Musings + Essays

Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes.

By: Jen Shoop

A few years ago, I came across a Pinterest post that read:


I immediately dismissed it as fluffy circular logic and went on with my day.

Reader, I cannot tell you how many times I have said these words to myself since. I’ve used them with particular acuteness when groping towards healthier or more fulfilling habits that have a way of slipping just out of my grasp, despite the best of intentions. As an example, I often talk about wanting to read more, to spend more time in nature, to run more frequently, to pass less time on my phone. To all of these aspirations, I have grown repetitious in saying: nothing changes if nothing changes. For some reason, this turn of phrase prompts me into action, but not aggressive, high-expectation action — the wording makes me realize that even baby steps move me forward. When I was starting my running routine this summer, I told myself that my only goal was to run every other day. It did not matter how far, how fast, how long — just that I had gotten outside with my shoes on and put my body in motion. This low-stakes goal eased me into a habit that I am now happily ensconced in. I recently read a similar tack from another budding runner: at first, her goal was to run to five songs on her playlist without checking her watch or fitness stats once. She was often startled that she’d end up in a good groove and continue well past the five songs. She later upped the ante: just run to six songs, then seven songs, then ten songs. Within a matter of months, she was routinely running three or four miles without the usual angst that accompanies making it through a long run.

The same goes for reading. Earlier this summer, I found it difficult to find any time to read. So many of our early summer nights involved hanging out on the back porch with my family, or watching movies with Mr. Magpie, or trying to go to bed early, and so my routine window for Kindle-reading disappeared. Instead, I decided the best foothold would be audiobook listening, and I told myself that my only goal was to listen to an audiobook while walking Tilly in the mornings. At first, I found the commitment a tiny bit frictional in that I sometimes longed to use that time to think or to just walk in silence, especially after the morning chaos of two energetic children clamoring for more cereal, a new bandaid, and help getting shoes on (usually all at the same time). But within a few days, I’d formed the new routine, and I did it by putting my iPhone in my belt bag and my AirPods in my ears even before walking out the door. Then I’d walk outside and listen for 20 minutes. The thing that startled me was that once I’d formed this habit, I found myself searching for other pockets of audiobook time throughout the day — during the five or ten minutes it takes to wash my face, put on a little makeup, and get dressed; while driving the kids to/from school or camp; while folding laundry. I managed to read four audiobooks in the span of about a month or maybe six weeks — a pretty quick clip for me. I’ve regressed a bit over the past two weeks since my audiobook holds lapsed at the library in the middle of the book and could not be renewed, and I know I’ve got to return to brass tacks: nothing changes if nothing changes. That is: how will I now graft the practice onto my routine? (It can change over time! At the moment, looking out across an imminent period of car travel and beach days, I am contemplating picking up the Kindle again with the goal of reading a chapter a day.)

I think the phrase can be powerful in other realms, too: parenting, work, relationships, eating habits, sleeping habits, water consumption, posture, self-advocacy. In so many areas of life, it is easy to just let things slide, to take the path of least resistance, to feel disempowered in the face of what seems like impossible change. But nothing changes if nothing changes.

Try it on for size — see if it resonates with you!

Post Scripts.

+Things to say yes to.

+I had a really strong (not great) reaction to the popular book Atomic Habits, which is all about habit formation. As you can see from the above essay, I really am a believer in so many of the book’s approaches but something about the book rubbed me the wrong way. Thoughts?

+On selfhood.

+More on getting back into a fitness groove.

Shopping Break: New Fitness Finds.

+The most important bullet on this list: Nike bras are 50% off with code BRA50. I was literally just reading about how great Nike’s Indy bra is (consistently ranked as one of the best all-around sports bras) and was delighted to find it half off! I bought two!

+I am also ordering one of these Lululemon bras, which gets similarly strong reviews. I was a bit skeptical because — despite the fact that I am a die-hard fan of so many of Lulu’s pieces, especially their Align leggings, Swiftly Tech tops, and Track That shorts — I have found their bras not the most comfortable in years past. I think the key is ordering a size up from my usual size in almost all of their pieces. They do hold up beautifully, which is one element that is convincing me to upgrade from the Champion C9s to which I typically gravitate. (The latter are inexpensive, unfussy, and very stretchy/comfortable, but they do show wear over time.)

+Today is the last day of Target’s Deal Day promotion — and I just realized these incredible $12 running tanks are only $6?! I’ve written about them so many times, but they are my absolute favorite and a bargain at $12, let alone $6! I just ordered another black and another white.

+On an unglamorous but urgent front: I have battled body breakouts forever and ever because of my fitness habits. I have tried every body wash, remove clothing as soon as I finish working out, shower right away, etc, and nothing has worked. I finally booked a one-off visit to the dermatologist to ask for answers. He gave me a Gly-Sal 10-2 body wash, which contains medical grade ingredients, and I am beyond ecstatic at the results. It is a pretty strong (a.k.a. drying) formula so you might want to start by using it 1x a week and see how things go, which is what my derm recommended, but this has been absolutely instrumental.

+Spanx has some really intriguing new athletic wear pieces. I love the traditional pleating on this fitness skirt.

+Are you all stocked up swim? I wanted to mention that HHH just re-launched their quick-to-sell-out swim selection yesterday. This gingham is adorable and this swim skirt is always the first to go!

+I’m also a reluctant participant in anything Outdoor Voices makes – I tried a few of their leggings a few years ago and they almost made me throw up they were so constricting. And these were pieces in my true size! Like, there were areas that were baggy/loose. But some parts of it were just non-breathable, non-stretchable. BUT. This fitness dress (<<part of Nordstrom’s Anniversary sale!) promises to behave differently. I was just reading through the reviews on O.V.’s site (where it’s not on sale, but at least you can check out the reviews — there are a lot to sift through) and this is getting pretty solid traction.

+Megan Stokes has been raving about these running shorts, which are currently on sale for $33 with free shipping. I’m going to order a pair to check them out in the lilac flash color.

+These under-$20 belt bags are the spitting image of the one from Lululemon. Come in tons of colors! Perfect for hiking/walking. For running, I still swear by these $13 aqua belts, which are super lightweight, comfortable, contour-to-the-body, and have just the right amount of space for phone, keys, card.


+Not exactly fitness, but outdoor-related, I bought this $20 16 quart Coleman chiller in the chicest shade of fog blue for our upcoming beach trip!

+I have been using this apple cider vinegar rinse to combat summer hair (rebalance scalp pH after all the chlorine, sweat, etc!). I am still trying to figure out exactly how to use it — I think I’ve put on too much sometimes, and too little other times, but there have been a handful of applications where I’ve emerged from the shower feeling squeaky clean, with the happiest and shiniest hair I’ve seen in awhile. I am still LOVING AND OBSESSED WITH this ACV leave-in conditioning spray, which I use every time I get out of the shower. My hair has never looked softer or shinier!

+Read more of my recent fitness gear roundups here and here.

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19 thoughts on “Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes.

  1. Jen, this post continues to be a source of inspiration to me and the phrase nothing changes if nothing changes has become my motto when I have been undergoing stress and am nervous to do something as I tend to delay and wait and avoid at times. Yet, it is ok to make mistakes, to learn and grow from them, and to keep doing the best that I can and know how given the tools, resources, and information I have at the time I do something.

    thanks for continuing to be a source of joy for me!

  2. Curious to hear your thoughts on the Nike Indy bra now that we’re over a month out from publication?! I’m always in the market for sports bras that aren’t too 80s/90s in their look, if that makes sense. This one is so cute but I’m wondering if it’ll be supportive enough? FWIW, I’m a C cup and my favorite modes of exercise are cycling, barre, (gentle) weights, and walking. I have been through two extended running phases during the past year, but have come to the conclusion that I generally just do not enjoy it enough, and have also had multiple injuries (!) that have led me away from running and towards gentler modes of exercise. Maybe one day I’ll pick it back up again!

    Ooh, also, my adolescent stepdaughter is obsessed with Lululemon and is a big fan of the Like a Cloud bra. She has a couple of others and swears by the comfort aspect of this one. Now I want one myself! haha!

    Also raising my hand as an occasional sufferer of body acne and have added the Gly-Sal to my list! Thank you for the tip!


    1. Of course! So, I do like the Indy and would say it’s very supportive — but almost a tad restrictive for my taste. I find the straps are not as comfortable as I’d like. Still happy I have it as I know Nike gear tends to last a long time and it was only $20 at time of purchase. But I think I’d keep shopping for something better!


  3. I read Atomic Habits too. This post reminded me more of a book that resonated with me more. It’s called the Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson, which basically proposes that you just do a pinch more each day to reach your goals. In any case, I liked the way you put it in this post!

    1. Thanks, D! I appreciate the rec – that sounds more my speed. I like the concept of “doing 1% better everyday.” It has helped me a lot getting back into running this summer, and focusing on improvement in other areas, too, including parenting – just do 1% better! It feels so much more attainable and realistic.


  4. “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Oooh I feel like I need to put this up as a reminder in my home somewhere…

    Relatedly, I read this line somewhere (paraphrasing): try to do 1% better each day. While it doesn’t seem to leave room for “off” days, I try not to take it too literally. Or maybe that’s a cop-out…?

    1. Yes – similar sentiment! Make a small change / tiny improvement / intentional baby step every day. Love this. One thing I do struggle with is balancing this mindset with the occasions in which we need to give ourselves grace to just skip a work out / take a breather / not do all the things. Always a balancing act!


  5. Ooh saving that glycolic/salicylic wash for post-pregnancy. I battle workout-induced body breakouts too (so unsavory, ugh) and it’s especially frustrating in the summer – so self conscious in tanks/dresses that reveal it. Currently battling a fungal acne situation (thanks hormones & DC swamp weather) and one of the solutions, per my derm, is to lather/apply selenium sulfide for a few minutes in the shower – either prescription or just drugstore-grade dandruff shampoo. An annoying part of my shower ritual now, but it’s the only thing that seems to help! Commiseration.

    1. Ugh! You get it, then! It can be so embarrassing and irritating! Glad you found a solution that is working for right now…


  6. I must have come across that same Pinterest post…I’ve written that mantra across the top of my planner many times. Simple and effective.
    On the fitness note; I’ve tried many nike bras (my ex worked at nike corporate, the perks were amazing) and I think the Nike Dri-FIT Swoosh bra is the premier nike option, especially for running! They’re supportive without being restrictive and very durable– I’ve had a few of mine for nearly 10 years. The Indy is cuter but I find it to be uncomfortable. The thin straps dig and the sizing is wonky if you’re small chested with a small frame. If the option is wearing my Indy bra or doing laundry, I usually opt for laundry. I know there are advocates for both– I’d be curious to see what you prefer! Also, there are so many OV exercise dress dupes and NONE are as good as the real deal. It’s worth the money!! I wear mine constantly.

  7. I will definitely be trying that body acne cleanser. I also consulted my dermo for a solution (for butt acne in particular, or as she more nicely calls it, “acne on the backside”) and she recommended a 10% benzoyl peroxide wash. It works decently well, but I need to use it every day in order for it to be effective.

    1. I also get “acne on the backside” lol and the First Aid Beauty “KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub” has worked wonders for me!!

  8. You MUST listen to The Thursday Murder Club! It’s my favorite book in “quite a long while indeed.” (<—One of my favorite lines from the book). The narration is just spot-on. The second book is great, too, and the third is due out later this year. And shame on these library apps for snatching books away from us like that!! As much as I love having books available for free on my phone, I find that it adds stress to my reading experience. I’m either trying to speed read and finish before the due date, or do complex math in my head to see if I have time to finish a book, should I borrow now? Put it back on hold and let the next person read it? Ugh. I know it’s not the end of the world, but it’s sure a momentum killer.

    1. I SO agree with this!! It makes renting books mildly stressful, especially during this phase of life, when I *might* power through a book in a week, but more often than not, linger over it for several! I have on occasion ended up buying a book I’ve rented because it’s lapsed and I don’t think I’ll be able to pick it back up if I wait three weeks for my hold to come back through. I wish there were a solution for this…like, pay $1 to extend the rental? Get a discounted rate to finish it at a book store? Rent on Amazon??


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