Pedro’s road to wellness
Pedro Forte is not an unfamiliar name in bodybuilding and fitness. From as young as a schoolboy, he placed second as Mr Schoolboy and third in Barbados National Championships. But he changed course from bodybuilding because he was more concerned about health and wellness as opposed to bulk and competitions.
This happened when the 28-year-old certified personal trainer realized that people even younger than himself were almost morbidly obese and that many older people who were not elderly yet were dying of, or developing, chronic lifestyle diseases. This alarmed him.
To get him on the road to personal training, Pedro pursued and received his certification by the United States’ most elite body, the International Sports Science Association (ISSA), which trains the US military and can train golfers, tennis players, elite athletes among others. However, he trains kids, adults, asthmatics, the elderly, arthritics, pregnant women and many more, but will not train anyone under the age of 14.
“Weight training is not for young bones and they can develop the dangerous Osgood-Schlatter disease, which gymnasts have often reported. I am reaching out to local footballers, athletes, obese or overweight kids because I love to see people healthy and want them to live, long productive lives,” he added. “I love old people and kids and it hurts me to see 23-year-old women or men that are so overweight that their self-esteem is gone, or they try to “trick” themselves into believing big is healthy. It isn’t. They are taking years off their precious lives.”
He said that being overweight is like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
According to research at ISSA, while we all need fat to survive, once it is stored as adipose tissue, it surrounds the organs and “strangles” them decreasing the efficient performance of our bodies. In addition, belly fat is an indicator of lifestyle diseases to come.
“It is quite possible that a 65-year-old . . . can experience the vigour and vitality of a healthy 35-year-old. So why does the Caribbean – the US too, from which we copy eating habits – have the dubious distinction of obesity in school-age children and young adults and not-so-young adults as identified by PAHO and the Ministry of Health?” he queried. He explained that all bodies present as three types: ectomorphs (skinny), mesomorphs (muscular, genetically or otherwise) or endomorphs (overweight or morbidly obese). He said that ectomorphs are also not necessarily healthy either.
“Interesting, nobody was born an endomorph, yet we talk about “thick” as if it is “sexy”. I have no problem with self-love, but I do have an issue where young women or men can lose their lives or diminish their quality of life by refusing to accept that they need to shed a few pounds and enjoy healthy meals, fun workouts and feel good about themselves. Just a 10 per cent reduction in body weight can start us on the road to health,” he said.
Contrary to popular belief, he added, weight is not hard to lose and does not take years as some magazines and others would have you believe. He indicated that it is in the interest of marketing companies to sell snake-oil fat loss fad products, including those banned by the FDA, that will end up slowing down the metabolism rather than speeding it up and creating a host of medical problems. He said that extra pounds can come off in a matter of months with professional guidance, proper nutrition including supplements, a good multivitamin, diet and exercise.
The mobile personal trainer and exercise therapist said: “Hey, you might initially lose weight on some of those liquid diets and low-everything diets, but trust me, you will gain it back, lack nutrients and more, not to mention be launched into a state of ketosis or where blood and body become acidified [in low protein diets] and so the sensible approach is to design a weight loss periodized programme.
“If you are sedentary, to get started, design a diet plan that has one part fat, two parts protein and three parts carbohydrates and get moving. That’s where I come in. I do not understand how any author, doctor or diet designer can suggest you eat no fat, which the brain and body need, or no or low protein, the building block of the body and its lean muscle mass, and carbohydrates, which are converted as energy for the body. Think just how tired and used up you will be on a diet on low everything,” he declared emphatically. He said this kind of diet plan was highly irresponsible and dangerous.
With ten years’ experience behind him, he now works for select clientele in Barbados and overseas, as well as anybody committed who has one thing in mind: “to live long, slow down aging, live healthy and eliminate a sedentary lifestyle”. He added that the sedentary lifestyle was literally killing people. “We were given legs and arms to move with muscles to work.”
He indicated that the centenarians of Barbados used to walk miles to work or to see family or loved ones eating ground provisions, vegetables and “a good old yard fowl” and are still here to tell the tale, but they did not eat processed foods and fast food.
“I was talking to a centenarian and he told me he walked miles parish to parish to see his girl,” Pedro recalled. “Today most of us have cars, walk from one office to another and that is about the extent of our activity.”
He indicated that while gym memberships were expensive for some, losing weight is the easiest thing to do with commitment – even including a cheat day – without going overboard.
“We need a national movement to combat chronic lifestyle diseases. My clients cannot all afford the exorbitant prices of gyms, so I train them by going mobile to their gyms/homes – I have my own equipment – or they pay a fee . . . to get a professionally designed diet and periodized training to reach their goal and that can take from 12 weeks to start as a meso-cycle to 12 months as a macro-cycle, it is loads of fun. We laugh a lot but we work hard,” he added.
Pedro said the equation was simple: “Eat less but healthy and move more, stay hydrated. If you are already thirsty, you are dehydrated and the body takes 20 minutes to become dehydrated – which is dangerous for all of us in Barbados’ heat”.
While he targets the hotel and villa market, he has a local client base or clients who wish to avoid lifestyle diseases or who wish to address the same. He also does exercise therapy with core ball and stability training, stretching, postural deviation tests and exercise and plans to address the same.
“My research indicates that we can live beyond 100 years if we eat well and exercise and avoid complications and not try to “cure them”. Why not avoid diabetes if you don’t have it already? It is so easy. The money people spend on concerts, hair, nails, clothes, cars, women and trying to impress themselves and others is cool but better spent, in fact cheaper, on oneself and long life,” Pedro added. “In the end, you can spend all the money you want on what you want if you are alive and well. Right now and for life, you need good health. If you don’t believe me, look in the Sunday obituaries. I guarantee you will see someone you know and likely they died from a lifestyle-related disease. It’s sad. I want to help.”