• "Looking at me you probably wouldn’t guess I’m a personal trainer." (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Having survived cancer three times, personal trainer Andy Zagami asks, "what does healthy look like?". Post-cancer, he prioritises feeling good on the inside. Abs and ripped legs are secondary.
Andy Zagami

8 Feb 2016 - 1:09 PM  UPDATED 8 Feb 2016 - 2:38 PM

I’ve been a personal trainer for more than eight years now. Looking at me, though, you probably wouldn’t guess I’m a personal trainer. Perhaps you’d think I’m an office employee, who works late and never goes to the gym. I’m pretty skinny, with a bit of muscle, sure, but that’s about it.

I started training a new client this week. We’ve known each other about a year and he knows I’ve had plenty of health issues. Among other things, I’ve had cancer three times during the past nine years.

It was a typical session, but as we cooled down, he asked me a question, and his comments surprised me:

Client: When were you last in hospital?

Me: My last surgery was four-and-a-half years ago.

Client: So, relatively recently. I can see it in your face. You look like you’ve been sick before.

Not long ago I would sometimes be offended by certain comments people made, but these days it doesn’t faze me – I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m now more interested in the reasoning behind remarks about whether I ‘look’ healthy.

I used to feel unbreakable.

So, after my initial surprise, I was curious why my new client made this comment. What followed was a fascinating conversation about what healthy is and what healthy looks like.

Because there are so many different versions of what being healthy actually means, you’re always going to get a different answer when you ask different people.

My body was destroyed from the inside out from all the treatment I had to undergo when I had cancer. I went through eight rounds of chemo and six surgeries. So I had no choice but to start rebuilding myself. I cut out all food and introduced things one at a time to see how my body was reacting. Eventually I fine-tuned it enough to understand what my body could and couldn’t handle anymore.

I used to feel unbreakable. I was a gymnast between the ages of 4 and 18 and that training made me physically and mentally strong. That’s what I thought healthy was and most people would have agreed that I ‘looked’ healthy.

After all my experiences, though, I’ve realised I was missing a vital piece of the puzzle – inner health.

I may have looked healthy back then, but my lifestyle and eating habits were not so healthy. These days, they are much healthier – I’ve swapped sausages and chicken for lentils and quinoa, and replaced constant negative thinking with meditation and morning walks. I feel healthy.

Of course, everyone has their own definition of health – from feeling energised to being a specific weight or, in my case, just feeling good.

I’ve realised I was missing a vital piece of the puzzle – inner health.

From being what I thought was a healthy kid growing up to then having cancer on three separate occasions, I no longer consider looks a priority when it comes to health. I know now that health starts from the inside, the rest – abs, big arms and ‘ripped’ legs – are secondary.

We as individuals need to take a step back from all the marketing hype and simply understand what our body needs on a daily basis.

When you understand how to make your body thrive through lifestyle choices, nutrition and exercise, you’ll quickly see that diets are a waste of time and you can be the master of your own health.

Do you notice how food makes you feel? Energised? Bloated? Flat? Take the time to work this out and you’ll take your health to a higher level by giving your body what it needs.

While working on your health from the inside should always be the priority, to some, the outside will always be more important. They see a skinny person and immediately think they are anorexic. They see an overweight person and think they are lazy and eat too much. They see a great-looking person striking a perfected pose on Instagram and start following them. That point right there is why I keep my distance on social media; there’s too much garbage about what we ‘should’ look like with very little actual education and understanding. I’ll pass thanks on the shallow ‘like’ or ‘follower’ a person gets simply for posting a ‘motivational’ picture of a good-looking body.

For me, there’s no right or wrong way to look healthy. Without understanding a person’s story, judging their health simply based on how they look is never fair. It’s time we changed the way we see health. 


Love the story? Follow the author here: andrewzagami.com