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“So…what do you DO?”
This question is incredibly annoying to me, and I cringe every time I hear it. I resent the fact that many people are so quick to assess someone on the basis of what they “do” for a living, as if there are no other dimensions which should be taken into account.
I completely resent the demand to pick one career that defines me. To add insult to injury, when people find out that I am a medical doctor, they struggle with the stereotype of what they expect doctors to be like, in other words, very conservative in dress and demeanor, and without any flavor or personality. Well, I’ve got news for you. I will NEVER be a typical doctor. And please don’t doubt my credentials or schooling. I am NOT a nurse (not that there is anything wrong with this highly respected profession). I am a fully licensed and board certified physician.
However, I do not consider myself to be ONLY one thing, “only” a physician. Yes, I am a board certified physician. But I am also a degreed (Bachelor’s) fitness professional, professional athlete (IFBB Pro), certified nutrition coach, writer, model, brand ambassador and contest prep coach. If that’s too much for one to process, too bad. Because I am ALL of those things, and then some. I am just as much about fitness, bodybuilding and wellness as I am about medicine, and I shouldn’t have to choose one over the others. I am damned proud of what I have accomplished in bodybuilding, especially because I was in my forties when I took things to the next level, not when I was a young whipper-snapper, and I was already established in my medical career. I will not apologize to people who are confused by the sampler plate philosophy by which I live and who don’t believe that it’s possible to be more than one thing. Truth is, I live as what Marci Alboher describes in her book One Person Multiple Careers as a Slash, and I am proud of it. I know it’s unusual, but why is that so hard for people to grasp? I mean, here I am, doing all that I do, switching gears constantly, and sending a message to the world that no one should have to be one-dimensional and boring.
I am honest. I have sass, and I speak my mind. I will NOT hide parts of myself which some overly judgmental people may have a problem with. I am NOT going to apologize for having a sense of humor, for using cuss words here and there (though I don’t use them while seeing patients). I am not going to paint a false picture of who I am. If you don’t like what I am doing, no worries. Move on.
Here’s a message to you if you find that you are someone who is compromising your own vision, dreams, or goals, because you perceive a need to choose one thing to define you. Perhaps you need to re-examine why you are allowing that to occur. If you subscribe to a no limits philosophy, then you would never even consider pulling the reins back. I will always encourage driven people to go for whatever they want, and if it doesn’t fit in with the conventions of one of their chosen careers or hobbies, even better. Break stereotypes and show people what you are made of! Don’t hide all the facets which make you who you are!
Image shot by Tim Sevard in October of this year.
Since many people have been asking me about how I have been keeping in shape these days, I decided to devote a blog post to the subject. Though I am retired from competing, and am no longer bodybuilding stage-ready, I model frequently, and I also hold myself to very high standards when it comes to body conditioning. The most important factor in staying lean year round is FOOD, so I make sure to eat clean about 95% of the time. I consume about 100 to 120 grams of protein daily, all from whole foods rather than protein powders, and I drink plenty of water throughout the day. I limit my consumption of sugar and avoid processed foods.
Supplements are also an important part of my daily life. Most of the supplements I take have been in my daily regimen for many years, and I rarely miss a day’s dose. They are what I rely on to keep my body healthy at the cellular level. My goal is to maintain my health without ingesting prescription medications. In fact, the only prescription substance in my regimen is bioidentical progesterone cream.
I continue to challenge my body with frequent exercise, and still rely mostly on weight training for the bulk of my exercise. However, I incorporated aerial classes into my regular routine a couple of years ago for an extra challenge. At one point, I had been taking aerial classes 3 to 4 days per week, but my body was screaming out in agony. After a visit with my orthopedist, we discovered that I had arthritis in both elbows and my neck, and numerous issues in my shoulders, so I decided to back off from the intense aerial schedule I was following. These days, I only take a lyra class once every couple of weeks.
I have also been attending kundalini yoga classes on average of one day per week, and I love the unique physical, mental, and spiritual challenges which they present. Though kundalini yoga is a highly meditative form of yoga, the movements (called kriyas) are INTENSE, and I must often take breaks during these movements. I highly recommend this form of yoga for anyone who wants an intensely spiritual experience.
As for weight training, I train an average of six days per week when I am in town. I have adjusted my weight training to support aerial arts movements like straddle mounts, single knee hangs, pullovers and splits, and work my posterior chain (back, glutes, hams) more vigorously than my anterior chain. I usually follow a split consisting of three leg days and three upper body days which are further split (eg, back/arms, delts, chest/abs). I have also been changing the exercises, rep ranges, and lifting styles on a weekly basis to keep myself challenged. It’s definitely worked, because I am getting delayed onset muscle soreness from almost every workout.
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Check out my review of GRABBZ Lifting Gloves here:
Before I began competing in 2009, I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted without any digestive or reactive consequence. All that changed by the time I earned my IFBB Pro Card in 2013, when I developed a number of food intolerances which forced me to change the way I ate and what I consumed. It was so bizarre for me to mount reactions to healthy foods which had never caused an issue in the past. During one particular contest prep regimen, I began to notice that every single time I ate broccoli, I would get severe abdominal cramps and a headache which persisted for an entire day (now they last for 3-5 days if I am stupid enough to eat even one small floret). I honestly believe that the extreme and repetitive meal plans which I consumed while competing were major factors in the development of my food intolerance issues.
I retired from competing in June of 2014, yet I developed even more food issues. I noticed that other foods were aggravating my gut, my skin, my head and my mood, so I decided to eliminate them. In January of 2015, I had an ALCAT food intolerance test, and discovered that broccoli on the list of offending foods for me. I also had SEVERE gluten intolerance, as well as intolerance to coconut, flaxseed, mangoes, casein, blueberries, and a number of other foods which are considered healthy. In an effort to allow my body to calm down, I eliminated every food which I had any intolerance to (there were about 30 foods) for close to a year. To this day, I am very careful about the foods which my body rejects, and keep my exposure to a minimum.
I will allow myself to have blueberries, coconut, mango, lobster, cashews, bison, and spinach on rare occasion, and have noticed no reactions. However, I mount strong reactions to other foods and food combinations. For example, within two consecutive days of eating flaxseed, I develop one or two deep, painful, cystic pimples on my face which will not resolve until I stop eating flaxseed. When I eat gluten, I become irritable and emotional, I get headaches, my belly aches, and I don’t sleep well. Of course I didn’t know that this was the case until I did an elimination diet and gradually began feeling better, then tried eating gluten after many months of avoiding it. Every time I ingest gluten containing foods, I notice symptoms which can be mild or severe depending on the food and the quantity eaten. Pizza is VERY dangerous for me now, so if I am faced with the prospect of eating the cheesy, gluten filled meal, I have to take a Glutagest (which breaks down gluten in the food eaten) if I want to avoid the ugly consequences of allowing gluten to enter my body. The combination of pizza and wine is even worse. I might as well forget about functioning like a normal person for a couple of days if I dare to consume this food and drink duo.
I agree that the whole gluten-free trend has gotten a little out of hand, but I also strongly believe that there are many people walking around with gluten intolerance and other food intolerances who have no idea that the foods they are consuming are affecting their health and well-being. I have personally benefitted from going gluten free and avoiding foods my body rejects, and have been rewarded with more luminous skin, thicker hair, better digestion, better overall mood and energy, and much better sleep.
If you suspect that you have food intolerance, try eliminating the suspect food to see if it makes a difference. Trust your body’s signals. And if you want to get a food intolerance test, check out ALCAT.com and Everlywell.com for the kits they offer.