Updated: Aug 9, 2018
After years of #obesity and battles with #depression and chronic pain - including #migraines, #fibromyalgia, #leakygutsyndrome - I am now preparing for my first #bodybuilding competition at the age of 55! Why not? As the ReinventionKing, I'm here to show you that all your goals and dreams are attainable. If I can do it, you can do it!
First a brief introduction. My name is Gregory Cole, an actor, model, playwright, and producer. I crowned myself the ReinventionKing after friends and family began telling me how my triumph over obesity and chronic pain has inspired them to strive for better health and wellness. Hence, I recently launched www.reinventionking.com to help and inspire others to attain optimal health, achieve their goals and reconnect with their authentic selves. We all deserve to live the life of our dreams!
Why a bodybuilding contest at the age of 55?
"Reinvent yourself - you'll be on top of the world!"
- Olivia Newton-John
Why not? But seriously, I found that the best - and most fun - way to lose weight, as well as maintain the weight loss, is to constantly work towards new goals. The sense of achievement on a regular basis is an awesome confidence booster.
I first became interested in the world of bodybuilding when I caught the "Hercules" movie starring Steve Reeves on my little black and white TV when I was a kid. His aesthetically-pleasing physique fascinated me. He truly looked like a Greek god. Although I dreamed about having a physique like his, life led me down a different path, and McDonald's won out over my bodybuilding quest. But the battle is not over and fast food will ultimately be defeated and my dream of having a physique like Hercules will WIN!
Where do I begin?
OMG, look at that pic of me on the left. I remember when I took that photograph back in 2004. I just bought a new scale and couldn't believe I was 265 lbs! It was at that moment when I said to myself that this madness ends! But how did this happen? As a child growing up on Long Island, NY, I was always skinny. 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. It all came to a critical point in 2014 when, one day in May, I practically couldn't get out of bed. It took every drop of energy I had just to move. Looking back, it didn't happen overnight. Over time, I had been developing and living with many aches, pains and ailments, including migraines, eye pain, tinnitus, insomnia, rosacea, chronic fatigue, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia and #LymesDisease. 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. But this time, it was different.
Candida - who are you and why are you bothering me?
Up to this point, I had already lost over 65 lbs and worked out regularly at the gym. So I was perplexed as to why I felt so badly. I went to the doctor and he told me to take more vitamin D. But why was my vitamin D so low when I was eating well and taking my vitamins and supplements on a regular basis? Obviously, western medicine wasn't providing the answers I needed. At about the same time, a dear friend told me about her journey dealing with chronic pain. With the help of a nutritionist, she identified the foods she was sensitive to, made the appropriate changes to her nutrition, and was on the road to better health and wellness. Determined not to resign myself to a life in bed, I found a nutritionist and literally staged a comeback almost as big as Elvis's. Thank you very much!
My nutritionist was astonished with my lab results. She proclaimed that people with my numbers wouldn't be able to 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.) The diagnosis was that I had a #candida yeast infection (also known as auto-brewery syndrome), which caused my gut to leak, sending spores throughout my body causing all those pains and migraines, and making me unable to absorb any nutrients from my food and supplements. (In fact, people have been arrested for driving drunk who suffered from the same ailment!) 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 (well that explains my teenage-like sexual libido!). That, said the nutritionist, was my last source of energy. The nutritionist put me on a yeast-kill diet and in two years time, my gut was back to normal and my battle with bloating ended. 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.
In optimal health, I kept on top of my nutrition and hit the gym. I quickly lost 30 more pounds - bringing my total weight loss to 95 pounds. And, newsflash, I didn't have to become a gym bunny. I typically worked out 2-3 times a week. So it goes to show you how well your body reacts when everything is functioning at its prime. And who doesn't have time in their lives to work out a couple of days a week?
I should add during this time, I kind of fell into acting and modeling. While I was unknowingly battling candida, I returned to school and got my Master's in Theatre Arts. While pursuing my degree, I thought I was exhausted from studying and running back and forth from work and school. Little did I know it was because of my gut. Now that I was in optimal health, people that I knew in the fashion and beauty industry told me I should get into modeling and acting. Something I never thought would be possible before.
Okay, so this all ties into my next goal. So I saw a casting notice for a new #Netflix series about everyday people who train to become bodybuilders. I thought that would be a perfect opportunity for me: television exposure and a new fitness goal to challenge myself. A win-win! Although the conversation with the producers went nowhere, I got the bodybuilding bug. It's funny how your childhood dreams always find a way of coming back into your life!
The challenge now was to find a gym closer to home that wasn't crowded like the huge health club I was currently exercising at. I would be training up to 2 hours a day and I didn't want to be maneuvering around hundreds of people to get a workout. It's funny how the universe provides, because the answer was literally on my doorstep.
One day at the supermarket I ran into a young lady named Sarah. I knew her years before when she was dating Bryon Garcia (pictured left). Bryon had been my former trainer in the early 2000s at the local YMCA. Actually, I found Bryon the day after I took that sad pic of me you viewed earlier when I discovered I weighed 265 lbs. When I met with Bryon back then, he asked me what my goal was. I responded, "I want to get rid of this belly," and grabbed my stomach with both hands as if he couldn't see it. An affable gent, Bryon laughed and a friendship started.
After Sarah gleefully showed off her engagement ring from her new beau in front of the vine-ripened tomatoes, she informed me that Bryon opened his own fitness studio right in my little town in New Jersey called GFitness. So I went to check it out and was blown away by the world-class facility he created. After catching up with Bryon - who was happily married himself - I told him about my new goal. He responded by offering me the key to his gym and said I could work out whenever I wanted. Proof that small-town civility still exists in these crazy times we live in. Now, with both optimal health and fitness providing a strong foundation, and an ideal gym situation, I had all my ducks lined up in a row to pursue my bodybuilding goal.
How Do I Make My Body Look Like That?
“Is your figure less than Greek?”
- Rodgers & Hart, My Funny Valentine
I know I will never never win Mr. Olympia, and to be honest I don't find that steroid-look too be appealing - nor the health risks involved. But what do I do? How do I start this journey? I need to come up with a plan! Going into research mode (thank you Grad School!), I read countless books and articles and came up with a simple approach for someone attempting his or her first amateur bodybuilding show. Firstly, I'll have to go on a strict diet and get my bodyfat down between 4 - 6% from it's present 21%. (My previous goal was to put on muscle size, which resulted in my bodyfat going up when I ramped up the calories.) This shouldn't be a problem, as, like most people who have battled obesity, dieting is easy. (It's keeping the weight off is where most people fail, so hopefully my success will inspire you!) The plan is to keep my fat and carb intake at a healthy low while eating as much protein as possible to keep my muscles growing. Next is shaving and tanning. Well, I like to tan floating in my pool so that's fun and I guess my body acould use a good shave. It's not like the hair won't grow back. Posing on stage to music? I am a theatre-person so I can figure that one out. Next on the list is - GULP - I have to wear what is basically a string bikini bottom? Well if that thought doesn't keep me committed to my diet and workouts, I don't know what will!
But wait, what? Forty-five minutes to 1.5 hours of cardio a day? Cardio was never my favorite. How many times can I watch "Flip or Flop" on HGTV as I walked on the treadmill? But it is 2018 and thankfully we have choices. After experiencing the joys of the Peloton cycle at a friend's house and loving every second of it, I ordered my own bike. And now with my personal cadre of motivational #Peloton instructors - the dynamic trio of Christine D'Ercole, Jenn Sherman, and Robin Arzon - my cardio is no longer a chore but a fun diversion. As I learned from my course when I studied to become a Certified Personal Trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (Oh, I forgot to mention that as well! Where do I find the time you ask? I'll talk about that in a future post!), I learned that in order for our fitness goals to be attainable, they must be SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Oriented.
Now ready with my fool-proof plan and a commitment level that is skyhigh, I realized that I never actually attended a bodybuilding contest. Duh! My enthusiasm always gets the best of me. What if I went and didn't like it? So I googled natural bodybuilding shows in New Jersey and found one nearby. In the back of my head I thought I would find the stereotypical muscleheads that I see at the gym. Instead, I found a like-minded, supportive community of competitors and their friends and families. Of course these people are serious about their sport. They work hard for it. It's not about looking like the Hulk in a tight t-shirt at a bar on the Jersey Shore or strutting your stuff on a beach in Mykonos. It's a sport like any other. I can relate to this completely. I experienced this in my days as an equestrian or on my scuba-diving trips. We all do it because we are passionate about it. And now this is my current passion.
Will I succeed?
"Great ideas originate in the muscles."
- Thomas Edison
I don't expect to win or look like Steve Reeves but I've already succeeded on so many levels. I'm healthy and fit, and at the age of 55, I view life with the same wondrous eyes I did as a 5-year-old. After my bodybuilding show, which is October 6, 2018, I'm sure I will start another journey and check off another item on my bucket list. Climb Mt Everest? Learn Portuguese?Launch a fragrance? Life is too precious and beautiful not to live the life you deserve. And it's never too late to start! And I should know! They don't call me the ReinventionKing for nothing.
I hope you accompany me along on my journey and that I inspire you to overcome your fears, follow your dreams and pursue new goals. Please visit my blog at ReinventionKing Magazine and post questions or comments. I would love to hear from you. And remember, if I can do it, you can do it!