October 6, 2021

The 77 Laws of Six Pack Abs: Stephen Campolo and Peter Tzemis

The world has a unique response to a guy who walks around with a shredded six-pack. They know that you’re someone special, someone different. No matter how many times you failed in the past or how bad your genetics are, carving a shredded six-pack is possible with the right blueprint. The 77 Laws of Six Pack Abs is that blueprint. Together, Stephen Campolo and Peter Tzemis, provide actionable steps to achieve your fitness goals.

You’re listening to the Author Hour Podcast. My name is Benji Block and I’m honored today to be joined by Stephen Campolo and Peter Tzemis and the authors of a new book titled, The 77 Laws of Six Pack Abs. Guys, welcome to the podcast.

Stephen Campolo: Thank you so much man, good to hear it.

Peter Tzemis: Yeah, awesome. Excited.

Benji Block: Would you guys just take a minute as we jump in here to provide some context for those who may be unfamiliar with your work? Give us a brief rundown on who you are and the work you’re doing.

Stephen Campolo: Sure, I’ll go first. My name is Stephen Campolo. I am a former fat kid. I started my journey in life on the heavier side so, on the opposite spectrum of where I am now. Weight was something I really struggled with for most of my early childhood, early adult life as well. I made a change when I was 15, 16 years old and really never looked back. I’ve been involved in fitness now for close to 20 years. Now I do full-time transformation coaching, along with writing articles and authoring this book, which has been an awesome opportunity. Yeah, I’ve been involved in this space now for almost 20 years.

Benji Block: Amazing. Peter, what about you?

Peter Tzemis: I started in the fitness space back in 2015— that’s when I wrote my first book and I’ve been writing books ever since. I trained a few clients but have mostly been staying in the online space, enjoying that world and building brands that way.

Benji Block: Awesome. Completing a book obviously takes time and dedication, and then you guys are working together on this project as well. What makes right now the right time to work on this book and release it into the world?

Stephen Campolo: We’ve pretty much seen the entire world shift in 2020 with the pandemic and with how life has changed for most people. Fitness is one of those things that was one of the— it was one of those that was greatly affected. With most of the gyms closing throughout the country, throughout the world, plus with people staying home and not being able to maybe be as active as they once were, weight gain and just unhealthy living, unhealthy eating was a huge, huge, huge issue.

Right now, just with the way things are going in the world, as far as more people are focused on getting a little bit healthier, losing some weight. This way, if God forbid, someone does get COVID, they’re in a much better position to fight it off, being healthier. Because we see comorbidities being the primary factor with people losing their lives to COVID, right? Not just that too, people that just want to lose 10 pounds or even maybe the 18-year-old kid that wants to look good for the pretty girl and get abs. I mean, this book is really for anyone that just wants to lose weight and get in shape. It doesn’t matter if you’re 400 pounds or if you’re 200 pounds or 150 pounds. This book can help you get there.

Benji Block: Peter, let me ask you this. Who did you have in mind when you guys are writing this book specifically? Obviously, there is a broad audience for people that wants six-packs but who are you thinking about specifically in your mind?

Peter Tzemis: For me, it was actually just my teenage self.

That was the thing because I had spent almost a decade researching nutrition and training, philosophies, and mindset. And I have a biology degree as a background so there’s been a lot of time and effort. I was pretty overweight, never the popular kid, and abs were just a fast way [to] not only to take control of my health but also give me that self-confidence to grow in every area of life. Yeah, it was really that person.

The Laws

Benji Block: Before we jump into some of the specific laws that you guys have written in this book, I would like to talk a little bit more about each of your personal journeys of fitness. Was there a pivotal moment or a change or an awakening that happened that sort of sparked really seeing the value of fitness and nutrition?

Stephen Campolo: Yeah, I’ll start first. Being 15, 16 years old, going through puberty, being a hundred pounds overweight isn’t very helpful, right? Especially when you see other people who are maybe more popular— the more popular athletes, my friends who were going on dates with girls, it’s like okay. Obviously, something needs to change here, right?

That’s what led me on my journey to start getting in shape and losing weight. Then one thing led to another after I lost a good amount of weight, I started lifting weights because now I wanted to build muscle and it almost became an obsession for me at that time in my life. Being a teenager, it’s like, the only thing I cared about was looking good, getting big, getting strong. Thankfully, it’s really been a healthy obsession for me ever since that day.

Health and fitness is one of those things where it transcends all areas of someone’s life. Because if you are healthy, if you are fit and you’re more confident in your ability, then you’re probably going to be more confident in your business, you’re probably going to be more confident in your career, you’re probably going to be more confident approaching the girl that you have a crush on, right?

I’ve never seen one situation where someone who lives a healthy lifestyle or someone who decides to get in shape, I’ve never seen a situation where it’s actually hurt them more than it help them. Again, fitness is one of those things where it could really just help someone live to the fullest in all aspects of their life.

Benji Block: Confidence and discipline, for sure. Peter, what about for you, for your journey?

Peter Tzemis: For me, writing this book was more about consolidating all the ideas I had kind of explored in fitness. Keto, paleo, to some weird five-day fast— there’s a lot of shit in the industry. It’s swimming through all that bullshit until you find what’s actually real. The 77 laws, one of the reasons we chose that was if you’re going to find 77 ways to get abs and lose weight, you’re going to have to do a lot of research, to say the least.

Because after maybe Law #15, you’ve kind of exhausted all the superficial stuff that everyone else talks about. And never mind when you get to like Law #37 or #48 and you’re like, “Holy shit, we really got to deep dive into this human psychology and what actually moves the needle beyond counting calories…”

Benji Block: Yeah, that’s what I love. This is such a practical book and it has such a fast, actionable punch to each of these laws. You guys break it down into six parts and it starts with mindset. I think that’s a little bit predictable just because in any area of your life that you’re seeking change, mindset is going to be probably the first one that you need to address.

You say this, you said, “The foundation of six-pack abs begins in the mind because no diet, exercise program, or fat loss pill can overcome limiting beliefs and self-sabotage.” When we talk about mindset, what are some of those limiting beliefs that you often see people running into?

Stephen Campolo: This was a really big part and one thing that I really try to identify when I was writing this book is— I share a lot of my own personal struggles. For a lot of people, especially myself included, when your identity is wrapped up in how you look and for most people, your identity is wrapped up in your appearance.

If you’ve been fat for a long time— deciding to get in shape or get fit, you really have to almost have an identity shift before we even start that process because the problem is that every time you fall short or every time you fail, you’re just going to say, “Well, you know what? It’s just because I’m not a fit person, I’m a fat person.”

The mental aspect of getting in shape and the mindset, you really have to almost view yourself as someone who is already in shape or someone who is already fit and just live it out and start living out those habits, until you finally do get to where you want to be.

I would say, the mind is the biggest limiting factor for someone getting into shape. Because a lot of people, when they start, they’ll find a way to self-sabotage just because they don’t identify with someone else who might be in shape or who might be fit. When the truth of the matter is, even people who are fit, have the same exact struggles. They have the same exact limiting beliefs but they’ve just chosen to ignore it and overcome it.

The thing that brings me a lot of comfort is that everyone has the same limiting beliefs, everyone has the same struggles, everyone has the same doubts. The ones that are successful versus the ones that aren’t are just the ones that choose to say, “Screw it. I’m still going to go for it, I’m still going to give it everything I got” and they eventually reach their goals.

Benji Block: Yup, it’s the scary thing but the true thing that anyone can do it, right? Achieving that sort of mentality is so key and so vital. Okay, so I pulled several laws that I want to chat about, ask some follow-up questions on. Peter, I’ll post the first one to you here. It’s one of the mindset laws but it’s so important. It’s law number three, the idea that defining success before you chase it.

That idea, I don’t think people understand because it’s like, “I just want six-pack abs. Isn’t that goal just enough?” We throw that into the universe and expect some sort of return but we don’t know how to actually define success. When you say “define success”, what are you talking about?

Peter Tzemis: It’s really getting to the root and making it as tangible as possible so that everything is clear. Because the reality is, dieting to lose weight is not the same a dieting to be healthy. Those are two very different concepts and most people think that they’re the same, which isn’t true. Eating healthy food might be a ton of calories, a ton of hidden fats, which doesn’t really help with weight loss, without getting six-pack abs.

It’s just getting very clear on what your goal is and then every decision that you make throughout the day is tailored to achieving that goal, no matter how big or small. This is a decision between going up the elevator four flights or taking the stairs. Little stuff like that. The clearer you are on your end goal, the easier it is to just make every decision possible that helps you move over there.

Benji Block: So you set that end goal and then you work backward, right? To then establishing what are those first steps that I need to take to eventually get there but you have that highly specific end goal.

Peter Tzemis: Yeah, exactly. The more clear you can make the end goal, the clearer you can take daily actions steps to get there. Because it’s all about what you do every day that gets you to your end goal because we live every day. Every decision actually matters. People say the little decisions don’t matter, I disagree. I think the smallest decisions actually matter the most and you should probably get them right. If you’re doing something every single day, sleeping, drinking water, breathing air— you’re doing that every day for your entire life, you should probably get it right.

Benji Block: The things that we don’t often think about because we can do them, they’re so routine, right? Those are often things that we need to actually establish, “Well, what’s the healthiest way to do this and has massive impact because we’re doing it routinely.”

One of the ways that you can fast track timelines or making sure you hit certain things was Law #10, and I laughed at this one but I also think it’s just so true and so good. Law #10 is to schedule a non-refundable photoshoot or beach vacation. Very unique ways of creating deadlines, guys. Talk to me about this idea, the thinking behind something like this.

Stephen Campolo: Yeah, even in my life, right? There were times where I would put myself on a timeline to where I had no choice but to succeed. Maybe I was getting ready when I was 18 years old, I decided to compete in a natural bodybuilding show six months from where I was then. It’s like, I had to be ready or I was going to be just a joke on stage, right? Or, there were times in my life where I scheduled a photoshoot three months from that date. I had to be ready.

It’s really a matter of having something on the line or having some skin in the game. And you know, a lot of people just aren’t willing to commit or go all-in on their fitness journey.

And just to piggyback on that, it’s like being a full-time transformation coach. Over the past few weeks, I had like three people reach out to me who have a wedding coming up where they’re getting married. One girl is getting married in a year, another guy is getting married in November, another girl is getting married in March. These people have a timeline on their calendar where they want to be in the best shape of their life for, right? People just have to, again, put something on their calendar or give themselves a non-negotiable deadline to where they have to be ready. Even planning a vacation is a great help.

Book a trip to a tropical location with your wife or with your girlfriend and say, “Three months from now I want to be in the best shape of my life for this vacation.” I promise you if you have that on the calendar, if you’re constantly looking at it every single day, the odds of you being successful is going to be much, much higher than just saying, “I want to lose 20 pounds” but you don’t give yourself a timeline to do it, or you don’t give yourself any type of deadline. Generic promises or generic goals never get accomplished.

Benji Block: I love how when life throws events at us, we go into that mode. Like a wedding will spark things in people that— like, they haven’t cared about fitness in years and then the wedding comes up, and now they have a reason. You’re like, yeah, you could do that actually with anything. You just throw an event on the calendar that you’re going to have to take your shirt off at and now you got a reason. I think that’s a really good one and a key insight.

One of the ways that I think people are really thrown off when it comes to keeping with a plan, is when routine gets messed with. What are some tips for people that would go, “I had an amazing start, I had great intentions, I have the mindset, but then we go on a weekend trip and all this food is before me” or “It threw off my workout schedule because I went on some work trip.” What are some ways that you guys stay with your routine even when maybe life gets a little crazy or hectic?

Peter Tzemis: The first thing is just to get back to what you’re doing as quickly as possible. Just because you had a bad weekend doesn’t mean you have to have a bad week, just because it’s one day or two days. I know a big issue, [people will] go out Friday and maybe they have pizza, and then Saturday, they’re like, “Oh fuck it, I can have a full day of cheating.” And then Sunday comes around like, “Let me have blueberry pancakes and bacon, and I’ll just start again on Monday” but then you repeat that process every time. That’s half your week every week that’s just spent not dieting or blowing your goals.

You can really fuck up one day out of a week and you’d probably be fine. It’s just most people carry that over to three or four days because they have the Monday mindset. It’s one of the laws— I forget which one it is but— it’s like, don’t just wait till Monday to start. Start right now even if you are in the middle of eating a piece of chocolate cake. It’s like you can enjoy it but then just, “I won’t have three pieces. I’ll just have two or one” you know? There is always a way to just move back in the right direction.

Adjusting Your Goals To Meet Your Needs

Benji Block: I think it is so interesting that our mentality is to set the date of restarting further and further out. It’s like this way of just bypassing and getting more cheat meals in. So yeah, I mean you can restart right now, that’s great. As you guys have gone on your personal health and fitness journeys, there have to have been moments where you felt like you plateaued in a sense, and you had to set new goals.

Talk to me about that journey of setting new goals. You are not fat anymore, now, you’re going to do something different to keep yourself motivated. What are some of those things where it’s like, “Okay, I’m plateaued and now I am going to set a new goal”? What’s driving you guys right now?

Stephen Campolo: Yes, so I think it is always good to dangle the carrot in front of you, if you will. What I mean by that is, well maybe this season of my life, I just want to lose a little bit of weight. A perfect real-life example is I just had shoulder surgery last week. I can’t really weight train or do any upper body exercises, so for the next few months, my goal is going to be just to get in shape or just to lose maybe 10 or 15 pounds and just really commit to more cardio or more fat loss.

Then when my shoulders healed up, I am probably going to enter a new phase to where now I want to gain maybe five pounds or ten pounds of muscle over the next year, right? That’s always changing.

If they are being honest with themselves, I don’t think anyone looks in the mirror and says, “All right, I am 100% happy with how I look.” I mean, there is always one thing someone wants to change. Maybe someone wants to get a little leaner, maybe someone wants to gain a little bit more muscle, and that’s a great thing. I think it is good to be happy with yourself and be happy with how you look, but never to be 100% satisfied because ultimately, that’s what keeps you going to the gym. That’s what keeps you wanting to eat healthy. There is always some type of goal or something you’re always going to be working on.

At least for me over the past 20 years, that’s always how it’s been. I mean, there’s never been a point in my fitness journey— even when I look back and I was in the best shape of my life— where I was 100% satisfied with how I looked. There is always one thing I wanted to change or tweak and nothing has changed. I am still the same way and I know for a lot of people that’s the same thing. There is always something you can improve on.

Benji Block: It was good the way you just pointed that out, as well going back to something we said earlier, you’re setting a very specific goal. What success is while your shoulder needs rest and then you have another micro goal for after that. You are really setting an example for what we were talking about, before because success is shifting but you know the specific goal in the immediate.

Peter, for you what does that look like, when you may be plateaued in a certain season and then you just set a new goal?

Peter Tzemis: I think it is always, like Stephen said, finding a new goal every time. And it doesn’t always have to be pushing the limits. For me, a lot of it also is recovery. Maybe I want to work on my flexibility and maybe I just want to chill and literally not— I’ve taken months where I just don’t work out. I just spend time walking, meditating. For me, health is like more than just fat loss and abs and so there are multiple dimensions to develop.

Whether that’s nutrition or that’s training or that’s recovery, even sleep, I consider like a facet of health and fitness. I even spend time just really focused on sleep because, if I am sleeping eight hours a day that is a third of my life. I should probably get it right.

Benji Block: My wife will probably love this part of the podcast. She’s like “An excuse to get my sleep right.” That’s great. And I love the duo that you guys both present because it’s different sides but both are so important. I want to hit you guys with another one of these laws, Law #34: Take a smoker’s break after you eat. This one is so practical but it just sounds so funny, but it’s really true. You say moving and walking after a meal helps your body and encourages digestion and the digestion process along faster.

Talk about that, just the idea of a short walk after you eat and what you’re doing to your body by doing that.

Stephen Campolo: Yeah, so there had been numerous, numerous studies on this exact topic. And this is why I am such a big proponent of walking and telling people, even if you can’t work out every day, try to get your 10,000 steps in. Because it’s been shown that when you walk for only 10 minutes after eating a meal, your body’s insulin sensitivity is actually increased. This simply means that your body is able to partition the calories and the nutrients that you just ate, that much more effectively.

I don’t know about you but as far as digestion, I want my body to operate optimally. I want my digestion to be optimal. I want the calories and the food and the nutrients I am consuming to be utilized in the most optimal way. And the biggest issue that a lot of people make when they eat a big meal, even if it is a healthy meal…What do most people do? They just go on the couch or they sit down. They just let the food sit in their stomach and just slowly digest, right?

Well, you could increase that process and actually make it much more efficient if you just go walk for 10 minutes. Which let’s face it, 10 minutes goes by pretty quickly, but the health benefits of doing that is remarkable. And again, there is so many studies out there that have proven this exact topic.

Benji Block: A great way to start this rhythm is to get a dog. I got to say, during COVID my wife and I got a dog and we go on walks all the time. Really, I take my dog on three walks a day and they’re both around 10 minutes, and they’re all after meals. So when I read that one, I was like, “Yeah, you can build in a rhythm pretty easily.” I mean, you should do this without a dog as well, but if you have one that’s a real good excuse.

Peter, I’ll pose this one at you. Law #38: Don’t drink your calories. I’ve personally seen this small change pay dividends. Sometimes I think people just don’t realize the calorie count that’s in what they’re drinking. Can you speak to that and the importance of realizing what we’re drinking?

Peter Tzemis: Yeah. That law came out [when] I was at Starbucks actually, when me and Stephen were working on that chapter. I watched just people walk in, they would order Frappuccinos, and I don’t think they realize that the small Frappuccinos, it could be a daily calorie intake. It’s like 1,100 calories or something, which is just insane, you know? That’s like if you are a six-foot-four male like Stephen, but if you are a five-foot-three woman or even a child, that’s your whole day of calories.

Just cutting that out alone would have yielded so much weight loss by just saying, “let’s not have a Frappuccino today. Let’s switch to something else.” Or like, “let’s switch from regular coke to diet coke.” Or, people love to snack— and you can just have your snack and calories, just don’t drink your calories because it is not filling. When food hits the system, like physical food, there are brain receptors that fire up and tells you you’re full, but when liquid calories hit the system, those receptors don’t fire up.

Benji Block: I often find when I am drinking something then I want to eat something. So now I am drinking my calories and I am eating something, and lose-lose.

Peter Tzemis: Yeah, exactly. It doesn’t help. It is one of those changes where, honestly, if everyone just read that chapter and did that, most people would lose 10 pounds over the course of the year. I could pretty much guarantee that.

Benji Block: I want to point out another one and this one is honestly, is semi selfish, because this is one that I struggle with. Law #50, says don’t overdo the cardio. If all I ever did was cardio— that is my natural thing. Like, I am just going to go for a run. Talk to me about the importance of not overdoing cardio. It might be counterintuitive to some who would say, “I have a good workout routine” but maybe cardio is all they do.

Stephen Campolo: So, this was the biggest mistake I made when I first started my weight loss journey because I didn’t really have any knowledge on the subject. All I knew was like, “Well, when Rocky wants to get in shape for a fight, what does he do? He goes and he runs.” So that is what I did. I would run every single night and severely undereat my calories. And yeah, I lost a lot of weight pretty quickly. But the biggest issue when you overdo cardio is that you’re not really helping your metabolism for the long term.

When you weight train, when you lift weights and you’re actually building new muscle tissue, a lot of people don’t realize this but you’re actually allowing your metabolism to become more efficient and to become healthier. Because now, for every ounce of muscle tissue that you build, your body has to increase its metabolic rate to support that new muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is metabolically active.

Just by gaining five pounds of muscle this year, someone’s metabolism is going to be in a much better place because now, guess what? You have the ability to burn more calories at rest.

Whereas when you are just doing tons of cardio, yes, you are burning calories and it’s good for heart health, but you are just burning those calories while you are doing the movement. Where if you are breaking down muscle tissue in the gym, well, guess what? When you get home later that day, your body is still burning calories because your body is actively repairing the muscle tissue that you broke down in the gym.

So that’s called the after-burn effect, where you are still continuing to burn calories and then your body has to even utilize more calories to support the muscle tissue. There is a lot of different factors that go into play when it comes to weight training and actively building muscle.

It is just, as far as overall health and metabolic function, there really is no better and more optimal way to sustain a healthy immunity and healthy metabolism as well.

Finding a Balance Between the Physical and Mental Aspect

Benji Block: Let me ask you a follow-up question to that one. Let’s say someone is in a space where they’re going “I am hitting cardio”— you are talking to your younger self, right? You were going on runs all the time, and now, with all the knowledge that you have, what would you recommend be the switch? What would you do scheduling-wise between cardio and lifting and all of that? What would be your recommendation?

Stephen Campolo: If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have just gone straight to the weight room, right? Because here is what happens. When a lot of people want to lose weight, again, they start doing tons of cardio. But what happens is that, yes, they do lose weight but they become a smaller softer version of themselves, which leads to having loose skin. Or looking like a melted candle, which isn’t attractive, right?

I always say this, if you want to lose weight then why not lose weight and build muscle at the same time? Why not replace the body fat with lean muscle tissue? This way when you do reach your goal weight, you don’t have loose skin or if you do have loose skin, it is very, very much minimized. Again, that’s more of the aesthetics of it and looking healthier and looking more fit, things like that but that is definitely also a big part of it.

Benji Block: Awesome. Well, as we start to wrap up, is there a law you would like to highlight? Something important you’d want to cover that maybe we haven’t yet? One that you would just want to throw out? I could give each of you guys kind of an opportunity to maybe hit on one that sticks out to you.

Peter Tzemis: I think it’s Law #70 and it’s “Make a not-to-do list”. I don’t know if you got to that part of the book, Benji, but I think, there is two ways to achieve whatever your definition of success is. And one of them is to do the path, follow the path, don’t drink the calories, exercise, et cetera. But the other battle is,[to] try not to fuck up as much. That’s literally it. If you just didn’t binge on the weekend, you would get to your goal faster, even if you weren’t a 100% on your diet.

Just like don’t binge, you know? Things like that. Don’t drink your calories. That’s why there is a lot of don’ts laws in this book because it is part of your not-to-do list. If you want to sleep better for example, maybe don’t watch TV right until you decide to go to bed. Just go to sleep, the blue light can screw up your melatonin. Or don’t have a giant cup of coffee one hour before bed or an espresso shot. Stuff like that, you know?

A big thing is people focus on what to do, and maybe give the option to focus on what not to do, so you can still be a straight line to success, not like this little zigzag of two steps forward, one step back.

Benji Block: Yep, the guard rails are so helpful. Stephen, anything for you? Any one you’d like to highlight before we wrap up here?

Stephen Campolo: Oh man that’s hard with 77 of them. Listen, again, I’ll kind of just speed through like the mindset laws because that is really my favorite section of the book. And something I really struggled with my entire life— and you know going through my own fitness journey— it is just the mental side of things. I mean, I have seen eating therapists for binge-eating, so I really struggled with food addiction.

Really, all areas and all aspects of fitness, just getting in shape and addiction, and food addiction. So again, it’s not always as easy as just telling someone to eat less and move more, right? Because there are a lot of emotional addictions and stress eating, and a lot of people just have a certain relationship with food—much like myself— which is not always as easy as just saying, “Well, I am just going to eat less food and just move my body more.” Because again, a lot of people self-medicate with food.

I was and I still struggle with that even until today, if I am being completely honest. Really what it comes down to is finding things that can help you overcome that. Setting new habits, setting new goals, practicing new mindset techniques, maybe getting more accountability, working with a life coach or a fitness coach, or maybe seeing a therapist. If someone is struggling to that degree in that extent, I think that would be highly beneficial.

But again too, I think it is kind of ignorant to talk about the training, the exercise, and the nutrition without talking about the mental side of things and the mindset side of things because the reason why most people fail is not really because of the diet or because of the training. It is because they just don’t believe they could be successful, right? Once people can overcome that, or at least start to lead with that and identify that, then they can start making changes to that that will help them be successful long term.

Benji Block: Awesome. It’s been so good to chat with you guys. For those that are listening and they’re going, “Man, I want to connect with these guys further,” tell us where we can connect online and ways we can keep up with what you guys are doing?

Stephen Campolo: Yeah, so the best place to connect with me is just on my Instagram page, so @stephencampolo. I do answer all my messages personally so if you shoot me a message, I will definitely get back to you.

Peter Tzemis: You can hit my Instagram @petertzemis or probably my website, just petertzemis.com, just shoot me an email. The email is on the front page and I’ll get back to you.

Benji Block: Awesome. It has been so fun to talk to you guys and great work on this book. Thanks for taking time today to chat with us on Author Hour and best wishes as this book goes out and this resource gets out into the world.

Stephen Campolo: Thanks so much man.