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The Curious Power of Maths, Science and Dominoes for Fat Loss

I’m sorry to disappoint you but it’s the black and white plastic domino tiles we’re discussing, not meat feast pizzas and bloated stomachs.

Can you remember being a kid and setting up a long line of dominoes and celebrating the chain reaction you caused after tapping the first one?

While you’re unlikely to still play with dominoes (maybe you do, perhaps at the world championship that’s held annually), but you do – consciously and subconsciously – set off these chain reactions in your life.

You (and I) have a lot to credit domino chains for – including me writing this post.

The team at Improve allowed me to shadow sessions in the gym, which eventually led to a part-time position. A full-time position soon followed and now I’m here, in my pyjamas, preaching the power of dominoes.

The domino chain looked something like this:

  • Shadow once per week;
  • Part time;
  • Full time.

It not only works for attaining the job of your dreams (thanks, Ross, if you’re reading), but we can follow the same strategy for attaining your fat loss goal too:

  • Get workout gear ready before bed;
  • Train in the morning;
  • Healthier lunch;
  • Lose body fat.

As you can see, just like the domino chains you made as a kid where the first domino smashed into the next, one action you take has the opportunity to cause a cascade of either good or bad actions, and therefore good or bad outcomes in your life.

Creating 15,000 Piece Domino Chains

Lily Hevesh (a popular figure in the domino art community) reverse engineers her mind-boggling domino art by firstly deciding what ‘big structures’ she wants to create and then constructs the chain around them.

That’s how I’d recommend setting up your fat loss plan too.

Step 1: The Result

What do you want?

The folks who get the best results at our gym are those who are crystal clear with the final domino they want to smash down.

Your goalposts may shift over time, that’s totally normal, but in order to make progress, you need to know what you’re currently aiming for.

As the saying goes: “Without a goal, you can’t score”.

Decide this first – be specific, make it measurable and realistic.

Step 2: The Chain

Now you know your final domino, how are you going to get there? 

What behaviours will you have to change/adopt to get you to your goal in the timeframe you have? Take into account work and social commitments (other humans and money for beer are essential).

If you have a short time frame – a holiday in a few weeks or a wedding in omg, what, a month! – then your behaviours need to be different than if you have an entire year to reach your goal.

Now you have your final domino and the chain linking all the necessary behaviours to get there, you can focus your attention on the first tile.

Step 3: The First Domino

It can be overwhelming to know where to start.

The following question will shine a light on what your first domino should be:

“What’s the ONE thing you can do such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?” Gary Keller, The One Thing.

That’s what it boils down to, the one thing that will start getting results now and will ignite a cascade of good behaviours. The one domino that knocked down will substantially increase your chances of reaching your goal.

Breaking the process down to a clear and concise starting point makes it almost embarrassingly easy to start.

There is an old but truthful idea about the most effective way to create the habit of flossing is to start by flossing one tooth and build up. All your energy is directed to that one tooth (or domino) that acts as a catalyst to you reaching your goal.

They Lied – Size Doesn’t Matter

It turns out a single domino packs a punch and can take out another domino tile 1.5x its size.

Rhett Allain, a Physics Professor created this computer program that shows an average domino tile, after a compounding chain reaction of knocking over dominoes 1.5x its size, will eventually take out a domino the size of the Empire State Building.


The same compounding of surmounting bigger and bigger obstacles can happen in your life too, you just need to knock over the first domino and be patient to eventually reach massive heights.

“How do I apply this to my life and goals?”

In my experience as a coach, it’s those who have a goal and a game plan for getting there that get the best results. That’s the aim of this exercise, for you to get clear about your goal, create a path to get there and be laser-focused on your start point.

Be specific about what you want, when you want it and the behaviours you need to adopt to get there. Then can you nail down a start point (make it borderline embarrassingly easy) and get after it.

Don’t be afraid of starting small. Each domino you knock over encourages you and pushes you on to bigger heights – you have maths and science in your corner, cheerleading you all the way to your Empire State sized goal.

In order to make this article as actionable as possible for you, here are two examples of how you can apply the ‘domino principle’ to your goals.

To make things even more actionable, I’m going to separate them into a performance-related goal and a body composition (weight loss) goal.

Running a 10k is a mammoth task for a lot of people, whether they’re already regularly physically active or not.

However, by starting from the end goal and working backwards, the task becomes a lot less daunting and a lot more achievable.

Downloading an app is a very simple action; so simple that oftentimes it wouldn’t be enough to inspire action.

In our example, though, because the end goal is clear and the first step is so simple, we’d expect (well, hope) that the next step (i.e. doing the first Couch to 5k workout) would be a given due to the first domino toppling.

On a similar note, changing your body composition (to lose 5kg of fat, for example) sounds simple but in reality is super challenging.

By knowing your end goal and the time frame you have, you can create a battle plan for your journey and pinpoint where to start.

Writing a shopping list, planning (and potentially booking) exercise times and preparing lunches are easy behaviours to implement and are a sure-fire impetus for getting results.

To summarise my ramblings as I can hear my stomach rumbling with all this Dominos chat,  the best approach for goal setting is to decide what you really want, construct a domino chain of good behaviours that’ll get you there and finally focus on knocking over the first domino that will instigate your journey.

We’d love to help you goet those dominoes  tumbling.

If you’d also like that, you can get register your interest in working with us by clicking here.


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