First Person Singular: Greg Raleigh, 42, Washington, Fitness Center Manager, The University Club; Director, Food for Fuel

“As a trainer now, I hear from a lot of my clients: ’It costs too much to eat healthy.’ No, it doesn’t. It may cost you some more time, but it’s not going to cost more money,” says fitness center manager Greg Raleigh. (Matt McClain /FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
January 10, 2013

I had a stroke when I was 20. I was trying to gain weight real fast for football, but I didn’t know how to eat [right]. So I was taking this weight-gain product, a protein powder, three or four times a day — on top of a diet of potatoes and a lot of starchy foods. One day I just collapsed. When we got to the hospital, the level of salt in my body was over 10,000 milligrams — 2,300 is normal. So they IV’d me. But then the nurse said, “You can’t stay here because you don’t have any health insurance.” I was like, Well, what do I do?

Knowing that I had a family history of high blood pressure and diabetes, knowing that I didn’t have insurance, the economics of it kicked in. So I started reading, teaching myself how to eat healthy. As a trainer now, I hear from a lot of my clients: “It costs too much to eat healthy.” No, it doesn’t. It may cost you some more time, but it’s not going to cost more money. When I do my nutrition programs, I tell the kids: “An apple is cheaper than a bag of chips.” It’s just a matter of knowing how to choose properly. There’s tons of food traps all around us. I mean, I still have my own struggles. Being a person with high blood pressure, I have a craving for salt that’s amazing. In college they called me “chicken man,” because I had to have my three pieces and a biscuit every afternoon at KFC or Popeyes; I [didn’t] know better. But now when I get that craving, I know what to reach for: Brown rice usually kills my cravings. But everybody’s different. You have to learn your own body, know what it’s craving, remember it, and then teach yourself from it. Killing a craving is like killing the head of a snake.

I tell clients: When you start eating healthy, your body becomes more efficient so you don’t have to eat six times a day. But people want a quick fix. They just keep denying problems arising due to their food choices, hoping they’re going to go away, hoping there’s going to be some sort of pill. I have clients that say, “Greg, what can I buy over the counter to stop me from having these problems?” Or clients that only take care of their body because of a pending wedding. I tell them, “No, no, no. You want to get in shape because you want to enjoy your kids’ weddings; you want to see your kids go to college.” At the end of the day, everything is an individual choice. You have to be willing to step up and take care of yourself — there’s no other motivation; you’re not going to get your own reality show. You need to learn how to do it for you. And that’s the best reward.

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