My Twenties - where I've come from:
Wow. Time really flies, but being totally honest I couldn't be happier to be entering my 30's. The 20's were hard. They were a time of self-discovery, learning, tough lessons/truths, fun times, adventure, and stress. However, I spent most of my 20's in survival mode. My food sensitivities certainly didn’t help.
I graduated college in 2009, seven years ago. It's gone fast and slow at the same time. Fast because in those seven years I've lived in seven major cities spanning the country and one internationally (read more about it here). Slow because while the first big move from Chicago to Washington DC was the scariest, it never gets easy or fun to pack up and move. It's stressful, complicated, and unpleasant. It puts you in survival mode.
In those seven years I've gone back and forth trying my hardest to live through, and around, my food sensitivities (gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, sweet potatoes). The times that I fell off the diet wagon were the hardest on me, as they wreaked havoc on my body. Moving across the country for a two-month long unpaid internship, for instance, has a way of changing your priorities real fast. I was less concerned about eating clean and increasingly more concerned with having enough money to pay my rent, which of course put my body in survival mode because my next meal wasn't always guaranteed.
In those seven years, I quit a job in New York City to pursue a Master’s degree (in Miami, FL) and follow my dream of working in elite athletics. (You can read about my move to the 2016 MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders here). I could not have done any of that without the financial and emotional support of my wife Brooke. In addition, for me it also meant working a full time job, finishing a two-year Exercise Physiology program in ten months, riding my bike to work/school because we shared a car, and starting a business with Brooke. Back then twelve-hour days were the short ones. Following my passions is the only way I know how to live. I did what I set out to do at the time. But it was hard - I was consumed with the mindset that I had to prepare for the next job, or city, to get "there" - the elusive yet very real dreams. Constant survival mode was magnified by my food sensitivities.
Degree in hand, Brooke and I moved again and got married. Positive - she married me and I landed a wonderful job in UNC Charlotte. Negative - we were clear across the country from our families and didn't know a single person when we moved. We both gain our energy and life from being with our loved ones. Yet we were alone, together. My food issues deepened my loneliness and isolation.
We launched our business selling real food, allergen-conscious snack bars because it felt like right thing to do. We needed to do it. To share our lives with others. To share our struggles and lessons. Anyone that has followed our business knows it's not always rainbows and butterflies. This shit is hard. By far the most rewarding thing we've ever done... but hard. Survival mode. Every. Damn. Day.
My Thirties - where I am going:
As I turn 30 and I don't want to just survive. I want to THRIVE! I'm tired of always being in survival mode and doing the best I can, given the circumstances. I want to live optimally. I've got one life and you better believe I'm going to make it count. I spent my 20s gaining experience, learning about myself, learning about life, and exploring. I know what I want now. I want to thrive! Okay Sean, that sounds cool and all but how? The only way I know how... taking it one small step at a time, starting with healing myself.
Real food isn't the problem. I'm the problem. Food is neutral. It just grows and lives in the ecosystem around it. The relationship you have with food is up to the individual though. I've been sick internally for a long time. But once I heal myself, my physical body, the food will still be neutral and ready for me to eat it. I will be able to fall in love with foods all over again or some for the first time. Hello fried egg sandwich with bacon, avocado, arugula, and tomato…we’ve missed each other but I’m coming for you! And just to be clear, I'm talking about real food - not the processed, isolated “nutrients” made of chemicals no one has ever heard of. I'm talking about the real food that our great grandparents would recognize.
So how do I go about healing myself? I'm going back to The Source. The man that got me started on this path 13 years ago. Dr. Tom O'Bryan. Using The Autoimmune Fix as a guide to reverse the damage that has already been done and using blood work with expert guidance I am working to bring my body back to homeostasis. A large part of this will be accomplished by fixing my gut and all the little critters that make me who I am, my microbiome. The book covers the nitty gritty details necessary to heal my gut and I will be keeping detailed notes and sharing my experience with everyone that's interested. I'll be keeping a food and photo journal as well to track my progress.
I'm in this for the long game. I want to thrive! In college I developed a personal mantra that has helped keep me grounded and refocused when I needed it. Right now, as I embark on the hardest journey of my life (to shift away from survival), it seems more necessary than ever to bring it back. Take Back The Power. TBTP. That is how I will thrive in life, by changing my relationship with food, and in the process, healing myself. Let me explain.
Food has been at the center of my world, but that's not to say we have always had a healthy relationship. In fact, it's been quite the opposite. Because of my food sensitivities I've despised certain food groups because they made me feel really bad. At times I’ve viewed food as simply calories. When I gained 15 pounds of muscle mass for my wedding, all I cared about was my daily calorie content. When in new environments, my mentality was to eat as much as I could in one sitting so I would not have to panic about what my next meal would be. But that's not right. That kind of thinking removes so much of the value food has. It’s social (to be shared with people), it's emotional (smells/flavors can act as a time machine), it’s comforting (try telling me you don’t want a glass of red wine and some Theo chocolate while you sit by the fire on a chilly winter night or some ice cold lemonade and mango slices in the summer) and it can teach us life lessons like patience, persistence, and time management skills (think gardening, cooking, and grocery shopping when busy).
No more. I. Love. Food. It brings me joy to cook and eat. To learn about food. To share a home cooked meal with people I care about. To get to know the people I'm getting my food from. To connect with the world that is providing me fuel and joy. I am now making a commitment to change my relationship with food. I am making a conscious effort to not view grocery shopping and cooking as a means to my supply of calories. THEY are as much the reward as the delicious meals they produce. The prize is the journey not the destination.
My twenties helped me discover who I am, and what brings me joy in this world. I am dedicating my thirties and beyond to live fully and make the changes necessary to live in joy. Exercise. A lot. But because I love how it makes me feel (energized, positive, happy, alert, alive) and not because I want to be a certain weight or look a certain way. The journey.
Time with my family. As frequently as possible. I no longer live across the country from my people. In fact, very soon I will be sharing a roof with two of my favorite people in the world. My sister and her soon-to-be husband. Playing with my niece and nephews every week. Because while sometimes I just want to be a grumpy old man and sleep, it's about the journey. Being an active part of their upbringing and not just bearing the fruit of their wonderfulness when they're older. Talking to my parents every week. I can't imagine where I'd be without their influence on my life. They continue to amaze me every day and fuel me with love.
Continuing to develop long lasting and deep friendships. Connections with people I admire and respect and whom feel the same way about me. For as much as I'm an introvert and need my alone time, I also need people. We are social creatures who are most successful in groups. I know that and need to dedicate the time to fostering those relationships because it's important to me. Yes, Pete I will keep beating you in FIFA along the way.
Quality time with my wife. We often spend time together as business partners because that's easy. There's always more work to talk about as being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 job. But adventures with my wife and best friend: that's precious and priceless. No phones, no distractions, just being present. Because she is the person I am most myself with. And I like being me. I like having fun with her. And while our goal is over 50 years of marriage, I want to enjoy the journey not the destination.
So here I am. I'm 30-years-old and I have never been more excited about the prospects of the future... and the right now.