critical-threats” Emotion Hacking checklist, in order of importance. (It starts with a 3-way tie for first place.)

#1 NUTRITION

#1 HYDRATION

#1 SLEEP

#2 RX MEDICATIONS (if applicable)

#3 CONNECTION/Company/Oxytocin

#4 EXERCISE (Endorphins/Serotonin/GABA)

#5 NATURAL SUNLIGHT (for Serotonin)

#6 Tyrosine (for Catecholomines)

#7 Heat (for Endorphins & Serotonin)

#8 Massage (for Endorphins)
#9 Serotonin lamp light
#10 Deep breathing (Endorphins)

So if you want to feel better, try going through the “Emotion Hacking Checklist” and see if you can improve one of the factors higher up on the list. Then make your way down. Almost invariably, you can significantly improve your mood with just the right nutrition, water, and sleep (or perhaps just a couple other interventions near the top, such as exercise and sunlight).*

*If you really are nailing EVERYTHING on this list and still feel bad, it’s time to move on to cognitive techniques (which is a whole other post).

To regularly feel really good, design a daily routine that triggers these feel good chemicals consistently (for example, exercising in the morning, getting great nutrition and lots of water throughout the day, and seeing people you care about in the evening.) You really can use things like exercise, sunlight, and cuddling, to effectively drug yourself with serotonin, endorphins, GABA, catecholamines, and oxytocin.

It really is possible to hack your emotions and feel good more consistently than you might imagine.

Good luck, and happy Emotion-Hacking. 🙂

Doing Less to Achieve More – the 80/20 Rule

Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com. Also, huge nod to Tim Ferris and the “Four Hour Workweek” (possibly the best book of all time?) for first introducing me to this principle.

Last post I wrote about optimization, and stepping back carefully select what you’re optimizing for.

As a follow up, today I want to bring up a related question: is it possible to “over-optimize”?

And is it perhaps possible to achieve more by doing less?

To tackle that, let’s discuss something you may or may not have heard of before: the Pareto Principle (or the 80/20 rule).

The Pareto Principle is a helpful, broadly applicable rule of thumb that is simply as follows:

“80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes”

Or, to roughly paraphrase, about 80% of your results often come from 20% of your effort.

(Sometimes, in real life, the actual percentages may very. At times, 90% of your results may come from 10% of your effort. Or 98% of your results might come from 2% of your effort! Anyway.)

The 80/20 principle has many applications.

The 20th-century economist who penned the idea, Vilfredo Pareto, first noticed what we now refer to as a “Pareto Distribution” in his garden, where 80% of his peas came from 20% of his pea pods. He also noted that 80% of the wealth in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

(*In case you were wondering, today in the United States, the top 20% of Americans own 86% of the country’s wealth.)

But in my opinion, the principle is most useful in regard to high-leverage points and diminishing returns.

Let’s talk first about “high-leverage points” –

This is a simple concept. Basically, some things just get better results than others. If you focus more on the 20% of things that get 80% of the results (the “high-leverage points”), you’ll be well on your way to succeeding.

For example, if your goal is to lose weight, high-leverage points would be A) eating as MUCH “fibrous carbs” (plants) as you can, and B) CUTTING out refined (sugary, processed, bready) foods entirely.

Boom. That’s gonna get most of your results, right there.

A NON high-leverage point, by comparison, would be trying to pick the “perfect workout” to “burn the most calories” and trying to exercise your weight off, while still eating the same poor diet.

So, some things work better for weight loss than others.

In any goal, really, some things just work better than others. Always take the time to step back and try to figure out if you’re hitting the few key things – the few “high-leverage” points – and focus on those.

Those 20% of key activities might yield you at least 80% of the results.

But let’s also discuss “diminishing returns.”

Because this is where I think the 80/20 rule gets really interesting.

Say you’re in college, and you’re tasked with writing an essay.

In many classes, just by putting your name on a paper and turning it in, you’ll likely get a 50% score – an “F.”

But think about it – for the minuscule amount of work you put in, you just went from earning 0, to earning 50%, half of the available points.

That’s an ENORMOUS improvement with virtually ZERO effort.

If you continue putting in just a bit more effort, you may be able to fairly easily bring your score up to a solid C. A tad more effort still, you might actually be happy with your grade. On the other hand, going from a 98% to a 99% is going to require a SIGNIFICANT amount of effort and time, for a vanishingly small improvement in actual points earned.

In the bigger picture – looking at your entire GPA – and even broader than that, looking at your entire work-life balance – the extra few percentage points on that one paper might be pretty meaningless.

So yeah, it often makes sense to think about the minimum amount of work you can get away with, and deliberately try to work less hard.

I feel I have to acknowledge what you’re probably thinking: “Isn’t the concept of coldly calculating how to do as little work as possible immoral? Shouldn’t you always work hard and give everything 100%?

Yeah, this concept might bother the Protestant-Work-Ethic* side of a few readers.

(*Which is understandable. After all, the United States was founded by Protestants – at this point, we all have the idea that “hard work” and “morality” are synonyms, religiously socialized into our blood.)

But let’s consider it: As somewhat of a type-A, perfectionist person by nature, I can tell you that I’ve spent the vast majority of my life focusing on that extra one or two percent. I have a long history of always trying to bring that A to an A+, figuratively (and literally) speaking, giving 100% to EVERYTHING.

And I can tell you from firsthand experience that the extra slight improvement you might get from the hours of extra stress is often not worth it. Sometimes it is….but often it’s not. Because, as I like to say (and am often made fun of for saying so frequently!), every action has an opportunity cost. And sometimes, the opportunity cost from putting in extra effort is something important – like time with your family.

Further, that extra effort – usually in the form of worrying, agonizing, and anticipating – is frequently detrimental to actually doing a good job.

(In other words, just “trying harder” doesn’t always make you do better, and sometimes actually makes you do worse.)

So for us perfectionists out there, who really want that A+, and really want to put in a hundred percent on everything, experiment with this: try cutting back your effort a bit. See how it goes. You may be “over-optimizing” and getting diminishing returns from extra stress.

Cool, we good? End of story?

For most of us, maybe. But for the really compulsive over-achievers out there, the advice to “gear-down” and “cut back on effort” is going to be difficult to swallow.

So here’s ONE LAST little tip, for you guys:

(Still keeping in mind the Pareto principle…just sort of in reverse):

The vast majority of the STRESS you relieve may come from removing just a small amount of extra effort.

So if you REALLY FEEL feel you MUST get 100% on a paper – or put 100% effort into something – try just putting in 98%.

You’ll get a huge amount of extra calm, for just removing 2% of your “effort.”

This tactic often works for me personally when I’m struggling not to worry too much about doing something well – I’ll start by negotiating myself down, saying “hey, this doesn’t need to be perfect, just go two percent easier on yourself.” That 2% will give me a lot of relief.

(And sometimes I can even get myself to go a full 20% easier on myself, for a full 80% of relief!)

So in summary: yes, select what you want to optimize for, and sure, put in the effort and hard work.

But keep in mind that in any endeavor, there are going to be certain high-leverage points that are more critical than others, and eventually, extra “work” is going to yield diminishing returns and just stress you out.

You don’t need to kill yourself by putting in “maximum effort” and going 100% with everything.

Focus on the key high leverage points, and instead of going for 100, try going for 80 or 90 (or at the very least, 98).

See what happens – you may be pleasantly surprised.

What Are You Optimizing For?

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

We’re usually trying to do everything, achieve everything, all at once – usually not very successfully.

You ever heard the story of the hungry, thirsty donkey, standing midway between a pile of hay and a lake? He wants to go drink from the lake – but also to go eat hay – so he just stands there, being emotionally pulled equally in either direction, until he starves to death.

I think a lot of us tend to do the same kind of things in our own lives, and with our own fitness.

Here’s my theory:

In fitness (and in life), you can only OPTIMIZE for so much at a given time.

You can do a little bit of everything if you choose, but you can only really Optimize for so much at a given time.

For example:

  • You can train to become the fastest marathon runner in the world, but you probably won’t be the world’s strongest man. At least not at the same time.
  • You can train to have the most muscle mass possible, but you probably won’t be the fastest person in the room.
  • You can train to lose as much fat as possible in a given time, but you probably won’t gain a ton of muscle mass in that period.

Does that make sense? Sound pretty reasonable? People might point out, “well, you can train to have a good balance of things.”

Sure. For example, you can attempt to have a good balance of athletic skills (speed, strength, balance, mobility, general ability in multiple sports).

But then you’re not really optimizing for any particular ability, or any specific sport – you won’t be breaking any world records; you won’t be the fastest, strongest, or best, and you may very well not generate any rapid improvement in any one area. You’ll probably be generally healthy, but you won’t be rapidly gaining a ton of muscle mass, or losing a ton of fat.

(In other words, even when optimizing for “overall balance,” you’re still giving up something.)

Again, we can only optimize for so much in a given time.

And the truth is, this is an enormous relief.

You don’t have to try to achieve everything, all right now.

(In fact, you couldn’t, even if you tried.)

You can only optimize for so much – so what do you really want, more than anything, right now? And what’s most useful and effective?

Instead of trying to achieve everything all at once, what do you most want for the time being?

In a broader sense, you could be optimizing your life in such a way that you make the most money. Or so that you’re the healthiest and happiest; least stressed. Or so you have the deepest relationships. Or so you can be the most athletic, or the most famous, or so you achieve the most advancement and prestige in your career.

In fitness, you could be optimizing to gain the most muscle mass, lose the most fat, gain the most strength, achieve a specific athletic performance goal, maximize your cardiovascular health, or focus on well-being, to name a few. (Btw – there IS a big difference between optimizing for specific athletic performance goals, and optimizing to be as healthy as possible.)

So many options… So what to optimize for?

And the real question –

Are some optimizations “better” than others?

Read through those list of options I mentioned. Life-wise, and fitness wise. Now just try picking only one option from each, that you want to prioritize, for the time being (e.g., say, the next 1 to 3 months.)

(Again, if it’s hard to choose just one, it’s helpful to realize – this is just for now.)

And keep this in mind, too – you’re probably going to have some secondary or tertiary priorities. While you can choose to optimize for maybe just one thing (say, running the fastest mile in your life) you may still have “doing a solid job at work” as a second place priority. Or while you may choose to focus on “gaining the most muscle mass” as your singular optimization, you may have “gain some solid strength” as a secondary priority. (Yes, there’s a difference between optimizing for strength vs. mass.)

And before you finalize your answer, let me pose this food-for-thought question one more time: are some optimizations generally ‘better’ than others?

You may notice that some of the above options have a lot of implied overlap, while some don’t. For example, optimizing your life for healthy relationships, and happiness/well-being, probably will have a lot of overlap. Similarly, even though strength and mass are two different things, gaining strength is probably going to facilitate muscle mass gain.

Which leads me to this pro tip:

Some “prioritizations” are unexpectedly useful, having secondary benefits in many other areas of your life.

Some prioritizations wear you out, or have diminishing returns. On the other hand, some priorities feel wonderful, can be combined with others very well, and may even unexpectedly help you achieve secondary goals.

(Thought: If you’ve been struggling to achieve something lately, is it possible you could just try optimizing for something else entirely? Something which feels better, that may inadvertently help you achieve your original goal as a pleasant side effect?)

So maybe ask yourself next – “As long as I’m actually being conscious of what I’m optimizing for, what feels best and is most useful? What will have the most positive ripple effect on my life?” And if you’re torn between equal desires, then try “What comes first?”

(i.e., “I really want X and Y! But which one will actually have a bunch of other useful benefits in my life and make me happiest?” Or, “I really want both Y and Z! But as long as I want them both, and will eventually get them both, which most naturally comes first?“)

So, in summary, instead of just trying to achieve everything you want right now, and being frustrated as nothing really happens, try optimizing for just one or maybe two things, for the time being.

And before you do, maybe ask yourself – are some optimizations going to make me happier (or have bigger positive ripple effects) than others? What comes first?

Best of luck.

(P.S. – By the way, if I had to guess, I’d wager that that people far overestimate the benefits of optimizing for “money” and “prestige” and far underestimate the benefits of optimizing for “exercise” and “relationships.”)

P.P.S. – In addition to prioritizing general well-being/relationships, I’m currently optimizing really highly for……”excellent cardiovascular health.” (Which sounds super boring!!! …but I suspect actually has a ton of spillover into just about everything.)

Tranquilizing the Inner Critic

Ahh, the inner critic! The voice inside your head that worries what other people think of you, tells you everything that might go wrong, reminds you everything you already did wrong, and loves to debate why it’s right!

(My apologies for the delay between posts, by the way – I’ve been experimenting with emotion-hacking for the last two months, which I’ll be very excited to share with you soon!)

Today, we’ll discuss two major types inner-critic talk, and how to tranquilize it in each instance.

But first, let’s start with something a little more cut-and-dry:

Handling the outer critic.

(As we’ll soon find, if you can handle the outer critic effectively, you’ll be much better equipped to handle your own inner critic.)

Now sometimes, when you bring up a new idea to people, they like to jump in and immediately tell you why it won’t work. (Or at the very least, why it will be difficult, and come with a lot of problems.)

Have you ever had this happen to you?

People seem to really like to “do you the favor” of pointing out problems for you.

As Tim Ferris put it in The 4 Hour Workweek: “Everyone has a damn opinion.”

Which brings us to the first of the two types of “critical talk” that we will address here:

1. Problem Anticipation.

e.g.– “Oh, you want to try that??? Well, this might go wrong, and that might go wrong, and, you know, I have a friend who tried it once and he said it was awful, and I’d also be worried about so-and-so if I were you…”

Ugg.

“Problem anticipation” is defined as, well, just what it sounds like: reflexive musings about everything that could go wrong with an idea.

Often, when people “problem anticipate” for you, they’re just trying to be genuinely helpful. If you’re reading this and thinking “that kind of talk doesn’t sound particularly helpful to me” – you’re right! It’s not! But for some reason, by listing things that could go wrong with your idea, people think they’re helping. Why?

Because at very specific times, problem-anticipation can be useful.

When you problem-anticipate, it can lead to very important insights and help protect against risk. Sometimes, when someone “problem-anticipates” for you, they help you discover a valuable point that you hadn’t considered yourself.

ALTHOUGH – and perhaps you can relate to this – the vast majority of the time, I find that when people “problem anticipate” for me, they’re just redundantly point out potential risks I’ve already considered.

Also, I have to say: out of all of the different ways to pitch in ideas and “help,” people seem to gravitate toward “problem anticipation” WAY more than is actually useful.

Here’s the thing about this “problem anticipation”:

To be truly effective, problem anticipation has to be done for a very specific purpose, at a very specific time, during a very specific, constrained phase of a planning process.

(Otherwise it’s just random fearful thoughts about everything that might go wrong, coming in perpetually, from multiple directions.)

In other words, problem anticipation has to be intentional, and somewhat constrained.

And here’s an important point: If it’s coming from others, it has to be solicited.

I’ll just say that again, louder:

IT HAS TO BE SOLICITED.

Otherwise, it’s just unsolicited advice. Actually, it’s unsolicited problem-anticipation, which is worse than unsolicited advice.

And unsolicited problem anticipation is toxic to new ideas.

When coming up with new ideas, it’s important to give them room to breathe. (You don’t want someone immediately pointing out everything “wrong” with them – not while you’re still just brainstorming!) So while problem anticipation can be useful a little bit later on, it has no place in the early brainstorming phase.

So here’s my first tip: if you’re considering helping someone else, by pointing out something that could potentially go wrong with a new idea they have, just respectfully ask permission first. See if the time is right.

(e.g., “May I offer some constructive criticism at this point?”)

And be willing to happily accept a “no.”

***that’s a crucial little detail: you have to be perfectly willing to happily accept “no” for an answer***

(And if you lend others this respectful courtesy, it’s reasonable to request they do the same for you.)

Now this whole time, we’ve been talking about problem anticipation and other people.

But that’s not even the real point.

Who’s the worst perpetrator when it comes to unsolicited problem anticipation?

You are.

Your own mind loves to problem-anticipate endlessly.

If you thought it was irritating when someone else jumped in to point out everything that could go wrong with your idea, realize that you do the same thing.

You problem-anticipate, for yourself, WAY more than is actually useful. Your mind will pop up with unsolicited advice – unsolicited problem-anticipation – in much the same way that an irritating colleague might.

So here’s what I want you to do, when you’re tempted to problem anticipate for yourself:

Politely ask permission first.

Treat yourself with the same respect that you treat others.

And practice happily accepting “no, not right now” for an answer.

If it sounds like your inner critic may not be able to accept “no” for an answer, try saying it like this:

Thank you. I see you’re trying to help, by pointing out risks I might not have considered. You’re trying to keep me safe. When we’re in a time-constrained problem-anticipation stage, I’m going to really appreciate that, because I’ll actually write down everything – and I mean Everything – you can think of that might go wrong. Then I’ll be coming up with strategies to both A) reduce the likelihood of those things happening, and B) handle them effectively if they Do happen. Right now we’re in the brainstorming phase – thinking about what could go Right – so could you offer me some ideas on that?

And that is how you tranquilize the inner critic when it’s problem-anticipating.

But there’s one more type of critical talk I want to address today:

2. Debating to be “Right.”

Oh boy. People love to be right. And they sure hate to be wrong.

This really only becomes an issue when your own inner critic (or someone else’s) fights to be “right” at the expense of being useful.

Unfortunately, that tends to happen quite frequently.

Let’s give an example (of course, starting with an “outer critic” for illustration):

Not too long ago, I wrote an article about fat loss. I pointed out some very effective strategies to lose a ton of weight. It got a lot of positive feedback! (Well – it felt like a lot to me. I’m happy if even one person reads anything I write, so the bar is low.)

But someone felt the need to quickly push back on the article, saying this:

“I have to point out, you are basing most of your conclusions on a study with a sample size of one: A healthy, motivated, young male (you). So others following your methods may not have the same fantastic results as you. Even a healthy, young female may not get the same results, just because of her gender. Not to mention genetic traits re metabolism, body type, etc.”

Hmm. Surely insightful and constructive? Valid and useful?

I’m not convinced.

Underneath the intelligent skepticism, it sounds a lot like fixed-mindset talk* to me. It’s a pretty intelligent response – if you’re trying to justify not actually doing what I suggest.

*(“Fixed mindset” as opposed to “growth mindset,” which I will be happy to discuss in a future article!)

If you really don’t want lose weight, then by all means, just blame your genetics, age, sex. Argue that biological determinism is real and omnipotent, and that you’re totally helpless to your genes. And whatever you do, don’t try the tactics I suggest.

Speaking of which, I wondered – had this person actually tested the tactics?

So I asked him.

No, he had not.

Ahh.

Let’s go back to what my article actually said:

In the article, “6 Tactics I Used for Incredibly Rapid Fat Loss,” I made a bold claim that the tactics provided could help anyone (who so desired) lose ten pounds in a month – and if for any reason the tactics didn’t work, I would PERSONALLY reach out to that individual to help them.

Now, while it’s a bold claim, I absolutely stand by it 100%. I invite you to ACTUALLY TRY (not speculate on, but test) these techniques for 30 days, and you will lose weight. And if you don’t, I really am personally willing to come talk to you. (A guarantee!)

But instead of actually testing the tactics, and giving it a shot (and, in doing so, increasing the sample size!), the critical impulse was just to debate that the article was wrong, and do nothing. “That worked for YOU, but it might not work for everyone!” And that fearful possibility of it not working was enough to discourage even an attempt.

(So, as is often the case with critical talk, maybe it wasn’t as useful as it initially appeared.)

But what’s really going on here, behind the pushback?

Why the reflexive challenging of a new idea, without even trying it out? (Understanding that will help us with our own inner critic.)

I have a theory.

I believe it stems from the desire to be “right.”

I think my article – a guidebook for losing 10 pounds in 30 days – didn’t quite square with this particularly person’s view of the world. It (understandably) seemed “too good to be true.”

Therefore, to defend this person’s view of the world, he had to push back against it. He had to argue why I was wrong, and prove himself right – “fat loss really is difficult!”

(Now I don’t know if this was the case in this particular example. This is just my guess.)

But I will say this:

I do think that often, people get a perverse satisfaction out of being “right” – even when they would be happier if they were wrong.

Each of us has struggled with certain problems before, which we weren’t able to overcome effectively. (For example, we’ve struggled to lose weight. Or we know someone who has.) So when someone else says, “No, you really can lose weight, here’s a better way!!!” – we want defend our previous failures.

(In doing so, we justify ourselves and protect our ego. We remain right.)

Whenever we’re introduced to a better way of doing something, the knee-jerk inner-critic response is: “It was hard for me. It was hard for this person that I know. So it should be hard for you too. I didn’t succeed, so you shouldn’t. That’s just the way it goes – you’re being unrealistic. You’re wrong, I’m right.”

“…and, well, sure – even if that worked for you – on the whole, I’m still right. No, I won’t do it.”

Ahh, the need to be “right” is so exhausting.

So here’s my tip: just put down your need to be “right.”

Just put it down. Really. Being “right” all the time isn’t that important.

And to the skeptics: just try the approach. Just try it.

You have very little to lose. (It doesn’t cost any money.)

There is actually one risk: if you try it (something new!), you risk being wrong.

(Because, in fact, you may actually lose more weight than you ever thought possible. Which would mean that you were wrong about your own weight-loss abilities. Oh no!)

But by not trying it, you’re risking being unhappy.

(Put me to the test, and check out the article here.)

I get it. Nobody wants to be wrong. (Mostly because nobody wants to look stupid.)

But my philosophy is, I’m not afraid to look stupid. (At least, I try my best not to be.) Ultimately, I think that’s a pretty useful trait to cultivate.

So when an “outer critic” insists on being “right” about something at the expense of being useful, don’t argue or debate, just walk away.

But when your own inner critic wants to argue to be “right” at the expense of being useful, remind yourself: “Who cares about being right!?”

“If I have to drop previously held notions to do this, but it in fact works better, let’s do it!”

“Let’s give this a shot and actually lose some serious weight this month.

Relinquish the need to be right. It’s so liberating. You’ll thank me later.

And if your internal critic wants to continue to argue in favor of a previous, ineffective way of doing something, by all means, challenge it with some hard-hitting questions. Because honestly, when you truly cross-examine it, you’ll probably find that your inner critic is mistaken about a great many things.

But meanwhile, be sure to provide it some comfort, by reminding it: being “right” isn’t the highest goal – being happy is.

Inner critic, tranquilized.

6 Tactics I Used for Incredibly Rapid Fat Loss

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

*Disclaimer – this post has some pretty insane nutrition advice, and should be considered informational in nature. While I never recommend anything I haven’t personally tried myself, you should consult your doctor before doing anything mentioned below.*

Recently, I had a friend start drilling me about the specific tactics I used to lose so much weight (a little over 10 pounds) over the past month.

So I thought maybe I should make a post on it; teach you how to do the same thing.

Before I get into the specifics, I feel like there’s one thing I should mention to you first – the outlook I had going in that made this all possible:

For my overarching thought process, I highly recommend checking out my post “Meta-Improvement (or: How I Lost 10 Pounds in 30 Days).” I would not have been able to lose the weight without this big-picture approach.

OK, after reading that, you still want the tactics?

Really, if all you did was just read that post, you’d probably be well on your way to just figuring out the specifics for yourself…

…you sure you still want me to tell you?

Ok, here we go.

My promise to you is simple: if you can finish this article and do what I say, you’ll be able to lose at least 10 pounds in 30 days.

Strap the fuck in.

Tactic 1: Focus Exclusively on Fat Loss.

Apparently, some people can mix in all kinds of different types of training – including resistance training – while losing fat.

This is extremely difficult for me.

Now supposedly, strength training is great for fat loss. Almost all the fitness experts say to incorporate it, in order to lose weight. And there’s good reason for this: the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns, even at rest.

So if you want to lose a lot fat, you should incorporate some resistance training, right?

In a word: No.

No, I don’t think you should. Not if your goal, right now, is to lose as much fat as possible over the next 30 days.

In my experience, any type of resistance training makes me hungry, which makes me eat more, which makes me gain weight – or at least, it makes it difficult for me to actually lose weight. It’s a confounding variable.

While it is really good to do muscle work – and certain months, I do focus on that – I found I couldn’t do it during this month of rapid fat loss.

To really lose weight quickly, I had to focus purely on fat loss and NOTHING else.

That meant NO strength training AT ALL, during this time.

No Cross-Fit. No dumbbells. No pushups. No dips.

None.

I understand. This flies in the face of most fat-loss advice.

For exercise during this month, instead of doing anything hard or heavy, just go on walks. Seriously. If you already do go on walks, try some real gentle walk/jogs.

Do this as frequently as possible, but keep it light and low-stress.

Tactic 2: Focus on Fibers/Vegetables.

I used to think of nutrition in terms of the three macro-nutrients (aka “macros”). If you don’t already know, the 3 macros are Proteins, Fats, and Carbs. Broadly speaking, everything you eat falls into one of these 3 categories. In the past, I used to try to eat more protein, and fewer carbs.

I was missing the point.

I now view it as follows. Here’s what I want you to tell yourself, if you want to lose weight:

There are 4 Macros.

Protein, fats, carbs, and fiber.

(Technically, fibers fall under the category of “carbs.” But just try this framework out.)

The last “macro” – fibers – refers to crunchy veggies: bell peppers, carrots, kale, cabbage, snap peas, green beans, chard, turnips, lettuce, radishes, brussels sprouts, etc. etc.

Now here’s the secret: About this “fourth macro,” fiber…

Eat as MUCH of it as possible.

That’s it. That’s all I want you to do.

Don’t worry about anything else.

Don’t worry about the other “macros.”

Don’t worry about moderation, measuring food, or counting calories.

Just simply eat as much fiber as you possibly can.

Pick just a few veggies you like to start, and then eat a METRIC FUCKTON of them. Seriously, at least TRIPLE the amount of crunchy, fibrous veggies you’re getting. Like, eat more than you think you should. View every meal as a precious opportunity to get more crunchy fiber into your body. (No, you are not going to eat “too much” veggies, that’s very difficult to do.)

If you just had ONE thing to focus on, forget about everything else and focus on this.

Now maybe you appreciate the simplicity of this approach, and are excited to give it a try.

But maybe you’re like meand you think vegetables sound boring.

Do vegetables sound boring to you?

Hahaha…I thought you might say that.

If that’s the case, then I have a very fun experiment for you to try. Know that I attempted this myself:

Do not eat ANY fiber or ANY vegetables for a week. Eat only highly processed fast food.

(Don’t even eat brown rice, oatmeal, nuts, or whole wheat bread. They have some fiber too.)

JUST eat Domino’s, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Carl’s Jr., and any other fast food you can think of, as well as Oreos, ice cream, white bread, and whatever “treats” you want. (Low-fiber foods. Refined, processed foods. Fast foods.)

NO salads, that’s cheating.

Check the ingredients – if it has more than a tiny amount of fiber in it, avoid it.

You may want to have piles of some of your favorite veggies ready for later, because by the end of the week, you will be CRAVING VEGETABLES LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER.

And from then on out, you’re never going to think of vegetables the same way again.

And this is how you train yourself to permanently love vegetables.

I did this experiment myself, and started craving veggies after 3 days. I had to stop the experiment and go eat two salads.

Honestly, you’re probably not going to last the whole week either. And it’s going to profoundly change how you view food.

So yeah, in summary, get yourself to crave veggies, then eat a bunch of them.

(Oh, and as long as I’m talking about stuff that you should eat, I’ll say this, too: You can also eat as much lean meat and fish as you want.)

But yeah: as much of your diet as possible should come from fibrous veggies for the next 30 days.

Tactic 3: CUT refined, added sugar.

Your body needs some fat. It needs some carbs. It needs protein. It needs some sugar – the naturally occurring kind that comes paired with fiber, in various plants.

Your body literally has no need for refined, added sugar.*

(“Refined sugar” refers to…well… the stuff you’d probably just call “sugar.” Table sugar. Sugar that’s not found naturally occurring in something else.)

You don’t need it. At all. It’s pure extra energy, that is very readily available, almost never gets fully used, and then gets stored as fat.

(*I should say, if you’re breaking Tactic 1 and doing ‘real’ exercise, you get pass: you can have sugar. But right now, we’re focusing on losing weight as quickly as possible, and just walking a lot. So we’re not doing that.)

Refined sugar also affects your gut biome, literally changing the makeup of the bacteria in your gut, in a way that makes you gain weight. Go check out Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s website FoundMyFitness to learn more about this.

(I’ll clarify, in case it’s not already obvious: anything that has “added sugar” in the nutrition facts definitely has refined sugar.)

So, stop eating ANYTHING that lists “added sugar” in the nutrition facts.

(Big Hint: This is going to include almost ALL breads)

(Except for sprouted wheat bread, like Ezekial bread, which is fine.)

You should know – cereal, pasta, and tortillas are all refined carbs (just like sugar is).

They hit your body in more or less the same way sugar does.

For the next 30 days, for incredibly rapid fat loss, avoid them.

Fill up a TON on all kinds of vegetables, and just remove these refined carbs and sugars. If it sounds hard, just try it. It’s only 30 days, and it may change your life.

Tactic 4: Cut Dairy.

I don’t know what else to say about this, other than this: You’ve been led to believe you need dairy, but you don’t.

You know what dairy is really good for? Weight gain. If you’re trying to literally add fat to your frame, milk is an excellent tool. If you’re a bodybuilder lifting heavy weights and trying to add muscle mass, milk could prove useful. If you’re a growing baby who’s still nursing, by all means, have milk.

If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t drink milk, and don’t eat dairy.

Exception: Grass-fed butter is okay. (And is actually probably good for you.)

But for the love of god – don’t drink cow’s milk or eat lots of yogurt and expect to lose serious weight.

Not convinced?

I have a friend who lost 5 pounds in two weeks by doing ONLY ONE THING. Can you guess what that was? Cutting out his morning yogurt.

Seriously, if you don’t believe me on this dairy thing, just test it out on yourself before you debate it.

*Side note on Tactics 3 and 4:

If you know me, you know I do have occasional cheat meals, so while I say “cut,” I never truly 100% cut sugar or dairy – because come on, you’ve got to have ice cream every once in a while.

But as a default for fat loss, it is good to shoot for zero dairy or refined sugar the vast majority of the time. Particularly during a rapid, 30-day experiment.

A couple times during the month, you’ll probably end up breaking one of these rules. That’s totally okay. Just make sure your habitual way of eating follows the guidelines.

Tactic 5: Employ Time-Restricted Feeding and Intermittent Fasting.

I’m going to have to make a whole other post just on this; it’s too powerful a concept to really do it justice here.

Suffice it to say: try to eat your food within a 12 hour window or less each day. That means you’ll be “fasted” for at least 12 hours every night. (This isn’t actually that hard, because for most of that fasted time, you’ll be asleep.) Just don’t eat quite so close to bedtime.

A 12 hour window is a pretty gentle TRF schedule. (“TRF”= “time-restricted feeding.”) You can probably pull it off right now, if you try it. Even for individuals on poor diets, you’ll get significant health benefits from doing this. (I don’t have time here to go into all of the health benefits here, but just know that the list is really long.)

Now here’s where things get interesting:

If you really want to accelerate your fat loss, try more restrictive eating windows – i.e., limiting your eating to only 8 hours, or even just 6 hours, most days. In addition, occasionally (“intermittently”) try longer fasts (going for a full 24-72 hours without food). Not only will this help you lose incredible amounts of fat, but studies suggest it may be extremely beneficial to your overall health and longevity.

Here’s my caution, though:

If you are going to try longer fasts, make sure you’re already getting great sleep, and have minimal stress levels. Read that sentence again. I mean it. Also, I wouldn’t recommend fasts or TRF if you’re concurrently doing any type of intense training. It’s too much cumulative stress on your body.

That all being said, though…if you ARE taking care of your body, and really limiting stress….and you DO try some longer fasts…

you will lose INCREDIBLE amounts of fat, at rates you would not currently believe are possible.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself losing over a pound a day of scale weight during fasting periods. It’s insane.

No matter what you chose to try – easy, nightly 12 hour fasts, or more extreme TRF windows – here’s a huge tip: When fasting, drink as much water as you can. Seriously, drink a ton of fluids. A ridiculous amount.

(Actually, even when you’re not fasting, drink as much water as you can. This is really, really important. Drink more water than you think you should.)

(Although – be careful to not get too low on electrolytes when guzzling water while fasting. You can always sprinkle in a small pinch of salt to your water, as needed, to remedy this.)

Oh, here’s one more bonus tip:

Legend has it, any exercise you do end up doing while fasted will basically burn pure fat. (It has to be done at least 12 hours after your last meal though, to have this effect.) This is because after 12 hours, your body has used up its food stores, gone through a lot of its muscle glycogen stores, and is forced to start resorting to fat reserves for energy.

In other words, even if you just WALK while fasted – you’re burning pure fat. Legend has it.

That’s pretty exciting.

Tactic 6: Supplement.

These are the four most effective supplements I used during my 30-day experiment. They are all optional, but pretty useful.

1.) Green juice.

The number one all-around supplement I discovered, hands down, is green juice.

You get it in powdered form, and mix it in with water, and it basically allows you to drink the micro-nutrients from tons of extra vegetables quickly and effortlessly.

The most famous brand of this type of supplement is Athletic Greens, but I used a slightly cheaper (but also truly excellent) option called Green Vibrance.

Having some of this green juice almost every day made me feel great, made fasting easier, and overall made everything work better. (Note: I would generally have it before and after – but not during – fasts.) It served as an excellent “insurance policy,” making sure I always got some high quality nutrients no matter what.

If you’re going to add ONE supplement while trying to lose weight, I highly recommend it be this one. It’s expensive, but worth the investment.

With the amount of micro-nutrients in this stuff, it covers all your bases.

I have no financial interest in either Athletic Greens or Green Vibrance. All I know is that it really helped me during my 30 day experiment. In fact, I’m gonna go drink some right now.

…Ok I’m back. Sipping this, I feel better already. Again, this supplement is optional, but recommended.

2.) Fiber.

What’s that? You thought you were getting enough fiber from all those vegetables I told you to eat? HA!

Get even more. It’ll help you.

Supplement with additional pre-biotic fiber. (I sneak it into protein shakes. And no, in case you’re wondering, my shakes do not contain dairy – they have almond milk or water as a base.)

3.) Coffee

Ah, my personal favorite tip in the entire article. Coffee – black coffee – is an appetite suppressant which also boosts your metabolism and perks you up enough to get out and exercise (or at least go on a walk or jog). It contains polyphenols which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetes properties. So does tea.

My general strategy (when I was really crushing it) was to follow a time-restricted feeding window, fast for 12-14 hours, then “break” the fast with coffee. (Since it has no calories, while you’re technically “breaking” the fast, you’re still in a fat-burning mode). I’d use the extra perk from the coffee to go on a fasted, fat-burning walk, or an easy run. Then I’d eat afterward. Overall, I really love coffee.

4.) Branch-Chain Amino Acids + Electrolytes

Want to get really fancy about this, without having to spend very much?

Branch-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) help with muscle recovery and make you feel less “fuzzy” when fasting or eating less. (I would usually drink BCAAs as needed during my “semi-fasted” state when I still wasn’t eating food but was having coffee.) Also, BCAAs may help with fat loss. Plus, the brand of BCAAs I used had electrolytes mixed in, which is helpful while fasting and hydrating. Overall, they really helped me, and are not very expensive, so they’re at least worth a shot.

Whew, that was a long article.

TL;DR: Eat as much fiber/veggies as you possibly can, drink as much water as you can, eat as much lean protein as you want, ease up on the exercise intensity (as well as all stressors) for a month, just go on frequent walks (or gentle jogs), use intermittent fasting/ time-restricted feeding, and drink green juice as well as maybe coffee, supplemental prebiotic fiber, and BCAAs. If you do all of this, and you’re still not getting the results you want, I will personally drive (or fly) to your city, take out you out to coffee, and help you figure out what’s going on.