I remember walking with a young man of about 34. I was about to do what at my old job was called a fitness coaching consultation. I began asking him questions about his goals and where he would like to go with his exercise program. He told me that he was a wrestler in high school and was in excellent shape. Unfortunately since high school he had gained about 40 pounds and began smoking. “I’m realistic”, he said. “I don’t expect to get back into the same kind of shape, or look like I did when I was in high school”. Without hesitation I turned to him and said, “Why not? He stopped and looked at me with what I can only remember as being a mixture of being slightly irritated as well as perplexed all at the same time. Before he had a chance to say anything else, I continued by saying, “I never looked like this when I was in high school”. “In fact, I look much better, and can do much more than when I was in high school”. “Really”, my very skeptical fitness coaching client replied. You see, most of my clients upon meeting me for the first time believe I’ve always been in shape. They are under the misconception that I was the typical high school or college jock. Many others have been under the false pretence that I’m naturally gifted and don’t have to work hard to look the way that I do. Still others believe I can eat whatever I want because I have good genes. Nothing could be further from the truth!
In order to make the physical transformation that I did, it required hours upon hours of hard work and sweat through strength and cardiovascular training. It has also required a close adherence to eating the proper foods to help me complete the transformation. In high school I was anything but an athlete. High school quarterback, you ask? Hardly! In fact it was just the opposite! I was a member of the chess team, and also participated in the chorus and played in the marching band. The closest I got to high school athletics was warming the bench for my high school’s junior varsity baseball team. I think in the two years I attempted baseball, I got a total playing time of around 5 minutes! When I went to college things really didn’t change, although my diet went down hill considerably. I did what many college kids do and subsisted on pizza, cheese-steak sandwiches, cheese burgers, soda, and of course beer. After I graduated from college with a degree in English literature I began pursuing another love of mine, music. I became a lead vocalist and rhythm guitar player in a rock band. Of course, playing in bars limited me most of the time to eating the same foods that I had been eating in college.
By the time I was 25 I was developing a good-sized waistline and a double chin. My posture was also poor due to weak back muscles, as well as having a guitar constantly slung around my neck. During this time I also developed a condition known as gynecomastia (man breasts) from what I’m sure was a combination of poor eating habits, a loss of muscle tissue from inactivity, and probably an imbalance of my body’s natural hormonal makeup. By the time I had reached age 28 I was also beginning to experience chronic lower back pain to boot. Over these years I attempted dieting and had some success with losing some weight with small changes to what I was eating. I also began practicing the martial arts, but overall I was still carrying enough body fat to be considered overweight.