Throughout my career as a student- athlete at Northern Illinois University, I suffered a couple injuries while playing football. I sat out a year due to a lingering foot pain. This resulted in having two surgeries on my left big toe to remove a bone and repair nerve damage. I've suffered two sprained ankles at the same time and still forced my way until the field regardless of how painful it was to walk. I pulled a hamstring muscle more than a few times in the same spot. The list goes on. Not only was this a result of improper mechanics, physical/emotional stress and possibly over-training (I didn't allow my body the proper rest it needed to recover), but nutrition played an even more important role in the prehab and recovery processes. I wouldn't say that in my collegiate days I was the healthiest eater by no means. Healthy food tended to be more expensive than the quick fixes they served us at local restaurants such as McDonald's, KFC, Culvers (Burgers & Shakes), and Fushi Yami- a Japanese eatery. As college athletes, the cheapest options for food in general was very appealing to us. Our main goal was to get the largest quantity of food at the cheapest price, Quality was too expensive and as most collegiate student-athletes would agree, we needed every break we could find to make our $950 last for the entire month. Oh.....and that was excluding our bill payments too. ComEd (Electric Bill), Comcast (Television Bill), Nicor (Housing-Gas Bill, Northern State), Rent (Apartment, Town home, etc), Vehicle Gasoline (if you drove a car), Food (Yes, food is a bill, especially for football players who need to maintain or gain weight), and doing what any other college student wants to do-- Have a social life, enjoy college and have fun! These things add up and most of our public school education systems never taught us how to manage or save money. But.....That's another topic we'll save for a later date. On to food.........
Everyday, meat was a must have with every meal. I, as a lot of my other teammates, coaches and other athletic staff/athletes indulged on bacon, sausage links/patties, and/or ham for breakfast. We treated ourselves to a numerous amount of Chipotle Steak/Chicken burritos for lunch. We thrived in McDonald's and Culvers for their juicy double stacked burgers with a side of the most greasy fries and the largest Milkshake, only to be topped off with our choice of candy and whip cream. If we were still hungry before the night concluded, KFC and Jimmy John's was right around the corner to help satisfy our hunger cravings. Too far of a drive? The local gas stations served us 32 oz slushies for the price of $1 with our choice of snickers, sour gummies, Skittles, glazed donuts (oh, with the sprinkles of course), and whatever else to help satisfy our sweet tooth or craving for that night. Most of us didn't think twice about what we were eating and how it was either a benefit or detriment to our health at the time. At least I didn't. Some of us knew, but just figured we can exercise it off. That's not always the case with food. Your food goes through the entire digestive process before it exits your body. By that time, depending on how foreign the substances are, it may have already created some type of dysfunction to an organ, blood stream, or your cells before it exits or gets stored somewhere where the damage multiplies.
I didn't get my wake up call until my senior year. From low back spasms to a serious hamstring pull to sprained ankles on both legs and a mind filled of stress, negative thoughts and emotions, I was a wreck. Dark. Depressed. Hurt emotionally. Broken physically. Lonely and a thousand plus miles away from home. I knew my situation wouldn't have changed unless I changed. I finally woke up and took my father's advice on eating more fruits and vegetables to see if I could at least get my healing process flowing in the right direction. Towards the end of my senior year, not a night went by where I didn't go to sleep until I ate a plate of fruit filled with grapes, orange slices, apple slices, and a banana. Having these nights of fruit, eliminated the late night slushy drinks, candy, donuts, and other junk food cravings. After a few weeks, I started to notice an upward shift in energy when I awoke the next morning. I figured, why not continue or find other ways to hack my body to perform at its most optimal level. I explored different avenues towards living a healthier life for multiple reasons. One being because it felt better. It's difficult to live and love life while in pain. My goal was to reverse that.
Fast forward to my move back to Florida, my father introduced me to the NutriBullet, which is a blender that people use to blend foods. This machine is widely known to mix and create smoothies. When blending fruits and vegetables, some of the benefits you receive is the ability to drink those healthy foods that can be difficult to eat, consume the nutrients your body needs on a day-to-day basis, increase fiber intake which aids in normalizing the digestive process, and to make some of the best tasting healthiest drinks you've ever had. I could remember my father giving me a cup of some pink stuff which looked horrendous to me at the time. I asked what was in it because the look and texture scared me away partially. Of course he wouldn't tell me because he knew I wouldn't have accepted it so after a prayer and a blessing, I closed my eyes and took a sip. It surprisingly didn't taste bad after all. It was actually very good. Let me repeat, "IT WAS EXTREMELY GOOD." Better than any other slushy or soda I've tasted. What was even more exciting was how nutritious I knew it was for my body. I asked my father for the list of ingredients he included and he named them off one by one.... beets, kale blueber....I instantly wanted to throw it back up. I never ate blueberries. Kale? What the heck is that? The only vegetables I ate growing up was string beans and beans period. Why did I want to spit it out after hearing the ingredients? Because I was so accustomed to hearing about how nasty these foods were before taking a bite and giving them a try. Also, I was never educated on the benefits of food in general. All I knew was that fruits and vegetables were typically good for you. Whether it was just a banana a day and string beans dipped in barbecue sauce. I know, weird, it was the only way I could get them to go down.
I give a lot of credit to the invention of Smoothies. The process of blending multiple nutritious foods together to create a unique taste was an absolute clever idea. Foods like berries, leafy vegetables, avocados, etc that were difficult for me to consume raw were now able to be absorbed through the evolution of a smoothie. I believe that in consuming these different smoothies weekly, my taste buds evolved. I developed a taste for foods like kale and beets, which were at one point, difficult to consume raw. I now have a craving for these fruits and veggies. Their my "snacks" of the day and have provided great results mentally, emotionally, and physically. Smoothie making really helped bridge the gap of migrating from eating sweets and meats consistently, towards more of a plant based diet.
I began doing a lot of researching on how certain foods affect us holistically and energetically. I became mind blown at all this info I've accumulated that I was never taught in school and also of how much of a great effect food has on the continuation of life. I learned of foods, particularly leafy green vegetables as celery, dandelion, kale, and arugula to name a few, that aided in the detoxing and cleansing of the body. This was a natural process without the side effects of your typical pharmaceutical drug that seems to fix one problem and create ten different other issues which are classified as "side effects include.". I've learned of natural vegetables that are beneficial in boosting moods, depressions, and energy, which i struggled with around that time. I learned of fruits that strengthened my immune system and boosts sexual performance more than any other medicine or pill out there on the market. All of these hidden gems that we aren't educated on through our school systems really frustrated me and it didn't sit well.All this time I spent craving for one of Ronald McDonald's $1 burgers, fries, and Hi-C orange juice to fulfill my hunger needs was creating more damage than good. When it's advertised on TV daily and you watch TV daily, why wouldn't you be persuaded to grab something fast, cheap and belly satisfying? The power of marketing can be destructive if you let all its material consume you.
After researching and watching behind the scenes videos on the processes of how our food is being prepared and injected with cancer-causing chemicals, I was disgusted. Disgusted that I not once was taught any information on true health through nutrition outside of exercising. Disgusted of the amounts of useful information these major corporations hid from us for all these years and continue to beat around the bush with label misconceptions. Disgusted of having to watch my family continuously suffer from cancer, diabetes and other forms of disease that stemmed from the foods we consume and not from genetics, as the doctors have brainwashed us to believe. Disgusted that I was never given the chance by any public school system to choose coconut milk over cow milk at lunch. Okay, sorry, it's getting a little personal. But you know what I'm saying. After slowly weening myself off of meat and seafood, I decided to make the switch to be a vegetarian in May of 2016 and eventually to a dietary vegan during the summer of 2017. I am now consistently on my own version of a plant- based diet after cutting out the few sweets I would still indulge in even as a dietary vegan. The results......mind-boggling. My energy levels have skyrocketed. The depressing dark moments had began to subside. Many aches and pains I've dealt with have felt a renewed sensation. My thoughts have become more vivid, my skin feels smoother, minor breathing issues that I experienced previously had vanished. My perception of life had started to evolve and change, as with my thoughts. It feels as if I shed off one layer of self only to display my true self, if that makes any sense. I've never been this healthy before. To be able to feel and experience the true benefits of living more health consciously, that's where true wealth resides. We have a lot of time on this planet, experiment with different concepts and hack your body to help you operate at your most optimal level. Heal-Thy-Self!