I was five years old and my dad gained custody of a little boy with big hair and body like a racing snake.
My mum, after splitting from my dad, just could not provide for me the way she wanted to and thought I would have a better chance with life and all that was needed for a young boy with my dad.
My staple diet at the time was tomato soup- cornflakes- and bananas. I would not eat anything else. As a result I had malnutrition and rickets in my legs and the worse posture you have ever seen in a kid.
My dad, at the time lived with his mum and dad after coming out of the Army, this was a blessing as also living with them, was my great grandma.
My great gran got to work on me. She rolled up her sleeves and started to cook the minute I was in the door.
She force fed me thick stews with turkey and chicken, bowls of Scottish oats and whole- wheat bread. She would also at every opportunity shove a spoon of malt in my mouth.
So after a bad start, I then got a helping hand from an angel who at the time was in her late 70’s.
She was Scottish, so it was oats and thick stews- her philosophy was basic eating all the way.
She would also watch me and make sure I ate every mouthful.
My dad being out at work all day and out most nights- she practically brought me up until I could fend for myself.
In the early days she would treat me to the odd few sweets and I would eat them, like normal kids do. But at 8 years old, I gave them up after a bad dentist experience- I never ate them again.
This just made her give me more malt. Yuck. She thought that was a treat.
Much of my influence for food as I got older came from my grandad who was Latvian. He was in his day very muscular and spent his youth working in the forests of his homeland. I remember to this day the photos he showed me of himself and his friends- he may have been 19 or 20 years old at the time.
I can see them now in my minds eye, those classic black and white photos that had yellowed somewhat with age.
He was stood in the forest with huge trees in the background. He was shirtless and looked rugged, strong and lean- abs- delts- arms- everything was built from hard work and good basic food. (Hard work and eat clean.)
I loved the stories he told me, I would sit and listen intently.
I loved the outdoors- and still do. I would day dream of being there with my grandad.
I remember he used to tell me how he used to walk deep into the forest in the early mornings, some hour or so of hard trekking before working. He would carry a bag on his back with the days’ delights inside, a loaf of whole-wheat, homemade bread, cheese and milk, again homemade on the family’s land. He also had a selection of cold cut meats and for snacks, a little fruit.
He would eat that every day and do back breaking work.
This built a lean, muscular physique worthy of anybody who trains with weights.
He passed away a few years ago now- but even in his later life, he could still beat me in an arm wrestle, had youthfulness about him and still had a ton of hair.
I never forgot those stories he told me of the hard work he did as a young boy that made him in time into a man. I put two and two together even then- good food- hard work.
He influenced me heavily- I don’t know whether it was tradition in his country to eat holding a plate with just one hand underneath and holding a fork with the other, he never used a knife –but a fork with a knife edge to it.
When I was young I wanted to be like him, to this day I hardly ever use a knife.
Fast forward a few years.
I lived on my own at 15 years old in a bed-sit and worked in a wet fish shop on the harbour front in my home town of Bridlington. Awesome I know—but needs must and I had to provide for myself. But I had a plan.
By now at this stage in my life I had found my life’s calling, the seeds had been sown and they grew and made me what I am and do today.
I had very little money but my good friend Vince and his parents took me in many times- and fed me well.
Again this was a family with good traditional food values – nothing processed, all home cooked.
Living at the seaside meant plenty of fresh fish and on the outskirts of Bridlington there is the farming community, so vegetables were plentiful.
We also, at many meals, tucked into rabbit and pheasant.
Working at the wet fish shop not only made me stink of fish, but I got to eat plenty of that also.
At that period in my life, as you can see, the basics of my diet were being ingrained in me. Similar to how the fish smell soaked into every pore of my skin and no matter how many baths in ‘aftershave’ I had, it would not leave me.
At 19 I had already won a stack of teenage bodybuilding trophies. I now had my first house with a huge garden out back. I was lucky in that an older couple had had it a few years before and they had made use of the garden.
I bought it off another young lad who had not used it to its potential—so it needed work.
It was overgrown, but I managed to pull it back. Everything was there, just some love and attention and it gave back to me.
I grew my own vegetables, cabbage, onions, potatoes and carrots. Another part of the garden had some 50 strawberry plants and two apple trees and at the bottom near a stream, some gooseberries and brambles.
So my organic way of life started- I had the basics of nutrition in my mind at that age but just did not understand fully how good I was feeding myself at this stage, I just thought eat natural and don’t eat rubbish foods.
At this point I was also working in a store and at the gym, but every spare minute I had, I put into that garden.
I saw this as saving money- I had a mortgage- and had to work two jobs to support myself. I ate only the basics- fish, eggs, bread, milk, vegetables and fruit.
I was learning also how to cook these foods a natural way, thinking back- I have always been a good cook.
As time went on I studied nutrition as much as I did my bodybuilding and understood the importance of food and gains.
I had up to this point competed successfully as a teen and I also started to do well in junior and novice sections of shows.
It was then that I realised I had been on the right track for years.
I was always well conditioned- I believe this was due to the fact that I never bulked up and ate for eating’s sake, I always ate for function and never just for taste.
So I never had much to lose for a show and ate a balanced diet when everyone else was killing themselves on tuna, salad and water. I still ate fruit, bread, full eggs and the odd steak when I was flush and could afford it –ha-ha.
As I entered my mid twenties I was fanatical about eating clean- some may say obsessive- I say you can only be obsessive about something if it is causing you a problem or the people around you.
It did neither.
I enjoyed eating clean, I liked the fact that I was different from most other people and bodybuilders.
I always read about bodybuilders I admired and was influenced by- those that were set apart from the crowd.
Bill Pearl- was the most notable in his food recommendations. Bill was and is an Ovo lacto vegetarian and a natural bodybuilder who eats only the cleanest foods. I took to eating with his ideas incorporated- apart from I would still eat some meat, not a lot as those days I could not get many organic meats.
With that in mind I did not want to put chemicals in my body that I spent taking out with all the other good foods I ate.
I ate plenty of farm fresh eggs from a farm nearby and tons of veg, nuts and dried fruit.
I even made my own bread and used plenty of natural honey on it.
Again following Bill, I remember he had a health food shop that sold eggs- natural honey- homemade bread and the like.
Having a gym at the time- Future Bodies- I opened a store inside. This got so busy that I had to employ more staff as it was a full time job stacking the shelves and serving.
I toyed with the idea of going vegetarian and read many books on the subject- Bill inspired me that much.
I was always searching for the master of all diets- not just for bodybuilding but for health. My health is and always will be my first priority, so my goal was to eat for health, the muscle would take care of itself.
Heading into my thirties I ate more fish and less chicken and was- bit by bit- heading towards a more vegetarian diet.
I still ate a huge variety of foods even whilst getting ready for shows, my foods at this point in my life are listed as such.
Eggs (farm fresh).
I was 34 and strong as a horse. I looked big and had just the right leanness- a good look. Today, in these times of ripped glutes and shredded hamstrings, you go a little too low in weight- if I am honest I prefer the slightly less ripped look.
Not long after that show, I went vegetarian with the added eggs and some cheeses.
I stayed that way for more than six years.
In retrospect, I made some mistakes with this diet and even though now I eat chicken once a week and fish again, I may one day go back to this diet as I did feel very healthy. I just never ate enough food, so I lost muscle tissue.
Just this last year, 2009, for a guest pose at the Yorkshire championships I dropped meat and fish the last few months of my prep. I got into incredible shape, more on this diet in the competition diet section of this book.
Suffice to say –that it is hard to know what to do for the best-I am still on the fence so to speak and will I think forever remain here.
Following is again “some food for thought”.
Using the words here of the great Vince Gironda “Humans are neither meat eaters or vegetarians but a mix of both and you should eat how your body tells you to.”
That doesn’t mean takeaways guys.
He further went on to explain that he would go many months eating no meat at all and at other times all meat. If he craved meat he would eat it- as it was his body’s way of telling him he was lacking in something.
Heading into my mid 40’s I feel I have had years of good clean eating under my belt. My diet is 100% organic- as in the foods I eat.
The only non organic food supplement I take is AST products and I use them because they are the best and the purest on the market.
So if you look at it this way—more than 95% of the total nutrients I consume are organic and as natural as possible.
At times and periods in my life that I do eat meat -it’s not the be all and end all of my diet and I eat very little of it.
Meat being categorised for me -chicken, turkey and beef- as I never eat any other types.
I do eat fish a lot more regularly, mostly salmon but again maybe four to five times a week.
After all the years of study on myself , my clients, in books and countless conversations on the subject I have come to the most basic of thinking;
Thinking again along the lines of what Vince said- we as humans- I started to think logically about how we would have eaten hundreds of thousands of years ago.
So I studied up on the evolution of man.
I was fascinated to find a ton of information out there and also surprised to find out just how much is known about the diet of our ancestors and also how they looked.
I read a piece on Neanderthal man.
Get this, standing an average of 5 foot 5 and weighing around 180 lbs and 8% body-fat. That is an awesome bod!
How do scientists know this?
I don’t know the science behind this but they can tell from bone density and lengths, which enable them to reconstruct the muscle that was once there.
Studying further on the remains of Neanderthal man, they found that they had much wider shoulders and shorter arms, they also found that the muscle attachments for the pecs to be twice the size of today’s average.
They also could tell from bone marrow, the type of diet they followed.
This told them they ate good quality protein.
This, along with fossilized stools, gave them an insight into the diet of the caveman. Also studied were the tools they used, microscopic particles of vegetables, wild barley, plants, nuts, honey and fruits.
So let’s base this out—wild game-fish-nuts-seeds–roots–wild vegetation-fruit-honey-wild grasses.
Looking at this in a logic way.
I often put these questions to clients, to make them think about just what we should be doing in terms of eating like we are designed. We are killing ourselves as a species, we need to get back to the basics of nutrition.
Q. Would we have lived off the land?
A. Yes, we would have eaten roots, grasses, nuts, seeds, fruit in season, leaves, eggs, small wild game, and large- anything we could find.
Q. What would we need near us for us to survive? A. Water- so we will have eaten fish without a doubt.
Q. Would we have hunted?
A. Yes- we would have hunted large game and would have killed and stored large sections of meat. So we may have eaten a lot of meat for a while and then other foods for a few weeks or months.
Taking on board the above- Think before you eat something, ask yourself is this natural? Sure, our world has advanced and I am not saying only eat a food you can forage for in your garden, I am saying put some sense to your eating lifestyle.
Go with what your body tells you, if you eat meat and you don’t feel so good on it, try more fish.
What I am saying is listen to your most treasured possession, your body.
Use a variety of foods and get these foods in as natural a state as possible and you will be surprised by how it rewards you. The weight problems many people have these days would not be an issue.
The chapter above is the base of all my eating, natural as possible—fish would have been more available to the Neanderthal man more than other forms of protein, that’s why I eat more of that.
If I have meat, it is a rare occurrence and if I feel the need and craving for it.
To sum up this chapter-
Eat clean, eat natural, eat in moderation –eat organic.
Let’s look at WHY ORGANIC.