Lady figure pushing over one domino to start a chain reaction of a group of dominoes falling.

How Mastering What You Eat Can Be the Key to Unlocking a Happy Life

The domino effect of getting this right is a game-changer.

Lady figure pushing over one domino to start a chain reaction of a group of dominoes falling.
Photo by Bradyn Trollip on Unsplash

“Abs are made in the kitchen.” — Possibly every fitness trainer who ever lived

EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Any advice or recommendation given in my writing is what works for ME and may not be the best regimen for you based on your psychological or physiological makeup and stability. Please consult a doctor when making decisions about your health.

We’ve all heard this statement before as we try to figure out why the countless hours we have spent sweating in the gym have yet to turn into that chiseled six-pack we desire.

While the obvious answer is that regardless of how hard you work in the gym, if you don’t eat right, you’re only working against yourself for that six-pack, most people don’t consider this.

What if this truth was not only relegated to the confines of your local L.A. Fitness, however, and several other success factors in life were all related to and predicated upon the quality of what you’re eating every day?

We’ve all heard how important healthy eating is, but we all tend to put it on the back burner because we’re too focused on working harder.

We think our fitness success and bank accounts are related to Gary Vee’s “Crush it” mentality of putting in more hours at work and the gym to hit all our goals.

As someone who tried the Gary Vee lifestyle for almost ten years (29–38) and found it highly challenging (and not surprisingly exhausting) to maintain long-term sustainability, I can say my switch to a more balanced lifestyle, focused on eating healthier first, has been significantly better.

While I did hit several personal and fitness goals by just outworking my former self (I climbed the corporate ladder to become a Director at a major sales organization and maintained a decent body fat percentage for my age), what I recognized was that by focusing on my eating first, I didn’t have to work as hard in the gym anymore and discovered a number of other areas of my life became much easier and better to manage.

One positive result led to another that created an almost domino effect of favorable results in my life, ultimately leading to a more well-balanced, happier life.

Here’s how.

DOMINO ONE: I got time back from the gym to focus on other things

When I didn’t focus on my diet as much as I should, I would pretty much eat things that I “felt” were healthy, but I didn’t do the research and take the time to know what was truly good for my body or not.

Therefore, while I thought I was eating decently healthy, I still had to spend at least an hour in the gym each morning and on the weekends to maintain any semblance of a healthy body.

Now that I’ve spent time understanding what actually is good for me versus not, I’ve been able to recognize the eating habits that were working against my efforts in the gym and have been able to cut my time in half there and see better results.

This led to the second positive result of my better eating decision.

DOMINO TWO: I was able to sleep more and better at night

Sleep is so essential it’s pretty hard to understate it.

While burning the candles at both ends seems to be the ideal thing to do when you’re younger, studies have shown that if you don’t get at least 7–8 hours of sleep per night, you’re not only reducing your productivity during the day, but you’re putting yourself at significant risk of some serious health concerns.

Since I didn’t have to work out as much in the morning or afternoon, I could channel that time to getting to bed a little earlier and waking up a little later.

This resulted in me going from getting less than 6 hours of sleep on most nights to over 7 hours every night.

Not only was I able to get more sleep from a quantity perspective because of eating healthier, but I was also able to get better sleep quality.

In another scientific study, scientists related the quality of one’s sleep directly to the type of food individuals ate consistently, with foods lower in fiber and high in sugar and saturated fat as the culprits of stealing quality sleep during the night.

This natural increase in sleep quantity and quality rolled into the following significant benefit of eating healthier.

DOMINO THREE: I got much more energy to focus during the day and be more productive

While working as many hours as possible seems like a good idea, research has proven that putting more hours in a week doesn’t have the ROI we think it does.

In 2014, John Pencaval from Stanford University published a research paper that pretty much turned the concept of working long hours to get ahead at work on its head.

John discovered that anyone who works more than 50–55 hours per week is being counterproductive, as their productivity drops significantly after this point. Other research suggests that working longer hours is more detrimental to long-term success because of issues related to absenteeism from health issues and overall mental health.

Therefore, if working more hours isn’t helping us reach the levels of success we desire, then the only other way to make sure we can hit our goals is to be more productive in the time we are at work.

When my sleep improved dramatically, I could be much more focused and in tune with what I needed to do to succeed from hour to hour.

I found my mental sharpness much better and quicker to focus on the most important things, so not only was I able to accomplish the task faster but with much better quality.

This not only prevented me from needing to go over the 50–55 hour max as suggested but also allowed me to take more days off, in general, to spend with my wife and my family, which led to the falling of the final domino of success from eating healthier.

DOMINO FOUR: I overall generally just felt better and had a more well-balanced life

This final domino was able to bring everything together.

With the ability to work out less and still hit my fitness goals, I could transfer that time into getting more sleep.

By getting more sleep, I could think better and be much more productive at work.

By being more productive at work, I was able to cut my time at work down significantly, which led to me being able to spend more time with my wife and do the things that added to my happiness.

This resulted in a more balanced and enjoyable life, as I took more time away from work for vacations and weekend trips that made life truly enjoyable.

Now, instead of waiting for that vacation to come every three months, I take time daily, weekly, and monthly just to ensure I’m doing things for myself and not getting overwhelmed with work demands.

And while it sounds crazy to think this is the case, I have to thank my daily decision to eat well as the impetus that has made it all possible.

So the next time you find yourself choosing between a grilled harvest salad or a cheeseburger and fries for lunch, think about which will give you more time to lead a balanced life and which will steal it to make it more stressful.