Junk food is delicious. Apple pie a la mode. Brownies. Cookies. All taste bud orgasms. (I love sweet things, if you couldn’t tell.) I’ve tried to hide these feelings. Tried to be like people that I look up to that have found a way to never sweat mortal guilty pleasures. But the inner skinny-fat kid sticks around.
So I’ll be the first to admit: junk food tastes better than the food I eat 90% of the time. But I don’t dread the 90% of my meals. I eat raw cabbage. Raw carrots. I don’t need a pound of brown sugar on my sweet potato.
Muggles often say I have no taste buds.They might be right. My response after eating raw ginger: not bad. It’s on video at 5:50 in this Chicago Gathering Sampler.
But my lust for peanut butter says otherwise.
But there was a time when I absolutely hated raw cabbage, raw carrots, and a lot of the things I eat now. Just like muscles are trained, tastes buds are trained. Unless a grandpa guru showed you the light when you were a kid, chances are your tastes aren’t used to “health” food.
Your first reversal step: find something you hate that’s also good for you. Your second step: eat it every day.
There was a time when I hated raw carrots. I vowed to put a raw carrot on my plate every day. I doused it with red pepper flakes to make it somewhat palatable. But I showed up. Every day. What used to be a potential puke fest is now a pleasure. I don’t dread raw carrots, and I actually enjoy them. My taste buds probe for their inherent sweetness now instead of gouging for my gag reflex.
So find one food. That’s all. One at a time. Get it down any way you can. It’s going to suck at first, but extract more flavor every day. Is it sweeter? Maybe saltier? More bitter? What about the texture. Appreciate some aspect of the food, even if it’s the fact that you have food to eat in the first place.
Something is making you not like the food. Find out what it is and then blow through the plateau or overshadow it. Just as you use progressive overload and level up your lifts, you need to progressively overload your taste buds. Build taste. And do it by running head first into your weaknesses.
I need to be doing deadlifts/squats for my legs. I’m a bit scared of squats because I’m so tall and thin and have hurt my back doing them wrong in the past.The answer:
I want to be a chef. A great chef known for the next ten generations.
But I’m afraid of the knife.
It hurts when you cut yourself, doesn’t it? And what if you cut your finger off? What if it falls off the cutting board and lodges into your foot?
A lot of things are dangerous. But a lot of dangerous things can be done safer. I’d expect a novice to cut a finger off before a chef, even though the chef moves with more complexity and in a higher risk way.
But there’s always risk. Always.
Because the reality (and the part you probably don’t want to hear): if you want to have a low body fat, be jacked, do flips, and all in a self taught way: you don’t want to be Mom cooking holiday dinner. You want to be a world class chef.
And you’ll never become a good chef, let alone a world class chef, if you can’t get over your fear of the knife.
Here are some things to think about to get you started.
Start basic. Dull knives aren’t as dangerous as sharp knives. Bodyweight squats aren’t as dangerous as weighted squats. Challenge yourself to do 100 unweighted squats every day for the next 30 days. You’ll feel safer doing barbell squats then. If not, then do goblet squats. Do those for 30 days. Do the empty bar for 30 days. I’m sure after that you’ll find that adding a measly five pounds to each side won’t be scary.
Build the confidence, don’t expect it to fall from the tree.
Learn from those with experience in your situation. A sushi chef needs different lessons than a butcher cleaving spare ribs apart. If you aren’t going to be a geared powerlifter, don’t talk to geared powerlifters. If you aren’t lifting in a monolift, don’t talk to those that lift in the monolift.
I’ve always lifted alone in my garage. For a long time I had no power rack. Just squat stands. No spotter. To this day, I rarely ever train to failure (even though I’ve upgraded my equipment) because I couldn’t risk it long ago.
Learn from the elder elephant. A fifty year old man that’s been squatting for 30 years knows more about injuries than a 20 year old kid that’s been squatting for three months.
Shoot videos of yourself. If you’re going alone (with no elder elephant), you’re going with a higher risk. Upload them to YouTube. Spam forums with the videos. Get someone to look at them.
Grow. You messed yourself up before. Good. That doesn’t mean you need to quit. You just need to do things better. You have feedback to work with: what you were doing before was bad, don’t do it anymore. That’s valuable information.
Don’t fear cuts; expect cuts. Small cuts are necessary because they continually remind you of what’s at stake. If you aren’t careful, further danger awaits.
I know this isn’t the kind of stuff you want to hear. I struggled with this a long time ago. Injuries suck. They’re scary. But you should just accept the fate now: you’re going to get nicked up here and there.
And you know what? You’re going to be alright. See? You’ve already injured your back. Back injuries are one of the worst injuries you can have. You’re alive. You’re breathing. Weight room injuries are peas and carrots compared to most team sport injuries.
Tweaking a muscle doesn’t compare to shredding your ACL, MCL, and meniscus in six slivers.
The silver lining behind all of this is that proper strength training often teaches you mechanics that transfer into other activities. Given the situation, you might survive a few freak accidents down the line.
But that’s the thing: you have to learn. If you don’t have a coach, you need to dig. Not just from one resource. From many. Then you need to tinker. Tinker. Tinker. Tinker. Trial and small error, as Nassim Taleb says.
To this day, I tweak my squat and deadlift form even though I think I have them right. I try things that haven’t worked in the past just to see if I was doing them wrong the first time around.
Most self taught read Starting Strength. I did. It’s a good book. Buy it.
But don’t think of it as the end. Don’t let your eye sockets shrivel when you come across a different idea.
Go buy Becoming a Supple Leopard. Or research Wannagetfast, Chris Korfist, Alex Vasquez, and Evolutionary Athletics. The ideas there are different enough that you’ll question right and wrong.
This is a good thing because it’s going to help you find your sweet spot.
Fear leads you down a bad road. You avoid the movement, you lose the movement. Everything becomes old clothes; you become more fragile than ever before.