So my girlfriend recently joined the gym again (yay!) and today she was asking me a whole heap of questions that I would normally expect from a complete beginner.  Things like “how many calories should I eat” and “what exercises should I do to build a nice butt” and “should I do intermittent fasting”, etc, etc.

Even after several years of dating and listening to me rant about fitness stuff, she still had the same questions as a complete newbie even though she knew better.  Rather than trusting her knowledge, she second guessed herself and needed someone else to confirm what she already knew. While there’s nothing wrong with asking questions and gaining clarification, it got me thinking as to the reason why she would doubt herself and I think it’s because she was too caught up focusing on the small stuff.

Social media influencers and fitness “gurus” are great at coming up with new exercises or eating protocols for you to try.  Their aim is to make themselves stand out from the rest of the pack and in doing so, sometimes the content they put out is … rubbish.  As a result, we’re bombarded with contradicting information and often led to believe that we should focus on things that only make a small difference in the grand scheme of things.

You might have already heard about the rocks, pebbles and sand analogy, but to quickly recap, basically there was a philosophy professor who was giving a lecture and had a big glass jar in front of him.  He filled the jar with big rocks and when they reached the rim of the jar he held it up to students and asked them if the jar was full. They all agreed that there was no more room to put the rocks in, it was full.  The professor then picked up a tub of small pebbles and poured them into the jar so they filled the space around the big rocks. He then asked the question “Is the jar full now?”. All the students agreed that the jar was now completely full.  The professor then picked up a tub of sand and poured the sand to fill the gaps between the pebbles and rocks. “Is it full now?” Once again, the students all agreed that the jar was full. Finally, the professor picked up a jug of water and poured it into the jar filling up the remaining space.

This analogy is often used to represent life.  The rocks are the important things that have real value – your family, your partner, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.  The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job, house, car, clothes, etc. The sand is everything else – the small stuff.  

I like to use this analogy and apply it to exercise and nutrition.  The rocks are the important activities that have real value – compound exercises in the gym, watching your total calorie intake, maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and regular daily activity – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your health and fitness bar would still be full.  The pebbles are the other things that matter – like meal timing, specific macronutrient proportions, assistance exercises to help with your compound lifts, etc. The sand is everything else – the small stuff like whether sweet potatoes are better than regular potatoes, or how many glute kickbacks you should do, etc.


The fitness industry has a knack for overcomplicating simple concepts and processes but that’s a rant for another time.  If you’re trying to get lean, focus on the following BIG rocks: 

  1. Create a routine around your eating patterns that puts you in a slight caloric deficit.  You cannot get lean without being in a caloric deficit.
  2. Take part in some form of daily activity whether it be playing sport, going to the gym or taking long walks by the beach, do something that gets your body moving.
  3. Learn some mindfulness techniques to deal with the stresses of everyday life.  Your mind is just as important, if not even more important than looking after your body.
  4. Maintain your consistency and be patient.  Sometimes getting lean takes a little time but if you’ve got the first three rocks nailed down, it’s just a matter of time.

If you’re looking for a coach to help you establish these big rocks, please get in contact with me and let’s have a chat about how I can help.