MY JOURNEY - HOW I REINVENTED MYSELF!
As a child growing up on Long Island, NY, I was always the skinny kid. However, in the 1970s, I, like the rest of America, began to get fat due to the proliferation of fast food restaurants. Mom's home-cooked meals were soon replaced by pizza, Big Macs, and lots and lots of French Fries! Besides the fast food, our cupboards began to be filled with all the latest versions of chips, cookies, sweets and, of course, lots and lots of soda. I remember sitting in front of the television eating a jar of chocolate cake frosting with a spoon. My bad nutrition soon led to a sedentary life filled with bouts of yo-yo dieting, depression and chronic pain. Oh, and I shouldn't leave out the fact that I had back surgery in 1999 when I also couldn't get out of bed due to a ruptured herniated disc. All this chronic pain had become the new normal.
After hitting a high of 265 lbs in 2004 (look how glum I look in that pic on the left which was taken that very day), I looked in the mirror and declared, "this has to stop!" However, I was in such a bad funk, that I was too embarrassed to even be seen in a gym. Determined to lose weight, I bought a treadmill and some dumbbells, and began to work out at home. In terms of my diet, I didn't make any big changes except for eating less. Over several years, and many ups and downs, I gradually lost 60 lbs. Looking better and having more confidence, I finally joined a health club, hired a personal trainer. and worked out regularly at the gym.
However, I still felt very poorly. My energy level was low and my body began to ache. Thinking my body wasn't used to exercising, I just pushed ahead. My trainer encouraged me to take vitamins and supplements and to eat healthier. Even though I took his advice, my situation worsened: I had daily migraines; every joint in my body hurt; rosacea erupted on my face; tinnitus rang in my ears; insomnia ruined my sleep - even my right eye was always in pain! What a mess! On top of that, I was battling high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
I learned to cope with all the aches and pains and tried to get on with my life as best as possible. Although I never had a drinking problem, a daily shot of vodka helped to ease the pain. Looking back, I was so used to not knowing what optimal health felt like, that I just thought everyone felt like I did.
It all came to a critical point in 2014 when, one day in May, I couldn't get out of bed. It took every drop of energy I had just to move. I didn't feel mentally depressed but my body sure did. After a few days, I mustered up all the energy I had and went to the doctor for help. After an examination and blood work, the doctor told me that everything looks good but I should take more Vitamin D because that was low. Huh? How can everything look good when I can't get out of bed? And why is my Vitamin D so low when I've been taking 5000IUs a day? Unfortunately my situation worsened. My migraines were overwhelming. I couldn't concentrate for a second, that's how bad they were. Every joint in my body was screaming in pain. When I would drag myself out of bed to use the bathroom, I could barely stand on my aching feet. It got to the point where I would just lay in bed and cry. I thought if the doctor says I'm well, that this is how I will live the rest of my life.
That way of thinking didn't last long. Deep down inside I know there is an optimist within me. Determined not to resign myself to a life in bed, I decided to take a different route beyond Western medicine. After a dear friend of mine told me how she learned that food sensitivities were the cause of many issues she was dealing with, I decided to meet with a nutritionist.
The nutritionist had me submit blood and saliva samples. When the results came back from the lab, the nutritionist proclaimed that most people with my results couldn't get out of bed, and the only reason why I could was because I was a stubborn Greek. #IAmSpartan (actually half Spartan as my mother's side of the family is from an island called Ikaria, which just happens to be one of the BlueZones where the world's healthiest people live, only making my situation even more embarrassing.) My diagnosis was that I had a candida yeast infection, which caused my gut to leak, sending spores throughout my body and compromising my gut to the point I was unable to absorb any nutrients from my food and supplements. (In fact, this condition is called Auto-Brewery Syndrome and people have been arrested for driving drunk who suffered from this ailment!) This was the cause of my migraines, eye pain, tinnitus, insomnia, chronic fatigue, depression, bloating, and fibromyalgia. And my hormones were upside down - my good hormones barely existed while the bad ones were through the roof. (The only hormone that was normal, exceptional in my case, was my testosterone. That, said the nutritionist, was my last source of energy.) To top things off, I was diagnosed with Lyme's Disease soon after. To restore my gut and attain optimal health, the nutritionist put me on a yeast-kill diet which I followed for two years. Now in my 50's, my childhood energy and vigor had returned! I even got rid of my rosacea after I cut gluten from my diet - an ailment that my dermatologist told me was incurable.
Now in optimal health, I hit the gym with renewed determination and continued to follow my new nutrition plan as outlined by my nutritionist. I was amazed by the amount of food I was able to eat, and I learned that quality trumps quantity. I quickly lost another 30 lbs, which goes to show you how well your body responds when it is working at its best. And I didn't have to become a gym bunny. I only worked out 2-3 days a week!
My journey to optimal health and wellness was truly empowering. Not only did I lose 100 lbs and successfully keep it off over many years, but I also overcame chronic pain and many ailments. I never surrendered! I know what it's like to start a diet on Monday morning, only to sabotage it before noon that day. I was also too embarrassed to work out in public because of my weight. I've been in your shoes, trust me! I hope my story has inspired you. If you want to learn more and be inspired, read my blog or follow me on social media. In the future I will be available for coaching sessions via Skype. And remember, if I can do it, you can do it!
NASM - CPT
NASM, Behavior Modification Specialist (current course)