I grew up in the late 1970s, when Cookie Crisp cereal and Fruity Pebbles were a part of a complete breakfast. The family patriarch was 60 pounds overweight and a heavy smoker. Nutrition wasn’t exactly front and center in anyone’s mind. In fact, come to think of it, the food didn’t even taste all that good. It was nourishment, plain and simple, although in hindsight there wasn’t much that was nourishing about all of that white flour, sugars, animal proteins and empty calories.
By the time I was 10-years-old, I remember feeling the painful addiction to refined sugar and processed carbohydrates. I remember feeling depressed and lethargic unless I had my fix of Hostess Fruit Pies, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, hamburgers, Coca-Cola and my all-time favorite, vanilla ice cream.
My addiction to this stimulating diet was certainly a gateway to how I would experiment with drugs and alcohol in the future.
Paradoxically, I was also a passionate athlete and love sports of all kinds. And so, my terrible lifestyle was always at odds with my desire to be a premiere athlete. Throughout all of this, I struggled with the desire to balance athletic performance with my insatiable desire to alter my body's natural chemistry with food, drugs and alcohol.
At 15-years-old, I reached rock bottom. I had substance abuse issues with alcohol and marijuana, and I was a smoker.
At this point, I knew something big had to change. I volunteered to go to a drug rehab which lasted 86 days. My parents, who had been worried, were incredibly supportive and glad that I was getting the help that I needed. Twenty-nine years later, I'm still sober.
My recovery story was a natural progression. First of all, I was ridding myself of the obvious, detrimental chemicals which slowly, over time, lead to a life of pain, illness, and mediocrity.
In my early 20s, I was a depressed mess. I couldn’t lose weight and maintain my energy, and was turning to things like concentrated proteins and white sugar to keep me going. A coach at my gym in Queens offered a suggestion: cut out everything but salad and juice from my diet. Almost immediately I began to see results.
Along the way I was introduced to Dr. Fred Bisci, a proponent of the raw food diet. He strolled into juice press and introduced himself to me and from there our relationship grew. Fred is like a second father to me and he shaped my views on nutrition and life: he helped me make the transition. A transition from a diet based on processed foods and other garbage to one that is healthy and full of nutrients and vitamins. This gave me the physical health and mental clarity that I needed to focus and harness my energy to fulfill my dreams.
This led to a return of my athleticism. I was obsessed with field sports of all kinds and excelled at tennis, swimming, cycling, and Ultimate Frisbee. I was also passionate about more extreme sports like rock climbing, scuba diving, and was a sky diver for almost 13 years. (In fact, I retired with 2,300 sky-dives.)
When I was 34, I discovered Thai boxing and fought at a competitive level for several years and was very successful in my boxing career. None of this would have been possible if, in the later years of my life, I hadn't managed to have a supremely awesome diet.
From there my mission changed. My “extreme sport” was opening my first juice store. I watched as the juice and raw food trends slowly spread on the West Coast, and knew that I wanted to combine my talent and expertise in retail with my understanding and passion for juice and raw foods. Soon, I opened my first store, Juice Press, in Manhattan’s East Village years before anyone knew what juicing was, let alone how to incorporate the practice into their busy lives. Since then, my company has exploded, and we have 20 stores in New York and the Hamptons.
Juice Press is the manifestation of my desire to have uninterrupted access to nutrition. I had every intention of creating a large business, even though I didn’t know exactly how this would be accomplished.
But, I stepped forward, took a lot of chances and risked everything I had to realize this dream. In conquering my addictions to drugs, alcohol, and a terrible diet, I was able to gain a focus and rediscover my purpose. These changes allowed me to open my company and I could not be more passionate about sharing this message with the world.