At 40, I took up the WildFit challenge and my body fat started melting — my entire body started taking on the shape I always wanted. And in this blog post, I’m going to show you how I did it because it’s replicable and anyone (you included) can do it.
When I was 38, I made a promise to myself that I would be in the best shape ever when I turned 40. I wanted to make sure I could remain healthy, young, and have a body that would allow me to do the things I wanted to do.
Well, in January 2016, I turned 40.
But I was anything but healthy.
My fitness levels, my weight, my body, and even my eyesight had deteriorated significantly. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and feeling unattractive and unhealthy. And I knew I was not alone. Many of my friends and family had also bought into the firm acceptance of the idea that as we go into our 40s, 50s and 60s, our bodies would continue to decline.
And that we’d have to just accept it.
Perhaps you’ve bought into this idea, too.
Well, I want to share an insight that made me realize just how much we all need to shake ourselves up:
In 2015, I read something that shook me out of that common feeling.
A friend of mine attended Singularity University, a 7-day program in Silicon Valley designed to prepare executives for a world of rapidly changing trends and technology. He shared one of the most surprising learnings from the event on a Facebook post: from 2016 to 2030, due to advances in medicine and health, science can add 3 months to every year you live. That’s pretty cool.
But it gets better. By 2030 onwards, due to the rapidly accelerating pace of technology and biotech, science will be able to add ONE YEAR to every year you live.
I did some quick math.
The lifespan of the average human male is now 76 years old.
This means if you’re 40, you can add 3 months to every year from 2016 to 2030. That’s 3.5 years — raising your lifespan to 79.5 by the time you hit 2030.
If you’re 40 today in 2016, you’ll be 54 in 2030. This means (assuming no medical breakthroughs) you can expect to live another 25.5 years.
But wait. Singularity University says that from 2030 onwards, science will be able to add a year to your life for every year you live. This means you’re not living a further 25.5 years. You’re going to be living a further 51 years!
Which means if you’re 40 years old today you’re not going to live to be 79.
You’re going to live to be 105!
Here’s how it translates based on your age:
And this is the crux of it all. If you’re under 50 today, you are likely to live to be 100 or more.
But here lies the problem.
The vast majority of human beings live as if old age is 50 and beyond.
But what choices will you make when you realize that 50 is only the mid-point of your life?
While advances in health care can likely slow down aging and death. It cannot yet REVERSE aging. This is why it is so important to take absolute care of our bodies as we move into our older years.
All my life I had expected my lifespan to be around 75. This was something I learned in school. I set my goals for life experiences and finances to aim for the age of 75.
Odds are, you did as well. Like me, you too learned in school that you would live to be 75.
But what if this very idea is fantastically wrong.
How would you treat your life and your goals if you were going to live to be 100?
What if 50 is just the mid-point of your life?
It was this thinking that made me realize that 40 was not an excuse.
I asked myself, “How can we feel as good at 50 as we did at 25?”
We must END the myth that 50 and 60 are “old age.”
It is not. It’s the mid-point of your life. We need to go into it with incredible health. And after what I just experienced, I believe it’s easier than we think.
Yet as I turned 40 in January this year I felt like I had failed most of my health goals.
You see, last year I was putting long 12-hour days in the office. I was juggling between being CEO of Mindvalley and writing my book The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, and it had taken a hefty toll on my body. My stress levels were also at an all-time high, and what I didn’t realize at the time was that this stress was also contributing to some significant weight gain.
This was just not how I imagined I’d look like at this age.
Now my body wasn’t drastically bad. I had, what you would typically call, an “average male physique” for someone who’s in his 40s. I was at 22% body fat.
It’s not overweight. But it’s definitely not sexy either. It’s just… meh. And meh just didn’t cut it for me.
Knowing that at 40-years-old I was not even at the midpoint of my life, I was not going to let it slide downhill from there.
That’s when I started getting obsessed with hacking every element of my biology. I experimented on my body with various diets and exercises. Some worked better than others.
But there was one particular thing I did that changed everything.
I share it here in this article so you can experiment with the same set of ideas on your quest to get healthy and fit.
And no, it did not involve any change to how I exercise. Nor any calorie counting. It all had to do with paying attention to what I was eating….and NOT eating.
A profound body transformation breakthrough:
Between the months of April and June 2016, one approach clicked and I had a massive breakthrough. I experienced one of the most profound and rapid body transformations I had ever experienced in my entire life.
When I shared my results on Facebook, opinions were pretty divided. The vast majority of people shared their support for my achievements. But there were others who were quick to suggest that the differences in my body were merely due to lighting or camera angles.
There were even a few who felt that the image was the result of some careful photoshopping.
Below is the picture in question.
So what’s really going on in this picture?
To help answer this question, I’d like to share some data that will explain what happened.
Firstly, my body fat went down from 22% to 15%.
I’ve always had some muscle underneath, but it was never really well defined. But as soon as my body fat started melting, my entire body started taking on a shape I had always craved. And in this blog post, I’m going to show you how I did it, because it’s replicable and anyone (you included) can do it as well.
But first we need to explore some BS models of reality and systems for living that most of us have been blindly trained to follow. You must understand….
The world is lying to you about exercise & nutrition…
For 99% of you, what you think you need to do to get in shape and get the “body of your dreams” is completely false.
And when you start uncovering the countless brules (bullsh*t rules) surrounding our current understanding of health and wellness, things begin to change very rapidly.
Here are some of the biggest insights I had during my journey of reshaping my body:
- 95% of your body shape is due to what you eat and NOT exercise;
- Intense exercise is not smart. You need exercise but explore minimal effective dose programs instead. Those late night infomercials about radical new exercise programs aren’t sharing the whole picture;
- There is no such thing as a daily recommended diet. Human beings evolved to eat different foods in different seasons. By looking at evolution, you can “hack” your fat burning;
- Calories are BS. Your body, as author JJ Virgin says, is a chemistry lab. It’s about what foods you mix. I do not count calories. Utter waste of time and pointless. I deleted all of my calorie counting apps;
- You can re-train your brain to like and dislike certain foods. The REAL secret is re-training your brain;
- Advertising and media train us to crave foods that are poisonous to the human system. Many companies engage in behavior so unethical, it’s borderline criminal (I’m looking at you Coke and Pepsi);
- By eating right, you can actually SAVE money.
These powerful ideas completely reshaped my understanding of nutrition and health. But it took a lot of experimenting with my own body to figure out what worked… And what failed.
Let me first tell you what did not work.
A journey of trial and (predominantly) error
Before I share what worked for me, let me share what did not work as well.
#1: Low Carb Diets with Cheat Days
The first thing I tried was a low-carb diet. I was inspired after reading Timothy Ferris’s book, The 4-Hour Body, and other books advocating low-carb diets.
It took me a month to shed about 2 pounds off. However, it took a lot of discipline and a lot of patience. And it didn’t intuitively feel like it was something I wanted to keep doing in the long run.
Not only that, after a quick visit to my doctor, this particular diet was also elevating my levels of cholesterol.
So as you can imagine, this experiment didn’t last long.
The other fundamental flaw about these low-carb suggestions is the idea of “cheat days” where you give yourself permission to indulge in any of the foods you love regardless of their nutritional value (or lack thereof).
“Cheat days” are by far the worst thing you can do. We’ll come to this later.
#2: Intense Exercise Programs
I also tried various exercise programs. They worked. And I strongly recommend them — but ONLY if you want to get fit. Absolutely NOT if you’re trying to lose weight.
Latest research shows that 95% of your body shape is due to the FOOD you eat and NOT exercise.
The Vox article is so good, I suggest you read it later.
So the main problem with intense exercise programs is :
- The advocate 30 min to hour long exercise which is inefficient.
- They hide the fact that 95% of your body shape is due to the FOOD you eat and NOT exercise.
Years ago I looked into various programs by Beach Body, and the first one that stood out was P90X because I have many friends who completed the program and achieved the sculpted body they’ve always wanted. But they did so at an incredible cost. They are easier ways.
There was one big obstacle that was preventing me from really dedicating to this program, and that was time restraints. P90X requires around an hour a day of exercise. But given my commitments at the time, I simply couldn’t consistently set aside that amount of time every single day.
But what I did try out was a program by Les Mills from Beach Body.
I committed to the program for about 30 days, and the results were pretty awesome.
I didn’t quite lose the weight I wanted, but I was definitely feeling fitter and stronger.
However, I ended facing the same problem that stopped me from picking up P90X. As the program progressed, the workout sessions went from 15 minutes a day, to up to 1 hour a day.
And once again, I was facing time restraint issues that prevented me from dedicating myself to the program.
I eventually gave up Les Mills for two reasons…
- While it made me fitter and gave me more energy, once I got to week 4, Les Mills required increasing amounts of time, which I couldn’t commit to, to see similar results.
- The program also started introducing weights to the exercises, and I had a back injury that didn’t allow me to keep up with the workout.
Next, I tried another amazing program by Beach Body called Focus T-25.
I did Focus T-25 for about three weeks and just like Les Mills’s program, I felt considerably fitter. But it had a negligible impact in reshaping my body. I do highly recommend Focus T-25 because I think it’s an incredible program but I just didn’t get the results I was personally looking for my physique. But for fitness — yes.
All of these programs helped me improve my fitness level. But with inefficient use of time and little or no results to show in terms of weight loss or how I looked.
As I turned 40, I was on the verge of giving up.
I tried diets, they didn’t work.
I tried exercises, they didn’t work.
And that’s when I met a guy called Eric Edmeades.
Full Disclosure: Eric has since become a friend, and I asked him to bring his program, WildFit, to Mindvalley after my amazing success with the program.
I’ll share what I can about Eric’s program because it created the single biggest mind-blowing shift to my body. And it’s responsible for the dramatic weight loss you see in the first image I shared.
Let me tell you what happened.
So I got to know Eric because we’re both members of the Transformational Leadership Council. It’s a collection of America’s best authors in health, fitness, business, and other transformational fields.
It’s the list of authors whose books you’ll regularly see on the non-fiction and business shelves in your favorite bookstores. Many great minds are part of the Transformational Leadership Council.
During one of the meetings I attended, Eric was being honored with an award for his contribution to the membership.
I was a new member and I was fascinated.
“Who the heck was this Eric guy?”
While he was getting his award, other people were also coming up to talk about how much weight they had lost because of Eric.
One woman, a lady in her 60s who was obese, had lost 40 pounds.
One guy I know, who was around my age, had also dropped 40 pounds and had the best body of his life.
Another woman, a 67-year-old friend of mine, had lost her husband. The grief from the loss caused her to gain 20 lbs. Eric helped her end that and reduce her weight by 14 lbs.
Eric’s program is 90 days long and it had just concluded at the time. Students go into the program together as a batch. The first batch had just completed the program and because results were so good, Eric had offered a new program just for members of the Council. I jumped at it.
Now I can’t reveal everything that happens during this 90 days because part of the reason that makes this program magical is NOT knowing what is going to happen next. Eric uses some interesting psychology to change your attitude towards food.
But here’s what I can reveal about how it works.
WildFit — A retraining of your body and mind based on evolutionary biology
Now, one of the core elements that makes WildFit so unique is the sense of community. Everyone who signs up for the program starts on the very same day.
Eric may be guiding you day-by-day, but it’s all the participants who are supporting and pushing you to keep going.
The other thing about WildFit is that Eric will be messing with your mind on a weekly basis… In a good way. You see, we’ve been trained to believe certain things about food and our body that is completely untrue.
And Eric uses incredible behavioral change models to create permanent shifts within you.
Here are a few of the big “a-ha” moments that I learned from this program
1. Know that you eat what you’ve been conditioned to eat
Eric shared this eye-opening anecdote, which hit a little too close to home for comfort.
He explained that a guy came to him and said that he couldn’t do WildFit because he “loved pizza so much” and he didn’t want to give up his “freedom.”
So Eric asked this man, “If I put a pizza on the table right now, would you eat it even though it’s not lunch time?”
The man replied, “Of course, I love pizza! I can’t resist it.”
Eric then asked…
“Is that really ‘freedom’ if you can’t resist it?”
Now, this is true of many other things, such as coffee, soda, and alcohol.
You don’t have to give up any of these things in WildFit completely. But what blew me away was how most of us unconsciously overdose on these things because society trains us to believe we must consume it at ludicrously high amounts.
Coca-Cola and other companies have mass-brainwashed us to crave junk that is downright disruptive to our bodies. When you begin to understand how these companies mess with your mind, you learn to see the patterns and resist them.
There are two major tricks companies like Coke use:
a. Linking their brand to Emotional Hunger.
Ever noticed how when you miss someone or face the loss of a loved one, you often eat certain comfort foods?
As a child, our parents rewarded us with ice-cream when we were “good.” Now as an adult, you go through a period feeling sad or questioning your self-worth. You reach for that tub of ice-cream. It brings back those childhood feelings of being loved and being “good.”
Brands use this too. Coke equates its drink with “happiness” or “celebration” and uses very effective marketing to get the world to drink mass amounts of diabetes-causing high-fructose corn syrup.
b. Sugar as an Addictive Substance
According to Eric Edmeades, our bodies evolved to store sugar.
Imagine a primitive man during the stone age walking through the forest and stumbling upon a banana tree. His immediate impulse would be to eat or take as many bananas as he could.
He would not stop at just one because there was no telling if those bananas would still be there the next day. So our human bodies evolved to binge on sugar. Thousands of years ago this was perfectly fine. The sugar got stored as fat which helped us survive during times of lack of fruit — such as winter.
And so we have evolved as a species that has an addictive response to sugar.
Sugar makes us eat more. Food and drink companies learned this 100 years ago and the great American sugar diet became commonplace.
Today sugar is in 96% of items you’ll find in your typical grocery store. Items with sugar make you eat more, which means spending more on the item and more profit for the food manufacturer.
You can, however, train your brain to recognize and avoid sugar. When you do, you start making massive headway in your quest to eat healthily.
2. Skip the “cheat day,” you don’t need them
It’s a lot easier to go through any diet or nutritional change if you don’t have a cheat day. Just think about what’s going on when you have such a cheat day.
You’re essentially telling yourself that what you’re doing is so painful and arduous that you need a break from the diet.
Psychologically, this is dumb.
But cheat days are also bad because they prevent your engine switch from a sugar burning engine to a fat burning engine. (See next point)
3. “Switching Engines” from sugars to fat
All of our bodies are equipped with essentially two engines: a sugar burning engine, and a fat burning engine.
Our fat burning engine never really kicks in because we take in so many sugars and carbs on a daily basis. And the thing is, we’re evolutionarily designed to create and hold on to fat reserves on our body to prepare ourselves for times of hunger and scarcity.
But when you follow the WildFit program, you retrain your body to switch from burning carbs and sugars to burning fat.
And this is when the magic happens.
For the first 8 weeks of the program, I felt like there was no significant shift in my body.
However, on week 9, I felt like I was melting.
I was dropping around 2 pounds a week.
And all of a sudden, my pants couldn’t fit me anymore. My 10-year old pajamas (I’m fiercely loyal to my pajamas!) had to be sent for alterations after the pants dropped to my ankles while I was cooking breakfast… Much to the amusement of my son, Hayden.
What essentially happened was that my engine had suddenly shifted.
But remember, no cheat days, because it’ll prolong the switching of engines.
4. Understanding hunger (food is not always the answer)
According to Eric, there are 6 different forms of hunger.
I won’t go into full detail here but you can learn more by joining Eric’s Masterclass on Mindvalley.
But let me give you one key type of hunger — Hunger as Thirst.
From an evolutionary standpoint, water wasn’t always so readily available as it is today. In fact, we would get most of our water from the food we ate. That is why when the body gets a little dehydrated, our bodies’ response is to ask us to eat.
Not because you need food but because you need more water. So I learned this really simple trick after completing this program.
After 5 pm every day, I would get a little hungry in the office. But I realized that this happened because I was drinking around 2-3 cups of coffee a day, which, as you know, is a diuretic, so I was likely getting a little dehydrated. And my usual ritual was to snack on a protein bar, or some fruits and nuts to satisfy my hunger.
Now, I just drink two glasses of water and the hunger pangs disappear. Try it yourself and see.
This simple hack changed the way I function on a day-to-day basis.
5. Satisfy your hunger with the right nutrients
There’s another form of hunger, which Eric describes as “nutritional hunger.”
This is where you’re eating the wrong sort of foods and you end up getting hungrier because your body is not getting sufficient nutrients.
So when some people get hungry, they tend to alleviate it by grabbing something quick and easy like fast food, rather than eating food that is more nutrition dense.
A few hours later, they’re hungry again.
But if you’re putting in the right nutrients, everything changes.
Part of my experiment was to switch from omelets in the morning for a healthy breakfast, to JJ Virgin shakes that are an even healthier breakfast. (Eggs proved to elevate my cholesterol as well.)
I would also add the following supplements to my shakes:
- Moringa — A nutrient-packed leaf powder that can help prevent diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, anemia, arthritis, liver disease, and respiratory, skin, and digestive disorders.
- Wheatgrass —Provides a spectrum of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, and phytonutrients. It’s also a powerful detoxifier, especially of the liver and blood.
- Chia Seeds — Little black seeds that are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, and quality protein, and it’s linked to increasing lean muscle growth and weight loss.
This is what my breakfast now looks like:
As I started to have these shakes for breakfast more regularly, I discovered I had more energy throughout the day, I would feel less hungry, and I began losing weight very easily. I use GNC or JJ Virgin for the base shake and the REA superfoods as nutrient additions. It’s also WildFit friendly.
You can get these shakes and the add-on superfoods from just about any healthy grocery store.
The boost in energy and the weight loss was amazing.
Note: Some people criticized me for the pic above saying it takes away the fun of breakfast or makes it artificial. I suggest that there are two reasons we eat breakfast — food for fuel OR food for ritual. When I am with family, I love our typical Estonian European breakfasts with lots of meat, cheese and butter. But when I’m on my own and have limited time in between changing baby diapers on a 3-year-old, getting a 7-year-old off to school and then taking care of myself, I like my shakes. They take 4 mins to make and 7 mins to drink and I feel good after them. When I have time, my breakfast is eggs, spinach, cherry tomatoes and lots of veggies. Equally good as the shakes. It just takes 4X longer to make and sometimes I don’t have the time.
But the biggest benefit was the incredible boost in my immune system.
My children, like little trojan horses, would regularly bring home all matter of germs that they caught from the other kids at school. And every so often, they would crawl into our bed and spread the germs to us, their unsuspecting parents. So I would regularly catch a cold every seven to eight weeks.
Other parents reading this, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
After taking nutrient-dense shakes, I noticed I stopped getting these colds. On the rare occasion where I felt like I was on the verge of falling ill, I would double my dose of wheatgrass and moringa for three days straight.
Incredibly, my cold would subside after the first day. But I would continue with the double dose for the next two days, just in case. I don’t know which particular superfood was boosting my immunity — but there is evidence that moringa etc boosts the immune system because you’re getting the Vitamin A and Iron that you need for healthy immunity.
The design of WildFit: psychology meets diet
All the ideas I learned from Eric were undeniably ground-breaking. But the real beauty of WildFit is not just the information itself, but the way the information was presented.
Eric uses a powerful model that permanently shifts people’s habits and behaviors around food.
The fascinating psychology of micro-challenges
So the WildFit program starts off really, really, really easy. In fact, it seems so easy that you’d be forgiven for thinking that Eric is just pulling your leg.
But on the second week, he raises the stakes just a little. But because you completed the first week and you’ve bonded with the community, you stick around.
On the third week, things get just a little more challenging. But it never gets impossibly difficult.
What Eric does on a weekly basis is an incredibly subtle way of retraining your mind.
And you slowly stop craving a lot the foods you use to regularly crave for.
I couldn’t believe the things that I used to eat before versus after WildFit. Foods that I use to love no longer have a hold on me. Other foods that I knew were nutritious but rarely touched, I now absolutely love.
WildFit messed with my mind so much that I was once in a bar with a few friends and everybody was having my two favorite drinks; whiskey and red wine.
I had a single glass of red wine but quickly switched to sparkling water.
But then it got a little “weird”… While I was sitting at the bar, I noticed a glass filled with cucumber sticks for stirring drinks. But WildFit made me so addicted to vegetables, I kept munching on those cucumber sticks until there were no more left.
So apart from my now unusual love affair with cucumber sticks (and many other kinds of vegetables), I found the shift incredible because it was rare for me to go out to the bar and have just one drink.
After WildFit I didn’t feel like I needed more than one.
With the right method, it’s much easier to retrain your mind than you think.
The problem is, most diets suck.
In fact, most diets have a really poor completion rate (a typical diet program can have a completion rate of less than 50%) because more often than not, you’re forcing yourself against your natural impulses and you’re expending huge amounts of willpower.
Once that reserve of willpower is depleted, that’s when most people “crack”.
This doesn’t happen with WildFit (which has a completion rate of 97%) because of the incremental steps and subtle retraining of the mind that Eric guides you through from day-to-day.
WildFit not only helped me get the dream body I always craved, it helped me achieve it without having to do insane physical workouts, nor did I have to struggle through restrictive diets. It just transformed the way I look at health and nutrition forever.
And I hope the ideas here will help you in your quest for a healthier you.
Just reading this article alone and putting a few of these models and systems in practice will bring you some great results.