Jay Cardiello: The No Diet Plan, How to Recover from Injury, and Why Cheetahs Never Pull A Hamstring

Is it possible to bounce back from an injury even stronger than before? Find out: http://bit.ly/jaycard

Can eating on blue plates actually improve your health?

Is it possible to bounce back from an injury even stronger than before?

Do A-List celebrities struggle with the same boring challenges as the rest of us?

You’re about to find out on this week’s episode of Fat-Burning Man.

Jay Cardiello is a celebrity trainer and co-star of ABC’s My Diet is Better Than Yours. His client list includes Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Seacrest, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, as well as teams in the MLB and NFL. He lived and toured with 50 Cent for 4 years, and you’ll be surprised by how much you and 50 Cent probably have in common.

On today’s episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to come back from an injury stronger than you were before
  • The surprising thing many celebrities like 50 Cent have in common with Jeff
  • Why losing fat with nutrition is more effective than exercise
  • How to ensure you get quality sleep every night
  • And much more…


Abel: Jay is a celebrity trainer and the former fitness editor for Shape, a regular contributor to Men’s Fitness, and a member of the advisory board for Muscle and Fitness. So glad you’re here, Jay.

Can you tell people about your backstory and how a traumatic injury completely transformed your career?

Thanks for having me on, Abel, and congratulations on becoming a New York Times bestselling author!

I was an athlete at University of Arkansas. I was a ‘96 national champion long-jumper and I came down wrong on a jump. Very wrong. I cracked my tailbone in half.

I had to stay out of school a couple years. I went through 13 major surgeries to put myself back together. I’m the bionic man.

But my injury was a blessing in disguise.

At that point I started identifying myself not as an athlete anymore, but as a teacher—mostly to myself.

I had the title of “athlete,” and now it’s gone. That’s when I started working on the mental aspect brought into coaching and fell in love with it. I transferred colleges and started working with the track team and some NFL prospects. One happened to go on to the NFL.

So I put out some calls to the NFL. I gave them my resume, and got a call from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be an apprentice in the strengthening and conditioning department. So, it all spawned from there. I spent some time in the NFL, major league baseball, and world championship boxing… and I did that for ten years on the rehabilitation side, working with athletes recovering from surgery or injury. I also worked a lot on their mental game.

It’s not all about physicality, it’s really about the mental game. @JayCardiello Click To Tweet

It’s 90% psychology and about 10% talent.

Abel: Injury is part of the process. One of the biggest problems with being healthy is that not a lot of people talk about how to bounce back. Like you said, you don’t just lose the ability to work out, you lose a whole piece of your identity. What can you do to get high performers back into action when they’re sidelined with a horrible injury?

Being a former injured athlete, you create a natural rapport. You go to these world class athletes and you ask if they’re okay. The have an attitude like, “Yeah I’m fine. What do you know about it?” I tell them I cracked my tailbone in half and would have been in a wheelchair if I didn’t have the right doctors around me.

Then I get the question, “What did you do?” My answer: One of the biggest things I did was that I realized the words I say to myself had to change.

Whenever I’m dealing with an athlete, words are the most powerful thing. What you tell yourself is what the future will hold for you.


Try, beat, can’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t, impossible are not words that empower you.

What you speak, you become. @JayCardiello Click To Tweet

Abel: What about the way you’re moving your body? A high performer with a terrible injury won’t be symmetrical anymore. How do you make sure they’re still healthy and balanced when they get back to the action?

One of the biggest things I did when injured was off-balance training. On the show with Jeff I had him work out on a pillow with one leg. I’d work on unstable surfaces to work on flexibility in the hips. People overlook the importance of flexibility and mobility.

Athletes overlook recovery and the importance of sleep.

You need to invest in sleep. It will create balance in the mind and body.

Abel: You can treat an injury as a recovery phase. You can take time to focus on sleep, nutrition, and using that recovery time as an opportunity to make sure when you come back, you’re stronger.

Injuries are blessings. You’re going to find out your root cause. If you have a knee injury, it probably is not your knee. It’s probably your hip, or tightness, or you don’t have a full range of motion. Sure it keeps you off the field, but it allows people like you and me to focus on the cause so when you come back, you’re solid. It makes a difference in a lot of people’s lives.

Abel: What is an example of a root cause that leads to injury?

Two things that really affect people are hydration and lack of sleep. How do I lose weight? Go to bed. Get your hormones back on track.

Drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day. When you’re in a hydrated state, you’re going to perform better and your mood will be better.

Sleep and water are going to put your body in a good state to enjoy a better quality of life.

Sleep and water are not sexy, so they don’t get talked about.

Sleep and water are going to put your body in a good state to enjoy a better quality of life: http://bit.ly/jaycard

Sleep is the new sexy. @JayCardiello Click To Tweet

In America we’re taught that the harder you work, the more you’ll get. But I believe the smarter you work, the more you’ll get. If you’re so exhausted, don’t go to the gym. Make sure you’re hydrated and go to bed.

I worked with 50 Cent and lived with him for 4 years. He wanted to get in shape and I told him I had to be with him 24 hours a day so I could figure out his habits—he doesn’t sleep. He’s a workaholic… a lot like Jeff. He’d get 3.5 to 4 hours of sleep.

You get ahead by stopping. He didn’t understand that. For the first couple weeks I was making sure he’d get a minimum of six hours sleep. When he did that, we’d be able to crank out in the gym. Now, if he doesn’t get sleep, he doesn’t work out.

Abel: how do you turn a proud non-sleeper to someone who gets enough zzz’s?

When Jeff and I got together, he was working 8 hours days then another 6 hours at night from 9:30pm-3:30am. I sat him down and told him, you have a host of chronic conditions associated with obesity, but the most critical one is sleep apnea.

After week 5, he got sleep. By week 6, we started to see mood change. We didn’t win My Diet is Better Than Yours. But he won life. What he gained was quality of life. He’s happy, he’s smiling his wife has a husband and his kids have a father.

We live in a microwave society. You don’t lose weight fast that’s going to be sustainable. People don’t want that… they want it now.

Abel: A lot of people, when they want results, they go straight to exercise even if they sacrifice sleep to do it.

We all have these things, like New Year’s resolutions. They crush it at first and by the 15th, they quit. Exercise is not the end-all be-all. Yes, it’s great for consistency, quality of life, and bone density, but you can’t outrun a bad diet. If you want sustainable outcomes, start small. You have to create habits and rituals. How about instead of drinking soda, just switch to water?

I work with these amazing entertainers, and even before I start I tell them, if you’re not sleeping you’re not training. I’ve had people leave. Then they burn out. If you’re not getting quality sleep and quality foods, you’re not getting a quality workout.

If you’re not sleeping, you’re not training. @JayCardiello Click To Tweet

Exercise is about 1 – 4% of the equation. An hour with me cannot compete with 23 hours away from me.

Abel: What do you make sure your clients are doing in the hours away from you?

The biggest thing is sleep. It means setting boundaries on cell phone. It’s hard for Americans to say is NO. Sleep is imperative.

When I work with high end clients, I have them get blood tests because there are things the doctors can see that I can’t. But for the everyday person, it’s about getting quality sleep and improving nutrition slowly.

You have to practice rituals and change your behavior along with it. When you deal with alcoholics or drug issues—they meet with their counselors and set up a behavioral strategy.

We need to look around and see who we’re hanging out with, because we are a product of our environment.

Behavior change creates sustainable outcomes. If those three things (sleep, nutrition, environment) aren’t working, don’t work out.

Abel: We’ve worked out in the same room and you’re a beast. All these trainers are doing cardio all the time, but you’re a big fan of getting more bang for your buck.

Exercise is my therapy. It’s my time away. I’m shutting off my phone.. my son calls it “Dad time.” whether it’s just doing pushups, stretching, meditating, or hitting a punching bag, it’s my time. It can be five minutes or a half hour—I’m just doing something that pushes my body or my mind. But it’s not my end-all be-all.

I’ve gone to the gym, sat on the bench, and gone home and took a nap.

There are two things I always do: stretch and meditate. Even if it’s just two minutes or five minutes.

How come a cheetah never pulls a hamstring while running? He sleeps and he stretches. Click To Tweet

My program is pretty unstructured. It’s how I feel that day and how I want to push my body.

Abel: If someone doesn’t feel like working out that day, how do you know it’s something to honor rather than rewarding lazy behavior?

How do I sell sweat and pain?

Here’s one of the biggest battles. There’s a difference between being completely exhausted and just tired. Your body is shot, you can’t keep your eyes open. Also, there are times when your immune system is shot—you don’t go to the gym.

If you’re fatigued (which we all are) or if you don’t want to go to the gym (80% of us don’t) just get up and move. Just go for a walk (what you did with Kurt). You’re not going to want to do it, but just go do it. At the end of it you’re going to feel so much better.

It’s sad that America is 70% overweight. You don’t have to spend an hour in the gym. Just get off the couch and walk outside and walk back in. How far is the closest gym to you? How far is a health food store? Not that far. We all have excuses.

Dance while you’re getting dressed in the morning. Stand on one leg while brushing your teeth.

Abel: I love this idea of micro exercise. The benefits, though, are largely mental. You can feel that surge of hormones and endorphins coming into your body.

I’ll take a short burst of exercise in the morning over a shot of espresso any day of the week. You get so much energy from moving. Even if it’s just a walk. I’ll walk with the dog toward the end of the day, especially when I’m a bit mentally fatigued. You might not want to go, but as soon as you’re out there, it’s the best thing ever.

Abel, you speak so many words of wisdom.

Your body is the best gym, you just don’t use that membership. @JayCardiello Click To Tweet

We think we have to buy a dvd—it’s not about that. We just don’t get up and move. Dancing while you’re getting dressed in the morning can boost how you feel. There will never be a magic pill. You are your own magic pill. You just have to realized exercise doesn’t have to be so structured, it can just be an expression of who you are.


Abel: As long as you’re getting nutrition right and nailing sleep, that is. When we were on the show, I realized the contestants and trainers have a difference in culture. A lot of the contestants seemed to share the philosophy that being healthy wasn’t in the cards for them.

I was surprised by how they didn’t seem to believe our protocols for health (and weight loss) would work at the beginning, even when they were getting results. Even when they were already 20 pounds down, losing body fat, or off prescription meds, they’re like, “I don’t know if it’s working.” That can be befuddling.

The mental aspect is something you have to embrace if you want long term change. How did you see that develop?

People don’t get my “No Diet Plan.” There really is a diet, it’s called life, and you need to eat it up as much as you can.

Of course it’s about food, but you need to address your root factor. It’s about finding your “why” factor. What’s your environment like? Who’s around you feeding negativity? Is it yourself? Your past? A relative?

Ben and Jerry’s shows up at night for a reason. Johny Walker shows up for a reason—you’re suppressing things.

The first week with Jeff I had him write his obituary. Then he saw the value of his life. Next we worked on taming the tongue—using stronger words to empower him as he’s speaking.

The next week I had him draw his circle of life to see who he’s hanging out with the most and see who’s negative and positive. I also had him write the un-love letter. He read it out loud and he got into a peak state. I had him punch a punching bag and you saw the emotion fall away.

Then there’s the colors. It’s called chromotherapy. I had him match colors—like the blue plates. It’s about portion control. And green will help you sleep. So will lavender, which is what Jeff chose for his sheets. Red is an excitable color. He was creating rituals.

If you want progression and sustainability you have to practice rituals. He’s still keeping an emotional journal every night. Rather than taking his emotions out with junk food, he writes what he’s feeling and rips it up and flushes it down the toilet.

Abel: We saw some contestants had given up on the idea of being healthy. Jeff talked about this and Kurt, too—they’re “the fat guy,” they make fun of being obese and adopt a self-deprecating personality. But there are problems with success as well– like their significant other doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to eat that way. Or they might have extra skin after losing weight. How do you get people to continue with new, unanticipated problems?

Jennifer Cassetta wrote a good article on her blog. It’s about getting rid of the labels. I said this to Jeff and we had this conversation many times. You’re not FAT. You’re calling yourself that. You’re putting it out there and listening to other people. Once you take a step forward in the race, the marathon is shorter. Once you take a step away from that label, you’re not that label anymore.

Is it possible to bounce back from an injury even stronger than before? Find out: http://bit.ly/jaycard

Once you take a step forward, the marathon is shorter. @JayCardiello Click To Tweet

Forget diets and meal plans, let’s talk about what’s really affecting America—stress, alcoholism, depression—when you start working on it, that’s not your label anymore. You’re a work in progress.

If you’re moving toward a better quality of life, you’ve got to leave that label behind.

When Jeff lost that huge amount of weight by the end of the show, he wasn’t like, “Man we could have won that competition.” He was like, “Wow, I’m a human being.”

The first time he stepped on the scale, Shaun said to me, “What do you think?” I said that number means nothing. He’s a father and a human being. He’s a work in progress. It takes time to disrupt that pattern, and he did.

Abel: You see the contestants going from this state of “things just keep getting worse” to “things keep getting better.” A light went on when they realized that as long as they believed in themselves and put in the work, they could change.

You understood from Kurt and Jasmin and everyone on the show that this is life. This is not a competition, it’s life. It is reality tv, so they’ll say “You’ve only lost one pound…” I was like, so what? If you quit, then you’ve accepted it. It’s not all about the scale, it’s about how you’re feeling.

Here’s one that gets me. A client will say: My clothes fit better, I feel better, I’m having a better sex life, my manboobs are gone, I can walk faster, I don’t breath as heavy, BUT I didn’t lose any weight this week.

You say 11 positive statements and then one negative thing that nullifies it all.

In the end, Jeff saw his children and his wife when he went home at the end of the day. They were proud of him, and he looked in the mirror for the first time. It’s not about the number on the scale, it’s the number of days you’re adding to your life.

I truly believe that being on My Diet is Better Than Yours saved Jeff’s life.

Abel: Every coach on the show did a great job with their contestant. And you can witness the change in mentality… “I deserve this. I want to be better for my family. I want to be there and I want my health back.”

You raise your standards, you raise your mindset. It’s not about the scale. Every day you go to work it’s not like you’re going to have this awesome day all the time. But you can have that awesome day, it’s all about the decisions you make.

I make the situation the best I possibly can. That’s what each one of them learned to do. Even if I gained ten pounds next week, the mindset is there that they can get back on it.

Abel: Let’s talk about the actual exercises on the show. If your client is obese, then burpees, frog jumps, and high impact exercises aren’t a good choice. I don’t want viewers at home try to do the TV workouts they saw during the challenges. We talked about this quite a bit behind the scenes, and I know you feel the same way.

All of the trainers on the show, even Carolyn, used low-impact exercise. We never took chances because weight loss isn’t about exercise. If you want weight loss, your food has to be your focus. If you want sustainable exercise, then sleep, hydration, and behavioral change has to be the focus.

People will say to me, “You can eat whatever you want because you burn it off when you work out.” NO. That’s not how it works. I wish everyone would get that. We live in a microwavable society, and we want results now. We applaud people who burn themselves out. Work out this hard and pass out and get these results… no, you won’t.

The New York Times published a study where researchers took 40 guys and put them through all these rigorous exercises to see who could shed fat and hold onto muscle. The high protein group shed more fat… but in the end, they concluded that the insane workout regime wasn’t sustainable.

Athletes that I deal with, they have an end of the season, and at the end of the season they stop and rest. LeBron James sleeps ten hours a night!

We put our energy in the wrong place—we know where the value is and it’s in food.

Abel: What are some other surprising things professional athletes and performers are doing?

The biggest thing is the mental game. I’m going out to work with a speed skating team. It’s all behavioral. It’s how you visualize your race, what you feel, mindful meditation. When I was working with The Cincinnati Reds, we’d shut the door, turn the light off, and put a red dot on the screen. We’d work just the eyes—to pick up a curveball and study how the ball moves faster. It’s the training that’s away from field of play that’s important. It’s mental imagery. It’s getting your mind to believe you’re the best.

We always look at athletes like Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and LeBron James, and we think they’re so cocky. No, they’re not. They’re the best at their game. Everyone wants to hate on them and see them fail. They have to continuously talk to themselves like they are the greatest in the world, because 99% of America wants to see them fail. They have to work on their mental game.

You have to be your greatest cheerleader. @JayCardiello Click To Tweet

Abel: No matter if 12 great things happen, one guy who cuts you off in traffic ruins your day. Self-talk is so important.

When we were on the show, you and I didn’t sit down once to say, “Are you going to do squats or lunges today?” Our shop talk was about goals, rituals, how is he talking to himself, what’s your focus? I really wish people in the fitness industry saw that.

Here you are this New York Times bestselling author, I’m a celebrity trainer, and we spend most of our time talking about how passionate we are about the mind, hormones, ghrelin levels… and people are like, “What workout did you do?”

I wish they would have seen Jeff and me sitting on the couch saying, “I can. I will. I do.” We read The Little Engine that Could when we’re kids, but forgot about it at 40.

Abel: You did some serious work with Jeff’s mindset. Those changes are why he ultimately got results. You could see positivity coming back to his life.

He went to bed. He used to stay up every night and just get 3 hours of sleep. I want to see how you eat and feel if you only sleep three hours. You’re not going to be nice to your wife. You’re going to be miserable. Correcting his sleep was my main focus.

I told Jeff that he and 50 Cent were so much alike. He’s like, “Because we’re tough?” No. You don’t sleep. I was 50’s roommate for four years and his mood and everything changed when he got enough sleep. With Jeff, 14 weeks later the positivity and behavioral change happened because he went to bed.


Abel: And he started talking to himself differently… Performers, athletes, musicians on tour, having been on the road for so long… what would you recommend for people building the right routine no matter where they are?

Write your goals down and make them as attractive as possible. Do it before you leave. Start conditioning your mind early on.

What do you eat while you’re traveling? Make sure you’re hydrated and you’ll decrease any sort of temptation.

Another trick is to switch to your non-dominant hand while you’re eating. It takes your brain 15 – 20 minutes to realize you’re full. Switch the fork over and you’ll slow your pace down. That’s what it’s all about in life—slow down.

I’m Italian. When we sat down to Sunday spaghetti dinner, the portion sizes were huge. Then when I went to Italy, the pasta is on your plate and it’s small.

It’s about quality over quantity. It’s about quality of life, quality of food, and enjoying the quality of people around you. Jeff and his family were not eating together, now they are.

If you’re eating alone, you’re watching TV and you gorge. But if we are together, you’re eating with other people, you shut the tv off, and you have a nice conversation. You slow your pace. Eat as a group and you can also hold each other accountable.

Abel: Feast together. I like it.

You really showed Kurt a lot when you did the dessert thing. It was a celebratory time for Kurt and a celebration of people getting together. We don’t get together enough.

My life is really busy but we make a point to eat together at least a few times a week. Our son never eats alone. We don’t do that enough these days. We don’t understand food and kids don’t know what asparagus is.


Jay is doing a healthcare intervention program using pattern disruption working with clinically obese patients to slow and stop the progression of chronic diseases related to obesity.

You can find him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and on his website, www.jcardio.com.


Discover how to drop fat with chocolate, bacon, and cheesecake. Plus: learn the 3 worst foods you should NEVER eat and the 7 best exercises for rapid fat loss. Click below to to claim your FREE gift ($17 value)!


If you are a fan of My Diet is Better Than Yours and you want to get results like Kurt, check this out. You can get the exact meals Kurt ate on the ABC show to lose 16 pounds in a week, 57 pounds in 7 weeks, and a total of 87 pounds in just 14 weeks.

He also dropped an astounding 22% percentage points of body fat with The Wild Diet, more than doubling the results of other plans on the show.

And now you can try it yourself at home.

After years of researching and coaching the most effective, permanent, and healthy principles behind rapid fat loss and total body recomposition, we developed The Wild Diet 30 Day Fat Loss Program.

Since then, many THOUSANDS of fat-burners from all corners of the globe have lost 20, 50, or even more than 100 pounds with The Wild Diet.​

Here’s what one of our Tribe members, Samantha, just said about the Wild meal plans:

“My sons, who claim to despise fish, just wolfed down the macadamia cod.”

Here’s another from Blaine:

“My wife and I have been on the wild diet for one week. After one week, I lost 8 pounds (4% of my body weight). I also lost two inches from my stomach. I am very pleased with the results.

My wife who is cooking wonderful meals lost 5 pounds (3.1% of her body weight). Overall, we are feeling healthy.”

Cassie says:

“Just finished up Day 3 and I cannot get over how delicious these meals are and how great I feel! Started incorporating these practices last week and already down 1.4% body fat and down 10+ lbs. Is this real life?!”

I’m stoked that you all are getting results! And thanks again for writing in.

With the 30-day Wild program you’ll get:

  • 30 days of fat-burning Wild Diet meal plans to get you rapid results
  • The exact recipes I gave Kurt during on ABC TV so you can enjoy chicken parmesan, chocolate pudding, and even cheesecake while dropping fat
  • The facts about how much protein you really need to preserve muscle
  • And tons more

And if you grab it today, you’ll even get a listener discount.

You can also check out my book, The Wild Diet, which is now a New York Times Bestseller, anywhere books are sold. Thanks so much for your support and don’t forget to drop me a line and let me know how you’re doing.

Brian says:

“I’ve been doing this for 8 months. This is the first plan I have stuck with past 4. Part of the success is that with this group the Wild Diet isn’t just a book I bought. It’s a living, dynamic journey.”

Thanks Brian! We love you, man.

Get step-by-step meal plans to burn fat, improve performance, and eat outrageously good food: http://bit.ly/30daymeals

What was your biggest takeaway from this interview? Share with us in the comments below.

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  1. Andrew Schaefer says:

    The TV show made all of the trainers look INSANE. You do such a good job with these interviews of humanizing everyone and letting them present their positions in an authentic way. So much more interesting than seeing their caricatures on television.

  2. This interview gave us a better understanding of who Jay is and I agree the show made him look a little crazy, my wife called him “the smart one”. It was really interesting to hear you guys discuss sleep and the way it affects the body. It is one thing that I neglect and am often proud about how little sleep I got in relation to being productive. Once again another great podcast, Thanks Abel.

  3. I always eat Vegan by religion. What are possible option. I am not much overweight , i am just 72 Kgs. but I have lot of symtons similar to fibro or arthiritis.

  4. Kristin Osmar says:

    I had hoped to find solutions to my insomnia….I want to sleep, try to sleep, lie in bed many many hours not able to sleep. I take several aminos, magnesium, sleep herbs, don’t eat past 7 pm. and still wake up in middle of night and can’t return to sleep. So the interview was good and informative, but the reason I read it was to find help for my sleep problem. Ah well, maybe next time? Thanks.

  5. Great job Abel. The interview really showed what Jay is all about, way more multifaceted than what we got to see on the show, I was very impressed.

  6. Totally agree with Andrew above. The show did not do justice to the good works that all the trainers were doing – it just pointed out the differences from conventional wisdom and the “weird” stuff each trainer did. I absolutely love that you’ve talked to the other trainers on your show and will continue to share your stuff with everyone I know. Thank you!

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