A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Welcome to Day 5 of the Minimize Yo’ Butt Fitness Challenge.

This is a guest post by Robert from Untitled Minimalism.

I was scheduled to write about the Alternate Day Diet today, but after looking back through my blog archive for what I’d written about it previously, I think that the original post describing my diet philosophy (and the recap that deals with Alternate-Day specifically) largely speak for themselves.

With the launch of Minimize Yo’ Butt this last Monday though, I would like to talk about the goals that some of us have for this challenge, and inject a dose of common sense that I had to learn the hard way.

The common sense is: “Ease into it.”

I could end the post here, actually. The problem is, nobody listens to advice that simple. I know I didn’t when I started hitting the gym again about 7 years ago. A couple of workouts, a few-week burst of diet and exercise, and I was tired, sore, and in pain. That ended that diet plan.

You owe it to yourself to make this work, and that requires taking the time to do it right. Toward that end, I have one tip, one warning, and some closing advice.

More Onions, Please: Successive Approximation

The tip comes by way of a friend of mine – a friend who loves onions. His mother had a recipe that she always made, but she never put enough onions in it for his taste. He knew exactly three things:

  • He wanted more onions
  • She wouldn’t put more in voluntarily
  • She always followed the recipe card exactly

Knowing this, he knew what he had to do. Every couple of times she made the recipe, he’d steal the recipe card. He meticulously copied the recipe, and increased the onions a little bit at a time. Not a lot, mind you (1/4 cup to 1/3 cup, then 1/2 cup, then 2/3 cup, etc.), but enough so that he eventually got the extra onions he wanted. His mother never noticed, because the steps were small and infrequent enough that it never aroused suspicion. Yes, that’s a lot of work for some extra onions – and fortunately, that’s not the point of the story.

Your body a lot like my friend’s mother. It doesn’t particularly want to change, and it may make your life uncomfortable if you challenge it head-on, but . . .

You can talk your body into doing almost anything if you make the changes gradually.

Ease into it – the changes will be slower, but you’ll handle them better. I promise!

#!@%^! Muscles: Sports-Related Injuries

It helps to note that when it comes to the “move more” part of Minimize Yo’ Butt, we’re talking about something called “exercise.” Whether you label it as exercise or not, whether you do it at a gym or at home, and whether you’re young or old, all physical activity comes with some risk of injury.

Nothing, and I really mean nothing, will put you back on your maximized butt faster, longer, or more permanently than an injury.

This isn’t to scare you. Exercise is one of the least-scary things in life, actually. However, you need to have your eyes open and your brain engaged when you plan your routine! A 30-, 40-, or 50-year old body doesn’t move like an 18 year old’s.

The fact that you were a championship runner, power lifter, or gymnast in high school means dime squat ten years later if you haven’t kept up practice.

If you’re just getting back into exercising, do yourself a huge favor and pay careful attention to your body.

Ease into it – the changes will be slower, but you’ll be able to catch potential problems before they become major issues. You’ll be better off for it – I promise!

Set Reasonable Goals

Minimize Yo’ Butt is all about making healthy changes, and the initial excitement of starting a diet & exercise plan can be pretty intense. It’s easy to want to jump in head-first, and change everything all at once.

Using successive approximation and avoiding injuries means setting reasonable goals that don’t completely turn your lifestyle on its head. Here are some examples:

  • Instead of swearing off dessert completely, eat it half as often as you used to.
  • Add an extra helping of veggies to a meal every couple of days, rather than re-planning your entire diet around them.
  • If you don’t jog or run right now, start by adding a couple laps around your block to your daily routine.
  • If you want to start going to the gym, go a couple times a week (with at least a day in between), rather than starting out with five times per week.

I know, these aren’t spectacular or glamorous – but they won’t burn you out your first week, either. The number one reason diets and other health kicks fail is that the changes don’t get incorporated into the person’s lifestyle, and they can’t sustain them long-term.

Ease into it – the changes will be slower, but you will get and maintain the long-term change you’re looking for.

The Bottom Line

Just remember, this isn’t a race. A plan that permanently changes your diet & exercise habits to let you lose a pound every two weeks (and keep it off) is infinitely better than a quick-fix plan that drops you 50 lbs in 6 months, only to have you gain it all back (and then some!) a year later.

Don’t sacrifice your future for a few cheap short-term gains. Yes, make the changes – but take the time to ease into them and integrate them into your lifestyle.

Now get out there and Minimize Yo’ Butt!

Robert writes about minimalism, frugality, and simplicity, with some good fun thrown in – all with the purpose of helping you become conscious of yourself and the world around you. You can read more on his blog Untitled Minimalism.

It’s not too late to join us on the Minimize Yo’ Butt Fitness Challenge! Make sure you are part of the Minimalist at Home Facebook page and jump right in. You can also sign up for updates or follow me on Twitter. Thanks so much for reading!

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  1. That picture is kind of crazy – I like it. 😀 Thanks for having me guest post Faith!

  2. Nice post Robert!

    Sometimes I have a hard time with moderation — I’m an all or nothing kind of gal. For example, if I say I’ll eat dark chocolate half as often, my plans usually go out the window once I get a taste of the creamy, decadent, perfect…okay, focus Jenny. 😉

    The point is, I agree that moderation is the key to long-term success in any endeavor. But sometimes it takes some swift changes to get the habits ingrained into my thick scull. 🙂

    • Faith Janes says

      I agree with the food thing. I have to go all or nothing. It’s hard, but drawing the line is tough for me when it comes to food. I’ve been dealing with headaches this first week since I’ve switched over to eating Paleo. It boils down to carb and sugar withdrawal. It’s getting a little better every day but if I just give in, I’ll have to start all over again.

  3. I find that moderation works for increasing exercise but not as well with changing my diet. There’s something about being gentle with a sweet tooth or a craving that just doesn’t work for me. I have to stare it down and let it know who’s the boss.

  4. Travis @DebtChronicles says

    This is great advice, and I wholeheartedly agree with it. I wanted to comment, however in case people catch tweets or comments from me as to the amount of cardio I’m doing. I’ve actually been minimizing my butt since the first of the year, so I’ve already done the “ramp up.” I’m using your challenge as motivation to push myself just a little bit further to get across the finish line and achieve the goals I set for myself 8 months ago. Of course I do realize that I need to continue to exercise and eat right to maintain, but once I get to my goal, I will level off my activity (I’m going kind of nuts right now).

    I applaud you for your word of caution, though -> I’ve overdone in the beginning in the past, and sitting on the sidelines while you want to be doing something isn’t fun at all.

    • Faith Janes says

      I’m so glad to have you in this challenge, Travis and it sounds like you’re making awesome progress!

  5. My top tip would be specifically to running. To avoid injury gradually increase speed OR distance…never both at the same time. As someone training for a half marathon and getting sponsored (I have a responsibility to the kind people who have put their hands in their pocket) my major concern is injury. When that is top of the agenda (not getting injured) you do take care, rather than just going at it full on with both barrels.
    Oh and with strength training I have always been in the camp that believes muscles need a gap to relax and repair in order to grow and improve!
    Sound advice in the post Robert 🙂

  6. Hey Robert,

    I’m completely with you on easing into the exercise. For folks (like me) with a LOT of weight to lose and a LOT of lifestyle habits to change, slow and gentle rocks! I’ve been overweight for about 10 years now and I have tried to drop the weight countless times in those 10 years.

    it usually goes like this:
    1) Couch potato
    2) Blast off turbo crazy exercise kick
    3) Shin splints
    4) Couch potato

    I have been doing 6 to 7 days a week this time around, but I have been monitoring my body closely for all twinges of pain and I eased into it very slowly! Every day I walked a little further with the first day being a short 10 minutes long.

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