Weird looking at that pics where you didn’t feel you looked like your best self. It reminds me of times when I was younger and I felt insecure to take my shirt off at basketball pick up games or at the beach with my friends.
Did they think that I was overweight, or out of shape? What about girls, did they not like me because I didn’t have abs? Or wasn’t jacked?
(FYI for those reading this thinking that abs get you girls, stop. They don’t – they help though 😉 )
It put a damper on me.
It made me feel so insecure and I just wasn’t confident.
It was clear the question wasn’t whether or not I should improve how I looked.
It was where the hell do I start?
I’m positive that most of you are asking the same question if you’re reading answers to this. Here’s the good news: I was able to improve my looks. Hopefully, you guys agree haha!
The better news is that you can too.
However, the journey was long and tough. More so because I wasn’t sure what I was doing. So to help you not go through the trial and tribulations, I’m going to just outline the mindset and strategies it takes to get where you want to go.
It’s a long read but hopefully, you take away a blueprint on how to improve your looks without taking as much time as I did. My hope is that you achieve the looks you want while avoiding time-consuming mistakes that I made.
In the end, it’s a route that’s as efficient as possible and outlines what to do and how. If you don’t have the answers, I’ll have a shitload of resources for you to check out. At the very least, you’ll be able to go in a direction that will get you the right answers.
But first, it’s not just about improving your looks. I won’t lie in saying that there isn’t a vanity metric, however, looking good is interconnected to so many other things in your life that can affect you tremendously. The benefits of looking good are, and certainly not limited to:
The Benefits of Looking Good
- Getting paid more
- Being more productive
- Being in a better mood
- Having more sex (and better)
- You might even get off the hook in court more (yea, you read that right)
The Mindset of Starting & Ensuring Your Success
When I hear people talk about improving their looks they typically mean: how do I get more muscle and lose fat? This typically leads most people down a road of doing some crazy fucking diet or insane and unsustainable workout program to get where they want to be.
All the while, you’re miserable. And once that event comes that you have to look good for (cause let’s face it, it’s typically the beach, an event with friends, a wedding, etc.), you end up letting it all go.
So to manage your expectations, you should know its going to take a while to get where you want to go. But only because you want to build on habits so that whatever and where ever you get to is sustainable and lasting.
Anyone who is looking at something happening overnight should just stop reading the article now. Society is full of “overnight successes” and glamorizes these people. It’s not true, there is no such thing. No one never talks about the years of hard work it took to get there. Though I do provide strategy and low hanging fruit to get you started with some quick wins, it’s a process. Keep that in mind.
On a side note, doing something quickly requires a lot of dedication and know how. It’s really something only professionals should be doing (ie fighters, bodybuilders, etc.) You’re probably in the camp where you have other shit going on in your life, a job, family, etc. Then that type of shit ain’t for you.
Sustainability is your friend. If you start with that mindset, you’re going to win no matter what.
And that was my first mistake.
I didn’t think about sustainability. That was a huge, time consuming, and costly mistake.
Imagine putting a ton of effort into something (money, time, etc.). Then it all goes to shit and doesn’t work. You just give up and go back to what you were doing. If that sounds familiar, it’s because a lot of people will “diet”, to achieve a certain goal. It’s not the right move, it’s the basics that matter the most.
I never paid attention to the basics.
I was on yo-yo diets, eating very little to cut weight and eating way too much to put on weight. None of the above is healthy. I was on and off aggressive workout & diet plans that no human could sustain for a lifetime.
So get the basics down! And I’ll cover the basics in the factors below that you should consider as you start on your journey to improve your looks.
Factors to Consider When You Trying to Improve Your Looks
There is a shitload of factors that you want to consider when you’re trying to improve your looks but they can be basically boiled down into five buckets which are:
- Measuring right
- Eating right
- Moving right
- Resting Right
You always have to fall back on a benchmark to make sure that you’re improving and have something to strive for. Without having anything to measure against, or even benchmark, you can sit and dream about whatever look you want to get. But you probably won’t get there. Sorry. The reality is that improvement means knowing where the bar is and how to move it up.
I never measured!
When I first started working out – all I did was just workout. I looked in the mirror to see changes but I never really took stock of the minor and subtle changes that happen over the course of time. These subtle changes keep you motivated as you see a timeline of improvement and achievement. Instead, it was just grinding without a specific goal to strive for, outside of looking good. Yikes. It was a huge waste of time. The easiest ways to measure are:
- Weights you’re moving in specific exercises (more on that below)
- Waist, Shoulder, & Hip Measurements
Now you can use some or all of the above to track you progress. But the key is being able to track and improve so you have a sort of North Star. And the easiest way to guide you towards improving your looks is the golden ratio.
The Golden Ratio
The what ratio?
I know, let me explain.
The Golden Ratio is a comparison of two objects which are proportioned in an ideal manner. From an algebraic perspective: a+b divided by a is equal to a divided by b.
It’s an important figure to note because it’s a ratio that appears all over nature. It’s a figure that illustrates the perfect proportion and one that is most aesthetically pleasing to our minds. This ratio is ideal, as it’s correlated with a low body mass index, low body fat percentage and is an indicator of your overall fertility, health, and mortality. We’re programmed to look for it, create it, and even be attracted to it.
This ratio also explains why women are attracted to broad shoulders and narrow waists. And why men are attracted to narrow waists and healthy hips. It ties in to aspects of your body you can manipulate to increase the perception of being more attractive, and in turn, improve your looks.
The way to achieve the golden ratio is to change your body composition. In other words, turn your body into more lean muscle. And it’s also worth noting, this doesn’t need to be perfect. The closer you are to the ratio, the more you’ll know you’re changing your composition. And in turn, improving your looks. But don’t stress out over getting it “perfect”, just know it’s a step in the right direction.
And naturally, you’re probably wondering how to change your body composition. Well, I’m glad you asked, it’s an easy segue into eating right.
Thought I was going to say the gym or working out right?
Yea, that’s what everyone thinks.
The reality though is that the gym is only half the battle, if not less. You don’t need to work out a lot, however, you do need to watch what you eat.
I ate less to lose weight and more to gain, but I had an unhealthy foundation!
At one point I was a lean 160. The only problem was I had this dogmatic view on carbs since I thought that they were bad for me. But the reality was that I was doing CrossFit workouts, 6 times a week. I needed that energy. Carbs weren’t the enemy, my mentality on carbs and dogmatic vision around diet were.
I always had unhealthy eating habits when I first started to try to improve my looks. Like, I would eat 6 meals a day that were ridiculously small to lose weight. But it was shitty food. But it worked! I was lean as hell but let me tell you – it did not last long. When that was my only focus, sure. But just like anything, real life happens. I needed a gig, got a girlfriend, spent time with the fam, you name it. Those strategies weren’t sustainable.
And when I was skinny and cut? I needed to get stronger and gain weight. So I’d be at the table crushing pasta until it hurt. To the point that I was sweating because I was eating so much. It was fucking painful.
It was a see-saw pendulum of weight shifting back and forth due to the fact that I never got the basics right!
Here’s how I started eating right and how you can too
I stopped worrying about macros, meal timing, carbs, and everything else. The only things that I focused on were 3:
- Don’t eat like a 12-year old
- Read Ingredients
- Focus on nutrition density, not caloric density
I want to tell a story about one of my colleagues, and a good friend as well. When we worked together we’d always talk about fitness, being in shape or what foods to eat. We’d always talk about people who would ask us how to eat healthily. And it seems so simple, but it never occurs to most people when they want to start eating healthier. But it’s the most concise answer into the question of how to eat healthily.
It’s the simplest 7 words you’ll ever hear:
Don’t Eat like a 12-year old
So true! Think about it. If you’re eating french fries, chicken nuggets, chocolate, or candy, on a consistent basis, how do you expect to look? How do you expect to feel? And 9 times out of 10, you’ll know if you’re eating like a 12 year old. If you don’t, it’s okay, You’re still ahead of the game reading this and the other items coming up.
Now, this is a great rule when it comes to eating healthy but generally, even if you decide to not eat like a 12-year-old, you still might run into some obstacles. Like maybe you think that you’re eating something healthy but really it isn’t. I can probably write a book about what to eat, what not to eat, how to eat, etc. But probably the simplest guideline just to READ INGREDIENTS.
If you can’t find it in your kitchen, stay away from it
A lot of people will ask me questions like how do I know something is healthy? Or even worse, they’ll think that something is healthy, when it’s really not. The easiest way to eat healthy is to stay away from processed foods. And the simple guideline to stay away from processed foods. If your food contains something that you can’t find in your kitchen, you shouldn’t be eating it on a consistent basis.
Some examples of processed foods are, cereal, pasta, bread, cookies, ice cream, etc.
When we’re shopping for food, browsing for a snack, or even out to eat, it’s important to know what we’re putting in our bodies. The easiest way to do it?
Read the Ingredients
You’ll notice that when you take a look at a lot of your regular household snacks, and the ingredients on the packaging, it’s filled with a lot of things you’ve never heard of. Peanut butter is my favorite example. Take a look at something like Skippy’s, and you’ll see a laundry list of ingredients in the peanut butter that make you scratch your head and think, isn’t peanut butter supposed to be just peanuts?
If there is a lot of ingredients that you can’t pronounce, have no idea what they are, or sound foreign to you on your ingredient list – you probably can’t find it in your kitchen. And if you can’t, stay away from it!
Now, the last guideline is probably my favorite. When we look at diets, or losing weight, or getting in shape, we always focus on calories. Calories in and out, the more calories you burn than you consume, and you’ve got yourself a winning formula for getting the body you want. I said it before, I was so focused on the specific details while I was missing the bigger picture.
Focus on Nutritional Density Not Caloric Density
When most people look at a plate of food, they wonder about the calories that they’ve just consumed. Which is fine. But, it’s more beneficial to focus on the nutritional value of food, rather than the caloric value of food.
This does 2 things for you.
The first is that it ensures that you’re going to be putting quality, unprocessed foods into your body. The second, it eliminates having to worry about calories at all. This means no calorie apps, no fit bits, no logging food into your food diary. If you want to do it fine, but for your goals – it’s not necessary.
When one type of food has a lot of nutritional value, it typically has fewer calories. In addition, it also fills you up. Let’s compare a serving of almonds vs. a serving of potato chips for example.
Each has about 160 calories in it. But, the serving of potato chips has less fiber, less fat, and less protein than almonds. A bag of potato chips is essentially a handful of carbohydrates, processed in a factory, and tastes great.
The more fat, protein, and fiber food has, the more likely it is to keep you satiated. This, in turn, will make it more likely that you won’t eat as much. Now if you use my example above – it’s much harder to scarf down a huge bag of almonds than it is a huge bag of potato chips.
Focusing on the nutritional value of the food rather than the caloric value helps you do not have to worry about tracking food and calories. But it also helps you to make healthy decisions as well.
Also, if you’re interested (no affiliate links), you can check out some of the resources that really helped me to get where I am from a nutritional standpoint:
*** 4-hour Body
So we’re measuring shit, we’re eating right and now we need to move right. Now a lot of people do challenges, or even work out to get super sore. Or they do crazy classes or weekend warrior stuff. And look, the reality is that something is better than nothing (more on that below when we start talking about consistency).
Probably the most important thing when it comes to moving, that I had wished I had focused on in my early years was:
- Range of Motion & Mobility
- Compound Movements
Range of Motion & Mobility
The funny thing about moving is that most people think exercising, weight lifting, going to the gym. But there’s another layer that I had wished I paid attention to and never did.
Until it was too late.
Literally. I had herniated 3 discs in my back, fucked up my shoulders, and it got to the point that almost every time I’d do something and get back into full working weight after coming back from an injury, or go hard on a workout, I’d hurt myself.
(Full disclosure: she is my mobility coach however this isn’t a plug and she didn’t ask for a link here either. I just think its super valuable shit, so if you’re in the Hoboken/Jersey City area hit her the fuck up if you need that mobility in your life)
With that out of the way, one of the most important things that I learned which I wished I learned when I first started working out was not just working out, but moving the right way.
Mobility is all about moving in different planes with added resistance.
And I could move weight but because my hips were tight, I didn’t really stretch or focus on mobility, and my lower back was beaten to a pulp … I was reaching a ceiling. One in which the weight I used to lift was re-aggravating injuries. That’s when I found Joan and had to go back to the basics of working my hips, feet, shoulders, and even spine.
Fast forward to now and I’m not perfect, but hell, haven’t been injured in a while and I’m moving around a decent amount of weight. Legit knocking on wood as I’m typing this haha. So if you want to start moving weight, or really doing anything, learn how to move right!
I remember talking to one of my friends and he was mentioning to me that he wanted to just lose weight and would go off doing cardio and eating close to one meal a day.
Sure – it worked. To a point. And then it stalled. And then when he came back to eating the way he normally did everything came back and more.
Now moving right is fantastic, but the best bang for your buck is going to be getting stronger. I’m of the opinion that you need to focus on strength, or at least incorporate it into your routine because strength:
- Builds more muscle
- Increases your metabolism
- Ultimately changes your body composition
- Makes you look better (think golden ratio)
I also really believe that the stronger you build your body, the harder it is to break.
And quite honestly, it’s an investment, right? My buddy was running and practically starving himself and it got him nowhere except short term results. Building the muscle is an investment that just keeps on giving back. It’s like why put your money in a checking account when you can put it in the stock market and let it grow without almost 0 effort?
And this might surprise some people but I’m about as lazy as they come. But I will work my ass off to get to a place where I can take it easy. I’ve packed on a decent amount of muscle to my frame that its a matter of maintenance and if I go a couple of weeks without working out I’ll be fine.
And the easiest way to get stronger?
Movements that are targeting multiple muscle groups, and the largest ones at that. Think squats, pull-ups, presses, and deadlifts. You can check out all of the movements and how to do them in some of my articles:
You can also check out other resources (no affiliate links) that helps me to start approaching strength in a more practical and simple way:
At the end of the day, a lot of people like the complicated crazy shit you get out of a class. And again, no judgment, if you like that cool! But it’s really the simple boring shit that gets you the results that last.
Because its the simple stuff that helps you to be consistent, benchmark, and improve upon past performance. Which in turn, gets you stronger
Now the reality is that everyone struggles with consistency. More than anything else than everything here. But first I want to touch upon one of the things that most people don’t do a great job with and that is rest …
Muscles are made in the gym, right?
They’re actually made in bed. Yea.
By sleeping though, perv.
With all the talk about “hustling” and working until 2am, we’re inundated with messages of being superhuman and productive at all times at the expense of sleep. Not only is not sleeping going to take a toll on your body and mind – it’ll take a toll on your looks. Especially if you’re doing all of the above correctly.
I was totally a victim of this mindset … Am I doing enough? I need to get more done I don’t need to sleep …
I’ll be honest that I do a decent job with this aspect, there’s certainly room to improve. But all in all, it’s not bad relative to some other folks. I’ve used apps to help me get to sleep, along with tracking my sleep. Candidly, I don’t do much of that anymore. The only thing that I do now is try to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep every night. If I’m drinking I typically will need more sleep, and the same goes if I do a very intense workout.
When I do my workouts, I try to do them where they’re low enough volume so that I get a workout but can still make the gym the next day without being so sore or beat up that I can’t work out. This allows me to get a solid 6 hours of sleep. Though I do prefer 7-8. Now I’m just being honest, I’m a human being and don’t get everything right and this is an area that sometimes gets overlooked.
The bottom line is that sleep is good for you. If anyone tells you different is fucking wrong. You might be the rare breed that can function off of 4 or 5 hours of sleep but the statistics are against you. Odds are you need at least 7 hours of sleep.
Everyone feels different on varying amounts of sleep, my suggestion is to record how you feel and once you get an understanding and stick to it. Here are some resources that walk through how to nail down a good night’s rest:
Scott Britton: Life-Long Learner
So we’ve covered a lot here, getting your mind game right, eating right, moving right, resting right … but there’s one more critical component and that’s actually fucking doing it.
So that begs the question – how do you keep fucking doing it? A lot of times you hear things like:
“I don’t have time”
“I’m just too busy”
I was always busy, but so is everyone else.
One of the best books I read about this topic was Charle’s Duhigg’s “Power of Habit” (again, no affiliate link). It breaks down the formation of a habit and how you can restructure your habits towards positive actions like moving, eating right, sleeping right, etc. I won’t dig too much into it here since you have the link to a book but here are the two rules I follow so that I can make sure that I’m doing the right things consistently.
I realized that I needed to make time to do things but how can I make sure it sticks?
I did a couple of things that helped me a lot and translate well to other people trying to do the same.
Start with things you like
Look, if you don’t like going to the gym to lift weights – that’s cool. At the end of the day, if you’re doing something it’s better than nothing. So if you like certain stuff then just fucking do it! Ultimate Frisbee? Yoga? MMA?
Just do it! The more that you like something the more you’re likely to continue to do it.
I hate running, but I loved basketball. It was an easy way for me to get a cardio workout in, consistently, because I loved playing the sport which had a ton of cardio.
Pay for Stuff You Don’t Like
I hate stretching and mobility, so I pay to work 1on1 with someone (Joan from Mindful Rebel) to make sure that I’m compliant.
Why do I do this?
If I don’t show up I lose money (that’s a powerful motivator). Plus I’m more likely to do the mobility stuff with her versus by myself. Is it perfect? No. But it helps me to stay consistent on mobility work which I know is extremely important as I continue to get older and take better care of my body.
Don’t like working out? Pay for a trainer.
Don’t like eating right? Pay for a service that gets you healthy meals or someone to cook food for you
Now if you’re someone who is on a tight budget, that’s fine too. You can aways use apps that provide some sort of financial incentive to make sure. Stickk is one of the apps that I heard about via Tim Ferriss (again, no affiliate links). If you want more accountability apps, here is a link to another article that has a list of a ton.
Why Are You Doing This?
I think that a lot of people immediately jump to vanity when they think about improving their looks. Which is fine, but what’s often overlooked is the many benefits of the things that you do, and achieve, that add to your overall quality of life.
Like I said before, looking good will be a marker for the quality of your health, and it will boost your confidence and overall mood. This has a waterfall effect on other aspects of your life, like relationships, work, and more.
And if those don’t motivate you, then think about your family or loved ones. Do it for them. I worked with a guy who was a smoker for 20 years and when he had his son he quit. Cold Turkey. Fucking impressive.
I asked him how he did it and he said:
“To be around for my kid when he gets older”.
That shit is a powerful motivator. At the end of the day, your health matters, if not to you, then to people who care about you.
Well, that’s on you.
I think that at the end of the day, if you’re working on the basic tenants of taking care of your body – eating right, moving right, resting, and being consistent, you’re going to go a long way. And it won’t take a couple of days, or even weeks. It might take a few months. But you’ll pick up wins along the way and it certainly won’t take you the years that it took me.
I’m really a big believer in investing in your body. You’re going to be in it for the rest of your life, why not take care of it? And the benefits are going to be linked to improving your looks, which will only add to the quality of your life.
So from here, hopefully, you can get started on that path and if you don’t … well, you just wasted a lot of time reading this. And if you do, hit me up or check out my blog to get some more info if you’re interested. (deskjoblife.com)
Leave comments on the article and below and as always, thanks for reading.
I’d love to learn about any challenges you have with:
- Eating better at the office or at your job
- Finding time or figuring out how to get workouts in during the week
- Anything else that you’re currently struggling with when it comes to diet or fitness
More for guys. Sorry ladies, just don’t have much for you since you know, I don’t wear women’s clothing.
Outside of taking care of your body, you probably want to make sure you’re paying attention to some other aspects that will help improve your looks. I’m no GQ expert but some low hanging fruit and resources for you:
- Buy Clothes that Fit you
I’d check out Art of Manliness for some barebones grooming and clothes advice.
Buy clothes that fit you
Look, even if you’ve got a little bit of a gut, or a big one, wear a shirt that fits you. Girls like it, they don’t want to see a grown ass man in baggy ass clothes looking like a 10-year old boy.
And I get it, that might be tough. Most guys are not fashionable. I’m one of them, right there with you. So I literally found places that are my go to’s that fit me and I don’t have to think about new stuff to get.
Besides cleaning yourself, like taking showers daily (which I hope that no one has a problem doing). The other important thing to do is to groom yourself.
Again, ladies don’t like a guy who’s all scruffy with a long beard that hasn’t been trimmed in months. The Tom Hanks Cast Away look ain’t getting anyone laid. And look, some people can pull it off, but chances are it’s not you or me. No shame in that.
I get my haircuts in Hoboken at Spesh. I’ve been going to Steven for a long fucking time. Like, he introduced me to Pandora Radio.
Yes, Pandora radio, that’s how far we go back.
A good haircut is like a tailored suit, makes you look good no matter what.
And of course, trim your nails, and everything else … including your privates ha.
Okay, I’m seriously done, for now, catch you guys soon!
Photo Credit: Charlotte Astrid