BETTER THAN EVER
I’m now over 40 but I am healthier, fitter and happier than I have been in over a decade. I am leaner and stronger than I have ever been. I have more energy than I did when I was 30. It all happened with little steps that didn’t stop me from having fun or left me feeling deprived. I am a better father, husband and person because of it too.
FROM THE BEGINNING
While I grew up in the city of Toronto, I had a love of nature which flourished as I went on canoe trips as a kid.
That expanded further when I worked guiding them for 7 summers. I literally led over a thousand people through the lakes and rivers of Ontario. I learned about motivation, teamwork, organization, resilience and goal setting in practical situations.
After that I spent another 6 years professionally leading and instructing on a variety of wilderness trips with diverse populations from youth at risk to groups with mental health issues to leadership organizations and corporate team building.
My perspective was stimulated by studies in philosophy to look deeply and differently at the world while being grounded in the moment by my time in nature and my expanding outdoor adventure pursuits.
Through whitewater kayaking and canoeing, rock climbing, backcountry skiing and more, I learned to push my own, and others, limits in ways that create growth.
I took opportunities to feel uncomfortable and it made me feel alive, connected to the world we live in.
I met my wife-to-be, Bree, in the midst of this. We had the common connection of outdoor adventure and a love for nature.
We continued to live this way until I was thirty when I became a qualified teacher. I landed a job in Toronto working with students with a history of violence.
Away from daily outdoor adventure and working the 9 to 5, some of my passion started slipping away.
EARLY FATHERHOOD AND MY HEALTH CHALLENGES
We had our first daughter when I was 33. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. Being a father, changed my view of the world. My new daughter inspired me to want to be the best I could be.
After the fog of the first few months of sleep deprivation a new parent experiences, I looked at myself in the mirror and was startled to see an aged man, weak, unhealthy, 50 pounds overweight, and fatigued. This was coupled with a visit to my doctor, where after some routine blood work, he informed me that I had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
He explained that my thyroid was underactive and sooner or later I was going to need to go on medication for the rest of my life to keep this autoimmune disease at bay. Still, this was not responsible for my weight gain or exhaustion since my markers were just slightly off. I asked him if there was anything I could do to reduce my risks of this happening, or to help my situation. His answer was “no”.
This was unacceptable to me and I made a commitment to myself that by the age of 40, I would be in the best shape of my life – a tall order for someone who use to be as fit as I was.
With an obsessive dedication and discipline, I studied, and lived, fitness and nutrition, achieving my lifetime peaks in physique and strength by 38. With a year and half to turning 40, I thought I had my goal in the bag.
PROVIDER TUNNEL VISION
Through this time, we had our second daughter and I changed careers to be in the medical device business. I wanted to provide all I could for my family. I specialized in dermatology, plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine devices, lasers and other technology.
I developed my new career, far removed from nature, adventure, creativity and balance. I worked hard, dealt with lots of stress and functioned in an environment that was not very good for overall health, yet I continued to exercise and eat well, for the most part.
I hadn’t even realized how caught up in the rat race I had become. Ironically, when I entered the aesthetic medical world, many people thought I was 7 years younger than I was but after four years in the industry, people thought I was 5 years older than I was.
MY BIG SLIDE
Then came another turning point, just before I was going to take my two children skiing for their first time ever, I had an accident and broke my leg. I had surgery with hardware drilled into place in my leg. I was unable to walk for 5 months and was limping for 3 months after that. I had extensive muscle atrophy in my left leg and overall as well. I was on pain-killers. My diet slipped. I wavered with fitness. I was in a dark place.
I didn’t achieve my goal, in fact I was only slightly better off than I had been at 33 but with nagging pain and swelling in my leg and more doubt in my mind. Then came further health alerts – B12 deficiency, macrocytic anemia, compromised liver functioning, suspected hemochromatosis…signs of alien abduction…zombie virus…just kidding about the last two.
I had visits with an oncologist. My thyroid was ruled out as a contributing factor. Then more blood work and other tests. Again, I asked my doctors, is there anything I can do to reduce my risks, to be a partner in my health. Again, they answered “no” or at best, “not really”.
It is from this typical response that I recoil, deconstruct the situation, look for connections and try to see the big picture. I was not interested in chasing symptoms, rather it was time to stand up for my own health in every way.
THE RISE OF MY SPIRIT
What I had learned about fitness and nutrition gave me a great foundation, however, I committed to go deeper. I researched, studied and became certified in more comprehensive and deeper approaches to wellness and transformation.
Through this time, by manipulating diet, exercise, supplementation, stress factors, mindset and environment, I reversed all my blood work. I lost the fat, gained muscle, healed my pain, revitalized my energy, lifted my spirit and felt like I was myself again. I did all this without any medical intervention or drugs.
Like in a Hollywood movie, I had a moment of clarity, irony, and frustration. I was at the big annual meeting for a multi-national corporation that had offered me a job as a national manager for their diagnostic medical equipment division. There were two speakers that affected me profoundly that day.
The first speaker was a top international executive who spoke on shaping business going forward based on the pharmaceutical industry’s model. He explained that when Pharma creates a drug that works but isn’t profitable, they trash it and recreate something that has maximum profit regardless of its ability to work effectively. This stunned and disturbed me. I did not want to be part of perpetuating the problems.
If the medical industry was not interested in making healing a top priority, then what value does it have?
The other speaker was a positive psychology professor, Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. He had written a compelling book about the power of being happy. He spoke with passion on how happiness precedes success and how constructing landmarks of success to allow ourselves to be happy is a backward and doomed pursuit.
I knew then that I would make happiness a priority. I also realized that happiness and health go hand in hand.
Even though I had been making good money with medical devices, I turned down new opportunities to work for industry leaders. I looked carefully at the industry I had been a part of since leaving teaching and I saw tired, overweight, unhappy, unhealthy people spending months a year away from their family promoting machinery that does not enhance health but rather diagnoses sickness or at best, mitigates symptoms.
More often than not decisions are made for financial reasons first and health, happiness, and vitality are sacrificed in placing material riches as paramount. Having achieved what looks like the American (or Canadian) Dream with a wife, two kids, a dog, a well-paying job, a nice home in a good neighbourhood, etc. and knowing that happiness and meaning was not a result of all this, it became clear.
This was not what I wanted.
I want to make the world a better place by helping people live healthier, happier, more fulfilling lives by taking a stand for themselves and gaining control of their days.
I want to inspire transformation in tired, frustrated, and stressed out people to become young again with vibrant energy, happiness, and passion in their lives.
I want parents to bring themselves back to life with empowered self-care through mental and physical shifts… And I want them to bring their kids along for the ride, so the next generation will have happiness, health, and vitality as a top priority.
I know there are others out there with similar stories. I know that there is potential in you to be a catalyst in your evolution to a better life in every way. My hope is that in the next 10 years, the ranks of vital vigilantes can grow to an army bigger than any on this planet and a revolution will take place creating a healthy planet with an evolved species of humans that support new heights of well-being for the whole.