The path to a healthy lifestyle does not always form a straight line, but it’s a line nonetheless and completely up to us whether we choose to walk it or not. I wasn’t born into this belief. In fact, my path to discovering what constitutes a healthy lifestyle was anything but a straight line.
I was at my largest when I was 14 years old.
The doctor diagnosed me as morbidly obese. As you can imagine at 14 I didn’t really understand what that meant though I knew it probably wasn’t a good thing based on my mother’s reaction when the doctor pulled her aside. I had allowed myself to get to that unhealthy state over a five-year period through daily lifestyle habits that boiled down to too much food along with too little movement. I didn’t play sports and hated PE and anything that made me feel sad and self-conscious about myself, which was pretty much everything at that time in my life. I was depressed and thought of suicide every day. I had hit my emotional, psychological, and physical rock-bottom but I didn’t like the finality that death offered and, to be honest, the idea scared the shit out of me. The only alternative was to either accept my current state or do something about it. So that’s just what I did. I started to make smarter decisions with my food, started to move every day, began to fill my head with positive messages, and over an 18 month period “released” the weight, gained some muscle and learned what it meant to feel good about myself.
My story isn’t unique. There are a lot of amazing people in the world today that have undergone their own personal transformations. However, I realized that there’s a unifying theme – an awareness of their why – that runs throughout all the transformational narratives. There is a sense of connection with oneself and the realization that it is up to us to make lifelong lasting changes. But we don’t have to do it alone, and finding a community of like-minded, supportive people undergoing their own journeys to optimal health, happiness and purpose is the sweet spot!
When I was approached by STAND magazine to contribute a column about fitness I was honored. As someone who has dedicated the last 25 years to helping people improve their lifestyles, I have a lot I can offer but I also know I’m just getting started. The goal of this column is simple: provide useful information to educate, impact, and motivate you, the reader, to strive for more in life. The information is both sound and pragmatic, empowering you with confidence so when someone asks, “what are you training for?’ You can look them in the eye and say “LIFE!”
Perspective is everything.
Health is so much more than just being fit. I didn’t believe this in my 20’s, after all I felt I was 10-feet tall and invincible. I quantified health as reps, sets and time spent in the gym working out. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why people couldn’t just “be healthy”. I lacked understanding and more importantly, empathy. I could ask one hundred people to tell me what healthy means to them and I would get one hundred different answers, but at the core, the common thread would be a desire to feel our best physically, mentally and spiritually. It wasn’t until I had a few health scares in my 30’s that I truly understood this.
Who in your life holds you accountable to being the healthiest version of you?
It was about five years ago that my perspective got a swift kick in the ‘nads. I had just completed my first Tough Mudder event and was feeling pretty good, but then out of nowhere my body started to shut down and a systemic infection overtook my body. The doctors had no idea what was going on. From what they could tell I was a very healthy, “in-shape” guy with a bad infection my body couldn’t fend off. My doctors placed me in a private room in the corner of the cancer ward, with arms pumped full of antibiotics through a 24/7 IV drip, and a battery of tests later, the doctors were confused. Believe me, when a doctor says “you’re an enigma”, it’s rarely a good thing. A week later my fever eventually broke and my body finally started to mend. They eventually discharged me and we thought it lucky that it was only an infection. But was it?
Several years later and after a few week-long hospital stays, three bone marrow biopsies, and a series of other tests, doctors were able to rule out leukemia and a number of other cancers. I’ve never felt as relieved as the day I got a call from my hematologist telling me it wasn’t cancer. I don’t wish anyone to experience a cancer scare, but when you’re given the green light, wow, it’s something special. Eventually the doctors were able to diagnose me with 99% confidence—doctor-ese for “we’re pretty darn sure this is what you got”—that I had a condition called Autoimmune Neutropenia. Basically, if they had it their way I’d live in a bubble for the rest of my life as my body has almost no neutrophils, the little guys that act as your primary defense when you are dealing with infection, especially anything of the bacterial or viral sort. Either way, I would need to take it easy and watch myself, along with taking a medication (usually reserved for those undergoing chemotherapy) every week for the rest of my life (or at least until the doctor’s figured out another solution), I have to. Aggressive? Yes, but it keeps my bone marrow cranking out neutrophils, at least just enough that I can neutralize any potential threats.
Now I share this story for one reason and one reason only: time keeps ticking on and you can either invest in your health and reap the benefits, or you can continue to expect things to be as they always have been. It’s not a matter of thinking if we get sick, it’s a simply a matter of being prepared for when we get sick. I know this now better than most. It’s really quite easy to let a major medical scare, an illness or disease become our reason to stop “doing” life. Instead, I use this condition to fuel my daily choices and actions. Propelling me forward on my healthy lifestyle path because my purpose for exercise is not about reps or time at the gym any longer, it’s about feeling my best and being as healthy as I can so I can be around for a long, long time for my kids, my wife, family, friends, and communities.
Over the coming months, I’m excited to interact with you and explore the best ways we can train for life. I have no doubt we share similar goals and our stories will intertwine from time to time as we journey to becoming the best versions of ourselves. Together we’ll find ways to stay healthy, fit, and happy, while on the path to a lifestyle of optimized whole life fitness (also known as living a life of total awesomeness!).
I’d like to leave you with one question to ponder: who in your life holds you accountable to being the healthiest version of you?