I was 15 years old when I first stepped into a local chain supplement store. I remember being amazed by all the packaged products adorned with images of perfectly sculpted men and women, alongside buckets of protein powders promising to turn you into the hulk. Amino acids, creatine, testosterone boosters, pre-workout caffeine concoctions – I thought these supplements were modern-day science unchaining us from the limits of our genes and biology. I was into bodybuilding at the time, but I was lifting heavy and I was lifting incorrectly.
When I was bodybuilding, I didn’t care about performance, form or even gaining functional strength, I was simply after the “look”. What “look” am I talking about? You know the one – the look of the ripped actor you see your girl lick her lips at. Yeah, that’s what I wanted. I was 15, tired of being skinny and wanted to be that muscular guy. I joined the local gym and bought into all the conventional garbage protein powders that leave your stomach turning and give you farts equivalent to the atomic bomb. I did zero cardio and neglected exercising my lower body, yet still thought I was cool.
When I was in my early twenties I wanted something that would help permanently free me from my struggles gaining weight and muscle. I started my beginner steroid stack in 2009 which consisted of DHBOL, DECA, and testosterone. I had no idea the implications that these steroids would have on me (both physically and psychologically.) It wasn’t as though I was on Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) where the therapy is under medical supervision and designed to bring existing low testosterone up to a normal level. I was putting my testosterone levels through the roof and every time I was in an off-cycle, I wouldn’t be able to take the psychological and lethargic feelings that would follow and would end up back on steroids.
Fast-forward to 2011 and things were changing. I was unemployed for about four months and found myself with a lot of free time. I started listening to podcasts on topics I never thought I would find fascinating (quantum physics, functional fitness, nutrition and mixed martial arts.) I began asking myself questions. What was I doing with my life? Where did my preconceived notions come from? Was bodybuilding actually helping me?
I learned a lot about myself and grew a lot as a person within those four months. I also quickly came to the realization that often the professional sport of bodybuilding encourages athletes to enter competition in a depleted state of dehydration (similar to fighters cutting weight). We know that these extreme measures can be extremely taxing and unhealthy for the body and yet it’s a huge component of bodybuilding competitions. Competitors give everything they have and are then subjected to judges whose opinion of appearance is what determines who wins and who loses.
I decided that the bodybuilding lifestyle just wan’t for me anymore. Coinciding with this, my fiancé, Joanne (now wife) had begun a holistic nutrition program in order to naturally manage her symptoms of multiple sclerosis. I started learning about how modern agricultural methods affect the nutritional content of our food. I discovered the truth about factory farming and how feeding cattle an artificial diet of corn (which they don’t eat in the wild ) and laying in their own shit was impacting both our health and the health/quality of the animals we consume. Animals are injected with antibiotics to prevent the very illnesses that arise from their filthy living conditions and growth hormones are used to unnaturally speed up the growth process and maximize profit. I learned how some of the food processing giants hook us on food-like products engineered to have drug-like affects on the brain (read Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the food giants hooked us by Michael Moss.)
Joanne and I started to make more drastic changes to our lifestyles. We cut out all the bullshit and started eating a whole foods, nutrient dense diet. Not only did Joanne’s MS symptoms disappear, but after quitting bodybuilding, steroids and cigarettes, I was starting to feel great for the first time in my life.
I decided to eliminate isolation exercises and opt for traditional full-body, movement training. I
discovered kettlebells and began to perform ballistic (fast, explosive movements), alongside grinds (slow and deliberate movements). This was very different training from what I was used to. I found it incredibly satisfying to pursue a training modality in which continuously enhances performance, relies on full body exercises, promotes functional strength and improves performance in my everyday activities. I may no longer have the ‘jacked’ appearance I used to strive for, but for the first time in my life I am fit, healthy and feel great.
As a Culinary Nutrition Expert, I now help clients achieve their health and wellness goals through customized meal plans, therapeutic diets, cooking demos, fitness and lifestyle coaching. I’m also currently pursuing Agatsu kettlebell certification training in order to assist clients tired of traditional workouts to learn more about functional strength training.