August 2013. At 39 years old, I was 5’10” and weighed in at 285 lbs. My cholesterol was way too high, my triglycerides were dangerously high, and to say that I was out of shape would be an understatement. Although I had lifted weights for much of my adult life, I lacked any discernible flexibility. Plus, although I happily accepted a new job after being unemployed for almost 3 years, weathering the economic recession left me physically, emotionally and psychologically drained. And it showed in my body.
How did I go from being a 5’10”, 285-lb borderline pre-diabetic, to 5’11” (Yes, I grew an inch!), and, as of this writing, 259 lbs, looking a feeling better than I ever have in my life? In a nutshell, I embraced yoga and plant-based eating.
“It Ain’t Ya Mama’s Yoga.” I realized that as I got older I needed to take a fresh new look at my overall health and fitness. I decided to give yoga a try after checking out YouTube videos of retired professional wrestler and now yogi Diamond Dallas Page. Having been a lifelong fan of pro wrestling, I read about why DDP, though resistant as most guys are at first, embraced yoga and how he devised his own brand of yoga, DDP Yoga. I ordered his DVDs and begin my yoga journey at home.
And I thought yoga was “easy.” Needless to say, it kicked my butt – and gave me a phenomenal workout (As the tagline says, “It Ain’t Ya Mama’s Yoga!”) I did DDP Yoga three times a week in the mornings before work. One of the first things I realized when I started is that, despite bench pressing, dead-lifting and squatting tons of weight over the years, I had virtually zero core strength! From there, I started taking a yoga class at my local fitness center. That first class, power-based vinyasa yoga, was eye-opening on many levels: It was the first workout I had ever had where I felt exhausted and exhilarated at the same time!
I was hooked!
Soon thereafter, I joined a yoga studio that offers “hot yoga” (i.e. yoga in a room heated to between 95 – 100 degrees) near my place of employment in the city. Hot yoga ROCKS!!! I love to sweat, and hot yoga definitely does the trick. Since then, not only do I practice yoga 4-5 days a week (including weekends), but I’ve fallen in love with the yoga anatomy; specifically, I am fascinated with how yoga benefits the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, lymphatic and other systems of the body.
Plant-Based Eating. Next, I knew that I needed to make some major changes to my eating habits. I also understood that I had to start slowly while educating myself on different diets and alternative ways of eating. One of the first things I did was cut out soft drinks and fruit juices, which I discovered are chalk full of sugar. Almost immediately, my wife noticed a difference in that my muffin-top belly actually shrunk – just from ditching sodas and fruit juices and drinking more water!
Then, while at the book store, I came across Professor T. Colin Campbell’s book, The China Study. Reading that book did two things for me: (1) It scared the heck out of me in that it explained in scientific detail how poisonously toxic the traditional American diet is, and the adverse health effects of consuming meat and other animal proteins; and (2) It opened my eyes to the life-saving benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet.
Delving deeper into the benefits of plant-based nutrition, I watched the eye-opening documentary, Forks Over Knives, and after that I pretty much went cold turkey on beef, poultry and fish. Once I realized that I could obtain all of my essential nutrients from plant-based foods, then I no longer wanted to eat meat. Nowadays, instead of boxes of cereal for breakfast, it’s oatmeal; instead of a chicken sandwich for lunch and/or it’s either a delicious Moroccan vegetable soup, or mixed vegetables with rice and quinoa – a grain that I have absolutely fallen in love with.
On March 20, 2014, I celebrated my 40th birthday. A lot of people dread “the big 4-0,” but not me. Ever since embracing yoga and plant-based nutrition, I have made drastic improvements to my health, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being in a relatively short amount of time. I am in the best shape of my life, and I’m only getting better. I know I’ll get to my ultimate destination (225 lbs. and ripped!), but right now I’m just enjoying the journey.