Lean people get attention.

Actually they get scrutiny. Lots of it.

It’s because they’ve got something that most only dream of having – a healthy, strong, desirable body.

But with great power comes great responsibility. In this case, being in shape means enduring non-stop questioning from your not-so svelte colleagues.

Do you eat breakfast? Or do you fast? Do you eat carbs? What about fat? Have you ever tried a low sodium, vegetarian, “only eat things that are yellow and green” diet?

And that’s before 9am. By noon you’re so sick of playing Meet the Press that you lose your appetite. Which makes it a great strategy for staying lean, I guess.

Problem is, all these well meaning people are focusing on just the physical aspects of getting lean. And while diet and exercise are certainly the most important factors, you should also recognize some other things lean folks do.

1. Forget Goals – At Least the Way You Use Them

The last 10 years has been about the importance of goals. And for good reason – goals give generic dreams purpose by setting a deadline.

For many, an inflexible end date is the missing motivation needed to stop hitting the drive thru and stick to a plan. It will all be over soon enough. Then they can go back to their “normal” life.

However, lean people don’t think this way. Their “goal” is to be lean and in shape, for life. In fact, the very word “goal” is a misnomer – it’s just who they are. They’re lean and fit. Period.

Now they may still use dedicated periods where they turn up the heat and intensify their efforts, but they never shut it all off and abandon everything they’ve been doing.

So when you’re lean, there’s no off-season. Just periods where you allow for a little less focus and a little more variety.

Stop seeing this process as a “thing” with an end date. Embrace it as a transformation.

2. They Care About Their Environment

Not that environment. Have you ever noticed that very fit, athletic people tend to congregate? You might see one or two ripped guys at the family fitness center, or the occasional strong dude suffering at Planet Nutsack, but for the most part in shape folks long to be amongst their tribe.

Granted, it can be equipment related. If you can squat 500 pounds you want a gym with decent power racks and ample weights.

And if you’re into Olympic lifting you need a spot with good barbells and bumper plates and hopefully not many guys that call the platform the Plank Station.

So if you want to get lean and can accommodate the logistics, start training where other in-shape people work out. Not just for the equipment or the camaraderie or certainly the juice bar, but for the motivation.

I have to emphasize how powerful this is. The fitness cemetery down my street was great for a while, but when my goals shifted to pure body composition training, I joined the biggest bodybuilding gym in town. It’s a 20-minute drive versus a 10-minute walk, but the effect on my work ethic has been amazing.

Seeing so many guys prepping for shows and hammering their workouts only makes me want to train that much harder. And if (when?) my goals change, I’ll likely head to another facility that specializes in whatever I want to accomplish.

Interestingly, I know many “normal” men and women who don’t find working out around muscular meatheads “intimidating” – they find it inspiring. At least they accomplish what they set out to do – how many toiling away at Dorkface Fitness can say that?

You can get results anywhere, yes. But if you can optimize your environment, why wouldn’t you?

3. They Have Different Wants

One of the most annoying myths that my lean friends help perpetuate is that fit people eat whatever they want.

They don’t. At least not the way many think.

When most normal folks hear, “I eat whatever I want,” they think, well, eating whatever. Grab a donut on the way to work. Fast food for lunch. Muffin and soda before the gym. Then pasta, breadsticks, and tiramisu.

When a lean person says they eat “whatever they want,” what they mean is, “I eat a calorically controlled, nutrient dense diet – and I include a half-cup of ice cream 3 nights a week. 

Or, “I stay caloric deficit for 5-10 days straight and then have a 2 hour re-feed where I eat whatever I want.

Lean people love great tasting food too. They just know that eating it too often doesn’t align with their goals. So they learn to love good tasting, less calorie-heavy, healthier food.

It’s not scaling Everest, it’s just a simple change in mindset combined with a little discipline. Although no matter how focused you are, discipline is finite. See the next point.

4. Lean People Know Their Limits

Newsflash: EVERYONE has food issues.

Food is more than sustenance. It’s pleasure and comfort. It’s been that way from the moment you emerged from mama’s womb and reached for your first protein shake.

We all crave food not just when we’re hungry, but when we’re thirsty (seriously), sad, anxious, tired, stressed. Or even just happy — you celebrate a victory with pizza not poetry.

And we’re all prone to binges and gluttony – it’s not just reserved for lazy or obese or “damaged” people – especially the foods that really press our buttons.

For me it’s peanut butter — others crave chocolate, cookies, even cabbage rolls. I’ve seen it.

Today the trend is to have “just a little, whenever you want it” and then rely on willpower to get you through the rough patches.

But willpower is finite. Why the hell would you test it? Especially in the early stages of a new fitness lifestyle when you’re already overwhelmed, or even worse, in the final stages of a fat loss phase when you’re beyond stressed?

Not to go all broscience on you, but I don’t know one lean person who keeps tons of junk food on hand. Especially if it’s a trigger food.

I can keep nachos and chips in my cupboard for when my freeloading friends come over cause I don’t crave that shit. So I forget that it’s even there. But I don’t keep a plate of fresh-baked brownies cooling on my counter just to see if I can resist them when I’m famished at 10 pm.

I wish everyone could get in great shape just once. Because once you do, you’re hooked. Even if you know it’s just bodyfat, just adipose tissue, it affects your attitude and quality of life.

You look awesome and people compliment you, which is cool. Your body moves and performs better. Your doctor likes you. Your wife notices you.

To me, getting “there” the first time felt like I finally “arrived,” that I paid my membership to the cool kids club.

But more importantly, I felt like I’d finally figured this great mystery out, this one thing that so many people much smarter and wealthier than me can’t accomplish.

I wasn’t big or strong or fast and certainly not athletic, but for me, I was lean and jacked. And it was satisfying.

You should do it too. It’s awesome. I can help you.

Just get ready to answer a lot of questions.