Eating Healthy is a Practice

Someone asked me the other day how long it took me to get to this place with my diet and workouts. I never thought about it like that. I think, in the moment, I always think of myself as healthy. Which is kind of weird because if I look back to 5 or 10 years ago, I realize how far I’ve come. I remember showing up to workouts with my buddy Jeff in Astoria, Queens after downing a slice of pizza or a chili dog or both. At that time, nutrition wasn’t the cornerstone of health for me, it was more about the workout. I figured if I looked good, what’s the difference what I eat? We all know and hate that person. The asshole who seems to eat whatever they want and never put on weight. Yep, that was me in my 20’s. I had a good ride, but my 30’s are a different story.

After I got married in 2008 I realized I’d put on about 20 pounds of unwanted weight. I blamed it on the fact that I had no time to workout while planning a wedding and working all the time. But once the wedding was past and the honeymoon was over, I had no more excuses. I needed to lose this belly. So I did what I alway do, I hit the gym 3 or 4 days a week and started up with my cardio routine again. This always worked for me in the past, so why fix it if it’s not broke. But something was broke. I couldn’t lose the weight. WTF! Weeks went by of me crushing it at the gym. I was lifting or running almost every day and wasn’t losing a thing. Could this be? Had I become one of those people who can’t lose weight just from working out? This sucks!

Rob & Jeff at the 2010 LA Triathlon

Rob & Jeff at the 2010 LA Triathlon

Over the next few years I played with diets and workouts. I decided to get into endurance training, focusing on marathons, half-marathons and triathlons. I left the heavy weights at the gym and hit the streets and local pools. First I started with a juice cleanse in 2008, I lost some weight, but the best part of that experience was realizing what certain foods did to my body as I introduced them back into my diet. In 2009 I decided to become pescetarian. That lasted for almost a year! The weight did come off and I did look good, but it wasn’t the perfect lifestyle for me. I liked meat too much to give it up for the rest of my life, so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sustain this new way of life. Plus, I couldn’t keep muscle mass on to save my life, which made me feel weak. I needed a new goal that was going to keep me interested and challenge me to try something I’d never done before. I knew I wanted to put on muscle mass, so what better challenge then to sign my self up for a Body Building competition! If that didn’t light a fire under my ass, nothing would. So in September of 2012, after I finished the Malibu Olympic Triathon, I decide to hang up my wetsuit and pick up those weights.

Training for my first Men’s Physique competition was an eye opening experience. I learned so much about what works and doesn’t work for my body is such a short time. I realized how if I ate more fats, a few more carbs and upped my protein intake, as well as lifted really heavy, I would gain weight. Well, not just weight, but muscle mass. Awesome! This was the first time in my life I connected food with the way I looked and felt. It suddenly became so obvious how important proper nutrition is to achieving fitness goals. I started taking a real interested in the difference between being a vegan or meat eater and everything in between.

Took 1st at the INBA World Cup Natural Body Building Competition. Nov. 2013

Took 1st at the INBA World Cup Natural Body Building Competition. Nov. 2013

This is when I realized, there’s no such thing as a “diet.” The definition of a diet is ‘the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.’ It’s just a word that basically sums up what you eat on a regular basis. These days the word diet comes with negative connotations. We think of a diet as a way of restricting ourselves from the foods that we love. I can’t have this or if I eat that I’ll get fat. That’s bull! Once you’re able to wrap your head around the idea that food is fuel and if you decide to put shit fuel in your body, it’s not going to run at optimal performance. Sure, I can have pizza and buffalo wings whenever I want, but those occasions will be viewed as special treats.

Now you’ll ask, “Ok Rob, what should I be eating to be healthy?” That’s the journey and the good news is that you’re on the right road to success. The fact that you’re reading this blog post means that you’re interested in changing your life and are open to the possibility of the new you. That’s the hardest step. Congrats, you’ve started your journey!

You’re still curious about what you should eat exactly, aren’t you? Of course you are. The best I can do, without actually knowing you and working with you, is tell you what I do. I can pretty much guarantee that what I do will probably not work exactly the same for you, because I live quite a different lifestyle then most of you. I workout 5 to 6 days a week and my job is very active. Working out is at my fingertips every day. This is not to say it’s easy for me to keep consistent, but it’s easier then it would be if I had to go out of my way to make the gym. When you compare my food journal to yours, what do you see? Are you eating the same kinds of foods or is your diet mostly packaged processed foods?

The trick to changing the way you eat is starting small. Try adding one leafy green vegetable serving throughout the day. Baby steps!

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