Once upon a time, someone told you story. If the story was good, you’re eyes got heavy. The perils of the day became a nebulous thought, slowly fizzling into nothingness. The only thing that mattered was “turning the page” — finding out how the story ended.
Stories are captivating. They make us believe in the make believe. They take us away from reality. This is wonderful for a mental reprieve, but here’s the scary part: you tell yourself stories every day.
Are you believing in the make believe?
You create your own story
Your understandings of the the minuscule, almost mundane, things that happen within the universe are yours and yours alone. Shaped by others, they may very well be, but as a whole, you have your own virtual reality. With the power of internet and technology you can filter your own world, exposing yourself to things that interest you and you alone. You live your own story.
You can pick the channels that influence your thought. Your music playlist is yours. Your bookshelf is yours. Your inbox is yours. The way you perceive training, and everything that comes along with increasing your aesthetics or performance, is yours.
All of this “yours” becomes your culture. Your story.
If you’re reading this, you have the technology to transcend inherent cultural boundaries. You are exposed to a lot of stories, all of which go into the creation of your own.
Eggs are bad. Coffee is bad. Salt is bad. Fat is bad. Eat every three hours. Practice intermittent fasting. Don’t train the same muscles back to back. Rest 48 hours after training. Eat your biggest meal post training. Eat carbohydrates. Don’t eat carbohydrates. Don’t deadlift and squat in the same training session.
None of these ideas are “born” with you. You pick and choose which stories to believe. But are they always true? And should they always need to be true?
Nothing exemplifies this better than a comment someone left on one of my YouTube videos for using whey protein as coffee creamer. The commenter said something along the lines of whey being a great alternative to the other crappy powdered creamers out there.
This commenter was telling themselves a story. Powdered things are bad. Whey is good. This story makes no sense because whey is powdered.
The point of this post isn’t to to become holiness and expunge yourself of stories. That’s an impossible thing to do.
Instead, it’s about three things:
- Seeing if you have any contradictory stories (see whey example above).
- Telling your own stories.
- The power of stories.
The stories we tell ourselves
Most of the emails I get these days are about intermittent fasting, specifically with how to time meals, how much to eat, and how to manipulate macronutrients. Many people are surprised to hear that I only eat one meal per day. Some days it’s less than 1000 kcals. Other days it’s 3000-4000 kcals. As for the specifics, I’m not sure. I don’t really count; the numbers are estimates. That’s just the nature of chaos.
Many are also surprised to hear that I don’t use BCAAs or any preworkout protein, which is a popular cherry on top of the Leangains intermittent fasting strategy. And that some days I train at 8AM and don’t eat until dinner. And that other days I train on an empty stomach at 3PM.
Aren’t you afraid of losing muscle? they ask. Only 1000 kcals? Aren’t you afraid? Don’t you have a lack of energy? Aren’t you afraid?
And the gamut of questions like these pour in, all likely asked by those that never tried to disprove stories they heard about periworkout nutrition or eating and energy levels. My answers, to the chagrin of some, aren’t research based. My answers are from the following stories I told myself not long ago:
- Be skeptical of research.
- Don’t let periworkout nutrition rule your life — no one has died from starvation in one day.
Now, I can go on about each of these for a long time, but I’ll keep it short.
The research and periworkout nutrition story
In my opinion, research is usually a contradictory story. (For every one study of something being good, there’s likely one about it being bad.) It’s no longer about the pursuit of the good and true, as F.S. Michael’s puts it in Monoculture. It’s about companies paying research institutes to connect fictitious dots to deceive you. It’s about the confirmation bias, and some researchers doing everything they can to vindicate their ideas — a big scientific breakthrough means big bucks. It’s about students doing studies without care of the good and true, only about the diploma they’ll receive.
This isn’t to say I don’t believe any research. That’s not true at all…but I always have reservations.
If I believed in research, I probably would obsess over periworkout nutrition. But the idea (dare I say story) of the body forever and permanently wasting away the very muscle tissue that saved its life from a barbell attempting to smash it into pieces in just eight short hours just didn’t sit well in my stomach.
Since I’m not a bodybuilder, I was willing to take the chance. I was willing to tell myself a risky story and see if it was good enough to believe because the payoff was in my interest.
Stupid for believing stories
Undoubtedly, this is where people stop coming back to this blog and sending me hate mail.
“How can you be skeptic about research? You make no sense!”
“Dude, when liver glycogen runs out, your muscle will be on the platter for energy!”
And I don’t doubt either. I might be an idiot. But the purpose of stories aren’t always to tell the truth, and we don’t often listen to stories for the truth. There’s a reason we watched Are You Afraid of the Dark?.
I’m not here to persuade you to believe my stories, but rather to give you freedom in choosing your own. To perhaps give you motivational juice to tear down walls that you want torn down, but are too afraid to bust out the sledge hammer because of some story behind the importance of the wall.
The power and use of stories
In an age where information is overabundant, it’s easy to get lost. To be forever irked about what’s new, what’s best, and what you’re doing wrong that you could be doing better.
Stories, when used correctly, serve the same purpose they did when you were little kid that couldn’t get comfortable under the covers. They calm your mind. They help you zone out and enter a state of flow.
So if you struggle with something, you might not need the truth. You might just need a better story — one that’s true enough to help you sleep at night.