In Chris’ Journey, you’ll see how a “husky” boy became a master of menopause (a metabolic expert) with a true heart to help others succeed in their health journey. I talk with my husband, Chris, who is our resident physical therapist and strength coach here at Healthy Free Life. He is also a metabolism expert. He does all sorts of things behind the scenes to help support this ministry. I can’t wait for you to get an inside scoop into what made him the man I love so much and the man who has such a heart to help others lose weight, ditch disease, and live healthy and free.
Listen to podcast here (or read down below)
Today I’m talking to Chris all about his journey to health. He…
02:49 Shopped in the “husky” section as a kid.
03:11 Identifies two roots of his weight issues.
06:47 Lived through high school because of sports.
08:10 Gained 50+ pounds in college.
09:15 Began to have other health issues.
10:08 Became an all or nothing, unhealthy dieter.
13:36 Felt like an imposter at work as a physical therapist.
14:08 Became a sickly marathon runner until hitting a wall.
18:10 Did one more extreme diet and had an epiphany.
19:39 Began to listen to Katrina’s health teachings and make changes personally.
20:41 Decided to scientifically figure out why certain people had stubborn weight.
23:17 Studied to be a master of metabolism.
24:22 Truly confesses his current success and continual journey.
Links mentioned in this episode:
“And you know, being a physical therapist, I just saw so many people in their seventies and eighties that, and even in their sixties, that had so many health problems I felt could have been avoided if, if they just got the right information earlier on.” – Chris
Before Chris’ Journey Even Began
We have Chris “on” today because he’s going to be sharing a little bit about his own personal journey to health. Back in episode three, I shared my personal journey to health and we thought it was really important that we also share Chris’s journey to health.
Katrina: Although we won’t dwell too much on your childhood, I think it is important to start with your childhood because after working with thousands and thousands of students over the last decade, we’ve come to realize that so many of our current disease processes, our current relationship with food, our current dysfunction with food, a lot of things stem from our childhood.
We’ve worked with many students who even started dieting in their childhood at 7, 8, and 9, with their parents putting them on diets. And so we thought it was important that we kind of start there with you because you have some history there.
Chris: Yeah, well, that’s really where it started for me. You know, the way I can describe it is I remember my mom saying that we would have to shop in the husky section at the clothing stores. I’m not really sure if that was a real thing or not. I do remember that term. I don’t think that’s a thing anymore, but that was where I was.
I was just more of a solid kid, I guess you could say. In preparing for this podcast, trying to think through like what could really have been some of the root causes of where my weight issues started, I really think there’s at least two. There’s probably a lot more, but one is:
The Roots of Chris’ Journey
I’m Italian. I come from a Sicilian family- both my parents are from Sicily. My dad was born in Sicily and my mom’s family’s from Sicily, which is great. We’re great people and we have great food and very tasty food, but there’s a lot of dynamics around food. I think it’s a way that we show our love.
And there’s a lot of dynamics around how much you eat and you definitely need to be eating. If you’re not eating, there might be something wrong with you, you don’t feel good, or you’re sick. So I really had that tie of food that you just needed to eat a lot and our meals were very big.
I remember, when we would have a family get together, it was like a five or six course meal and it just seemed like it kept going forever. And it was like, when is this ever going to end? And it just never ended. And a lot of heavy food. A lot of pastas, a lot of bread, almost bread at every meal, which is great.
You know what I mean? Who doesn’t like Italian bread? It is amazing. So I’m not saying this is bad at all, but you know, every day, probably not the healthiest thing in the world. It set the tone for me with food.
If you didn’t eat a lot and if you didn’t eat everything on your plate, it was almost an insult to the person that made it because they wanted you to eat it and they wanted you to enjoy it.
You had to finish everything on your plate. So even if you were completely stuffed, you had to finish it or people just wouldn’t be happy with you.
Another root, like a lot of people, my childhood wasn’t super stable. My parents got divorced when I was about nine, I think. And even after that, my family life wasn’t super stable. So I probably used food, too, as a coping mechanism.
And that’s how a lot of people get through things. And of course, you’re not gonna reach for healthy food. My family didn’t have any healthy food in the house anyway. So even if I wanted it, even if I knew better, there was no real way I would have had that option.
Katrina; We’ve seen from our students, too, and as we deep dive into the psychology of eating, a lot of people’s food issues can be rooted back to childhood. So you were a Husky kid, but you managed to make it through.
Chris’ Journey Continues In High School
In high school, I managed weight mostly because I played sports. You know, back in the eighties and nineties, we were pretty active. We were outside all the time. I played baseball and football and especially in high school, I was able to manage my weight by exercising in the hot Florida climate.
I’d burn a lot of calories. We would practice, or we would actually have weight training classes, exercise classes, where we were doing sprints and weight training work an hour to an hour and a half before school started. And then after practice two to three hours of practice with pads in the hot Florida sun.
So who knows how many calories I was burning during those workouts.
I could basically eat whatever I wanted to eat.
I just remember, going to McDonald’s and easily eating two quarter pounders, a large fry, an apple pie, maybe throw in a chocolate shake. Who knows how many calories that is, but I could manage my weight just purely because of hormones, too. That helps.
Metabolism is really revved up during those years. So I was able to manage it with that, but that’s not a long-term solution.
Katrina: Things drastically changed for you as soon as football and baseball stopped after you graduated high school and things went downhill pretty quickly.
Chris Gained 50+ Pounds After High School
Yeah. The wheels fell off very fast. So yes, in college, things got really bad. Probably at my highest point, I would say weight-wise.
You kind of get to that point where you almost don’t even want to get on the scale cause you don’t want to know, so I don’t really know what my peak weight was.
I’m not a very big person. I’m only about five seven, if I’m lucky. But at my peak, I was probably close to 220 pounds and that was not muscle. After high school, I stopped exercising because I went into physical therapy school and it was very stressful, I lived my life to a stress extreme:
- studying way too much
- staying up way too late
- eating not good food.
- All this stress
- and no exercise.
It’s kind of a recipe for disaster, looking back on it.
I didn’t know what I was doing then and how that would affect my metabolism, but that’s where I got up to probably my highest point.
Katrina: It wasn’t just the weight that you were struggling with at this point, was it?
Chris’ Journey Takes a Bad Turn
Some other disease processes began. I was diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) and anxiety, probably just stemming from poor stress management skills as a child. So, but with poor food choices and lifestyle choices, it all comes together.
Katrina: And now you’re on medication at 21, 22 years old.
That’s not a good trajectory to go. And just a little side note here: That’s actually when we got married, right? We were married when you were 22. I was 21. Yeah, very, very young. And so I’m sure that did not add to your stress at all getting married. Cause I mean, you know, getting married at that age, is all rainbows and unicorns.
You were going to school, too, so our entire twenties, I just remember, we sought to help control our weight to look better.
Chris Diets Through His Twenties
To get our weight under control, we dieted our way through our twenties.
- Zone Diet
- Atkins Diet
- Cabbage Soup Diet
Yeah. I just remember constantly starting diets and getting maybe a month in and saying, “Okay, we’re going to go back to the gym.”
And we got our membership and we got all this stuff ready to go. And we could hold off for about three to four weeks. Then things would just fall off.
We have so many before photos of us, but I don’t remember ever having an after photo because we never really got there.
Well, I did. I eventually figured out how to dysfunctionally lose weight.
Katrina: Yeah. So you did begin to lose the weight. So tell us how you did it?
Chris, the All-Or-Nothing Expert
I have an all-or-nothing kind of mentality and personality when it comes to certain things.
I have this ability to just turn it on and turn it off.
So when I finally realized that I could manage my weight by eating as little as I possibly could and exercising as much as I possibly could, I got back into the exercise world.
My body will respond really quickly to that, but it’s definitely not a healthy way to do it. Again, we’ve learned since then all the different damages I have done to my metabolism because doing that “eat less, exercise more” to an extreme for extended periods of time really causes damage.
I’ve probably gained and lost about 50 pounds four times and then probably have sprinkled in a smaller 20 to 30 pounds of weight losses and gains a couple of times, too.
Chris Didn’t Know Better
I had no idea, even though I was a physical therapist. I went to physical therapy school, so you’d think I would have had some idea how the body works and how stressful gaining and losing weight can be to overall metabolism.
But I had no idea. I just knew when I was growing up, I needed to get as thin as I could possibly get it. And I needed to do it as quickly as I possibly could.
I was okay with really feeling hungry all the time. I have this weird switch that I can flip in my brain. And it’s like, I don’t care if I’m hungry, I’m just going to white knuckle it through it.
Chris As A Sickly Marathon Runner
I can white knuckle longer than most people can, but unfortunately, that’s actually even more unhealthy because most people will give in to their metabolism pushing back on them, but I mentally will refuse to give in. So I just push my body further and further and then the wheels just continue to fall off.
In my thirties, I had gained some weight back again. This was while practicing physical therapy, treating patients, even treating professional athletes.
Feeling Like an Imposter
I always felt like I was an imposter because I didn’t look healthy, I was not exercising, but yet I was trying to convince elite athletes that I knew what I was doing.
And I would always be thinking they’re looking at me wondering, “How can you possibly tell me what to do? Look at you.”
Making a Plan to Crush It
So my friend and I, who I worked with and went to school with, decided, “Hey, why don’t we run marathons? That’s probably a good way for us to be able to eat what we want.”
We’ll just burn it off, exercising and running in the hot Florida sun for hours, hours, and hours. And while working like probably 70 hours a week as a physical therapist and running businesses, and then just starting to have kids, you know, on a Saturday, I would have to get up at four o’clock in the morning to run 14 to 18 miles training for a marathon.
One, because it was so hot in Florida, you needed to get up that early and you had to get it all done before the sun came out or you would just melt.
And also, I had you saying, “I don’t care what you do, but you better be home when the kids wake up and you better be able to function.” Usually, I could barely function.
Crashing on the Floor
Many times I fell asleep on the floor while I was “playing with the kids.”
So we did that and it didn’t go well. One of my last marathons, I got to a point where I could barely catch my breath and afterwards, I just completely hit the wall. I got chronic fatigue. I know now what I did to my adrenals and how badly irritated my metabolism was.
And I couldn’t get out of bed.
I was not fueling my activity level right.
My mentality was, let me see how far I can go and eat as least as I possibly can because I’ll lose weight in the process.
Chris Lost The Weight
So at my lowest weight, Katrina would look at me and be like, “You are very unhealthy right?”
In my mind. I was like, “Wow, I must look pretty good because I’m as thin as I’ve ever been.” I got down to probably about 145 pounds. Again, my peak was like 220.
Katrina: And so at 145 pounds, we actually had family members that pulled me aside to say, “Is Chris okay? Is he sick? Does he have cancer?”
Chris: So, yeah, well, my face was sunken in. Looking back on it I see, but at the time in my mind, I was like, “Wow, I’m healthy because I’m thin.”
Katrina: It was during that time when I was going through health coaching school and had gone through my own health transformation and began to talk to you to say, “This is not a healthy way for you.”
It was really hard for you to embrace and to accept because you had succeeded so much in that way. But there was a cost, there was a cost to your health and to your life.
Chris: Yeah. And again, I didn’t know. I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to lose it quickly.
Chris’ Journey & Final Crash Diet
Katrina: Fast forward to 2017. You had decided your weight was starting to creep up again.
Chris: Yeah, it wasn’t the extreme 50 pounds. At that point, I was able to understand enough that I knew how to manage, but I always knew that I was kind of at that borderline of gaining.
And so in 2017, I decided to do another extreme diet. Katrina was living a healthy life and teaching students the same, we were raising our children, but I didn’t know better so I did another extreme diet.
I did know that I couldn’t also combine it with a lot of exercise. So this round I did do something fairly extreme on a short period of time, food wise, but I didn’t overly stress my system with excessive amount of exercise. I actually wasn’t exercising at all.
And we used a very healthy, clean way of doing it. It did yield the results you wanted, because again, you have that all-or-nothing mentality, so you could barrel through. Katrina did five days of it just to support me and I did 15, 20 days or more through this pretty extreme diet.
I was able to lose the weight again and also experience some other health benefits because I did do it correctly.
I stopped having migraines and felt so much better.
Something clicked for me and I realized I never want to feel bad again.
Chris’ Journey Really Gets Good
Katrina: It also happened to be around this time when we started Healthy Free Life. I have coached students and clients for over a decade, but it was in 2017 when we had decided that we wanted to begin to minister to more and more. We were feeling led by God that he was bringing us back into reaching his people with the message of health and healing.
And so we began to serve hundreds if not thousands of people during this period of time, but began to experience some frustration that we also experienced in our own life.
Chris: Right. With people having issues with stubborn weight loss. So much of our programs at the time were absolutely working and transforming lives and people were losing weight and diseases reversed, and they were able to go out and do and be all that God called them to, but there were a small handful of people that would struggle with the stubborn weight.
And we were like, “There’s gotta be a solution for this.”
And because what we had been taught when it comes to health and nutrition was not enough, we needed to go to the next level.
My mentality is “I really want to truly understand what’s going on.”
I don’t really just want to take things for face value just because somebody told me that that’s the way it is. I really wanted to find experts in the field that I could trust to be scientifically grounded.
I wanted something that was based on science and I knew there was something else. And I knew if I’ve gone through this, there is a reason why God had me go through this. I was starting to realize that maybe I can help other people go through this.
There’s so much misinformation out there. There’s so much bad information when it comes to how to lose weight because a lot of the diet industry is a huge business. There’s a lot of things out there that aren’t based on science and it leads to people actually getting their bodies in even worse situations.
Most people that have never gone through schooling don’t understand this stuff. And in certain instances you can lose a lot of weight quickly like I did, right. Does it last? That’s the question. We talked about that in our previous podcast. You can’t consider a diet being successful just because you lost weight.
Just because I had lost 50 pounds doesn’t mean it was successful because I couldn’t maintain it. The definition of a successful weight loss journey is that you lose it and you keep it off. The statistics are so bad when it comes to this because people don’t understand how the body actually works.
95% of dieters fail at dieting. And so we have to look beyond the 30 days. We need to look and say, “Did this diet sustain me one year, five years later?”
Chris’ Journey Now
I did get the education I was looking for. I studied under top experts in the field of metabolism. I know more about female metabolism, specifically, than any female ever will. It’s definitely not where I thought my career was going to go.
Katrina: You didn’t know you were going to become a Master of Menopause.
Chris: Yeah, no, that wasn’t really the trajectory that I was looking for, but yes, that’s where God has me. It was through this journey of really wanting to, being driven to help myself, that I have been able to then help others because I knew there had to be something else.
We are now both certified in the female metabolism and we’ve been helping students with weight loss for several years now and seen amazing success based upon what we’ve learned.
I think it took our personal journies to help us to grasp what was going on so that we can understand.
I can just totally relate to how people feel. I know how it feels getting up in the morning and getting dressed and not really wanting to wear your clothes for work because they’re all tight and it’s uncomfortable but not wanting to buy new ones either.
We used to have sections in our closet for the different waist sizes. I wouldn’t give them away because I knew I would probably be gaining and losing weight. So I had 32s, the 33s, the 34s, 36s, and so on. Yeah. It was pretty impressive to see.
Chris’ Journey Today
So let’s fast forward to where we are now. Chris:
- has maintained weight loss for the last several years successfully.
- knows how metabolism works.
- understands how food works.
- uses food the way God intended.
- enjoys food as fuel.
- has a whole different outlook on how exercise fits into the mix. (Now I do about 30 minutes of strength-training type workouts, three to four days a week.)
- knows the benefits of muscle and what that does to the metabolism.
- doesn’t stress over missed days of exercise.
- balances food and exercise.
- is no longer an all-or-nothing exerciser.
“And as far as my food goes, it’s still a journey for me.”
I still battle that aspect of the all-or-nothing mentality. Katrina helped me a lot with that to try to keep me more balanced when it comes to the all-or-nothing, mostly the nothing mentality. I’m learning how to enjoy myself at certain times and have fun around food.
When a lot of times, you know, my mentality was that I just don’t need to eat that. It won’t go well for me, once I start eating. I might just keep going. It’s a matter of lack of trust, right? Trust myself that I could eat this food and it not affect me. I’m learning to find that balance.
We’re all works in progress. I think people need to understand neither of us have arrived in various areas of our health.
A Lifelong Journey
This is a lifelong journey. It might be something that is always going to be around for me. On the other side of heaven, we will be free from this forever, but until then, we’re going to battle it.
The difference is that neither one of us now struggle with diseases and excess weight and burdens of physical health. We are definitely healthy and free. We’re just not as free as we will be on the other side of heaven. And so in the meantime, we’re walking the journey to health, and we’re always seeking to improve, to continue our journey, and to learn.
That’s one of the main drivers of us doing what we’re doing. We can help change the trajectory of people’s health journey. Because again, if I kept going the route I was going, I would definitely not be in the situation that I am now.
What Might Have Been
I don’t even know what might have happened to me. Disease processes probably would have happened by now, me being in my mid forties. That’s what we so often see. is that’s right. Forty-ish to 50 is when things can start creeping up and really starting to develop disease processes.
And a lot of it has stemmed from choices that were made earlier. This is why we need to decide how we’re going to live going forward.
Being a physical therapist, I saw so many people in their seventies and eighties, and even in their sixties that had so many health problems I felt could have been avoided if they had gotten the right information earlier on.
This is why we do what we do.
Our mission is to teach you how to eat and live healthy for the glory of God, so that you can be freed up from disease, excess weight, cravings, and food fixation so that you can be free to do all that God called you to and to live out your purpose.
We believe heaven will look differently because of this ministry of Healthy Free Life.
Now I want to leave you with this from Philippians 3:12-14.
It’s from the message Bible. And I’m going to tweak it just a little bit. Remember. We’re not saying that we have this all together, that we have made it, but we are well on our way.
“Reaching out for Christ, who so wonderfully reached out for us, friends, don’t get us wrong. By no means do we count ourselves as experts in all of this, but we’ve got our eye on the goal where God is beckoning us onward to Jesus. We are off and running and we are not turning back.”
Until next time. Bye for now.