The ORIGINAL Nutritionals team is excited to launch our “what makes you ORIGINAL” series. This series is aimed at celebrating individuality, innovation, health, fitness, movement, and joy in our local and global community. Keep an eye out for profiles of athletes, scientists, doctors, and community members in the future. Our first blog is courtesy of Nate Harris, our most recent ORIGINAL athlete writing about how “#JiuJitsuSavedMyLife”
It’s a hashtag I put on all Jiu Jitsu related social media posts. Some may see it as just a catchy tagline, but for me it is an authentic declaration of gratitude. Now, I’m not saying I was literally on the verge of death, or that when I magically ended up in my first Jiu Jitsu class I was set forever on a path towards prosperity and happiness, but… well, no, I am saying that. My reality was not far off.
Before Jiu Jitsu, my diet was comprised of whatever was fastest, easiest, and tastiest with zero regard to the effects that anything I ate had to my body. I also drank heavily and smoked cigarettes. I was decidedly slovenly, not salubrious.
So it comes as no surprise, given my sloth, that it was vanity that prompted me to join the gym in the first place. I was tired of being the fat guy so I started working out and quit smoking just to look good and maybe get some girls. When one of the fighters at the gym encouraged me to try a Jiu Jitsu class, I thought, “Ya know, learning a martial art might be pretty cool.”
It was maybe my 2nd or 3rd class when I had the realization that, yep, this was going to be something I would be doing for the rest of my life. My coach, Tait, once told someone, “I think Nate had come to 3 classes when he started to walk just a little bit differently through the world.” He was right. I’d begun to discover a confidence and purpose that I had not had before.
I’d say it was after my 2nd tournament that the switch was made from being a Jiu Jitsu hobbyist (albeit a very passionate one) to a legitimate competitive athlete. In this tournament I not only achieved my first win, but I won four matches. Getting a taste of what it felt like to win prompted me to have a different reason WHY I trained, which led to a change in HOW I trained. Everything had to be methodical, especially diet. For those unaware, when you compete in a Jiu Jitsu tournament, you are placed in a weight division and, of course, everyone wants to have the size advantage so everyone cuts as much as they can to get into as low of a weight class as possible and still be able to perform. (The irony being that you end up having to lose a bunch of weight just to compete against people your own size.) I got EXTREMELY fortunate in having Tait Fletcher as a coach who taught us how to cut weight safely and intelligently. Eating a bunch of junk and trying to sweat out 20lbs in the last couple of days is most definitely going to affect your performance in a drastic way. Our bodies are machines and we must take care to make sure they operate at the most optimal levels.
My first step towards eating to perform was going on a strict paleo diet for 30 days. When I started, my thoughts were along the lines of, “Ok, it’s gonna be really hard but I’m gonna be able to work harder, recover faster, and be more shredded. Sweet!” And ya know? All that happened. What else happened, though, which I didn’t expect, was that my mood was better, my energy was higher, and the anxiety attacks that used to be a daily occurrence were now completely gone. It may seem obvious now, but recognizing in such a visceral way that the stuff I put in my body affected me physically AND mentally/emotionally was a crazy concept.
Over the years I’ve continued to learn, experiment, and evolve in how I eat and train. I don’t say “I eat paleo” because I’m far from perfect in my diet (I’m definitely guilty of having a weakness for corn chips), but “primal” is the blueprint for how I eat and live. My life is now free from foods that are overly processed, refined, or just straight up fake. There hasn’t been room for alcohol for 3 years. Every day starts with a shot of fish oil. Every cup of coffee is blended with MCT oil.
I started eating right to be a better athlete, and I am now profoundly grateful that my training has led me down the path of becoming a better person – I’m healthier, I’m more disciplined, and I’m always surrounded by a supportive community. Thanks to Jiu Jitsu, I found health and, with it, a better life. At the age of 21, I was told that due to my family history I’d probably have my first heart attack in my 30’s without a change in my habits. It was a daunting prognosis and I didn’t look forward to a life battling a slew of ailments. Now, I look forward every day to grappling with life. I look forward to growing older because I know I’m never going to stop learning and improving my health, fitness, and athleticism.
So I can say, with all sincerity, that #JiuJitsuSavedMyLife.
– Nate Harris
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