I want to be ‘That Guy’.
How you can successfully turn body envy into action.
You know “That Guy”. He’s confident, not embarrassed to take his shirt off in public, and doesn’t get winded playing with his kids. After coaching thousands of clients, I can confidently say: Wanting to be ‘That Guy’ can either propel you toward your goal…or completely paralyze you. Here’s what to do about it.
I want to be That Guy.
For 25 years, I’ve been coaching people on how to improve their bodies, their health, and their lifestyles.
(First on my own, and then as the creator of Precision Nutrition Coaching.)
I’ve coached people from all over the world with different backgrounds, cultures, professions, and family situations.
Interestingly, they’ve all had one thought in common:
I want to be That Guy.
(Just a word of warning: Your desire to be That Guy can either propel you toward your goal… or completely paralyze you.)
We all know That Guy.
He’s awesome. Inspiring, even.
That Guy has ripped abs, ripped arms, ripped everything. He doesn’t get winded playing with his kids, and isn’t embarrassed to take his shirt off in public.
That Guy might be 30 or 40 or 50 or 60. Regardless of age, he exudes youthfulness, ease, and freedom. He just throws on a t-shirt and looks like a million bucks.
That Guy doesn’t say “uff” when he bends over to tie his shoes. His doctor isn’t telling him his rotator cuff is messed up, or that his blood cholesterol is too high. Heck, he’s probably a doctor himself, like a neurosurgeon or something.
That Guy isn’t arguing with his wife about who should pick up the dry cleaning. He doesn’t have to clean out eavestroughs, or slog through freeway traffic.
And he’s definitely not suffering anxiety about work or helping his parents move into assisted living. He’s not having thoughts like, I need more time to focus on myself.
That Guy doesn’t have bad knees or get heartburn after eating a chili dog. When you have life figured out like he does, like Rocky’s trainer Mickey says, he can eat lightning and crap thunder.
That Guy gets romance and adventure, kicks life in the ass, and rides off into the sunset. Because he totally, completely, has his shit together.
“Make me look like That Guy.”
Fifteen years ago, That Guy was Brad Pitt in Fight Club. Clients begged, “Make me look like Tyler Durden.”
These days, That Guy is Tom Hardy or Channing Tatum or Charlie Hunnam. Pick up any men’s fitness magazine, or scroll through your Facebook feed, and you’ll see That Guy staring back at you.
And on the subway, at work, or at the pool with your kids, there are local versions of That Guy. Call him That Guy Lite — the more attainable but still envy-inspiring version of That Guy. He’s got his shit together. A well-defined jawline. And biceps.
Let’s be honest. I know you’re sometimes down on yourself for not being That Guy. You can’t help but think…
Why does he have it all together, when I so clearly do not?
Actually, here’s the thing. As a coach, I’ve helped create countless That Guys.
And — newsflash — That Guy doesn’t have it all together either.
Before he was That Guy, he was where you are right now. His life was busier than ever with:
- chores at home; plus
- stress at work; and frankly
- just trying to hold it all together; which meant
- no time to focus on (and take care of) himself.
And his life wasn’t slowing down anytime soon.
Sure, his social media feed painted a well-curated, living-the-goodlife picture. (Despite his avoidance of “shirt-off” pictures.) However, he was struggling, feeling incompetent, and ready to give up on health, fitness, and vitality.
Now, this might sound weird, but after 25 years of coaching I’ve seen a lot of guys in their underwear. Literally and metaphorically.
Their tailored suits (or baggy sweatshirts) have to come off. Measurements must be taken, progress evaluated, challenges highlighted, obstacles dealt with.
That’s when everyone realizes…
You have to face reality before you can become That Guy.
It’s so easy to believe that Everyone Else is doing better than you.
Everyone Else is losing weight or gaining muscle or getting fitter so much faster and more effortlessly than you.
Everyone Else has their shit together. Everyone Else has everything you don’t.
It feels like you’re the only person in the world with your problems. That it’s much harder for you than for everyone else.
There is no Everyone Else.
No one can escape the reality of family and deadlines and the thermodynamic laws that govern metabolism.
Not Charlie Hunnam, not Brad Pitt, not anyone.
That Guy doesn’t exist the way you think he does.
We are all imperfect, striving, struggling, very-much-human beings with hopes and fears and desires and neuroses and jobs and lives and kids and dogs or cats and family demands and toilets that need unclogging and lines-becoming-wrinkles and hangnails and alarms that go off too early and a love of chocolate-chip cookies… and all the rest of reality.
None of it gets easier with make-pretend.
It’s only once we’re able to be honest about what’s going on in our lives — to stop worrying about being the only person who isn’t fit enough, smart enough, together enough, getting enough things done in a day, isn’t a good enough father / husband / worker, whatever — that we can start becoming our own versions of That Guy.
Want to know how it’s done? Check out these 6 steps.
Reconsider your expectations.
Here’s the good news: You can get into That-Guy-in-Men’s-Health shape. As in, it is physically possible for your torso to look like that.
The questions is: Can you afford to make nutrition and fitness your number one priority — above not just dessert, but also your partner, your kids, your job…all of it?
As we explored in our article The Cost of Getting Lean, getting into magazine-cover shape is intense. You have to give up some part of your life to accomplish this.
You eat out of Tupperware. You measure everything that goes into your mouth. Your entire routine revolves around eating (or not eating), working out, and sleeping so you have enough energy to work out again.
This is reserved for people who get paid a lot to have that body. (Actors have a staff of professionals making sure they roll into shoots looking ab-tastic, and then of course there’s the magic of post-production digital editing.)
But, even then, That Guy doesn’t look like you think he does all the time. He only looks like that sometimes.
And when he does look like that, his life is much less awesome than you think. He ate three ounces of plain cold chicken out of a Ziploc bag at last weekend’s family barbecue and then went back to the gym for his second workout of the day.
But that’s not to say getting in shape isn’t worth it. Even more, getting into reasonable, moderate shape isn’t too complicated.
All you need are small consistent changes here and there. Walking the dog after dinner, perhaps a couple weekly lifting sessions at the gym, and including an apple in your lunch is a good start.
Getting into pretty good shape is trickier, but can be done if you’re committed. You might need to focus more on food quality and portion sizes, working out a bit more, and being more careful with your indulgences. Still doable if you’re so inclined.
When Precision Nutrition Coaching clients are finally able to recognize and internalize all this, a major breakthrough usually follows.
Because they’re finally able to see the really great, totally attainable versions of That Guy they can become. They can quit spinning their wheels for a goal that’s actually, it turns out, pretty undesirable. They start focusing on healthy habits that can be squared with the rest of their life’s priorities.
Look for real-life role models.
When we see someone in a magazine (or on Instagram) we don’t know who they are, how they feel, or what their life is really like.
If you’re data-driven like me, that’s useless. Especially since real-life role models are around us all the time — and they can give us data to work with.
Think about the grandfather who always has energy to joyfully play with his grandkids. How did he stay fit as he aged?
Or your colleague who sneaks off during lunch to take a yoga class. He’s a little sheepish about it, but he still goes. (And he’s always so calm afterwards.) How does he find the motivation?
Or the neighborhood dad who teaches the kids baseball. (And miraculously never loses his patience.) What does he do to get out of work early?
Small moments of health, fitness, and wellness are everywhere. If you take them you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’re playing the role of That Guy.
Apply fitness minimalism.
Small steps… they don’t come with much fanfare, do they? But this is the unsexy truth of how how we get things done.
Don’t have time to exercise? Some push-ups and air squats before you leave the house in the morning. A 10 minute walk at lunch. A few sets of sprints while dinner’s in the oven. Or a game of “crawl on Daddy’s back while he tries to plank”.
Do what you can, when you can, with what you can.
Think your diet sucks? Just pick one thing about the way you eat — the thing you think will make the biggest improvement to your nutrition — and focus on it exclusively for a couple of weeks.
Want to drink one fewer beer per night? Eat a salad once a day? Skip dessert or replace it with something healthier?
Pick one thing and practice it each day. Forget about everything else. Then, when you’ve got it down, add a new thing.
Maybe you think the effort is so small that it doesn’t “count”. But that’s not true.
Success is almost always built from putting small things on top of small things on top of small things… until they’re transformed into big things.
Get help to find your work-arounds.
It’s not all-or-nothing. If you can’t do an exercise or eat a certain healthy food, don’t let it be a reason to do nothing. Find a work-around. Get help if you need it.
No, I’m serious.
Do you ask for what you need? Is your pride in the way? Don’t let it be. Figure out what kind of support you require. Ask for it. Then accept the help.
If your knees aren’t as sturdy as they used to be, think about branching out from your usual running routine. Or ask a coach how an exercise can be modified.
Hate working out alone? Join a local running or cycling group, or arrange a workout with a workout partner.
Having trouble “finding time” for things? Get out a calendar and start planning. Book appointments with yourself. Track your time so you spot inefficiencies. Set alarms and reminders, stick Post-it notes, do whatever it takes.
Everyone has to work at it, even That Guy. Especially at the beginning.
People hate the feeling of exercise when they’re out of shape. People suck when they start a new sport. No one deadlifts 500 pounds on the first try.
That’s how I can tell who’s actually good at getting help. (Hint: it’s the folks who look like they’re actually good at things.)
Paradoxically, we don’t really start getting better until we face up to our own limitations.
We have to ask for help (and accept it). We have to embrace small improvements that add up over time. We have to evolve past an “all or nothing” attitude.
We have to pick ourselves up after we fall down, and make course corrections.
Ironically, realizing you can’t do everything yourself, and allowing yourself to ask for help, is what takes real courage. Shaking hands firmly with reality and looking it in the eye is a much manlier approach than living in la-la land.
Heed your dashboard indicator lights.
It’s OK to need a little help. But, sometimes, we need more than a little help. Like when we’re experiencing:
- chronic insomnia or poor quality sleep
- chronic pain or lack of mobility
- frequent injuries and/or illnesses
- chronic and debilitating depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns
- chronic social isolation and relationship difficulties
- chronic lethargy and lack of energy
- feeling like you need alcohol or recreational drugs to function
- concerns with food, eating, and/or exercise that seem to be taking over your life and/or harming your health
Of course, a blinking indicator light — perhaps triggered by a debilitating gym injury, getting a scary medical diagnosis, or ending a relationship — can end up being exactly the wake-up call we needed to start working on ourselves.
But get real with yourself for a second: Is fitness distracting you from a more serious problem that seems too heavy to think about?
If so, try talking to a doctor, trained coach, counsellor, or other health care professional.
Accept the struggle.
It’s not going anywhere. Grappling with pain — whether that’s actual pain and suffering, or just small daily annoyances — is part of being human.
As adults, we recognize life’s complexity and richness. Wanting to “be perfect” or “have it all” is not an adult wish. It’s a child wish: to have all the toys, all the time, even your brother’s.
Everyone has a struggle, even That Guy. You might just not see it.
- 33% of our male clients take prescription medication.
- Of those taking meds, 24% take antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication.
- 36% of our clients have injuries. And many struggle with chronic pain.
- 17% of our male clients are over 50. (Even if you’re healthy, aging brings its own challenges.)
In addition, many clients in our men’s coaching program tell us they feel like their schedule has taken over their health. They’re too busy and too stressed.
Plus, many challenges are invisible. You often can’t see pain or disability. You often can’t see psychological distress. Unless you see someone pop a pill, you don’t know what they’re taking.
And guess what — the PN staff struggle with the exact same things.
- We have injuries. Or had them. Or will have them.
- We’ve struggled with mental and emotional health sometimes. Or often.
- We’ve struggled with addictions — whether that’s to work, or exercise, or food, or alcohol, or anything else that someone could get hooked on.
- We’ve gained too much weight, or been scrawny, or gone weeks or months without working out.
- And we’ve definitely had times where we struggled to “get it all done”.
No matter what the challenge is, at least a few of us have faced it.
And remember, That Guy, who looks so fit and healthy, may be in the middle of a long and difficult journey.
- Like the cancer survivors whom we coached through post-treatment rehab.
- Like people who are coming back from an injury or illness.
- Like people who just have so much on their metaphorical plate, and feel every emotion — stress, happiness, sadness, you name it — as hunger.
No matter how someone looks, you don’t know what it’s taken to get where they are today. We’re all out here in the field together. Trying our best under imperfect circumstances.
Accepting imperfection and the reality of being human is your ticket to beingyour version of That Guy.
What to do next
Most guys I’ve coached spend a lot of time thinking about That Guy. But instead of feeling inspired, they feel paralyzed. That’s when we focus on the following:
1. Don’t get hung up on failures.
Most people who enroll in Precision Nutrition Coaching have failed at losing weight and getting in shape before they finally reach out to us.
For guys, that can be tough to get over. They’ve been successful in other areas of their lives. Now they’re pissed.
However, it’s crucial to think of any failed weight loss attempts as feedback that’s going to inform how you’ll succeed this time.
What did you do last time and the time before? What worked and what didn’t?
We’re big on self exploration at PN (if you couldn’t already tell). Understanding what hasn’t worked for you is key to regaining ownership over your health (and your That Guy-ness).
2. Think about what success looks like for you.
Build your mental picture of That Guy. What’s he doing? What does he look like?
That’s going to be you in a few months if you approach your goal with the realities of your life in mind.
Keeping your eyes trained on your version of That Guy will be incredibly motivating.
3. Build workarounds and bridges on the path to That Guy.
You’re about to become an engineer of the health-focused strategies that work with your life. Start practicing.
Take one problem at a time — one barrier to eating well or working out, and experiment with different workarounds or bridges.
How can you overcome that one obstacle today? Can you do it again tomorrow?
4. Just start acting like That Guy.
Adopt his confidence. Assume you’re capable of the things he is. Find ways to relieve your stress so you can feel a little lighter and more free today.
No, you can’t lose 40 pounds or get ripped overnight. But if you just take on a few of That Guy’s habits, one at a time and little by little. It’ll jump-start your progress in a big way.
Want some expert help?
At Project Body Smart (PN Coach), we give men and women the support they’ve been missing to help them achieve health goals that have eluded them for years.
Sure, the world of nutrition and fitness can be a confusing place. But it doesn’t have to be. Once you get personalized attention from a knowledgeable coach, your path to healthy, energetic, and capable comes into sharp focus.