This post is something I've been meaning to write for months, or more like years, and the absolutely inexplicably tragic event in Orlando was my tipping point. Since 50 innocent people, most of whom happened to be gay were massacred, simply for living their life authentically (or at least trying to), my mind has been in a total fog, and I have been on the verge of tears. Why did this happen? How can there be so much hate in this world? How can people be hated, judged, or killed for doing nothing more than being gay?
As the saying goes, the truth will set you free, or at least it should. In many parts of the world, including in much of the United States, millions, or likely, more like billions of people struggle to live their life authentically, and remain hidden for fear of being judged, shunned, ridiculed, and in some instances, slaughtered. In some parts of the world, it is much worse than others. As a result, people censor their words and actions, and essentially spend their lives living in an internal jail. In some instances, it's a life sentence, or worse. This is why I need to take a stand. I am gay. There, I said it. While I absolutely hate any labelling word as I prefer to think of myself as nothing more than a normal human being, I am using it to get my point across. While I have not gone out of my way to keep this a secret for quite a few years, especially in my personal life, and more recently, in some of my professional life, and on social media,I have never acknowledged it publicly. If it weren't for these recent events I would likely never have talked about it on a public platform, but I feel that not acknowledging it or skirting around it is being cowardly and is contributing to the problem that still exists. While my sexuality is not the focus of this post, the sheer lack of control that I felt is absolutely why I spent many years engaging in patterns of dysfunctional eating and working out.
I spent much of my teenage years and a large part of my 20’s living in this internal Alcatraz, and it felt like a life sentence. For well over a decade, I dealt with a tremendous amount of fear, depression, and anxiety. My only true escape was soccer. I did not feel capable of being my authentic self for years, and I wasted these years trying to be someone I was not. I constantly worried about being judged, stereotyped, shunned, having my motives questioned, and I also worried about how it would impact me professionally. Even after I was at ease in my personal life, it still gave me a lot of worry and stress in my professional life. If people found out, would I lose clients, and would it cost me my career? Looking back, most of my fears were totally overblown, and my biggest obstacle was myself. As a result of this huge struggle, my overall lifestyle was significantly impacted, including my workouts and nutrition.
A Lifestyle Of Extreme, Guilt, Black and White Thinking, and Ineffectiveness
While I have always encouraged my clients to adopt a healthy relationship with food and exercise, and have helped/continue to help them do so, for my later teenage years and for much of my 20’s, I did not practice what I preached, at least privately. My workouts and nutrition were absolutely everything I am totally against now, and I’m doing everything in my power to prevent people from making the same mistakes. When I was in my teenage years, aside from playing soccer, my only workouts consisted of jogging as our provincial coach made us go for at least a few runs per week. I hated jogging, and it did very little to improve my overall fitness level. When I was in my 20’s and started going to the gym most days of the week, my workouts did not make me feel happy, energized, empowered, stronger, or fitter. They were incredibly draining, both physically and emotionally. 100% of what I did was to control my appearance, or meeting certain standards (usually number of calories burned or weight on a scale) largely because I felt like I had no control over living my life authentically. The more I tried to be somebody I was not, the worse I felt, and the more extremes I took. Virtually all of my workouts consisted of painfully monotonous and ineffective long steady state cardio, where I aimed to burn at least 650 calories per workout, and often more. Any strength training that I did, which was very limited, was not remotely effective, as I once bought into the myth that lifting weights would make me bulky. Because I was petrified of being stereotyped, and partly because I didn't know any better, I stuck to ineffective ‘’toning’’ exercises and did nothing that was remotely helpful to my overall health, fitness, aesthetics, and sanity. My go to sources for fitness information were Oxygen Magazine, Women's Fitness, and Jillian Michaels. Even thinking about this now makes me cringe. I did not look forward to going to the gym. To me, it was a huge struggle. And if I missed a workout, I felt a tremendous amount of guilt, which further increased my anxiety.
As for my nutrition, I absolutely had some disordered patterns that I followed. I had an all or nothing mentality. I strived to be ‘’ good’’ all the time, counted my calories, and avoided the so-called ‘’bad’’ foods, that is, until I reached my breaking point and binged on absolute crap and felt tremendously guilty. I avoided certain social situations entirely when I knew that bad foods would be present, or I would allow myself to go to these functions and would totally overeat. I had no sense of how to follow the principle of moderation, and I definitely used my eating as a way to feel like I had some semblance of control in my life. The irony is that I had very little control, and the lifestyle I was living anything but fulfilling, healthy or effective.
Something Bad Leads To Something Good
My turning point came when I was about 28, both in terms of my fitness and nutrition-related lifestyle, and quest to live my life authentically. The year before, I was in a pretty bad car accident. I was driving in icy conditions and hit a patch of black ice. My car was written off. Fortunately, I walked away from the accident without a scratch, but it led to 5+ years of a totally destroyed body with an endless array of symptoms, and I spent over $20 000 trying to find someone who could tell me why I was experiencing this full body dysfunction. My symptoms ranged from severe nerve pain, to muscle weakness or tightness that came and went (resulted in a badly torn calf and also hamstring), issues in my lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine, upper ribs, and even my lower legs and feet. The only time I experienced any relief was when I was asleep. During these years, I continued to work out, and I played soccer for 3 more seasons before I had to stop, and while my workouts had been incredibly ineffective before, at least I was able to do them pain-free. Now I was trying to control both my appearance, and the pain.
This whole ordeal was probably a huge blessing in disguise. After about year 2 of this 5 year fucked up body saga, for the first time, I no longer cared about my appearance, or at least to a much smaller degree. Also, my chronic physical discomfort/dysfunction and the constant worry about whether I’d ever feel normal again helped minimize the significance of my sexuality. In a way, I stopped caring about the potential judgment and stigmatization. I just wanted to be able to make it through a day without experiencing these excruciatingly physically and emotionally debilitating symptoms. My entire philosophy behind my own fitness and nutrition also took a dramatic transformation, and one for the better. My focus shifted from controlling my appearance, to enhancing my health, and overall performance. I just wanted a body that felt good, and one that was able to do whatever I wanted it to do. This could mean playing soccer, lifting heavy weights, doing calisthenics, sprinting, or simply sitting in a chair without feeling incredibly stiff and sore.
While the switch did not occur quite as seamlessly as it did with my workouts, my nutrition took a total 180 for the better. While I did do a lot of research, I began to incorporate the principle of moderation into my life, and I stopped being so rigid in my ways. I no longer thought of food as being good or bad, I based all of my decisions around foods that tasted good, gave me energy, and helped me achieve my goals. This is the philosophy that I try to instil in all of my clients as it absolutely allows you to establish a lifestyle that is healthy, enjoyable, practical, and sustainable, and enables you to have a healthy relationship with food.
My 30’s: Letting Go Of The Need For Control
It is a widely known fact that many people have no clue who they are when they are in their 20s, and once they reach 30, they start to get their shit together, pardon the term. This was absolutely the case for me. I got my act together, both in terms of living my life authentically, and establishing a healthy, enjoyable and sustainable lifestyle. As a result, my 30s have been the best years of my life, both personally and professionally. I am finally extremely confident and at ease with who I am, and I no longer care what anybody thinks, or what they might think. While on occasion I still catch myself censoring myself, it is not out of fear, it's out of habit, so I get back on track right away. While my sexuality is part of who I am, it does not define me. This has removed a 10 ton burden from my shoulders, and has had a dramatic carryover to all elements of my life, including my lifestyle.
My Lifestyle In My 30’s: Health, Performance, Enjoyment And Flexibility
About 3 years ago, I finally found a great physio who determined that the cause of all of my problems was severely misaligned ribs from the car accident I had been in years before, and he sorted me out within 2 sessions. Since then, 100% of the motivation behind my fitness and nutrition has been to help me feel healthy and happy, and improve my performance. I can honestly say that I pay very little attention to my aesthetics, and I know that if I continue to follow the path that I’m on, I will be pleased with my appearance. I only do workouts that I enjoy, and that make me feel good, both physically and mentally. I strength train 4 to 5 days per week, and base my workouts around compound exercises, and am not afraid to go really heavy. I no longer do steady cardio or aim to burn calories. I’m all about sprinting, and improving my conditioning, and I do this 3-4 days per week. I have been playing soccer for two seasons, and feel better now than when I was a teenager. It’s very empowering. If I miss a workout, or eat junk, I do not feel guilty. My lifestyle is all about moderation and flexibility. I am in the best shape of my life, yet I am nowhere close to my full potential (or where I want to be). I have established an extremely positive and effortless relationship with food, and I feel incredibly healthy, both physically and mentally. I use working out and food as a way to enhance my life, not control it. I wish I had figured this out years back!
I thank anybody who has taken the time to read this post. It was tough to write, and I have had many doubts and second thoughts about sharing it publicly. While not being true to myself was my obstacle, many people deal with other obstacles that have a similar impact, or much worse. I hope my story can help somebody, no matter what the obstacle is. The two main points of my article are the following. 1) Be true to yourself. And while it might seem impossible at the time, it will likely be easier than you think. And 2) use your workouts and nutrition to make all parts of your life better, not to control something you feel powerless over. They are two tools that will help you be the best version of yourself, and will help you thrive in all parts of your life. I wish I had realized this sooner, but as the saying goes, ‘’better late than never.’’