“Go hard or go home” is some of the stupidest exercise advice ever. First off, not every day is supposed to be all out; beast mode does sleep. Better advice would be “Go hard or … go less hard.”

It’s not going at all that is the problem.

Over the years I’ve heard all kinds of allegedly inspirational sayings in regards to exercise and eating, and while some of them are good, others instill shame, encourage injury, and destroy motivation.

Let’s take a look at some of the more popular “fitspiration” kind of sayings and expose them for the bullshit that they are.

No pain, no gain
Another one related to this is “pain is weakness leaving the body.” This is just dumb, and I’m going to counter it with a positive saying: “Any coach can make you tired. Not every coach can make you better.” Proper training modalities involve periodization and deloading phases and off seasons. “No pain, no gain” gives people the impression that “beast mode” is always in effect, amping up their ego and leading to injury.

Suck it up now so you won’t have to suck it in later
This is fat shaming bullshit, and it doesn’t motivate people but rather creates a mental death spiral of negativity that only makes people fatter. Yes, even when you’re doing it to yourself.

Unless you puke, faint or die, keep going
Similar to this is: “Puking is acceptable. Crying is acceptable. Crawling is acceptable. Quitting is not acceptable.” In almost 23 years of being a fan of fitness I’ve only ever cried / crawled / puked once, and all three happened from the same race: qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I had to put myself through hellish pain to make my time, couldn’t run for two weeks afterwards, and even felt like I got a bit of post-marathon stress from it. This was a rare circumstance to get to Boston, and I’ll never do that to myself again.

Workouts should lift you up, not destroy you.

Eat less, move more
I hate this one. Saying “eat less, move more” to an overweight person is like saying “drown less, swim more” to someone who has fallen out of a boat and is sinking beneath the waves. Yes, losing weight does require you to consume fewer calories and add physical activity, but learning how to integrate this into your life can’t be boiled down to a sound bite. Instead of an insulting quip, people need a life preserver in the form of guidance and encouragement.

Real women have curves
Don’t go perpetuating this crap because it implies that women without curves are … what? Not women?

Women are women, no matter their shape, and I sure do love them.

Those who indulge, bulge
No, those who try to stick to a soul-destroying diet end up going off the rails and eating the entire kitchen, followed by bulging. An indulgence is an occasional treat that maintains both sanity and weight loss. Note the use of the word “occasional.”

What’s your excuse?
Cheeseburgers. Injury. Pizza. Tired. Beer. Time constraints. Chocolate. Stress. Potato chips. Depression. Ice cream. Kids … Did I mention beer?

There is a big difference between inspiring people and shaming them.

If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it
Just shut up, Michael Pollan. Your reputation for balanced journalism is less than stellar. And you too, Food Babe, for saying “If a third grader can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.” Better advice comes from my friend the SciBabe, who says, “Don’t base your diet on the pronunciation skills of an eight-year-old.”

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels
Obviously the person who came up with this one had never eaten crème brûlée. If such a saying were true, we wouldn’t be facing an epidemic of obesity.

Your workout is my warm up
So alpha. Much steroid.

Sweat is fat crying
Eh, not really. This implies that exercise is how you lose weight, and many a person has tried to out-exercise a bad diet and failed miserably. Related to this one is: “I run so I can eat.” While exercise can be of benefit to a weight loss program, diet is where it really counts.

Eat meticulous, train ridiculous
This one allows you to double down on dumb. Which will come first: eating disorder or debilitating injury?

Ass to grass
As my friend Nick Tumminello, a trainer of trainers, told me: “Fit the exercise to the person, not the person to the exercise.”

People are built differently and in the case of deep squats, as “ass to grass” implies, there are a variety of forms of hip anatomy which makes deep squatting under load practically impossible for some people.

Eat clen, tren hard
No, I’m not having a seizure and my spell check didn’t just switch over to drunken Scotsman mode. This is a popular saying in the bodybuilding community that satirizes “eat clean, train hard” while promoting ingestion of unhealthy substances: clenbuterol, which is primarily meant to be used as an asthma inhaler instead being abused for the purposes of weight loss; and trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used to enhance muscle growth.

Sun’s out, guns out
Actually, I like this one, and I kinda live by it. But it does require a slight updating for health purposes: “Sun’s out, apply broad-spectrum sunscreen, guns out.”


If you think I’m being some kind of politically correct jam tart for criticizing these sayings, see what happens when you put some of them over top of people drinking alcohol and then decide if they’re actually valuable.

My new book THE HOLY SH!T MOMENT, is now available. GET IT HERE!

You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Read the comments here.

James S. Fell, MA, MBA, has bylines in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, the Guardian, TIME Magazine, and many other publications. His blog has millions of readers and he is the author of two books: The Holy Sh!t Moment: How Lasting Change Can Happen in an Instant (St. Martin’s Press, 2019), and Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind (Random House Canada, 2014). Order them here.