This isn’t my normal material, but it may to prove to be one of the most important pieces I write… (please excuse any typos… this is coming straight from the heart, no edits, no rewrites)
And if it changes one life, just saves one person from a life of misery, dysfunction and decaying health – then writing this is all worth it…
If you’ve been in my world for a bit – you know I’ve struggled hard in the past with myself…
I’ve battled emotional eating issues, food codependency, vicious highs and lows with my weight, unhealthy swings in my body-composition, even flirted with potential drinking/alcohol issues…
Despite being a lifelong fitness and nutrition enthusiast, a top professional, teacher, personal coach and a unique voice in the health & fitness industry – I personally battled some of the toughest issues most people in society face today.
My Italian upbringing placed me in a zone where food was life and more food was more life. That was a major problem right from childhood for me…
It set the stage for my love of food, the happiness I would get from food and the self-satisfaction of pleasing myself through eating – even when all other things in life were “bad”…
Food and high-calorie beverages became my drug – but I wasn’t even aware of it.
And the built-in addictive ingredients of the processed foods that stock our high-consumption food supply did not help matters, of course…
I lived in such a strange paradox. One that would prove to eventually become my gift to the world, an experience over the course of many years that would allow to empathize with, and understand, people struggling to overcome the same obstacles and problems I had to defeat in order to find success…
The paradox of this former fat-kid looked something like this…
In my youth, others called me Porky, pudgy, fat-boy… And having to shop for “Husky” clothes didn’t help matters at all.
Through my youth, I could eat sweets, fats and dense carbs with the best of them. Cakes, chocolate, cookies, donuts, ice-cream, muffins, danish, pastries, LOTS of bread and butter, plus LOTS MORE.
Going into my teen and late teen years is when I picked up speed on the fitness and bodybuilding path. The working out was natural and fun for me, but the food part was a challenge.
In the “off-season” I would eat whatever I wanted and then I would challenge myself on “dieting” down for a bodybuilding competition – getting down to 3% body-fat. It was a grand challenge for sure – but I was able to do it because my desire to compete and win was stronger than my short term desire for rich, heavy foods and high-cal desserts & sweets..
But after the competitions, I would rebound… Severely.
The big eater, the food addict in me would show up with a vengeance and within days I’d be packing on the pounds again, catching up on all the foods I deprived myself of in order to compete.
For a few years, I just thought this cycle was normal. But then one year, the night after a competition – I almost killed myself. I was in my early 20’s
I thought I was going to die. Literally.
I had eaten so much, so fast – right after a competition, that my body couldn’t digest the heavy foods fast enough. I was so abnormally full, it felt like there was food in my throat. I was actually beyond full.
I was scared, but so embarrassed that I didn’t say anything to anyone, I just sat there, quiet, acting as if I was so tired from the competition and just needing some rest…
I actually did fall asleep a few times, while seated, because I couldn’t lay down… Hoping that my body would digest all the food as I rested. I ended up sleeping into the morning.
When I woke up I felt horrible, in so many ways – mentally, physically and emotionally. I learned that food overdose is possible, and it felt crippling. It took me a few days to recover, but I was still eating of course… just not as much.
In those few days, I came to the realization I have a problem. And that incident alone was critical. I was starting to awaken to my self-destructive reality. Self-awareness was starting to brew.
But I didn’t know what I was going to do about it, yet. And I got on with my life. The next day would come and I would have to live it. Each one.
Days became weeks, then months, then years…
Some years were good, some were painful. I was an excellent trainer, one of the best private fitness coaches around (I am far better now of course, in profound ways) – but internally I battled some demons. The fight raged on…
Life took me into my early thirties and by that time JoJo and Alexa, where about 1 and 2 years old, I owned a personal training studio (it actually owned me) that had me working crazy hours, and a marriage that was making life a dysfunctional swirl of pain… a marriage that was on the verge falling off a cliff, every second of the day (and night).
My spirit was dying and I was relying more and more on food as my drug…
It was one of the only places I could derive pleasure. Spending time with my kids and helping my clients reach their goals were the other 2 places I derived pleasure.
But food and beverages were a different animal altogether. There were built-in temptations that tested my personal limits and abilities – and I usually lost.
The toxic and dysfunctional proceedings for Divorce #1 started and things only got worse. I was technically homeless for over a year, living in my personal training studio, using the massage room as my bedroom… the massage table as my bed.
Financially, my back was against the wall. Day and night. To this day, I thank all the clients I was blessed with, whose openness to allow me to help them, gave me the thin financial means to survive during that trying phase of life…
As you might imagine, during that time – food was my ultimate drug.
Even more so than other times of my life. I won’t share how unhealthy my food and drink choices were but I will say that if I tried eating that way today, I would be sick for days. (crazy thing is so many people still eat like that EVERY DAY!)
Life marched on.
I kept surviving. Eventually going into a new relationship which led to marriage. One that would also end in a painful, but very helpful divorce.
The situations and dysfunctions of marriage #2 still fueled my self-destructive eating and drinking habits – but it also started the strongest period of introspection, self-reflection and heightened self-awareness.
I began to grasp what was going on inside me AND OUTSIDE OF ME.
And this revelation would eventually turn into the foundation of me disconnecting from food and then being able to redefine what food and beverages meant to me, and my life – and then reframe their position and purpose in my life.
But my exercise habits were scattered, at best, and I continued to spiral downward for a few years – still unable to put all the pieces together properly.
I just couldn’t beat the food demons and get to a place where my “adult fitness habits” were a natural and sacred part of my life.
I let too many other unhealthy things become excuses blocking me from who and what I was supposed to be…
I got to a point where I felt horrible, frustrated, so embarrassed about my state of being… And my medical stats and health vitals were getting worse each year.
Cholesterol was climbing – and the ratios were getting worse.
Blood pressure was high. This was not a good sign.
Triglycerides were getting out of hand
Headaches, stomach issues, back pains, joint pains
Horrible sleeping patterns
Lack of mental clarity and focus
How could I be someone who guided people to optimum health and fitness when I couldn’t personally do it myself???
I “knew” all the answers…
I knew the right approach to nutrition and how to match it to an individual’s needs, on their timeline. I had 2 degrees in Exercise Physiology and an intuitive element in me that gave me the tools to help just about anyone who came into my world.
But I couldn’t help myself. I HAD TO CHANGE THAT. I had to fix that.
So started the DEEPER journey of self-reflection, introspection, communicating with people a bit older and wiser than me… Not about fitness and nutrition, BUT ABOUT LIFE…
The more I opened my mind and got truthful with myself, the more things started to make sense. I began to develop the sense that I could change my state of being and I could change my choices and habits, all from within…
I needed to change and I wanted to change…
I wanted to help more people by LEADING BY EXAMPLE… The Right Example.
I had kids to live for and I also wanted to be around for my grand-kids someday…
I still had life in me – and despite the 2 painful marriages and divorces, I knew I would eventually want to find my life companion and live a great life together…
All of the above required me to become my best… to stop all the self-destructive behaviors that were killing my life – and place highest priority on my health and well-being.
I need to honor my life, my one body… I needed to tune into my spirit and bring it back to life – so I could be the REAL me – the Joey who this world needs…
And I knew, all the above required that I start taking proper care of myself, because only when we are in good health and living in strength can we be our best and give the world our very best.
I needed to use food for what it was intended and not use it as a drug.
I needed to find a way to make fitness training realistic and doable – so I could fit it into a busy adult schedule and make it sustainable for life.
And I needed to redefine how alcohol fit into my life – and redefine the purpose it would serve, if any.
Was I aiming for “PERFECT”? No…
I don’t expect perfection from anyone. Only “mindfulness”, “self-awareness”… when you have those – you can then manage your thoughts, mindset, habits and actions…
And that’s when things get easier… much easier.
I knew just getting to a place where my highest priorities and values guided my thoughts and decisions – I knew I would win.
And I knew that would strengthen how I coached and guided others down the same path of success with the ‘self’.
This wasn’t about adhering to dogmatic regimens and complex methodologies – but rather it was so much more about simplification, flexibility and getting in tune with the truths of my life and my physiology.
It wouldn’t be about “counting macros and micros” or “periodization” or “eating for my blood type” or “working out in the red zone”… NONE of that….
It became all about my best self and things WE ALREADY KNOW…
I started applying things I already KNEW TO BE TRUE – and connected those things to my personal values and goals in life.
1 – I came to grips with the truth that most of the foods and drinks in our society are designed to be subtly addictive. (this is INSIDIOUS – a problem that is going to get much worse before it gets better)
2 – I began to apply what I learned about the body in Gross Anatomy to my own choices and decisions, such as avoiding food additive and ingredients that worked against our health and damaged our metabolism
3 – I began to take true ownership of my health and wellness, and redefined what foods, drinks and nutrients would be allowed into my body and which ones would NOT be allowed
4 – I decided NOT to let other people or companies decide what foods and drinks will go into my body. (this is HUGE).
5 – I began to change my fitness training methods so they were more realistic and beneficial instead of painful and unrealistic
I TOOK OWNERSHIP OF MY LIFE. I took responsibility of “ME”… SELF-RESPONSIBILITY
And I let all my actions be in line with where I wanted to go in life and the levels of health I wanted to reach and live in.
Sure, it wasn’t an overnight change – but day after day, week after week, month after month.. A few years went by and I had evolved. I had grown toward my best potential (instead of growing AWAY from it) and I still do to this very day…
We NEVER stop evolving and growing. EVER. When we open ourselves up to this fact – then our lives can open up in the most profound ways…
That’s how I did it. And that is the essence of how I guide people to their own success when I do 1-on-1 personal coaching, whether it’s in person or long-distance…
If I can do it – then anyone can do it. Yes, even YOU.
If you’re struggling in your own, unique way – then I’d like to be the one who helps you turn it all around – just like I did myself and how I help others do the same.
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Your trainer for LIFE,