Making the math add up – the non-linear path that led me to uncovering my true passion
2011 vs. 2018
To understand why I do what I do, you need to know who I am and how I got here. What makes me so sure that I can assist you in making a major lifestyle change? Because I did so myself.
THE EARLY YEARS
Growing up, my family lived out the mantra of work hard, play hard. All of my family members played multiple sports growing up, with one of my uncles striking out so many batters he found himself playing professional baseball. While I never went pro, I dedicated myself to being a three-sport athlete. I was taught to play a popular backyard trifecta: basketball, football, and you guessed it, baseball.
One thing that was out of the ordinary about my upbringing was the fact that I was raised by my grandparents. Growing up with my grandmother and grandfather has molded me into the man I am today and I wouldn’t trade it for a second. As you can imagine though, growing up with grandparents also meant that nutrition was not something I paid attention to. There were flavorful sweets and a cookie jar permanently on the counter, and my earliest memories of home cooked meals were as sweet as they were buttery. When I wasn’t at home, soda and fast food were my first instinct.
Looking at me back then, you wouldn’t know how poorly I was eating. My high metabolism was the miracle worker my younger self never thought to thank.
Instead, my focus was squarely on excelling at sports, so much so that senior year I was awarded co-athlete of the year in recognition for my achievements in three different sports. I also committed to playing baseball at the collegiate level. Little did I know, training at the collegiate level would soon lead me to discovering my life’s work.
DISCOVERING WEIGHT TRAINING
When I first began investing time and energy in strength training it was because I wanted to do off-season regimented workouts my way. I created my own exercise routines and followed what felt best for me. Did I know exactly what I was doing at the time? No. But the work I put in on a consistent basis didn’t take long to show. I looked better and felt stronger than ever before, so I went all in. As familial as it felt all my life baseball took a back seat to this new world of weight training.
Despite significant improvements in my physical appearance and self-confidence, one thing remained a blind spot when it came to my understanding of the body—nutrition. As focused as I was on my body performing at its best in the weight room, I wasn’t giving any thought to exactly what I was consuming. After graduating from college I resolved to neglect nutrition no longer. I found myself experimenting with different “diets” and confounding techniques over the years and what I learned was most were as restrictive as they were unsustainable. Resting between sets at the gym I often wondered:
“am I the only one who doesn’t know how to diet correctly?”
LEARNING TO BE FLEXIBLE
It was around this time when I first heard about flexible eating and decided to give it a try. Not long after this discovery I started to see and feel improvements like never before.
Flexibility in my nutrition has enabled me to fuel my body so I can push my limits past what I ever thought possible. Since discovering flexible eating I’ve participated in mixed martial arts, tried my hand at crossfit, and crossed my fair share of finish lines at tough mudders, spartan races, and marathons. One of my proudest achievements is making my way into the 1,000 pound club, which is a testament to one’s powerlifting strength (squat, bench press, deadlift). With all this work has come an overwhelming sense of satisfaction in having achieved the goals I set out to meet and in some instances, exceed, and I strongly believe I wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of it had I not discovered strength training and proper nutrition.
THE CONVENTIONAL PATH
In reaping the rewards that came from becoming a stronger and healthier version of myself, my professional aspirations began to take shape in ways I had not anticipated. My career had revolved around teaching students about the nuances of numbers, but if I’m being honest with myself, my interests were slowly diverging from my work as a math teacher. What I loved about it was being able to aid in the learning process for so many of my students, but even so, I couldn’t shake this feeling that my energy, enthusiasm, and drive would be better served doing something else. Here I was, an algebra teacher finally admitting to myself that my own math wasn’t adding up. If not this, then what? What exactly was missing in my own equation? It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Steve Jobs uttered some of the wisest words ever spoken. I can’t describe my own self-realization any better than how he put it:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backward.”
As an educator who spent years teaching students how to plot the perfect line graph, those words ring true to me, now more than ever. Looking back, there were many signs that improving the well being of others is what I was truly meant to do, I just didn’t see them for what they were.
I provided fitness and nutrition guidance to friends and family for many years, but only recently did I realize I’ve heard the same comment more times than I can count: “Devin, you should do this for a living.” That phrase was the common denominator among all my early experiences; an obvious sign and an elusive suggestion that I was getting closer to my true calling. Eventually I came to realize the people who knew me best were all telling me the same thing and it echoed my inner voice, one that kept saying “this is what you’re meant to do.”
When I first fell in love with weight training, it turned my whole world upside down. It fundamentally altered the way in which I took care of my body and overall health. In short, it changed my life. Just as importantly, it led to me realizing something major: the only thing that’s as fulfilling as making my own life-changing improvements is helping others take those same steps toward improving their lives. So, I made a major change of my own and I left the teaching profession.
To say I was terrified would be an understatement, yet never once did I doubt that I was doing the right thing. In hindsight, pursuing my passion took me longer than it should have, but now I can’t see spending my life any other way.
Since making the leap from math teacher to health coach, I’ve discovered that the two are not so dissimilar after all. The lessons I learned from my six years of teaching were not lost once I left the classroom—actually quite the contrary. My teaching experiences stayed with me and gave me confidence that I could succeed as a health coach. Throughout my years teaching I strengthened my patience and developed my ability to adapt. Every student presented something different, every one with his or her unique combination of ability level, learning style, and personality and coaching others in exercise and nutrition is no different.
In hindsight, it only made sense to go all-in on my passion. Changing someone’s life for the better isn’t something one can do on the side; it requires individual attention and a full-time commitment. In a sense I’m still a teacher, but now I’m paying attention to a different set of numbers: how many pounds my clients have lost, calories they’ve consumed, muscle they’ve built, challenging circuits they’ve completed, miles they’ve ran, rewards they’ve reaped, and goals they’ve crushed. My calling was clear, and I couldn’t ignore it any longer.