by Jason Pulido

I recently passed my 20-year anniversary of being a personal trainer, and have settled into my role as a partner at Nimble Fitness in New York City. Growing up, I was always athletic, a wrestler, football and baseball player since elementary school. Each year during football season, I would work really hard to bulk up, trying to gain as much muscle as I could. To do that, I would eat a ton (not in a healthy way) and lift as many heavy weights as I could get my hands on. Then wrestling season would come around, and I would drastically cut my calories and try to get as skinny as possible to “make weight.” After basically starving myself for each weigh-in before a match, I would ravenously each large quantities of food/water afterwards and instantly feel like crap. After wrestling season was done, I would start the cycle all over again.

The reason why I’ve titled this piece “The Struggle Is Real” is that for as long as I can remember, I have continued to struggle with my weight going up and down. Two patterns were established back in my wrestling/football days that I didn’t recognize at the time: 1) I was creating an unhealthy blueprint and relationship with food, and 2) I was putting my body (and mind) through a painful process of gaining and losing the weight.

After I entered into the fitness industry as a personal trainer in New York City, back in 1996, I had a lot more knowledge on how to gain muscle appropriately and understood how to lose it the right way, but I continued to do it the way I was used to. I would still binge eat when I was emotionally stressed…which is something as a health professional I easily recognized in other people, but couldn’t seem to stop myself from doing. If I broke my dietary restrictions even one time, for example, I would say to myself “Screw it! Well, I’ve already eaten this or that, I might as well keep going.” And it would snowball from there, with me sometimes gaining 10-15 lbs in VERY short periods of time.

I would then reach a point where I became “sick of myself,” and I would start down the opposite p
ath and obsessively lose the weight…which I know now is not healthy for me (or anyone else). It’s been 30 years of this cycle! On my 40th birthday (a little over a year ago) I promised myself that I would get back to how I looked, and more importantly, how I felt, when I was 30.

So I started at ground zero. Which is to say I started over. I needed a blank slate physically, mentally and emotionally to get my head and my body fully invested in the same concepts that I talk to my clients about every day at Nimble Fitness. I’d like to share the steps I took in going from (gulp) 238.8lbs to 192.4lbs–and more importantly, feeling healthier and more comfortable in my own skin:

*I forgave myself. I forga8a5203bb4abdf70b03bdf1483c65778ave myself for my missteps. I forgave myself for not walking the walk. I forgave myself for allowing things to get to this point. This step is important, because honestly, I realized I was holding a grudge against myself! I was beating myself up every time I failed. Every time I had a dessert or didn’t workout. I also saw that there are actually lots of ways we can forgive ourselves for the burdens we carry. For me, and for many other people who struggle, that is the crucial first step. If you are having a hard time with this part of the process, meditation helps clear the mind and gives you some space from the negative self-talk. Try it. There are lots of meditation resources out there, but I personally like the 8-minute meditation by Victor Davich .

Focus on your breathing. It works.

*Hydrate. And no more diet soda. Uggghhh. It kills me to write this one, for two reasons. First, I am embarrassed that I actually like diet soda. Second, I really hated giving it up, and it was surprisingly hard to do. Which brings me to an important thing that is a common misconception: Fake sugar, like the stuff found in diet soda, is not good for you. More and more studies have been done on this subject.

Not only are they arguably toxic for you, but sugar substitutes actually PROMOTE weight gain. Both normal sugar and sugar substitutes spike insulin levels. By cutting out the diet soda alone, I lost 5lbs and stopped craving sugary foods as much (another big step for me). Lastly, though I drank water often, by just substituting water for diet soda, my hydration improved, which is important for every single system of the human body.

*Nourish. I had to stop eating sugary foods, but on top of that, I needed to make sure I was getting good quality nutrients into my body on a regular basis. It started with getting rid of desserts, and then it translated to making sure all of my food choices were serving me better. To understand whether your foods are really enhancing your body’s natural processes, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself how you feel an hour after eating. Do you feel good? Do you feel lethargic? Do you feel satiated? Are you craving more food? Figuring out whether your food is serving you will go a long way to helping you on your health journey.

I still like to allow myself the things I love. Small treats, basically, and sticking to the 80/20 rule. If you’re good for 80% of the time, you can allow for that other 20%. I’ve also added healthy snacks between meals, so I am feeling good all day and not overeating at any meal. There was also a point where I needed a reset and I did a cleanse after a particularly decadent weekend, which really helped reignite my program and get me back to the habits that have made me successful.

*Move. Not every day, but I committed to 3x a week. Weird how I can work at Nimble Fitness all day, 6 days a week, and just not workout as consistently as I want to. For me, I think it’s been all mental. I would find reasons…NOT to exercise. “Too busy” was a common one for me (and for a lot of other people I know as well). So I committed to just moving. I’d do 30 minutes of HIIT training, and it often would turn into the hour workout that I was shooting for. There were times where I did 15 minutes just to keep myself going, and it helped. It made it easier to get one in the next time. Because as soon as some of us miss one workout…we are more likely to miss the next and the one after that. Find a reasonable amount of time during the day and make it happen…no matter how hard it is to get started. I’ve always loved the words on the walls at Nimble: ”Movement is an opportunity for profound transformation and self discovery. The journey it offers is unique to each individual.”

*Sometimes life just happens. I’ve had vacations, or parties, or just a day when I wanted fried chicken and a biscuit. It’s been important for me to allow for it to happen and just wake up the next morning and continue my journey. There is something so powerful in knowing, no matter what, that the next morning I’m going to get right back to doing what makes me feel good. Getting back to number 1…where I don’t beat myself up for a slip up or a night out on the town.

So, by understanding my blueprint, and integrating the principles that I focus on with my personal training clients at Nimble Fitness, I have been able to shift my mindset and my body to a place where I truly feel good mentally and physically.