Turning Your Excuses Into Progress

Excuses aren’t helpful. Agreed? Good.

Moving on.

More important are the reasons we feel inclined to make an excuse.

An excuse is used as a justification for a mistake or imperfection. Excuses seek to lessen blame or judgement.

Considering how fucking judgy the fitness world can be, no wonder it’s riddled with excuses. We hate feeling judged!

If we think we’re going to be judged, an excuse is a rational defense mechanism. We all make excuses for our imperfections, so there will be no high horses allowed.


I don’t fault people for making excuses. That said, if we own the fuck out of our imperfections, we will nurture a greater capacity for growth and behavior change.

The excuses we make to ourselves hold us back the most.

Excuses prevent us from being honest with ourselves.

Self talk matters. When we make excuses, we shirk responsibility.

The missing factor here is acceptance.

We can’t fix our mistakes if we don’t accept the fact that we made them. To move forward we need to be brutally honest.

Excuses are sustain talk– they reinforce our internal status quo.

Taking responsibility and really owning our shit is hard, but it’s challenge worth undertaking.

Reasons, on the other hand, are an analysis. Reasons seek to objectively explain a series of events.

The search for reasons implies acceptance, mindfulness, and assessment. All of which are necessary to overcome our barriers, rather than continue to bash our faces against them.

So how do we turn excuses into reasons?

Build a habit of mindfulness around excuses.

Be on the lookout for excuses. When you notice one, dive into the fear shower and seek out the reasons you made that excuse.

You’re trigger for practicing this habit is guilt. Feelings of guilt usually precede excuses.

If you notice something else that would serve as a more consistent, obvious trigger then by all means use that.

We all have different relationships with food and exercise. I don’t mean to paint this issue as being black and white. My aim is simply to provide a starting point for exploring this relationship.

When you’re trigger happens, tell yourself out loud, “It’s OK”, ideally in the mirror. Next, try to objectively tease out the reasons for the decision in question. A journal where you reflect on your fitness journey can work wonders here.

Note that feelings (guilt, sadness, stress etc) can be objective reasons.

Objective simply means honest. Objective doesn’t mean denying your feelings. It’s actually the opposite. Objectivity means fully embracing and accepting that, “This is how I feel”.


Be brutally honest. It doesn’t matter what the reason is, as long as it’s honest.

“I was tired and didn’t feel like it” is honest. “It’s OK because I went for a run today” isn’t.

If we can remove moral attachment to foods we can lessen food guilt and the ensuing excuses that stand in the way of our fat loss goals.

Another way to combat food guilt and excuses is to join a crew of people you know won’t judge you because they are experiencing the same struggles.

A culture built around growth and acceptance might be the best way conquer this. And I’m not just saying that because I want you to join the Tribe of Badassery Coaching Group. I promise 🙂


Did you like this post? Do you hate my guts and want to tell me personally? Either way, you should opt in at http://mortontrainingsystems.com/ and get my free ebook “Insanity Free Loss”



I’m A Fool

A damned fool.

Facebook just reminded me of this, and I’m pretty embarrassed about it.

Here’s what happened. Facebook does this thing now where it shows you things you posted years ago, whether you want it to or not. So 3 years ago I shared an article that spoke of the terrible evils of sugar. The piece essentially claimed that sugar caused all of the world’s problems from global warming to Donald Trump. And here’s the kicker. My caption: Wow, so sugar is apparently as addictive as cocaine.

picard facepalm

This is the type of fear mongering that I rail against today. While I’m damn embarrassed about this, it’s a nice little reminder not to be pompous about anything, because there’s a good chance I’m wrong(except about Donald Trump, if he becomes president I’m getting my ass to Mars).

My embarrassment stems from fear. My biggest fear as a coach is doing harm, that I’m not actually helping and that I’m making things worse. When I saw what I had posted 3 years ago, a knot manifested itself in my stomach. Perpetuating such nonsense is surely detrimental to helping folks build a healthy relationship with food. Ugh.

So what’s the point Jeff? You’re confessing your sins blah blah blah…get on with it!

Here’s the point!

Being an inexperienced fool is part of learning ANYTHING. And that’s completely Ok. Being wrong and screwing up is part of the process, it’s inevitable and necessary. And of equal importance, admitting when you’re wrong is how you get better.

And I can logically come to terms with this, but that doesn’t mean that I like being reminded of how bad I used to be at my job. Thanks Facebook.

Looking back and seeing where we’ve made mistakes means we’ve moved forward. That’s what’s important–forward movement. So long as we keep moving forward, we know we’ll get to where we want to go. Admitting when we’re wrong may feel extremely uncomfortable, but doing so is a crucial act of mindfulness that will help you build forward momentum and continue to get better.

Is It Worth It?


These were the words that escaped my lips ever so gently as an excruciating pain ripped through my ankle. I cautiously glanced at my foot. My ankle looked like an anaconda that hadn’t fully digested yesterday’s brunch of sautéed capybara .

Clutching my leg and attempting to gather my thoughts, I surveyed the flat, open farmland, which was quite beautiful at that time of day actually. My mind was elsewhere though. I was slightly more concerned with the large grapefruit that had blossomed in my foot.

My house was at least good hundred yards away, and the dry, flakey dirt was riddled with gopher holes. I looked up at the roof towering above my curled up frame. Doing my best to avoid the ubiquitous gopher holes, I grabbed my skateboard and hobbled away using my board as a cane. It didn’t work that well, but it was better than nothing I suppose.


Half an hour later I made it to the door of my house. When my sister saw me clumsily limping into the air conditioned refuge of my house, she gave a tremendous sigh, “What the hell did you do?”

“Ah, nothing it’s fine, just a sprain”.


My thinking at the time.

It wasn’t a sprain. I didn’t know it yet but that shiz was broken.

I had to get surgery. It was balls.

I spent a lot of time that summer getting sighed at. Many shook their heads in my general direction. Here’s the thing though:

I regret nothing. NOTHING!


My thinking now.

Well sure, I regret breaking my ankle. But I don’t regret the attempt at skateboarding off that roof. I don’t regret taking the risk. I was fully aware of the potential repercussions of this dangerous hobby of mine. I wasn’t jumping off the roof expecting to land in the soft embrace of fluffy clouds. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been pretty sweet if I could have Gandalfed off the roof, but I knew that was wishful thinking.

There were plenty of attempts where I DIDN’T break my ankle. In fact, there were significantly more attempts where my ankle didn’t break than did. The outcome of that final attempt was less than desireable, but I still don’t regret it, even after being chided by every single nurse in Tracy General Hospital. If I would have succeeded(which I actually did the day prior, I’ll have you know) I probably wouldn’t have received the same amount of flack. That’s kind of the nature of risk taking– sometimes you get wrecked and end up spending an entire summer playing Banjo-Kazooie on the couch(which was actually pretty sweet) waiting for your ankle to heal so you can jump off more shit, that’s why it’s a risk.

banjo kazooie

At the time, jumping off the roof was worth the potential pride and satisfaction I would incur if I rolled away. The feeling of conquering my fear was worth it. And no, I’m not recommending jumping off the roof. It’s important to take risks, but we must be fully aware of whether or not the potential risk is worth the potential reward for us.

People who don’t take risks, don’t achieve much. Fear of failure, ridicule, or even success holds us back. That’s just how it works. Fear is the mind killer.

That said, when you break your ankle, people will give you shit. Hell, people will give you shit when you succeed. The only way to not have people give you shit is to be spectacularly ordinary. And who the hell wants that?

Anyways, I digress. I want to talk about analyzing the risks and rewards of our fitness attempts.

Answering the question from last week’s post, “Just because I can do something, should I?” entails analyzing not only risks and rewards, but how our priorities and values line up with said risks and rewards.

Looking at our goals is a good starting point. Once we have clear goals it becomes easier to weigh the risks and rewards. Because no matter what we do there is a risk. Always. It might not be the risk of a broken bone, but maybe a missed opportunity. By attempting to take no risks at all, I am risking stagnation. That said some risks are unnecessary. For example, it’s unnecessary to take every set of squats to failure if the goal is to get stronger.

Here some questions that can help clarify what we are doing, why, and if it’s really what we want to be doing:

What are my goals that I am trying to achieve with this strength training program? Then rank these goals in order of importance to you.

Why are these goals important to me? Write down every single reason why each goal is important to you. Every. Single. Reason. All of them. Dig deep into this. Like your trying to evolve your Diglett into a Dugtrio.


What are the potential benefits? What is the likelihood of the these benefits if I continue doing what I’m doing?

What are the risks? What is the likelihood of these risks?

Are the risks worth the potential benefits?

Is there a way that I can still reap the benefits while minimizing the risk? i.e. eliminating unnecessary risks?

Am I acting in concordance with my values? With the things that are important to me?

The question, “Is it worth it?”, doesn’t have an objective answer. Only the individual can decide this for themselves.

So now, after answering the questions listed above, I ask you this:

Would you still jump off the roof?

Weekly Fitness Reads: 11/9/15


Ok, this is pretty awesome. We all work against ourselves at times, and it’s a tough place to climb out of. While the author humbly claims he doesn’t have all the answers, his strategies for overcoming the spiral of self-sabotage really resonate with me and seem spot on.

Oh em gee also,”you can’t get a rainbow without a rainstorm”. Genius.


This story tells of both a badass and a very intelligent 95 year old man. The statistics for fall related deaths and injuries are quite high. This guy is awesome and we could all take a page from his book if we want to live longer, happier, more adventurous lives.


I can’t resist a good article about building habits. Every journey starts with one step. In addition to loving that this website is aptly named “Nerd Fitness”, this piece discusses a tough subject with striking clarity. The hardest part of any journey is taking that first step. This article gives you the how and the why.

I’m currently accepting online coaching clients and I would love to help you lose weight and feel better. Online coaching offers the same accountability, support, and motivation as in person coaching, and I’d love to help!

Ready to lose weight in a healthy, no stress, sustainable way? To get started just fill out this short application.

What Jurassic Park Can Teach Us about Fitness

Jurassic Park is both one of my favorite movies and books. Naturally, if I have an excuse to tie it to a fitness concept, I will. While we could go pretty deep in discussing the themes and messages of the film, the idea I’d like to discuss today is this:

Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

I’ve done a lot of stupid shit i.e. things I was able to do, but probably shouldn’t have.

A few years ago, I was completely obsessed with becoming an amateur MMA fighter, with the delusional hope of going pro one day. Why? Truth be told, I think I needed something to focus on, to feel like I had direction, when in reality I had no idea what the hell I was doing. That along with some body image issues that I had harbored since I was a teenager certainly didn’t help, or add any clarity. I was really insecure about the size ratio of my lower to upper body; I felt my thighs were way too gigantic and my upper body was narrow and disproportionately small. Add to that, Muay thai fighters usually have skinnier legs(or legs that my dysmorphia perceived as skinnier) which makes it easier to whip around their legs like baseball bats. This perpetuated my dislike for my thighs(I hate the way they look AND they’re preventing me from kicking faster!? Gah! Fuck you genetics!)

As an aside, once I started squatting and deadlifting and realizing what large legs are good for, my legs became something I became proud of. They made me feel strong, as opposed to misshapen.

At any rate, I never considered these motives which I could only see in retrospect. I just picked a direction and decided to charge at it with all I had. In my eyes, this meant I had to the sacrifice EVERYTHING else. Balance was for suckers. I viewed balance as the enemy, and that if I was going to succeed I needed to work harder than anyone else, be stricter and more disciplined than anyone else. Most importantly, I felt I couldn’t afford to slip up with my training or my nutrition, ever. Genetics and age be damned, hard work trumps all.

During this time, I was immensely hard on myself. I put myself in complete isolation from the outside world. The outside world yielded temptations that would hold me back: going to bed later, eating “unclean” meals, drinking, missing training sessions– basically anything fun. All of these things were the forbidden fruit that I knew I would succumb to if confronted by them.

My solution was to avoid them, regardless of the cost. The cost was my happiness and friendships. Truly, I missed out on a lot. And I while I can’t say I fully regret this time as I definitely learned a lot, I regret all the time that I could have been growing closer to old friends as opposed to more distant. Furthermore, I didn’t give new friends or relationships a chance. It was a very lonely time for me.

I was cognizant of these sacrifices, but I told myself that that’s the nature of excellence; you must make sacrifices. And I still believe that, but what I didn’t realize was that those sacrifices weren’t worth it for me.

Little by little this became clear as I came to terms with how unhappy I was making myself. I was tired of bringing Ziploc bags of almonds to the bar, consequently feeling like an outsider among my friends. I was tired of feeling envious of people who could just have a cheeseburger and beer without the emotional hangups I had. I was tired of constantly getting injured and realized that I didn’t want to be grow old and be a wreck, riddled with pains, and have no champion belt to show for it.

Over time, I started making cuts to my uber strict training and nutrition regimen, forcing myself to let go. And each time I cut something out I felt anxious.

What if I lose my gains?

What do I do with all that time?

Who will I BE AS A PERSON if I quit? I don’t want to be a quitter! This is all I’ve known for so long.

These fears lingered as a knot in my stomach until I started making better progress(not to mention actually enjoying life more) to which I realized, ”Holy shit I’ve been doing this all wrong!”.

I stopped training twice a day, and eventually cut my training down to 2 days of Jiu Jitsu and 2 days of lifting a week, which is still a ton of training. Both of those activities are intense and require a lot of recovery time. However, compared to my earlier regimen it felt like I was slacking off.

My injuries started to heal and a funny thing happened: my performance went up–I start fighting better and oh yeah, I was much happier as I started to get my life back

This was a pretty big lightbulb for me. The practices that I thought would quicken progress were actually holding me back. The lack of balance was making it hard to walk forward.

It wasn’t easy to make that cut though. I felt a lot of anxiety at first about letting go of my regimen. At the time, my regimen was where I got my sense of identity. Initially I cut back simply to prevent overtraining, so that I could get closer to my goal. However, as I started to change course, it became easier to think of my training and life differently. It threw a wrench in the works and the tunnel vision started to subside.

That was when I really started to think about balance and sustainability and all of the ideas I promote on this blog. This realization that the best way to make progress was to balance training with the rest of life was huge. Then I started thinking about what I actually valued, and what I actually wanted to get out of martial arts and exercise.

I could say much more about this journey of mine, but this is already dangerously close to becoming a journal entry. Back to dinosaurs.


Now, this was my own specific experience, but the principle can be applied to different contexts. There are many things we can do in our attempts towards our fitness goals, doesn’t mean we ought to do them. Just because we can push ourselves harder on a short term or long term basis doesn’t mean we should, or even that we need to.

Just because I could train for MMA every waking moment of my existence doesn’t mean I should have. Just because I could revolve my life, to the point of obsessive compulsion, around building an optimal diet, doesn’t mean I should have. Just because I could make myself miserable for my goals, doesn’t mean I should have. Just because I could engineer some sweet dinosaurs, doesn’t mean I should have.

Experience is a great teacher, but we still have to keep our eyes open because the lessons are easy to miss.

The specific lesson learned from my own story, was predominantly that more isn’t necessarily better. This is a very important lesson for sure. However, this is just one story and one lesson learned.

More broadly than that I think we ought to start analyzing our fitness with in Velociraptors in mind(OK, I know the V-raptors in the movies are more like Deinonychuses, as real life Velociraptors were like 3 feet tall, but whatever). Should I really have Velociraptors at my amusement park?

Weighing the potential risks and the potential benefits can be quite helpful. Everything has costs and benefits. We only have so much room in our suitcase,* and I sure as shit can’t fit a dinosaur in there with all this deadlifting.

*Suitcase rule: Think of your training/life relationship like a suitcase. When you travel you only have so much space in your suitcase, and everything you put in your suitcase affects everything else in your suitcase. Furthermore, I’m not going to bring every pair of shoes I own, just the ones I think I’ll need. It would be folly to bring more shoes and not have room for underwear and socks. Same goes with training and life. Everything we do has an effect on everything else.

Periodically sitting down and asking ourselves, “What am I doing? What are my goals? Why are these goals important to me? Is this working for me, and is this worth it?” can get us pretty far.

If my goal is to squat more weight, my workout should help me squat more weight; I should be getting stronger.

And if I am getting stronger, what are the costs? Am I so beat up from squatting that I can’t go hiking on weekends, or socialize with friends or(insert something important that’s impacted by a training/diet program)? Are my joints hurting? Is there a way to reach the same goal without sacrificing as much?  Is my squat goal conflicting with other, maybe more important, priorities and values?       

This is the macro view. The micro view entails looking at individual workouts and asking the, “I can, but should I?” question fairly often.

Yes, I could juggle kettlebells and rabid weasels on a bosu, but should I?

I could go a lot heavier today, but should I?

I could do a few more reps, but should I?       

Had I sat down in front of a mirror and been brutally honest about my priorities and values sooner, I probably would’ve started down the path to balance sooner, and my rotator cuff would probably feel a bit more solid.

To summarize, on a daily basis we can ask things like, “I know that I can squat 50 more pounds today, but should I?” And on a grander scale actually reevaluating our goals, priorities and actions and seeing if they line up.

We all make mistakes, and will continue to do so. However, by asking ourselves the right questions we can get the benefits of mistakes(learning) whilst making less of them.

I’m currently accepting online coaching clients and I would love to help you lose weight and feel better. Online coaching offers the same accountability, support, and motivation as in person coaching, and I would love to help!

Ready to lose weight in a healthy, no stress, sustainable way? Simply fill our a short application.

Weekly Fitness Reads: 11/2/15


This week you probably read about the World Health Organization report that apparently says bacon causes cancer. At the very least I’m sure you observed some part of the ensuing shitstorm: “Bacon is bad for me?! Whaaaattttt?!?!?!”. First, I highly doubt this report will result in any drop in bacon sales. Second, there are some nuances, as always, that are worth looking into. This article from Examine.com does a great job of explaining what the report ACTUALLY says, albeit without all the fear mongering. That said, regardless of cancer, bacon has never been healthy, and we all knew that i.e. bacon at every meal still probably isn’t a great idea.


In addition to really enjoying Tony Gentilcore’s writing style, his work always gives really solid training wisdom. This one talks about muscle confusion and how it’s not really a thing. This is a topic I hold dear to my heart. Think about it this way, resistance training is a skill and the last thing we want to be when learning a new skill is “confused”. Progress requires consistent practice. Also, this principle also applies to nutrition and any skill we’re hoping to develop.


So I’m obviously a huge proponent of habit based coaching. Building nutrition habits as opposed to white knuckling through a diet is more effective 99% of the time. It’s less stressful and the results end up lasting after the “after picture”. That said, any chance I can get to promote this approach to fitness, I will. Here’s a great piece that serves as a great introduction to how and why we use this approach.

I’m currently accepting online coaching clients and I would love to help you lose weight and feel better! Online coaching offers the same accountability, support, and motivation as in person coaching, and is just all around awesome.

Ready to lose weight in a healthy, no stress, sustainable way? Fill out this short application to get started!

The Secret to Busting Through Failure like a Champ

Failure is going to happen. It’s inevitable. None of us are perfect and we all are going to fuck up…


Here’s the thing though:

It’s OK.

Changing your situation requires stepping into unfamiliar territory. This whole journey requires a skill set you haven’t mastered yet, which is just the nature of doing something new. I’m trying to learn Spanish at the moment and I end up saying a lot of ridiculous, grammatically incorrect things during my Skype lessons. It can be frustrating. Now, I want you to think about what you would say to me for encouragement if I told you I was giving up on Spanish until next Monday as I was discouraged because I pronounced a word incorrectly.

I know learning a language and losing weight might seem completely unrelated. However, they are both skills the require consistent practice, experimentation, patient, mistakes and experience over a long period. Your eyes do not deceive you: mistakes are a requirement.

The only time you actually fail at something is if you give up entirely, forever. It may seem like I’m using the term failure quite loosely. What I’m really referring to by “failure” is the perception of failure in the following scenario:

Sara has started a new diet and is “going to get it right this time”. She wants, nay, she demands, perfection of herself. In Sara’s eyes, if she is not perfect she has failed and consequently she feels like a failure. After a few days of following hyper strict dietary rules, she caves and eats the brownie she told herself was off limits and now feels terribly guilty about it. She decides to call her diet a wash and try again on Monday and concludes that her diet wasn’t strict enough.

I’m writing this(on a Saturday night, mind you, that’s how much I care) for all the Sara’s out there, as I know how frustrating and exhausting this cycle of events can be.

Just to be clear, I don’t think eating a brownie is a failure at all. I call this being human and making a damn mistake.

At this time I also want to point out the mistake is not eating the off plan brownie. The mistake is attempting to follow an impossibly strict diet. A strict diet will drive you to the brownies(mmm brownies) much faster than a realistic diet that takes into account how delicious calorie-dense foods are and that they ought to be included in a balanced diet. The brownie incident was an inevitable result of the mistake of being too strict.

I’d like to lay down a few things about this before we continue:

  1. Perfection is a myth, it doesn’t exist. Deal with it.
  2. You don’t need to be 100% adherent to your diet. EVER.
  3. By accepting nothing less than perfection, you are setting yourself up for failure. Perfection is a moving target. The closer you get to it the farther it moves.

Alrighty, now that’s out of the way, let’s get to the actionable part of the post. So failure is going to happen; there will be times where you aren’t a broccoli and salmon eating automaton. Now what?

Now, it’s not quite so simple as, “Do this thing I’m about to say and everything will be sunshine and rainbows”, but I do hope to open your mind to some new ways of thinking about this stuff that can make your weight loss journey more enjoyable and consequently more successful.

Here it is:

You have to take the emotion out of the way you view your mistakes.

Definitely easier said than done. However, if you can learn to view your dietary mistakes without any emotional investment, some magical things start to happen. For one, you end up being in a much better mood as you’re not beating yourself up over eating an Oreo. I honestly think that alone is worth the change in perspective. Furthermore, you end up making better dietary decisions rather than letting the guilt dictate your dietary decisions in the future. Without guilt or emotion it is easier to move on with your day, shrug off the minuscule and inconsequential mistake as such, and go right back on plan for the next meal.

A dietary slip-up is inconsequential in isolation. However, if the emotional backlash prompts a cascade of slip-ups then the effect is greater. One brownie a week won’t have any significant effect on your progress, but if you let that single brownie turn into 20 because, “fuck it, I’ve already ruined my diet” that will have a significant impact. Either way, the sooner you shrug off the mistake, the smaller the impact of the mistake will be. No matter how big the mistake feels, it’s never too late to view it objectively and move on.

You are going to make mistakes, and that’s normal; that doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress. Fat loss is a long, arduous journey, and anytime we do anything challenging we are going to make mistakes. By treating mistakes as necessary part of the learning process, we can make less mistakes on our journey and actually speed up the process.

I’m currently accepting online coaching clients and I would love to help you lose weight and feel better. Online coaching offers the same accountability, support, and motivation as in person coaching, except you don’t have to be in the same city as me.

Ready to lose weight in a healthy, no stress, sustainable way? Simply fill out this short application.