Would you believe, I used to be a chronically ill, slouchy, doubled-chinned shlep with Bambi legs and a beer belly? I have fought my way from decrepitude to athleticism all on my own, encountering numerous setbacks along the way. Once sick, weak and dependent on pharmaceuticals to survive, I became an athletic beast dependant on grass-fed steak salads and barbells to thrive.
By sharing my health transformation story, I hope to inspire you in a real and authentic way. So if you’re feeling helpless, confused, and angry about your health, know you’re not alone. While my story is unique to me, you too have a health transformation story that has yet to unfold. As a health coach and personal trainer, my passion is to help you write that story.
Starting Life All Wrong
Clumsy and weak, the kids in elementary school always picked me last for team sports. I was constantly rejected and bullied for being uncoordinated and awkward. I did have natural athletic abilities though, especially for sprinting. I made it to regionals for the 800m sprint, but when I went up against the best kids in East Toronto, I was utterly destroyed.
On the day of the regionals, I gassed out halfway around the track, completely psyched that everyone blew past me. As the other runners crossed the finish line, some of my classmates taunted me from the bleaches. Then, as if that moment couldn’t get worse, my mum ran across the field to walk me over the finish line. The humiliation and teasing I received after were unbearable, and I lost all my confidence.
By high school, I doubted my physical abilities so much that I petitioned to waive the gym class requirement on the premise that sports gave me anxiety. Within four years, the lack of exercise and typical teenage binging and boozing ensured I would graduate with a pot belly.
In University, study time frequently included a couple of pints of beer and onion rings at the campus pub. Being a young man, I would never have believed these constant recklessness assaults on my body would bring me to my knees later in life. And this was just the beginning!
Working Myself to Death
After a year of University, I found myself in a situation where I needed to move out from home. To afford living on my own, I had to drop out of school and take a job at a doughnut shop. Working such a stressful, unfulfilling job that I resented was a hot, a gooey recipe for disaster. Every day, I’d seek comfort in unlimited freshly glazed doughnuts and sugary coffees. Is it any surprise that after a couple of years, I left that job with a pair of man boobs and an ambulance bill from a suspected heart attack? (Don’t worry, it was just a panic attack).
My next job managing a hectic music school was even worse. For 10 hours a day, I’d sit slumped over a computer with my shoulders rounded and neck protruding like a turtle. This posture became somewhat permanent. To soothe myself from the stressful environment, I’d often eat fast food at my desk while popping hocus-pocus weight loss pills hoping I wouldn’t go up another pant size. I was so ashamed of my body that I no longer took my shirt off in front of my girlfriend at home.
Nervous System Overload
As time went on, panic attacks became a frequent occurrence. Sometimes just a worried thought could trigger a vomiting fit or sweaty fit of breathlessness. The doctors’ solutions were the same; load me up with mind-numbing anxiety pills. I must have tried a dozen different ones. None worked.
After numerous hospital trips with a racing heart, I was ordered to take a cardiac stress test. Sadly, I only lasted 6 minutes on the treadmill before I bonked. The cardiologist diagnosed me as “sedentary” and sent me home with a prescription for exercise. I soothed my broken heart that night with a pint of ice cream.
A Blitzkrieg of Health Disasters
By age 25, soon after I got married, my health fell apart completely. I wasn’t able to digest half of my favourite foods without crippling abdominal pain. After a colonoscopy, gastroscopy, biopsy, and several blood tests the doctors diagnosed me with irritable bowel syndrome. It wasn’t.
Every time I visited the doctor, I left with a new diagnosis and prescription. On one visit in particular, the nurse had trouble collecting my blood because it was too thick from elevated cholesterol, triglycerides, haemoglobin, and dehydration. I left with a prescription for a statin and blood thinner. Unbelievable!
On another visit, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and placed on synthetic hormones. Within two weeks, I got high blood pressure and chest pain as side effects. So instead of taking me off the drug, the doctor prescribed blood pressure pills! Oh, and it gets dumber.
Soon after, I was diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia. At least that explained why I passed out on the subway after eating a giant cinnabun. Luckily, some kind lady shook me awake at the last stop otherwise I would have woken up in the train yard. Just about anything carby would knock me out cold 20min after consumption.
I couldn’t keep up with all my doctor’s appointments and my doctors couldn’t keep up with me. From chronic heat hives to painful, swollen knees and crippling depression – you name it, I had it.
My Breaking Point
By age 27, I noticed some strange white patches on my tongue and the inside of my cheeks. Within a couple of weeks, they grew into raw, painful ulcerations. I was diagnosed with oral lichen planus, a precancerous autoimmune disorder with no cure, requiring steroids and frequent cancer screenings. Within a couple of months, the steroids helped add another ten pounds.
Demoralised and scared, I knew had to take responsibility for my health. Despite doctors telling me my problems were genetic, my intuition told me otherwise. Enough was enough. I was tired and ashamed of being a helpless victim of the pharmaceutical industry. I needed a complete diet and lifestyle makeover.
A Miraculous Metamorphosis
After Googling countless alternative treatments for my health issues, all the anecdotal stories about people transforming their health through diet and nutrition inspired me to make drastic changes. After all, I had nothing left to lose!
So instead of destroying myself at McDonald’s every day, I sought sanctuary in health food restaurants and shops trying new foods from every colour of the rainbow for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I continued this pattern for six months while slowly learning how to cook healthy at home and taking supplements.
During this time, I underwent a complete health metamorphosis. Every single medical condition I was suffering from was gone. I came off all my medication. For the first time, I was happy, energetic and free from inflammation. Best of all, my jelly-belly and man boobs shrunk just in time for me to meet my future wife, who has been an integral part of my health journey since.
Suffice it to say, I was an entirely different person, inside and out.
Discovering the Primal Diet
By age 34 in 2014, my pursuit of the most optimal diet for health led me to discover Mark Sisson’s book “The Primal Blueprint”. Upon his recommendations, I adopted a diet and lifestyle based on ancestral health principals. First, I eliminated all the processed vegan Frankenfoods I had previously believed were healthy. Next, I ditched all grains and legumes while reducing my overall carbohydrate intake from fruits and starches. I gradually shifted my diet towards fattier, protein-rich foods like pasture-raised meats and free-run eggs. Each meal included organic vegetables and giant salads. Snacks included crunchy veggies, meat sticks, nuts and seeds.
This higher fat, low-carb way of eating transformed my body into a fat-burning machine. I lost more body fat than ever before and gained more energy than I knew what to do with. Even my immune system ramped up; cold and flues became rare and short-lived. Strangely enough, one of my toenails that had died and fallen out after an injury ten years ago grew back. My body was regenerating!
The Uphill Battle to Athleticism
Impressed with how a primal diet could help me lose so much weight, I was curious to see what would happen if I added exercise. So facing my childhood demons, I joined a gym!
After a year of lifting weights, I gained a lot of muscle. I looked and felt far better than I did when I was 18! After avoiding sports my whole life, weight training suddenly became a healthy obsession and therapeutic outlet for me.
Nothing was going to stop me. Even when I herniated my bellybutton and needed surgery, I was back at the gym two weeks later. My dedication and love for health and fitness were getting serious.
Hungry for more knowledge on how to optimise my health and fitness, I began studying exercise science and sports nutrition. Over the next few years, I earned numerous personal training and nutrition certifications. I even went back to school to earn a college diploma in personal training. And of course, as a big advocate of the paleo diet, I studied to become one of Mark Sisson’s very first Primal Health Coaches!
Seeking harder challenges, I discovered CrossFit and spent three years training like a machine. I loved it so much that I earned multiple CrossFit certifications and began coaching classes. Finally, I could sprint faster, run longer and lift heavier than that poor kid whose mom had to walk him across the finish line could ever dream. At 37 years old, I could destroy most teenage athletes in 200m sprints or 5K races.
I could finally take my shirt off on the beach and feel proud to be strong and athletic. But my story doesn’t end there.
The Biggest Set Back of My Life
As fate would have it, in January 2017, I blew the L5-S1 disc in my lower back during a yoga class. The disc impinged my left sciatic nerve, and I lost my ankle reflex and calf muscle strength. No longer able to walk, I lost my job as a fitness coach.
For two months I laid in bed paralysed watching my muscles atrophy. My wife had to help dress me and walk me to the bathroom. My doctor warned me that I might have permanent nerve damage and require a cane. F$%@ that!
The Biggest Comeback of My Life
They say that big setbacks pave the way for an even bigger comeback. Determined to walk again, I took many neuroregenerative supplements to help heal the damaged nerves. Using my Primal Health Coach expertise, I switched to a ketogenic diet and used intermittent fasting to help lower the inflammation in my spine and promote autophagy (cellular cleanup of the damaged tissue).
Determined to recover, I limped my way over to physiotherapy and the chiropractor three times a week without transit or a car. By the third month, I was slowly starting to walk again. That was good enough for me to sign back up at the gym to start training again. It didn’t matter that my 300lb back squat was reduced to a humble 45lbs while wearing a weight belt– I was determined to heal.
With a compromised spine, jerking my joints around in CrossFit was out of the question. Instead, I took up bodybuilding. The slow controlled movements helped me improve the strength and functionality of my nerves, joints, and muscles more safely.
I eventually found Coach Kassem of N1 Education and took his exercise biomechanics and execution courses to relearn how to train and coach clients more effectively. This style of training helped create more strength and hypertrophy than I had ever had before.
Once again, I was a new man.
A Personal Trainer Who Has Been Where You Are
My passion in life is to improve the health and fitness of others – a reasonable passion, considering my experiences. With tens of thousands of dollars invested in numerous fitness and nutrition certifications, the credential I value most was free – experience. It’s no wonder why I excel at training clients dealing with significant health issues.
It’s never too late to try and improve lifestyle and diet-related health problems. If I can go from Bambi to Beast, I believe you can transform your health too with proper support, education, and compassion from a qualified coach.
If you’re suffering from lifestyle-induced health problems, let me teach you how an ancestral approach to eating, moving and living can help transform your life. Realistically, it may not provide a complete cure for what ails you, but it will help.
If you feel insecure and intimidated to walk into a gym and train, let me coach you safely and intelligently. The benefits of working with a personal trainer are immense.
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