This is David; we met through a mutual fitness and wellness-minded friend. If you've read the previous stories, I'm sure you won't be surprised to know we met for coffee (HEY CAFFEINE) to talk about his journey. What really made me love David's story is his outlook on health and fitness; as you'll read, he is hyper-aware of his body and what his body needs. He created his own personalized and logical approach to his health which I think stands out because let's be real, fitness and health can be majorly emotional. So here it is, meet David!
I was not always unhealthy and inactive, most of my physical activity as a youth and in college involved basketball. In college, I played upwards of 15 hours of basketball per week (recreationally, I was never exceptionally talented by any means). I was reasonably athletic but never mistaken for a true athlete. I grew up in New York City, in Chelsea, went to middle school in the west village (Village Community School), and high school in Brooklyn Heights (Packer Collegiate Institute). I attended Washington University in St. Louis, and triple majored in Mathematics, Finance & Economics, and went on to receive a Masters of Science in Finance. Once I completed my Masters, I entered high-stress corporate America, recovering from labrum surgery performed during my final year of school, I was unable to play sports.
Recovery from the surgery quite frankly never really ended, or never fully began. I did not have the proper appreciation for the recovery process, and quite frankly had too much faith in doctors and the surgery itself. Surgery or not, reconstructing anything in life from a business, a relationship or a muscle requires meticulous care. Something I was not capable of at 22 years of age. Days turn into months turned to years, and all of a sudden, I was a 290 pound 27 year old with growing health risks.
Health journeys often start with an “aha!” moment; mine is no different, but it really came in two stages. The first eye-opener was a ski trip I went on with some friends February weekend 2012 – I made it down the slope a grand total of 2 times that weekend, unable to gather enough energy for a third run at any point over the weekend. That’s when I realized I had a problem and something had to be done, but this was not what ultimately kicked my health journey into gear.
During the summer, both my father and my grandfather (on my mother’s side) began getting sick and spending a lot of time in hospitals. This was the ultimate kick in the butt I needed to really get my health journey started. My father lived a very unhealthy lifestyle, and died with multiple complications, multiple heart surgeries, and had to amputate 3 toes at the age of 67. My grandfather was the exact opposite. My grandfather exercised 6 times a week for all of his adult life until 90 years of age. He ate healthy, drank plenty of water. He even kept up his weekly tennis game throughout his late 80s, and continued working with the hospital (he was a cardiologist) into is early 90’s because of the joy it gave him. He ultimately died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 92.
It was time for me to make a decision, to choose a path. The two primary male role models in my life both passed away within a year of each other but in drastically different ways. I decided it was time to make a change.
I have fluctuated weight in my past, but usually between 190 and 230 pounds, never in the situation, I found myself in, 100 pounds overweight. I decided to take it slowly. For those who exercise often, you can forget how intimidating a gym can be for someone significantly overweight. I wasn’t even going to approach exercise until I was below 220 pounds. Over a 2.5yr period, I lost 70 pounds.
Instead of following some fad diet, I wanted to take ownership of the process. I wanted to get back in touch with my intuition. Humans thrived as a species partially due to their intuition, and in the last 50 or so years, the majority of people have lost the ability to hear what their body is telling them. I wanted to know how various foods were affecting me.
Instead of turning my diet over in a day, I changed one thing every 4 to 6 weeks, and then determined if it was a.) something that made me feel better, and b.) something I thought I could stick with. First, it was no sugar in my coffee, then it was no soda, followed by no dairy. One by one I tweaked my food intake, trying to be receptive to how it made me feel.
There is so much mixed information out there about dieting. Intermittent fasting, paleo diet, keto diet, the vegan diet. The truth is, misinformation about food is purposeful and to the benefit of big food companies. Here are some basics that few can disagree with.
- Water is good
- Processed food is generally bad
- The longer the shelf life the worse it usually is
- If you can't pronounce a lot of ingredients don’t buy it
- Vegetables are good
- Healthy fats are good
- Healthy carbs are good
- If you chose to eat meat and fish locally sourced is good
Sounds overly simplistic? It is. This literally fits almost all diets. Eat real things.
The human race got to where it is based on our intelligence and intuition. That feeling in your stomach when you are on a top of a cliff? That’s millions of years of evolution telling you maybe it’s a good idea to step away from the ledge. But we have beaten our taste buds to a pulp that we no longer follow intuition when it comes to food. The most important thing I did was learn to follow my intuition with my body. Not all diets work for everyone. Not every diet works for you as you get older, or during different seasons of the year, or with different levels of physical and mental stress in your life. There is no perfect rulebook. The way I saw it, I either become that person that weighs everything I eat (which I have never done), or I get back in touch with my intuitive side and allow that to guide what I eat. To be clear that means I eat basically anything I feel my body is craving, I have just trained it to seek and desire things that make me feel good (including a chocolate bar a day). Know that the poor foods you may be eating are making quality foods not taste as good. The fruit you have after a bag of skittles isn’t likely to taste that sweet to you, but go a week eating clean and it will taste like candy.
Back to the fitness journey.
Fast forward to the fall of 2014, I lost about 70 pounds and finally started exercising. The weight loss didn’t happen all at once. There were many plateaus and it took some time to pick up steam. At the end of December, I began CrossFit. By the end of January 2015, I was down to 180 pounds. As many do, I overdid my CrossFit workouts, without proper form, and ended up re-tearing my labrum. I chose CrossFit frankly because it seemed popular and was close to my apartment. I have nothing against CrossFit – and if you have proper form, or minimize heavyweights when doing exercises that spike your heart rate it can be a fantastic workout, but I did not have proper form and got too competitive with how much weight was being used.
This is where my health journey intersects with traditional medicine. I scheduled the necessary appointments, had MRI’s taken, and after speaking with my doctor, I was told with complete certainty, you will need surgery on your shoulder. This was the same injury I had surgery on back in 2007. I was obviously crushed. I had fears of my entire journey crumbling as my previous weight gain began with this very same injury. But over the course of the two weeks after my injury I was diligently attempting to rehab my shoulder with exercises I found online. I begged my doctor to try physical therapy because I was noticing a difference. I will never forget the doctor’s response. “You are absolutely wasting your and my time. But if you are refusing the surgery I’ll prescribe you physical therapy for a month.” I never had that surgery.
A friend recommended I try something called Brooklyn Bodyburn (now SLT), which was a class taught on a megaformer, a somewhat sadistic twist on a traditional Pilates reformer. It was a more controlled environment, with a low risk of injury and modifications for any current injuries. This method and machine allowed for an amazing mix of a strenuous workout with minimal impact on your joints. To this day any time I have an injury, I dial down all other workouts and focus my efforts here. I slowly rebuilt my shoulder strength and was getting in better and better shape.
I began trying all that the NYC fitness scene had to offer to complement the work I was doing on the megaformer. A friend, knowing I was seeking a challenge, recommended I try a place called Tone House. I puked water 5 of the first 10 Tone House classes I took. Nobody serves humble pie like Tone House. I was hooked.
Tone House is an amazing place. Inspirational stories both professionally & personally are more so the norm than the exception in this crowd. This applies to the founders, the trainers, the employees and each and every client. If you want to see what true drive and motivation is, come take a 5am class. In that class, you will meet some of the most successful, driven, humble people in New York. Parents, CEOs, doctors, parents, professional athletes, and Olympians, pushing the mental and physical limits.
What I had not realized about my fitness journey is how beneficial the discipline was to all aspects of my life, and how the actual act of exercising was just the tip of the iceberg. It was a couple years into my journey when the perspective began to change. It's not a weight loss journey, rather a journey to seek happiness and prove to myself that I can make any change in life I desire. Forget social norms or thoughts of how others view you. You will never feel content living by what you assume others expect of you... If you have an itch, scratch. Always wanted to learn to surf? Book a trip. Plan for the future of course, but live today. I was stuck in a rut of tomorrows for years and I’ll never waste that time again.