Digital Nomads: Lifestyle Design Is Making You Fat

So you read Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week, quit your job, and moved to South East Asia to design your life.

You realised that a life of overhead halogen lights and cubicles (or even worse, open plan) offices wasn’t for you. You craved adventure, good living on a cheap budget and the freedom to be your boss.

Congratulations on making the plunge.

But now we need to talk about the elephant in the room: your belly fat.

Now, before you close the window and accuse me of calling you something you’re not (which trust me, you probably are — and I’ll explain why in a moment), hear me out.

At the very least, you’ll get a laugh.

And at the very most, you’ll see how all that focus you’ve put on your business, sitting hunched over your laptop for 12 hours a day, has actually been getting in the way of your progress.

After all, being a lifestyle designer and a digital nomad (let alone an Entrepreneur) is all about making the right decisions to live a better life.

People In Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones: My Story

Across the end of 2012 and start of 2013, I had personalised programs prepared by John Romaniello (aka Broman), author of Engineering The Alpha.

After 5 months of training with him, my body fat percentage teased me by being insanely close to single digits and I’d built muscle very quickly. And it was easy.

Why? Because alongside detailed personalised programs and hard work, my life in Sydney was organised.  I had a gym, my local shops, my go-to places to eat out and knew when and where I could cheat on my program.

But then I traveled to Asia…

Within four months of travelling, all my work under Broman had come undone. My body fat actually surpassed my starting point some nine months earlier. My exercise levels plummeted.

And it was because of the dirty little secret no digital nomad or lifestyle designer wants to admit.

You will get fat.

Staying fit, healthy and cut while on the road sucks. The gyms are hidden, and have questionable workout equipment – if any at all. The food, while delicious and exciting, is both addictive and of low quality. And your brain is in ‘Holiday Mode’ — because after all, you just quit the corporate world and escaped the grind, so you deserve some time to relax.

These aren’t allegations. These are permutations of comments I’ve heard a million times from friends and associates.

A chef-cum-multimillionaire falls in love with the exotic spices and flavours of Thai cuisine, and has the waistline to show for it.

The sharp and direct business owner gets lured in by cheap beers, and puts on ‘the gut’ which he laughs off.

The e-commerce site owner who, after training in kickboxing, moves to Asia and accidentally boosts her body fat.

The infamous WordPress, SEO and Design consultant who discovered that late nights with fun expats lead to long mornings in bed and a belly than he should be carrying.

And then there’s me.

From Cutting To ‘Incidental Dirty Bulking’: How A Sudden Change In Lifestyle Gave Me ‘Digital Nomad Belly’

This is the part of the story where someone usually shows before and after photos. Too bad. I’m not going to show them.

Because unless you’re a smart eater like my friend Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads, you know exactly what I’m talking about. (Don’t act like you don’t — just look at your belly touching your belt buckle).

Here’s what happened to me.

I went from low 10% body fat and suddenly found myself hovering in the 16% category. I went from training in Muay Thai and Krav Maga multiple times per week, as well as weight sessions designed by Broman,  to sipping on coconuts and eating cheap pad thai between all the group dinners at Mexican restaurants.

Upon arriving in Prague a couple of months after the move, and realising that I’d let the Asian Relaxation Sensation get the better of me, I decided to get back on track. Cut down on the crap food. Stop drinking so much. Start training again.

But I wouldn’t do it by going balls to the wall like some Alpha Dog.

Instead, I did it by cutting out every obstacle that had gotten in my way and had resulted in me getting fat.

No more travelling to an uninspiring gym. I’ll train at home.

No more MealsOnWheels4U or ‘Cuisine Touring’. I’ll stick with the same meals, every day, which I’ll detail below.

And here’s the unsurprising result:

The healthier I got, the better my sleep was. The more focused I was throughout the day. The more my income went up, and the less I felt like a ‘just getting by’ loser.

Real Talk: Why Being A Digital Nomad Is Making You Fat

You mightn’t have had the same experience as I did. But if you’ve been at this long enough, I’m willing to bet you have had at least part of it.

Especially if you’re currently located in one of the world’s South East Asian Digital Nomad Hotspots (Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Saigon), or just happen to be ‘living the lifestyle design dream’, you can probably grab a decent bit of belly between your fingers.

The reasons why this is happening are simple:

  • The beer is cheap
  • The delicious food is plentiful and highly affordable
  • You’re in a killer holiday destination, without any truly fixed schedule
  • You do what you want, when you want
  • Everybody wants to party

Again — I only know this because I saw how easy it was to fall down that path.

Cheap street food, cheap beers, good company, great life… these are like crack for your fatty behaviours. And it shows.

Turning The Wheel Around: How To UnFat Yourself And Optimise Your Body

“Don’t search for the exotic until you learn the basics.”

Jim Rohn, legendary speaker

Let’s be honest. It can be tempting to go for the exotic.

Bulletproof Coffee. Lean gains and intermittent fasting.

But as Lau will say until she’s hoarse — the best plan is the one you follow.

For me, this means I don’t drink Bulletproof Coffee because it tastes like rubbish. I couldn’t care less about the benefits.

What matters is that you follow a plan. And the easiest plan to follow is one that’s simple.

So that’s what I’m going to give to you right now, my friend in flab. It won’t have the depth of Becoming A Supple Leopard or the intelligent allure of a 90 day program.

Instead, it will get you started.

Your Simple Seven Day “Lose That Holiday Fat” Cycle

Below are just five rules. Follow them, and you’ll lose body fat. Ignore them, and you’ll probably keep that pocket of belly fat.

Your choice.

1. Restrict drinking to one day per week


Alcohol intake will result in more than regrettable decisions, good stories and bad sleep. Drinking alcohol stops your body from burning fat, and switches its focus to burning the more easily accessed energy from the alcohol. As a result, drinking is like putting armour on your fat.

2. Sweat 4 days per week

Forget perfect: focus on getting something done. If you’re going to make up excuses (it’s raining, the gym has bad equipment, it’s too far), then focus on what is easy: bodyweight workouts. Here’s a free workout I made for the Dynamite Circle to get you started. Do that four times per week.

3. Eat ‘cleaner’ food

Skip the deep fried shenanigans and heavy rice or noodle dishes. Get a solid serving (about one fist full) of protein (ie, meat or eggs) per meal. Have two thumbs worth of healthy fats (almonds, coconut oil or nut butter) each day. Have two palms worth of good carbs (banana, brown rice or sweet potato) throughout the day.  Then smash your veggies, because your mum was right.

(Want more detail? Get Robb Wolf’s Paleo Solution or Jodi’s Food Traveler’s Handbook)

4. Drink more water, less soft drinks, and cut out the ‘crappuccino’ habit

I won’t say that a moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips, but one thing is true: less sugar = less waist line.

5. Pull your finger out and get on with it

You quit your job, travelled the world and became self sufficient. Now you’ve got to apply the same drive, ambition, focus and willingness to stick at it to just pulling your finger out and getting rid of that fat. You might stuff up, you might fall off, but you’ve got to stick with it.

That’s it.

It isn’t rocket science. It’s five simple rules that give you a body to match the intelligent brain you’ve got inside your head.

You took the risk to leave the nest and become a business owner. You travelled the world as a digital nomad, a lifestyle designer. You’ve done harder things before.

And now, it’s time to get rid of that belly fat which you’ve been guiltily trying to suck in every time you sit down without a shirt on, and make the outside match the inside.

Do You Actually Want To Make This Happen?

If you’re happy with your body and your business, that’s great. But Only Bodyweight isn’t for you.

On the other hand, if you’re sick of that little belly overhang, sick of feeling tired, and over not looking like you’re living the dream (while you actually do live the dream), then you should come have a play.

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