I grew up in a family where health and wellness was a priority. My grandfather (Dr. Murray Susser) pioneered preventative medicine back in the late 60’s and is still a brilliant holistic doctor. When my mom was a child, she had to milk the family’s goat (“Tipsy”) for her siblings because they were allergic to cow’s milk. My grandmother had all of their food shipped from an organic grocer (this was the 70’s before Whole Foods and Trader Joes, so there weren’t too many options), and none of the Susser kids were permitted to eat any sugar or white flour. People thought they were weird and odd, and my mom was embarrassed every year that her birthday cake at school was a carrot cake with honey and whole wheat flour in a recipe adapted by her mom. My mother was not as strict with me as a child, but I remember being treated with home remedies, vitamins and homeopathics when I was sick, and I can remember not being allowed to drink diet soda, Koolaid or have sugary cereals. She fed me tofu with soy sauce, hard-boiled eggs, frozen bananas for treats, and other things that most small children didn’t eat in the late 80′s. I also distinctly remember arguing with the other kids at the lunch table in elementary school about how milk was bad for you, and you didn’t get proper calcium from it. I did, however, have my fair share of fast food, ice cream, candies, and other processed foods. Summers at the swim club were filled with slushies, French fries and chicken nuggets. Most of these foods were not in my house, so I remember being very excited when I went to a friend’s house and they had WAY more candy every day than I had at Halloween.
Both of my parents are very active. My mom is a runner and was a swimmer from grade school through high school, and my dad skis and water-skis and was a WPIAL soccer player in high school. Watching my mom make exercise a priority each day sparked a lot of interest for me with fitness. I would go to the gym with her when she worked out, sit in the back of the spin room when she took a class, and I knew it was time for a run when she started to get a bit crabby. Despite growing up in a mostly healthy environment, by the time I was in middle school I had become very self conscious of the way I looked. I was starting to realize that eating junk at friends’ houses and fast food was not making me feel or look better. I spent a lot of time with my Aunt Justine, who is very health oriented, and she ignited the wellness flame beneath my belt that had been stagnant for a good bit of time. I began to explore ways of eating that were healthy and manageable. I cut fast food out of my diet with no effort at all, and started on my search for a way of eating that made me feel good, and kept the integrity of the wellness ways I grew up with. I learned a lot from my aunt, and even though at times I took the “not so healthy” eating advice of “globo-gym” personal trainers over hers (this included a lot of sugar substitutes and “sugar free” foods), I have now returned to eating the way that she originally tried to teach me.
I feel that the mixture of growing up with awareness of health and wellbeing as well as my desire to look and feel good has brought me to where I am today. For years I have been on a mission to find a way of eating that works best for me. I have always had a passion for health and fitness, and I believe that our physical and mental heath is first determined by what we are putting in our mouths. Food is our fuel for life, and we set ourselves up for a breakdown when we feed our body improperly. I am constantly eager to learn more about healthy eating, and I hope that the bit of information Bill and I have in this Blog inspires others to take on their own health with open minds.
My family, like Hayley’s, always strove to eat healthy foods. At a young age, my mother had me in the kitchen helping her make dinner – I suppose I was her little sous chef. I really honed my cooking skills in my early 20’s after college as a young bachelor living and entertaining in Washington DC. At that time I was 5’9 and a meager 145 lbs with about 8% body fat. A few of my friends and I got into weightlifting, and after two grueling years in the gym I finally reached my personal goal of 170 lbs; although I was strong, I was far from lean.
In late 2008, I moved back home to Pittsburgh from Washington DC to take a new job in my field. At the same time, I got in touch with an old friend – Anthony Rankin – to see if he knew of any local bands in need of a drummer. Having played drums for 15 years, I figured it would be a fun and creative outlet for me after long days at the office. Anthony said his drummer was moving away, and that he needed me in his band.
Hayley and I met on the set of the music video shoot for “Mean It” early in 2010. She was hired to do Anthony’s makeup, and I was (of course) playing drums in the video. We instantly connected that day and talked much about eating and living healthy in the following weeks. I started to shift my eating habits – slowly eliminating all the processed foods, sugars, grains and dairy in my diet. For the first six weeks, I regularly dropped a pound or two. I wasn’t necessarily looking to lose weight, but it was hard to argue with the results in the mirror: I was looking good! The primal diet I had assumed was burning away fat, helping to reveal my hard-fought muscles from years of working out.Hayley made my transition to primal eating so easy, always having great ideas for meals that never felt like compromises. We would often talk excitedly about things we could make together. As you might imagine, these conversations are still a high point of our relationship. They can strike us at any time – while we’re at the gym, out on a walk, or even just driving around – but I can always tell when she has a great idea brewing.