Positive Attitude (70+ New Positive Attitude Hacks 2019)

Positive Attitude

Positive Attitude and How to Think Positive

Let me ask you a question: would you classify your thoughts as mainly positive or negative? This goes beyond being labeled as an optimist or a pessimist. There are plenty of optimists who outwardly expect and hope for the best, yet internally harbor all kinds of negative thoughts and emotions that directly sabotage their efforts.

 

It turns out there’s actually scientific evidence to support the idea that positive thinking—being more than just an outward optimist—can improve your health, increase your lifespan, and provide all kinds of other benefits in your life.

 

And—perhaps more importantly—the con-verse, negative thinking, can have the complete opposite effect. Thinking negatively can actually harm you and hamper your efforts to succeed in life.

 

This blog is all about having the right mental attitude. We’ll look into what it actually means to have a positive attitude, why it’s so important for your well-being, and how to develop a positive attitude so powerful that it’s actually infectious.

 

What is positivity?

positivity

I’m sure you probably are aware of what it means to have a positive attitude, but the phrase is thrown around so often that it starts to lose its meaning. Besides, if your attitude is generally negative—which, let’s face it, is the case for most of us—it doesn’t hurt to have a gentle reminder of what exactly it means to be positive and why it’s so important.

 

Many people outright reject the idea of positive thinking, because they’re convinced that unrealistic optimism is destructive. Often I hear the phrase “I am realistic” thrown around in opposition to the idea that one should fill their heads with visions of rainbows, unicorns, and tropical beaches.

 

On the contrary, I’d say that positive thinking isn’t in contradiction with being a realist. In fact, positive thinking, applied, is the ultimate form of realism because it’s the belief that you have the power to change your reality, that you aren’t a victim of your circumstances.

 

The root of positive thinking is this belief that you’re greater than your mere circumstances. It’s the view that there are good things ahead because regardless of the situation, you have the power to change and alter your own future.

 

It’s the supreme belief in the power of human achievement as a powerful force in the world. It’s the belief that you can somehow tap into that power, that that power lies within you— perhaps dormant—but no less real.

 

The positive attitude comes from an accumulation of these kinds of thoughts that over time have the power to change you from the inside out. When you possess a positive attitude, you don’t live in a fantasy world separated from reality, but instead live in an optimal world— one where you see the best possible future—which you seek to bring into reality.

 

On a more practical level, positive thinking is all about choosing to think good thoughts rather than bad thoughts. Every situation that you encounter in life is open to your own interpretations. Situations don’t present themselves as “good” or “bad.” You interpret a situation and decide whether it’s good or bad.

 

A person with a positive attitude tends to interpret more situations as good than bad, not because those situations are objectively one or the other, but because they recognize that it’s within their power to choose.

 

Here’s a story I have always liked that illustrates this point better than

story

I can. I don’t know the origin of it:

 

There once was a farmer. One day the farmer’s only horse broke out of the corral and ran away. The farmer’s neighbors, all hearing of the horse running away, came to the farmer’s house to view the corral. As they stood there, the neighbors all said, “Oh, what bad luck!” The farmer replied, “How do you know this is bad?”

 

About a week later, the horse returned, bringing with it a whole herd of wild horses, which the farmer and his son quickly corralled. The neighbors, hearing of the corralling of the horses, came to see for themselves. As they stood there looking at the corral filled with horses, the neighbors said, “Oh what good luck!” The farmer replied, “How do you know this is good?”

 

A couple of weeks later, the farmer’s son’s leg was badly broken when he was thrown from one of their new wild horses that he was trying to tame. A few days later the broken leg became infected and the son became delirious with fever.

 

The neighbors, all hearing of the incident, came to see the son. As they stood there, the neighbors said, “Oh what bad luck!” The farmer replied, “How do you know this is bad?”

 

At that same time in China, a war broke out between two rival warlords. In need of more soldiers, a captain came to the village to conscript young men to fight in the war.

 

When the captain came to take the farmer’s son, he found the young man with a broken leg, delirious with fever. Knowing there was no way the son could fight, the captain left him there.

 

A few days later, the son’s fever broke. The neighbors, hearing of the son not being taken to fight in the war and of his return to good health, all came to see him. As they stood there, each one said, “Oh what good luck!” The farmer replied, “How do you know this is good?”

 

The positive effects of positivity

positive effects

Remember when I said that positive thinking had some real, tangible, scientifically proven effects on your life? I wasn’t kidding. Here’s a list of confirmed effects that positive thinking has been shown to have. These results were derived from actual scientific studies.

 

  • Friendship development
  • Marital satisfaction
  • Higher incomes
  • Better physical health Longer Lifespans

 

These scientifically provable results are enough to convince me that I should find a cure for the Mondays, but there are other results that are more difficult to prove with scientific studies. I know for a fact that my attitude directly affects my performance at work. I’ve measured it in terms of my own productivity.

 

I know that when I have a positive attitude, I’m more ready to deal with any obstacles I face and to see them as challenges to overcome rather than negative circumstances thrust upon me.

 

Besides, if there were no other reason to think positive than that it feels good, would it be worth it? Doesn’t it feel better to experience positive emotions rather than negative ones?

 

Isn’t that really the goal of our lives when we take out all the mortgages, aspirations to greatness, soccer practices, television shows, and late-night snacking? Don’t we just want to be happy? If so, why fight it?

 

How to reboot your attitude

attitude

Merely wanting to be positive isn’t enough. You can desperately want to have a positive attitude while at the same time condemning yourself for the hopelessness of your aspiration.

 

Remember how I said that you can’t easily change what you believe? Well, it’s true, you can’t very easily change your view on the world from a negative one to a positive one—although, strangely enough, it seems it’s a much easier path in the other direction.

 

Change your thoughts

Change your thoughts

If you want to change your attitude, you must change your thoughts. If you want to change your thoughts, you must change your patterns of thoughts. Your patterns of thoughts are defined by your habits, and thus we go back to the staple way of changing anything significant in your life—develop a habit for it.

 

But how does one develop the habit of positive thinking? Much in the same way that one develops any habit—through a meaningful and committed conscious repetition until subconscious controls take over.

 

You may not have the power to respond to an event with a positive thought. It’s difficult to will yourself to accept that rear-ending that car in front of you when you fumbled to check a message on your phone was “all for the good” and that “it could have been worse.” You may even be tempted to shout an explicative and think…gasp…a negative thought.

 

But you do have the power to create positive thoughts, at will, when you choose. Right now you can stop what you’re doing and think a positive thought. Go ahead, pretend like we’re all sitting around at the Thanksgiving table, and think a happy thought. Easy enough. The key is to actively and purposefully try and do this throughout the day.

 

The key is to remind yourself that even though you might not have control over your immediate reactions to any situation, you do have control over how you consciously choose to think about the experience.

 

The more you put into practice this kind of thinking, the more you will yourself to conjure up positive pictures and look for silver linings, the more it will become a habit.

 

In time you’ll be more likely to respond to any incident or possible misfortune in a positive way. You can train your brain to view things from a positive perspective rather than a negative one.

 

Meditation

Meditation

I’ll admit that I’m not a big meditator, although, I’d like to devote some serious time to develop it as a habit. Some studies have shown that people who meditate are more likely to experience positive emotions, so you also might try meditation as a way to increase your positive mojo.

 

Play more

I’m sure you’ve heard the adage “All work and no play make Johnny a dull boy.” It turns out it also makes him quite negative and resentful. I personally can trace many of my negative emotions and lines of thinking to forget to play. I find that when I take some time to have fun, it’s much easier to be positive. Probably not a big shocker, but something to consider as well.

 

Books

I’ll also recommend some great books that will help you to develop a positive attitude. If you’re looking for something right now, try The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale (Touchstone; Reprint edition, 2003).

 

The point is that positive thinking doesn’t come by chance and it isn’t something you can force overnight. It takes a concerted effort to move your mind in a positive direction.

 

But it’s an effort worth undertaking. Not only will you be more likely to live a longer, healthier, and more successful life, but you’ll definitely live a more enjoyable life and you’ll probably make life more enjoyable for the people around you as well.

 

Taking action

Taking action

Capture your thoughts. Writing helps you to understand what’s going on in your head and to focus your mind on what you want it to be focused on. Keep a thought journal this week.

 

Every time you get a chance, write down what you’re thinking about and whether it’s positive or negative. Make these entries anytime something significant happens in your day. Also create entries throughout the day on somewhat of a regular interval.

 

Examine your thought journal. Is it mostly filled with positive expressions of thought or negative ones? Where do the negative ones derive from? What about the positive ones?

 

Commit to actively trying to control your thoughts and to summon as many positive ones as possible. When a situation happens to you, take a moment to realize the universe isn’t against you and is rather ambivalent to you-you'll be less likely to take things personally that way. Then force yourself to find the silver lining. Don’t merely remove negative thoughts, but replace them with positive ones.

 

Building a positive self-image:

positive self-image

Programming your brain

It isn’t enough to think happy thoughts and have a good attitude. Sure, you’ll see much more success by changing your attitudes from negative ones to positive ones—not to mention health benefits—but to truly be successful at what you wish to accomplish in life, you have to learn how to program your own brain to achieve your goals.

 

People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents. —Andrew Carnegie

 

Your true battle is against mediocrity—and it begins in the brain. What you think about yourself has an amazing power to both limits you and fuel you forward.

 

In this blog, we’ll examine how you can program your own brain to create a positive self-image that will allow you to set your brain on auto-pilot to achieve your goals.

 

What is self-image?

What is self-image

Self-image is how you see yourself when you strip away all of the things you’ve been told about yourself and get rid of all the lies and deceptions you may use to trick yourself into feeling adequate.

 

It’s quite possible to not even truly be aware of your real self-image because to a large degree it’s buried deep within your subconscious mind. You can tell yourself and others all kinds of half-truths about what you think about yourself, but you can’t fool your subconscious mind. Deep down, we all have an image of ourselves that’s the ultimate reflection of our brain’s view of the reality of ourselves.

 

This self-image is powerful because your brain tends to not allow you to do anything that would violate its assessment of self. This places artificial limitations on you that are difficult to overcome, simply because you may not even be aware that they exist.

 

Consider the boy who believes he’s no good at pitching a baseball. Does he ever become a great pitcher? Most likely he doesn’t. He certainly never does unless he learns to change his self-image to see himself in another light. His brain places a mental restriction on itself that causes him to conform to its view of his self-image.

 

You probably have similar limitations that you may not have even noticed—you may have taken them for granted as unchangeable, implacable, facts—just the way life is. Are you clumsy? Lazy? Not good at math? Bad with people? Do you have a short attention span? Perhaps you’re shy or reserved?

 

While all of these things might seem like character traits that are as much part of your DNA as your height or eye color, they’re not.

 

There are certain physical characteristics that you can’t change about yourself, but many of the other things you imagine to be true about yourself are manifestations of your own self-image that you’ve acquired, in many cases by random chance.

 

Perhaps when you were little you hid behind your parents at a dinner party and you heard words like “Little Johnny is a shy boy.” Up to that point, you may not have been shy at all, but because of that one moment, your brain suddenly latched onto the idea and implanted that into your self-image.

 

Your self-image is difficult to change

self-image

It turns out you do have the power to alter your own self-image. You’ve already been introduced to the idea in a blog, “Fake It Till You Make It.” The concept behind faking it until you make it is that if you repeatedly do a thing and act as if you are already what you want to be, you’ll eventually become what you want to be.

 

It seems like a simple concept—and to be completely honest, it is—but we hardly ever think in those terms and sometimes it can be difficult to believe that we can actually change the characteristics about ourselves that we believe are intrinsically part of us.

 

It’s almost as if we have some sick, sadistic pull that causes us to embrace our weaknesses and limitations as a critical piece of who we are. Ask a person who has a short temper if he’d like to change, and there is a pretty good chance he’ll say “no.”

 

To him, it’s as if you’re asking him to give up an arm or a leg because he believes so deeply that being short-tempered is an intrinsic part of himself and releasing himself from that shackle would be tantamount to the highest treason he could commit against himself. That’s how powerful your subconscious mind is in holding onto your view of self-image.

 

But the truth of the matter is you aren’t your propensity to feel awkward in social situations or to lose your temper at the drop of a hat. You’re not those things any more than you’re the clothes that you wear.

 

In fact, the clothes that you wear can have a dramatic impact on your perception of self. You may have noticed that you feel and act differently when you’re wearing shorts and flip-flops than you do when you’re dressed up in a suit.

 

Altering your self-image—if only temporarily—isn’t all that difficult. The difficulty is in believing that it’s possible and in having the desire to actually go through with it. If you can accept that you’re able to change some of the core beliefs you hold about yourself, then you’ll be able to alter your self-image to your own liking.

 

Imagine the power of being able to be anything you want. Imagine being able to go from a shy, socially awkward person to a social butterfly, charming and dazzling without a care in the world. Imagine being able to become the leader you dreamed of being or actually becoming good at sports.

 

It’s all possible, and I know it for a fact because I’ve altered my own self-image in many ways. When I was younger, I always saw myself as a dork. I won’t say a nerd, because although I thought myself to be smart, I never really studied or took an active interest in academics.

 

I was also socially awkward, and I had the tendency to get picked on and was extremely shy—to the point of being afraid to make a simple phone call to talk to a stranger.

 

Something happened around my sophomore year in high school. I can’t tell you exactly what it was, because I don’t know. It may have been blind luck or frustration that caused me to have the thought that I could decide who I wanted to become and then simply become it.

 

The transformation wasn’t immediate, but it was rapid. I threw out my old clothes and bought a new wardrobe fitting for the person I wanted to be. I started lifting weights. I joined wrestling and track. (I had never really played sports much before because I thought myself to be unathletic.)

 

I decided that I’d no longer be shy, so I pretended to not be shy. I forced myself into awkward situations. I constantly reaffirmed and told myself who I now was. I held a mental picture in my head of myself but in my new form.

 

Amazingly, it stuck. I still became a computer programmer, of course, but after high school, I went into modeling and acting. I went from shy to the complete opposite of shy.

 

I went from unathletic to a person who runs and lifts weights every single week. And even to this day, I’m refining the picture of the person I want to be and taking control of my self-image to have it work for me instead of against me.

 

Reprogramming your brain

Reprogramming your brain

How can you set out to purposely reprogram your brain? To change your self-image as I did so long ago? The formula is relatively simple. It just takes time and persistence to execute it properly.

 

It begins with having a clear picture of what you want. Your brain has an amazing ability to seek out whatever goals you put before it. You just have to imagine those goals clearly enough for your brain to be able to guide you down the path you need to go.

 

Picture the ideal you. Set in your mind a firm picture of what you’d like to be if there were no constraints placed upon you. Imagine yourself more confident, walking boldly into rooms. Imagine yourself running and leaping with grace instead of tripping over your own feet. Imagine yourself inspiring others or being highly fashionable.

 

Don’t place any artificial limits on yourself except those of physical characteristics that could obviously not be changed. (For example, it does no good to imagine yourself taller, unless doing so would make you feel more confident. Just don’t expect it to make you grow.)

 

Once you have this picture set in your mind, your next task is to start acting “as if.” Act “as if” you were already what you desired to become. Talk, speak, dress, and brush your teeth like the person you want to be. Don’t pay attention to reality.

 

Don’t pay attention to what people say about your “changes”; instead, pretend like you’re already at your desired goal and that your behavior is a natural extension of this new personality.

 

You’ll also want to give yourself plenty of positive affirmations that plant the seeds of this new way of thinking deeply into your subconscious mind. It turns out that positive affirmations aren’t just mumbo-jumbo that crazy self-help people spout.

 

Your brain will actually start to believe something if you tell yourself it enough times. Remember how we talked about how difficult it is to change your beliefs? You can change them if you’re persistent and deliver a consistent message.

 

I’d recommend finding quotes and images that remind you of the new mental state you want to have. Fill your day with positive affirmations that confirm and reinforce your new beliefs. Spend time mentally visualizing yourself as what you want to be. Many sports athletes do the exact same process to improve their performance.

 

Before competing in a major event, they’ll do a mental rehearsal. They’ll actually play the event in their mind and see themselves succeeding. Studies have shown this kind of fake practice can actually be as beneficial as real practice.

 

I read a story about how a professional football team, the Seattle Seahawks, have meditation sessions where the players are told to visualize success.

 

Most importantly, though, watch what you say. What you say about yourself, you believe. Your subconscious mind is still that impression-able child hearing your voice and it believes what you say. If you say you’re clumsy or forgetful enough times, your subconscious will believe it.

 

Taking action

Taking action

Make a list of all the things you are, good and bad. Try to think not only about how you perceive yourself but also how you think other people perceive you. This list might not be totally accurate—many aspects of your self-image are buried deep in your subconscious—but it will give you a good place to start.

 

How many of those aspects on that list do you perceive as unchangeable? Why? Think about whether or not those things are permanent or just limitations you’ve placed on yourself because of what you believe.

 

Try to change at least one aspect of your self-image that you find to be negative. Use the advice in this blog to do it. Try the “fake it till you make it” approach and use positive affirmations to reinforce your new belief.

 

Love and relationships: Computers can’t hold your hand

relationships

I debated whether or not I should include this blog, because I’m not a relationship expert, and this book isn’t really about finding love. But I thought that I wouldn’t be true to the software developer’s life manual if I didn’t at least address this topic.

 

There are so many things to say about love and relationships that it would be pretty difficult to cover it all in a single blog, so I’ve decided to condense down this blog to the most important and most relevant issues that are likely to plague someone in the software development world— male or female.

 

Why software developers sometimes have a hard time finding love

software developers

I’ll fall back to the stereotypical software developer again to try and address this issue. Of course, I recognize, like all stereotypes, that the particular stereotype of a nerdy, socially awkward software developer might not apply to you, but if it does—or if at least part of it does—you’ll probably relate to some of what I have to talk about here. Forever alone

 

There’s a popular meme on the internet called “forever alone.” It basically signifies this idea of feeling like you’re alone and that you’ll never find “love.” In my experience, many software developers, especially in their younger years, can relate to this meme.

 

Unfortunately, identifying with this meme and feeling might actually be exasperating the problem. It’s kind of weird how human love and relationships work. It’s really a game of cat and mouse.

 

At any given time, one person is chasing and another is being chased. As long as the sides switch occasionally, there isn’t a problem. But when one person is always doing the chasing, the other person tends to keep running further and further away.

 

It’s the chasing too hard that’s often the problem that many people face. When you go out there and you try too hard, you end up reeking of desperation.

 

That desperation causes repulsion that tends to cause a nice hit to self-esteem, causing further desperation. It’s a vicious cycle that many people are stuck in and don’t know how to get out of.

 

Many people in this situation tend to wear their heart on their sleeve. They start projecting their feelings of pain and loneliness to the rest of the world.

 

“If only they could feel my pain and realize how they are hurting me, then they’d understand.” You’ve seen those Facebook posts where people make a desperate plea for attention and compassion by letting the world know how sad and alone they are.

 

As I’m sure you can figure out, this kind of behavior has the opposite effect of what is intended. When you tell the world that you’re weak and fragile, people tend to avoid you. To put it bluntly, it’s not an attribute that anyone really finds attractive.

 

Understanding the game

Understanding the game

Love is a game. It’s true. No matter how hard you try to opt out of the system, you can’t do it. Many people think “I don’t want to play the game. I’m just going to be myself and be honest about how I feel.” While I can understand this sentiment, because you’re reading this blog, I have to ask you how that’s working out for you.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating dishonesty and being a sleazebag, but you also might not want to be too forthcoming and direct in your actions if you’re trying to attract a member of the opposite sex.

 

What I mean by this is that you might need to realize that you’re indeed playing a game and think a little bit about the strategy you’re employing.

 

For example—and I’ll use examples from the male perspective because that’s the only one I have—you might approach a girl you find attractive who you’ve had your eye on for many weeks and say “I love you. I’ve loved you since the moment I first saw you.”

 

Now, this might seem like a romantic thing to say, pouring your heart out to your newfound love, but it’s pretty likely you’ll get a negative reaction from that course of action. In terms of the cat and mouse game, it’s not very strategic.

 

I don’t have to be a psychologist to tell you that, in general, we want what we can’t have and also what other people find desirable. The more available you seem to be, the more desperate, the less likely you are to be wanted.

 

I’m sure you experienced this in the playground in school. Did you ever run around chasing other kids trying to get them to play with you? Life is just a big playground. If you want to make someone run away, chase them.

 

Sitting down, doing nothing, and waiting for your love to come to you isn’t a good strategy, either. You could be waiting a pretty long time. Instead, the solution is to project confidence in your actions and to approach someone in an easy-going but self-assured manner.

 

“I feel good about who I am, I don’t need you, but I think you’re interesting and I’d like to get to know you better.” (Although I wouldn’t use those words verbatim, either.)

 

The trick is that you have to actually mean it. You have to have enough confidence in yourself to really believe that you don’t need another person to make you happy. You have to really believe that you add a benefit to other people’s lives by being in them.

 

This doesn’t mean you think you’re God’s gift to…fill in the blank, but it does mean that you have enough respect for yourself to only show up where you’re wanted and to only want to be with people who want to be with you.

 

This doesn’t mean that success is guaranteed—it isn’t—but you’ll have a much better shot at finding your true love if you can be aware of the subtle psychology of run and chase that seems to govern most relationships. And this doesn’t just apply to love.

 

It applies to all kinds of relationships. Be a desperate and needy kind of friend and you’ll likely find yourself friendless. Approach a job interview as someone starving on the street, looking for a handout, and you’ll find the same kind of revulsion.

 

So, all I have to do is be confident, right?

confident

I know, I know, easier said than done, right? It’s not exactly easy to suddenly decide to be confident. It’s also pretty difficult to fake confidence. So what is a guy—or a gal—to do?

 

You might start off by going to the two previous blogs and work on programming your mind to be the positive kind of confident person you want to be. There’s no reason why you can’t become a truly confident person—it just may take some time and work.

 

You also may want to pay attention to the section on fitness, because getting fit is a great way to build your confidence without even trying. I’ve seen many people transform mentally as a by-product of their physical changes by lifting weights and trimming down.

 

Also, consider what it means to be confident and what it looks like. There’s an element of bravery involved. If you’re willing to approach someone you find attractive right away, without debating and delaying, it shows a great deal of confidence.

 

In some circles, this idea has been dubbed the “three-second rule.” Basically, the idea is that from the moment you see someone you’d like to meet, you have three seconds to execute on that impulse; otherwise, your hesitation will project a lack of confidence and things are more likely to go south.

 

I’ll admit, this isn’t exactly an easy rule to follow, but what have you really got to lose by trying it out? Which brings us to the next and final thing I have to say on this topic.

 

It’s a numbers game

numbers game

People are strange. They like all kinds of things. It only takes a few searches on the internet turning up some really weird results to figure out what's true. Why am I saying this?

 

Because it means that no matter how strange you are, no matter what flaws you perceive yourself to have, even if you don’t have a perfect smile and chiseled abs, there is probably someone out there who’d like you—a lot. In fact, in this whole wide world, there are probably many potential matches for you, as bizarre as you may be or not.

 

What this really means is that it’s all a numbers game. Too many people make the mistake of picking out a single person and putting them on a pedestal, obsessing over that one perfect girl or guy who would finally make them “happy.” It’s not only ridiculous to assume that there’s just that one person out there, but it’s not strategic either. Your odds are much better if you widen your search.

 

Have lots of failures. Get rejected. Big deal. What is the worst that could happen? You’ve got to be like that door-to-door salesman who is willing to have a hundred doors slammed in their face to make one sale, knowing that all you need to do each day is make that one sale.

 

Besides, all those rejections eventually lead you to that one person who does want to be with you—which is a lot better than being with someone who doesn’t. And isn’t that the whole point anyway?

 

Taking action

Think about some of the ways that you may be projecting feelings of desperation. Take a look at your communications with others, your social media, how you interact with your friends. Do your words and expressions show confidence or neediness?

 

What attributes—nonphysical—do you find attractive? What is it that you find repulsive?

 

How wide is your net? Are you giving yourself enough chances to find your “true love?” Get out there and crash and burn a few times just to see what it feels like. Once you recognize that it’s not that bad, you’ll be able to approach people with more confidence, because you won’t fear the outcome.

 

Take real steps to improve your self-confidence by doing something like starting a fitness program or involving yourself in some other activity that will make you feel better about yourself.

 

My personal success booklist

success booklist

There have been many excellent books that have greatly influenced what I believe and how I behave. I try to spend at least some time every day reading or listening to the audio version of a book that will improve my life in some way.

 

When I first started my career, I spent a large amount of time reading software-development–focused books. Now, I spend more of my time reading books that have a wider application.

 

I’ve made it a habit of asking any famous or highly successful person who I’ve met what one book he or she would recommend that everyone should read. Through this quest, I’ve uncovered many impactful books that have literally changed my life.

 

In this blog, I’m going to give you the list of the best and most influential books I’ve ever read—both on the software development and non-software development side.

 

Self-help and inspirational books

 book

The War of Art by Steven Press field

I’ll start with one of my favorite books of all time. This book gave words to a frustration I long held in regards to work and why it’s so difficult to just sit down and do it.

 

In this book, Press field identifies this mysterious force we all encounter when we sit down to try and do anything meaningful. He says this force, resistance, is the secret and ambivalent destroyer of all of our attempts to traverse from a lower calling to a higher one.

 

Just by identifying this common enemy within us, we start to gain power over it. If you’re having trouble with procrastination or just finding the motivation to go forward and do what you know you should be doing, you’ll find this book immensely useful.

 

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This book is another one of the most influential books I’ve ever read. This book changed my personal views in many ways and has helped me achieve success in dealing with people that I hadn’t thought possible before.

 

Before I read this book, I was a staunch believer in negative reinforcement to modify the behavior of others. I felt compelled to enforce my own strict disciplinarian standards on others. I believed that when someone was wrong, it was important to tell them so; that the best way to motivate a person was through the threat of punishment.

 

After reading this book, my views changed 180 degrees. I realized that negative reinforcement was almost completely futile—that the only way to get people to do what you wanted was to compel them to want to do it.

 

If there is any book on this list you must read, this is the one. I firmly believe everyone should read this book. I’ve read it at least a dozen times, and every time I go back and read it again, I gain a new insight.

 

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

This first time I tried to read this book, I put it down in frustration. The second time, I got a little further, but again thought the book was a bit too crazy for my liking. Finally, after speaking to multiple highly successful people who recommended this book—some who completely attributed their success to it—I decided to read it again.

 

This book is a little strange. It basically purports that if you believe a thing and you hold onto and reinforce that belief, it will become reality. I’ll warn you, there isn’t much science to this approach.

 

The book doesn’t even try to come up with the science to explain it, but by whatever means this works, I’ve seen it work in my life and many others will swear by it as well.

 

The idea of a mastermind group actually originates from this book. There are many other important concepts in this book that will help you to learn how to change your own beliefs, which may have a powerful effect on your life.

 

Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (Reprint, Pocket Books, 1989)

In many ways, this book reminds me of Think and Grow Rich, but a scientific version of it. This book was written by a plastic surgeon who discovered that when he changed people’s faces, it actually changed their personalities.

 

This caused him to do research into self-image and to discover some important ways that our self-image has the power to completely change our lives for the good or the bad.

 

I found this book to have some very good insights into how the mind works and how it affects our bodies. This book is full of all kinds of practical applications of methods to change your attitude, your self-image, and your beliefs for the positive.

 

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale (Reprint, Touchstone, 2003)

This book is a bit religious, so be forewarned, but the overall message of this book is very powerful. The idea that positive thinking can have a profound impact on your life is one that I adamantly subscribe to. If you’re trying to develop a more positive attitude, this book can certainly help you do that.

 

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (Reprint, Signet, 2005)

You’ll either love this book or hate it, but either way, it will make you think. This book is fiction—and it’s long at around 1,200 pages—but it asks some very serious questions about life, economics, and work.

 

Software development books

Software development books

Code Complete by Steve McConnell (Microsoft Press; 2nd edition, 2004)

This book completely changed the way I wrote the code. After I read this book was the first time I felt like I was writing and understood what good code was. The examples in this book are primarily written in C++, but the concepts transcend any individual language.

 

This book is a complete guide to writing good code and structuring that code at a very low level. While many software development books focus on higher-level design, this is one of the only books I’ve found that focuses on details like how to name variables and structure the actual code inside of an algorithm.

 

If I ever own a software development shop, this book will be required reading by all developers I hire. This has definitely been the most influential software development book I’ve ever read.

 

Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert Martin (Prentice Hall, 2008)

Reading this book was an absolute joy. Code Complete taught me how to write good code; Clean Code refined that knowledge and helped me understand how to take that knowledge to a complete codebase and design.

 

This book is another book I consider required reading for any software developer. The concepts in this book will help you to become a better developer and to appreciate why simple and understandable is better than clever.

 

Head First Design Patterns by Eric Freeman, Elisabeth Robson, Bert Bates, and Kathy Sierra (O’Reilly Media, 2004)

It might seem a bit strange that I’d recommend this book over the classic Design Patterns book, but this book does an excellent job of making design patterns approachable and understandable.

 

Don’t get me wrong, the Design Patterns book is a great book and introduced the idea of the classic design patterns in software development, but this book does a much better job of explaining them. If you’re going to read one design patterns book, read this one.

 

Investing

Investing

The Millionaire Real Estate Investor by Gary Keller (McGraw-Hill, 2005)

If I had to recommend one book on real estate investing, this would be it. This book explains exactly why real estate investing is such a good idea and how to get rich from it, and it gives you an exact plan for doing so.

 

This book contains plenty of charts that show you exactly how real estate investment pays off over the long run and it isn’t filled with a lot of “fluff.”

 

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki (Demco Media, 2000)

This was another life-changing book for me that changed the way I looked at money and finance. This book changed my view of how money works and what it means to have a job and work for someone else. After reading this book I clearly understood how important it is to create assets and to reduce your expenses.

 

My only complaint with this book is that it doesn’t really tell you how. Still, there’s valuable advice in this book—and Kiyosaki’s entire Rich Dad series—and I’d highly recommend it.

 

No-Hype Options Trading: Myths, Realities, and Strategies That Really Work by Kerry Given (Wiley, 2011)

Lots of financial books promise ridiculous returns and make outrageous claims, but this one doesn’t. Instead, it presents the facts and helps you really understand how options trading works and some practical strategies you can employ to make money, along with the inherent risk those strategies will incur. I’d highly recommend this book if you’re looking into getting into options trading, or just want to understand it better.

 

Facing failure head-on

Fall down seven times, get up eight. —Japanese Proverb

As we approach the end of this book, I want to give you one last piece of advice that I think has the potential to benefit you more than anything else in this book.

 

You could have all the skills in life that should make you successful, but if you lack one important skill, perseverance, it will all be worthless, because at the first sign of trouble, you’ll give up—and we all will face some amount of trouble in our lives.

 

On the other hand, you could be severely undereducated about your profession and have horrible social skills and financial knowledge, but if you’re incredibly persistent, it’s my belief you’ll eventually find your way.

 

As a software developer, this trait will be especially important to you, because you’re likely to face a large number of difficulties in your life and career. Developing software is difficult—that’s likely one of the reasons you’re drawn to it.

 

In this blog, we’ll talk about the importance of persistence and why it’s critical to develop the ability to face failure with the unflinching face of determination.

 

Why are we so afraid of failure, anyway?

failure

The fear of failure seems to be a built-in instinct for most people. We prefer to do what we’re good at. We avoid the things that show our incompetence or lack of skill. We seem to have this innate fear of failure.

 

I even see it in my three-year-old daughter. My wife is teaching her to read, and she’s making great progress, but you can tell when she reads a word that she’s unsure of; she’ll say that word very softly.

 

The words she knows she shouts out with confidence. Give her a challenging word or some other task that isn’t quite matched with her abilities, and, instead of trying, she has the inclination to give up. “You read it, Mommy.”

 

This same phenomenon is magnified in most adults. Most people, when faced with a significant challenge or the immediate and likely prospect of failure, will avoid that situation.

 

This response makes sense when turning down the option to fight with a 300-pound gorilla of a guy at a nightclub who is likely to knock your block off, but it doesn’t make much sense when faced with the task of speaking on a stage or learning a new programming language—there’s no real harm that can come to you from failing in those cases.

 

If I had to guess why most people are so afraid of failure, I’d have to say that it’s probably based around the idea of protecting our fragile egos. Perhaps we’re afraid to fail because we take failure a bit too personally; we think that our failure in a particular area is a reflection of our own personal worth.

 

I think this fear of bruising our egos is also aided by the simple misunderstanding about the nature of the failure. We tend to think, and to be taught, that failure is a bad thing.

 

We don’t view failure in a positive light, but instead, think of it as the end. The word failure itself implies a dead-end path, a final destination, not a temporary bump in the road to success.

 

We picture in our heads an island where people who have failed are sent. They sit there on the beach hopelessly downtrodden with no hope of rescue; their lives are failures; they are failures.

 

Even though we know failure isn’t the end, we seem to feel like it is. We tend to take ourselves a bit too seriously and attach some pretty heavy stakes to messing up. Because we aren’t trained to view failure as the path to success—in many cases the only path—we avoid failure at any cost.

 

Failure isn’t defeat

Failure isn’t defeat

Failure isn’t the same thing as defeat. Failure is temporary, defeat is permanent. Failure is something that happens to you—something that you can’t completely control. Defeat is something that you choose—a permanent acceptance of failure.

 

The first step in letting go of the fear of failure is to realize that failure isn’t the end—unless you choose to make it so. Life is difficult, you’ll get knocked down, but it’s up to you to decide whether or not you’re going to get back up again.

 

It’s up to you to decide that most things worth having are worth fighting for. It’s up to you to realize the joy and enjoyment of an accomplishment that comes, in a great part, from the difficulty and struggle of achieving it.

 

Have you ever played a video game that was really difficult? Remember that rewarding feeling when you finally beat that final boss? You may have failed many times along the way, but how well did it feel to finally succeed?

 

Contrast this with that video game that was equally difficult, but you entered a cheat code to give you infinite lives or make you invincible. How was fun that? Was there any joy in that accomplishment?

 

Continuing on with the video game example, what would have happened if you threw down the controller in frustration the first time you died?

 

Wasn’t it to some degree the knowledge that you did fail so many times but finally succeeded that made the whole experience enjoyable? If that is the case, why do you avoid and regard failure in life as if it’s a permanent state?

 

You don’t expect to pick up a video game controller and beat a video game perfectly without ever falling in a pit or getting signed by a fireball, so why do you expect to go through life without experiencing failure?

 

Failure is the road to success

Failure is the road to success

Instead of fearing failure, embrace it. Not only is a failure not the same as a defeat, but it’s also a necessary step on the path to success. Few worthwhile things that you’ll do or accomplish in life will be done without at least some small failure along the way.

 

The problem is that we learn to view failure in such a negative light. When you go to school and you get an F on an assignment, it isn’t viewed as progress. You aren’t taught to think that failure was a learning experience that would take you closer to your goal. Instead, you’re taught to see it as a wholly negative thing.

 

Real life doesn’t work that way. I’m not saying you shouldn’t study for your exams and that you should strive to get Fs for the learning experience and character-building opportunities, but what I’m saying is that in real life failures are usually necessary milestones that take us closer and closer to eventual success.

 

In the real world, when you fail at something, you learn from that experience and hopefully grow. Our brains are trained to work this way. If you’ve ever tried to learn how to juggle, or play baseball, or any other physical activity that requires coordination, you know that you fail a lot before you succeed.

 

I remember when I was first learning to juggle. I’d throw three balls up in the air and all three of them would hit the ground—not a single one in my hand. I could have thrown my hands up and said “I can’t juggle,” but for some reason I was persistent. I knew that other people had learned to juggle and that I could also learn, so I kept at it.

 

After hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dropped balls, I eventually stopped failing. My brain made minor corrections over time and was learning from the repeated failures I was experiencing. I didn’t control this process. All I had to do was keep trying—and to not be afraid to start trying in the first place.

 

Learn to embrace failure

Learn to embrace failure

Again, I’d have to say that if you take nothing else from this blog, take the following advice: learn to embrace failure, to expect it, to accept it, and to be ready to face it head-on.

 

It isn’t enough to just lose your fear of failure, but you should also be seeking out failure. You need to put yourself in situations where you’re all but guaranteed to fail if you want to grow.

 

We often stagnate because we stop doing things that are dangerous or challenging for us. We find a comfortable place in our lives, shut the doors to our cabin, batten down the hatches, and weather out the storm, never stepping back out into the rain.

 

Sometimes, though, you need to get a little wet. Sometimes you need to be willing to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation that will force you to grow.

 

Sometimes you need to actively go out of your way to find those situations, knowing that the harder you steer your ship into failure, the stronger the wind of success will blow you in the opposite direction.

 

How do you embrace failure? How do you convince yourself to jump into that choppy sea? It starts with accepting failure as a part of life. You have to realize that you’re going to face a lot of failure in your life and that for the most part, it’s unavoidable. You can’t do everything perfectly the first time. You’re going to make mistakes.

 

You also have to realize that it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to make mistakes. You can try to avoid them, but never at the cost of missing out on an opportunity just because you’re afraid of the ego-crushing blow of failure. Once you realize that failure is okay, that failure doesn’t define you but rather how you respond to failure does, you learn to stop fearing it so much.

 

Finally, I’d suggest overexposing yourself to it. Go and do things that make you uncomfortable. Earlier in this blog, we discussed the idea that you shouldn’t be afraid to look like an idiot, and I’d say the same thing about failure. In fact, sometimes the two are deeply connected.

 

Go out there and purposely put yourself in difficult situations that will inevitably result in some kind of failure. But the key is to not give up— let your failures fuel you forward, onward to success. Experience enough failures and the fear of failure itself will lose its power over you.

 

I’ll leave you with these final words, in regards to failure, from Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill:

Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.

 

Taking action

How is the fear of failure holding you back? Think about all the activities in life that you’d like to do but you’re afraid to do because of the temporary embarrassment or ego bruising of failure.

 

Make a commitment to do at least one thing that you’ve been avoiding because of your fear of failure. Don’t do it half-heartedly, either. Many people “attempt” something knowing they’re going to fail, and do so in a way that gives them the personal distance to not really feel like they failed because “they weren’t really trying.” Really try. Really fail.

 

Diet and nutrition basics

nutrition basics

There are quite a few things you can do to get healthy and fit, including many different exercises or programs that you could embark on. But nothing is going to matter as much to your health and fitness as what you eat.

 

Whether your goal is to lose weight, gain muscle, or refactor your body to a healthier state, diet and nutrition is the most effective tool to do it. Think of diet and nutrition like writing code. You can have all kinds of tools at your disposal and apply all kinds of methodologies, but you’ll never create any kind of application if you don’t focus on writing good code.

 

In this blog, we’ll go over the basics of diet and nutrition. I’ll give you a brief introduction to the basic components of food and you’ll learn a bit about how your body processes what you put into it.

 

Basic components of food

Before we can get into the details of a healthy diet and nutrition, you need to understand what the basic components of food are.

 

Everything you eat can be broken up into three main categories: carbohydrates, fats, or proteins. Your body uses each of these components in various ways, but the main fuel source for your body is carbohydrates. Your brain and the rest of your body utilize a simple sugar called glucose for fuel.

 

Your body is very efficient at breaking food into glucose that can be used by the body. When you eat a meal, your digestive system breaks down that food into glucose, which is absorbed by the stomach and small intestines and released into your bloodstream.

 

After this happens, a hormone called insulin is released from your pancreas. Insulin makes it possible for your body to utilize and store the glucose in your bloodstream. Insulin in your bloodstream enables other cells to absorb glucose and either uses it immediately or store it for later usage.

 

Diabetics have problems with their insulin production or sensitivity. Type I diabetics are unable to produce their own insulin, so they have to inject it artificially. Type II diabetic’s bodies aren’t as sensitive to insulin as they should be, so they require more insulin to do the same job.

 

Without insulin, your blood sugar levels would rise very high and you’d eventually die. That’s why it’s critical that diabetics monitor their blood sugar levels. Even though your body primarily needs glucose, which mainly comes from carbohydrates, that doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need proteins and fats as well.

 

How your body breaks down food

Your body utilizes proteins to build and repair muscle, as a catalyst for certain chemical reactions, and for a variety of other functions including energy—if needed. But just like carbohydrates, proteins must also be broken down.

 

Proteins digested by your body are broken down into amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of life and many chemical reactions in the body. But proteins can also be converted to glucose through a process known as gluconeogenesis.

 

This process isn’t very efficient, though, so when the body has to use proteins as fuel, it actually ends up requiring more calories to do the job, which is great if you’re trying to lose weight.

 

Fats are also broken down by the body into fatty acids, which can be directly packaged away by cells for future use in a form called triglycerides. Fats are also directly converted into fuel when they’re broken down into glycerol, which can be converted to glucose.

 

Fats are the most concentrated form of energy—while proteins and carbohydrates provide about four calories worth of energy per gram, fats provide approximately nine. 

 

Fats are also required by your body to produce what are known as essential fatty acids. You might have heard of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They’re required by your body, but can’t be produced directly by it. These fatty acids have to come from ingested foods.

 

Other things your body needs

body needs

Even though carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are the main components of most foods you eat, your body needs more than those building blocks to function.

 

Most of the other nutrients your body needs are commonly classified as vitamins. Vitamins are small molecules your body needs to carry out certain chemical reactions. There are about 13 different vitamins that your body needs yet can’t produce, so it has to get them from various food sources.

 

In most cases, you can get all the vitamins you need from the food you eat, as long as you eat a large enough variety of foods. This is one of the reasons why you can’t typically eat the exact same foods every single day.

 

I’m sure you have heard of scurvy, which is caused by a vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C is required to create collagen, which is needed for various functions of your body. Commonly, sailors would get scurvy because their diet consisted of only cured meats and dried grains— once the fruits and vegetables ran out.

 

In addition to vitamins, your body also needs fiber to aid with the digestive process. Fiber is basically parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Fiber can either be soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can help lower cholesterol and glucose in your blood. Insoluble fiber is critical to proper digestion.

 

And let’s not forget minerals. The body requires many minerals to function properly—salt, for instance, is required to maintain the proper level of fluid in your body’s cells. Other minerals like calcium and iron are necessary for your body to function properly.

 

And last but not least, let’s not forget about perhaps the most vital component your body needs: water. Water makes up about 60% of your body. Water is vital for many functions of the body and you can’t live without it for long at all—perhaps three to five days at the most, but I wouldn’t suggest testing it.

 

It all starts with diet

No matter what fitness goal you have, diet is probably the most important component of it. Burning fat, gaining muscle, or performing any physical activity is entirely dependent on the fuel you provide your body, but most people tend to put a heavier emphasis on exercise than nutrition.

 

This is unfortunate because you can work hard at achieving a fitness goal, but if you don’t have the proper diet and nutrition, all that hard work will be a waste. I’ve seen many people who could run marathons, but were still overweight, because they didn’t realize how important diet was to their health and fitness levels.

 

You can spend hours at the gym lifting weights or run for miles, but without a proper diet, you’ll never see the results you’re looking for. It’s important to understand how what you eat affects your body’s performance and how it gets fuel.

 

Overall, calories are the most important factor in your physical makeup. Eat more calories than you burn and you’ll gain weight; eat less and you’ll lose it.

 

After that, the ratio of the types of calories is probably the second most important factor. Different ratios of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins will affect your body differently.

 

Don’t eat enough protein and your body will break down existing proteins—muscle—to get the amino acids it needs. Eat too many carbohydrates—especially simple sugars—and your body will have to work extra hard to produce enough insulin to reduce the sugar in your blood.

 

Finally, food sources have a measurable effect on your body. It not only matters what you eat but where the food you eat comes from. Highly processed food tends to have lots of simple sugars and preservatives that can reduce the nutritional quality of the food and cause you to crave more of them while not feeling satisfied.

 

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. There’s a big difference between eating a sweet potato and eating a bunch of processed white sugar, even though both are carbohydrates.

 

Taking action

Try to figure out the current calorie count of the foods you eat in a day and the ratio of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in your diet. This may vary from day to day, but try to track a few days to get an idea.

 

How to eat healthily:

Regardless of what your fitness goals are, basic, healthy eating is going to help you get there. Unfortunately, defining healthy eating isn’t as easy as you’d think. It turns out that there are many different opinions on what exactly healthy eating is.

 

Not too long ago, we were told that fats and dietary cholesterol were bad; eating eggs for breakfast every day was considered unhealthy. But today we know that isn’t true.

 

In fact, the high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet recommendations of the past have been found to be incorrect. It turns out many of the things we thought were unhealthy were actually perfectly okay—in moderation, that is.

 

Rather than confuse you about the speculation and debate on the fringes of the healthy eating debate, I’m going to give you some solid, difficult-to-disagree-with advice on how you can eat healthier, and give you some reasons why certain foods are considered healthy while others aren’t.

 

For the most part, food is food

It turns out we give a little too much emphasis to whether certain foods are healthy or not. For the most part, our bodies don’t care where they get their carbs, proteins, and fats from, as long as they have what they need.

 

I’m not saying that some foods aren’t technically “better” for you, but for most people, focusing too much on the specific foods they eat is a premature optimization.

 

What I mean by this is that you shouldn’t be thinking about whether this food or that food is healthy. You should instead be thinking mostly about macronutrient ratios and calorie counts.

 

Macronutrients are basically carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and we’ve already talked quite a bit about calorie counts in blog 58. The sources of macronutrients and calories aren’t nearly as important as the amounts.

 

You might be skeptical—I know, it seems too simple—but a nutrition professor, Mark Haub, did a little experiment involving Twinkies that you might be interested in. In Mark’s experiment, he ate one Twinkie every three hours instead of eating regular meals. He also had some other “junk food” like chips, snack cakes, and cookies—Oreos specifically.

 

Here’s the catch, Mark restricted his diet to 1,800 calories a day. Even though he was eating “junk,” he was carefully controlling his calorie count. His maintenance calorie amount was about 2,600 calories a day, so he was in a deficit of around 800 calories a day.

 

After two months, he dropped his weight by 27 pounds. Not only did he lose weight, but his bad cholesterol dropped by 20% and his good cholesterol increased by 20%.

 

To be fair, he did drink a protein shake each day and ate some vegetables, but two-thirds of his diet consisted of junk food. Obviously eating a bunch of junk food isn’t considered healthy, but quantity is the most important factor in healthy eating.

 

And for restructuring your body— gaining muscle or losing fat while retaining muscle—the ratio of what kinds of macronutrients you eat is pretty important as well.

 

Wait, isn’t this a contradiction? Didn’t you just tell me that calories are the most important? Well, for just losing or gaining weight, yes, but if you want to gain muscle or lose primarily fat, you need to think about what you eat, not just how much.

 

Should I just eat junk food?

Perhaps you’re thinking that you should follow Mark’s example and just eat junk food. I wouldn’t recommend it, and not because junk food is unhealthy. I wouldn’t recommend it primarily because you’ll be really hungry.

 

Here’s the thing: not all foods have the same caloric density. Typically the high-fat, high-sugar foods that we consider “junk food” are bad for us simply because they are so calorie-dense.

 

You don’t have to eat much cheesecake to consume a large number of calories, but on the other hand, you can eat a huge amount of broccoli and hardly consume many calories at all.

 

Whether some foods are healthier for you or not doesn’t matter nearly as much as the number of foods you consume. You’re much likelier to consume more calories when you eat unhealthy foods simply because they taste better and they’re denser in calories.

 

Because being overweight is a bigger factor in our overall health than the foods we eat, it makes much more sense to focus on losing weight—by whatever means possible—rather than getting too caught up on what foods are healthy.

 

That means, for the most part, that it’s really up to you. If you’re trying to lose weight and you’re trying to hit 1,800 calories a day like Mark was, you can eat three meals of healthy foods daily or you can have one Outback Steakhouse Aussie cheese fries (2,140 calories total). Your choice. I prefer to eat mostly healthy food, because I don’t like being hungry all the time.

But what exactly are “healthy” foods?

 

Oh, you mean you want to know what foods aren’t as calorie-dense and might provide some other nutritional value than just calories? Okay, I can help you out.

 

Like I said before, it’s subjective and we don’t actually know with 100% accuracy what foods are healthy and which ones aren’t, so we can focus primarily on caloric density and make some pretty decent assumptions about the rest.

 

With that in mind, some of the healthiest foods, or at least the ones that aren’t all that dense in calories, happen to be fruits and vegetables. Most fruits and vegetables have high fiber content and also contain a lot of water.

 

Remember that fiber calories basically don’t count, because those calories can’t actually be digested by your body. And, of course, water doesn’t contain any calories, either.

 

It also turns out that for some vegetables, in their whole form, your body has to spend quite a bit of calorie to digest them—this is known as the thermic effect. Proteins actually have the highest thermic effect— requiring about 20–30% of the calories they contain just to digest them—which brings us to the next category of healthy foods: proteins.

 

Foods that are high in protein are usually not very dense—unless they also contain a high amount of fat. That’s why a chicken breast, which is almost all protein, is generally considered healthier than a nice cut of marbled steak—delicious, but pretty calorie-dense.

 

Regardless of the actual density, in terms of calories, all proteins require quite a bit of energy for your body to digest and convert to usable calories.

 

Proteins are also essential in building and maintaining muscle. Remember that your body needs certain amino acids to produce and repair muscle tissue, so if you’re trying to lose weight and want to keep your body from losing muscle, having a large amount of protein in your diet is a good thing.

 

The same goes for gaining muscle. If your goal is to gain muscle, you’ll see the most success with a diet that’s high in protein.

 

What foods contain protein? Mostly meats, eggs, and milk, although, there are certainly vegetarian sources of protein as well, like beans, lentils, tofu, and nondairy milk. The best protein sources for dieting are usually lean protein sources because they won’t have as many calories. Chicken breasts, turkey, fish, and egg whites are great sources of lean protein.

 

Next, on our list come carbohydrate sources that are considered complex carbohydrates. This would be carbohydrates that are a bit more difficult for your body to break down. These carbohydrate sources typically contain fiber and have a higher thermic effect.

 

Sweet potatoes, brown rice, and oatmeal are good examples. Foods that contain processed sugar aren’t as good, because the simple sugars are easily moved directly into your bloodstream. Those kinds of foods tend to be denser in calories.

 

  • The body has to spend 20–30% of calories to digest
  • Usually not very dense calorie-wise.
  • High in fiber.

 

Different foods have different caloric densities

We also need fats, and some fats are considered healthy while others aren’t. Don’t get me started on this topic.

We’ve been told for a long time that saturated fats are evil, but a huge study involving over 350,000 people in 2010 that was published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed no conclusive proof linking saturated fat to heart disease or strokes.

 

Even though saturated fats may not be that bad, it turns out that unsaturated fats can actually help lower bad cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. You can find unsaturated fats in foods like fatty fish and nuts.

 

Overall, what are “healthy” foods? In general, the foods that are the healthiest aren’t processed—whole foods like chicken, vegetables, fruits, sweet potatoes, brown rice, eggs, oatmeal, nuts, and fish.

 

Again, these foods aren’t necessarily a lot healthier than other types of foods, but in general, you’ll find that these foods are less dense calorie-wise and provide the basic nutrients you need.

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