I think it’s safe to say we’ve all suffered from some form of poor self-image at some point in our lives — and for many that goes hand in hand with emotional ups and downs and a poor relationship with food. In his new book, THINK SKINNY, FEEL FIT: 7 STEPS TO TRANSFORM YOUR EMOTIONAL WEIGHT AND HAVE AN AWESOME LIFE, ALEJANDRO CHABAN (motivational speaker, nutrition and wellness consultant, People En Español’s 50 MOST BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, and CEO AND FOUNDER OF YES YOU CAN!) guides us through his inspirational account of how mastering his emotions was the key to healing his mind, body and soul and keeping off his 150 pound weight loss. ALEJANDRO CHABAN shares for the first time ever his concrete and very doable 7 steps for shedding our physical and emotional pounds.
ALEJANDRO CHABAN suffered from childhood bullying which mentally mutilated him and caused him to either hibernate and retreat or lash out at his peers – and to overeat to numb his emotions. These same emotions haunted him in his teen years which led him down another lonely path – instead of bingeing, he suffered an isolating and silent fight of anorexia and bulimia.
These horrific diseases caused him to lose even more weight than he originally had — but his emotional baggage and mental well-being remained the same. He was still trapped inside his head as an obese and self-loathing boy, unable to fix the anger and sadness inside of him. Obese or anorexic, he was the same human – just in different packaging.
He came to realize that it was his mental state that existed as the heavy baggage and burden – and that it was crucial that he healed his soul and understood his deep-rooted underlying issues first if he wanted to fix his exterior. He couldn’t avoid the obvious anymore: that the physiological was tantamount to the psychological – and their interdependence was deeply intertwined.
After years of self-exploration and healing — and figuring out his necessary steps to achieve emotional peace (and a rock hard body!), he has written the fabulous book, THINK SKINNY, FEEL FIT. In it, he shares with us the 7 secrets to his success – which are grounded in positive thinking, meditation, and self-acceptance. Not only can we use these steps to achieve the life, body, and happiness we want – but we learn how to maintain these invaluable assets forever.
Today ALEJANDRO CHABAN is alive, vibrant, fit and running a health industry empire! His purpose in life now is to help those stuck in his former patterns, those hibernating in a body and headspace that is suffocating them. He is committed to educating the mass on how our emotional and physical health is interconnected and how we need to (and can!) identify the mental obstacles that are weighing down our life so we can finally move on with our successful (and invincible!) lives.
Now let’s get on with it. I think you too would love to transform your emotional weight, lose some body weight (especially since summer is around the corner!) and have an awesome life! Am I right?
I have so much gratitude to ALEJANDRO for sharing such a confessional and deep dialogue with me — on his past, his present and where he and we are all heading for our future. Alejandro, thank you.
Alejandro, your story is absolutely remarkable. A 150-pound weight loss but a 150% overall gain. You went from feeling bullied and overweight to feeling on top of the world and guiding others. There are so many powerful things that you say in this book – that I constantly found myself underlining and writing notes in the margin. So many questions.
Thank you for this interview and for everything that you do. What you’re doing — using your vulnerability and struggles for the benefit and empowerment of other people is immeasurably generous. I love finding people who put forward goodness into this world — and what you do is over the top. And you’re a clear example of things happen for a reason. (Which we’ll discuss.)
Please share a little summary of your journey and how it has led you to where you are today.
Thank you so much. Wow. Well, I’ve had my fair share of struggles from being overweight. Where do I start? I was at 315 pounds at age 15 and with physical and emotional battles – and then later struggled with anorexia and bulimia.
I’m so grateful though that I had the opportunity to go through all of this — and now I look at my stretch marks and I am grateful for them. Before I was in a constant battle with my body and my stretch marks — but now I realize this is the best tattoo that I have!
Life can hit you hard — but it hits you however you let it.
My father gave me the best advice which led me to where I am today. When I was in the darkest of my days, he said: “Why don’t you tell your story?” I told him that I didn’t have a story — and that my path was dark.
And he said, “OK. Exactly. Go there!”
And I used all of that and that became my purpose. During my journey and reconnecting with my childhood and that fat little boy inside of me who felt awkward, lonely and sad, I realized that if I had felt like that once – I knew millions of others were feeling that too.
I saw that my experience and my words would be useful to all these people who felt alone.
I was already in magazines and was labeled a “hunk” and one of People Magazine’s Most Beautiful People – and everyone was looking at this “sexy” and “successful” person — but I didn’t feel like that. I was always in a constant battle with myself. I’d look at myself in the mirror and not like what I saw.
I also came to realize that I was an actor for the wrong reasons. I was trying to get the approval and applause that I was always craving. I wanted to be recognized. I wanted to take revenge on those kids from high school so they could see what I had become. It wasn’t coming from the right motivation — it was coming from pain and insecurity.
It was ingrained in me that I was unworthy — unworthy of money, unworthy of good things, unworthy of prosperity. So I had to relearn myself.
You focus on starting from the internal to the external. In our society, we always view the different aspects of our wellness as separate entities (for example, diet in one compartment, fitness in another, beauty in another, emotional/spiritual in another). How are they all connected and please tell us why it’s crucial to look at everything holistically?
What’s interesting is that I never saw these entities as separate. They all propel each other and lead into each others’ sweet spots. They work together to achieve that level of happiness that we’re always seeking. And for me, it all starts emotionally, right? Where we are emotionally, spiritually – and how that aspect of our life influences all the other parts of life.
When I lost the weight, I still carried a burden. No matter how hard we try to fight that external battle without actually healing our heart and soul – without paying attention to our emotional obesity, we will never handle our underlying problems. We really have to talk about everything holistically — and I talk about that in the book and understand that we aren’t just what we eat or what our physical body looks like. We are complex beings that need to find balance in all aspects — mind, body, soul in order to really start that healing process.
And that’s why, in YES YOU CAN!, I mix them. Nutritional health, emotional health, movement. In the end, it’s a holistic problem and these areas cannot be separated. I’ve tried it!
I’ve tried to go to India and connect with my soul and forget the nutritional side of it — and I got the wrong results. I was eating the wrong foods and my body started feeling different; my energy level was low.
And I’ve tried to mix emotional health and nutrition, but without movement. (I don’t like exercising and I’ve been very public about it – but I do it because I have to.) When I lack movement, I see the consequences.
The only way I’ve been able to maintain myself and find that true balance is mixing all these four pillars simultaneously, which is the holistic way of doing it.
I love when you say “evict the emotional baggage” in your new book, THINK SKINNY, FEEL FIT. What was your revelation in coming to that phrase? What was going on in your head when you realized that that’s what needed to be done to get to the sweet spot of all of your other areas? Was there a rock bottom moment which led you to realize that emotional baggage was emotional obesity?
I think those clouding thoughts are the thoughts that get us down. When we see physical results, we get a sense of accomplishment and victory — and that helps us stay motivated and on the right path.
However, for how long?
Unless you have your emotions in check and your bad habits under control, you may fall back into previous patterns fairly quickly and I see that every day. Even with myself. I have to be alert and present. Because if I go back to my past or to the future, I can fail. Strength in your mind is essential.
That’s why I wake up every morning and meditate at 5:00 AM and try to get my workout in – in order to get to that mental state. Without working in that mental state, I’m unable to fight any negative thoughts that may pervade.
Even some of the fittest people in the world – those with no body fat – suffer from depression. You need this balance of self-worth, self-respect, self-awareness.
I have a friend who told me, “If only my dad didn’t give me that $100 million, then my life would have been perfect.”
Meanwhile, I thought, having $100 million would have been the secret to success and happiness for anyone.
It’s all about finding that emotional balance. Because it doesn’t matter if you live on the streets or in a mansion, if you’re a drug addict or food addict, black or white, fat or skinny — in the end, it’s about finding your own self-love and battling your own battle. We’re all the same. We all have shadows.
So from what I now, it seems as though you didn’t always suffer from these emotional issues and eating. As a kid, you ate, not to numb your pain, but because you were applauded from your family for eating a lot, for eating as you thought a Latino man would or should. So what’s interesting is that eating and overeating started as a joyful event for you.
Yes, that’s 100% true. I think I was unconscious about what was going on. I was a “regular” kid – I hate labels, but that’s what I was called in those moments.
My mom was “regular” sized and my sister was skinny – but I think when I realized what was going on and I realized the need for attention – it’s when I started connecting food with love. I had to make it conscious in order to actually gain all that weight.
Before I was looking at food — just for energy but then it became a source of love. If I was cold, I tried to get warm by food. If I was lonely, I was trying to get comfortable. But of course, I didn’t realize all this back then.
That’s why I wrote this book.
People wanted me to write different types of books about workouts and diet, etc. And I was thinking, there are so many books on weight loss and diet, but there is so little depth. You need to dig deep on what causes you to overeat – to go deep and understand the problem. There are people from the YES YOU CAN! program who end up losing weight – but many gained it back. And when I studied those cases (and I’ve conducted many focus groups), I came to understand the difference.
For many, they wanted that instant gratification for a wedding or pool party. But they never actually fixed what was going on in their heart. So when that event passed, the pain was still there and the weight came back. They were still battling with their drunk father or sad marriage or unemployment or addiction. So we need to dig deep to feel what’s going on. For me, it was my relationship with my dad.
I can’t blame my dad and can’t go back in time, so I had to make peace and negotiate with him. It was difficult – but I couldn’t just ignore these sad childhood moments anymore.
So what I have to do now is live for the present — and I have a better relationship with my dad and with myself because of it.
The kids called me Meatballs and Shamu — and in PE, this guy was always making fun of me and everyone was laughing at me because of him. He was creating all of these different thoughts in my head — that I was a loser – that I didn’t deserve anything.
I haven’t shared this with anyone — but I’ll share it with you..
When my classmates (who used to call me names and bully me ) like my pictures on my Facebook – to this day, my whole body still reacts. I haven’t seen them in 20 years – but why am I having these emotions?
It’s because the pain has already been created. It doesn’t matter how many times they said sorry. So that’s something I have been working through.
I was in Puerto Rico signing autographs for the launching of my products — and I heard, “Alejandro! Alejandro!”
I turned around and I saw this man who said, “You have no idea who I am?”
This guy was 280 lbs, bald, and I realized he was the biggest bully from my childhood. He was the hot quarterback in high school. At that moment, I didn’t recognize him.
So he said, “Hi, I’m Raphael.”
In that moment, my heart sank.
He said, “Can you help me? Can you guide me?”
And the funny thing is I said, “First we need to talk.”
And I told him he created so much pain in my life. The kids called me Meatballs and Shamu — and in PE, this guy was always making fun of me and everyone was laughing at me because of him.
He was creating all of these different thoughts in my head — that I was a loser – that I didn’t deserve anything.
The curious thing is that he didn’t remember. And then I learned that he was going through his own painful moments. His parents were divorcing, he was alone at his house also trying to get attention. So we all have our own thing. That was his way of calling attention and he created my deep pain but he didn’t even know.
That shows so much growth that you were able to receive him in that way.
I have done so much work and this was a way of facing my fears.
But if it wasn’t for the tools that I was able to get over the years, maybe things would be different. That’s the difference between staying a victim and taking action and saying I’m going to change my life! I’m not the loser you say I am and I’m going to prove you wrong! I’m driving now. Not that kid.
I have a friend who is 400- 500 lbs. But she doesn’t want the emotional therapy that you say is so crucial. So knows it’s necessary but she doesn’t want to explore it because she fears she will be forced to place blame on her mother.
As a friend, all you can do is pull her to the light and have conversations. Show her that there is nothing wrong with her blaming her mom. That is part of the healing process. I myself have to go through blaming processes. Myself, my mom, my dad. But when you actually start doing it, the whole thing starts creating momentum.
There is no way you can push someone to change. That person needs to want to live MORE than they want to die.
She has more reasons to die at this point than to live. So she needs to develop reasons to live and find purpose.
If you’re comfortable with the pain, you don’t do anything about it.
That’s the difference between staying a victim and taking action and saying I’m going to change my life! I’m not the loser you say I am and I’m going to prove you wrong! I’m driving now.
In THINK SKINNY, FEEL FIT, you say, “Challenges are life’s gift to us.” It’s one of my favorite ideologies and a belief system that I have always adhered to when I’m in the midst of adversity or chaos. (Something I’ve even written about before.) But – now that you are where you are today, what sort of challenges do you encounter? How do you ensure you keep on growing and not sit complacently? How do you find balance?
Ha, I haven’t found the right answer yet.
On Memorial Day, I was in the office. Which I didn’t mind because I love working and talking to people and doing Facebook Live. But then I had my parents pressuring me saying I haven’t seen them. I’m a son and they need me — but at the same time, I am handling a business.
You have to balance at the same time you have to prioritize.
In order for my parents to be here in the States, I need to work. I need to make money. And at work, I try to be in the know of every department of my business so I can help as many people as possible. I am so grateful that we have grown so quickly – the company has taken flight and I’m in the pilot seat. But I have to be everywhere at once.
There are constantly decisions you have to make and every day is a challenge. So you need to pay attention to the return on investment on each action. How much am I getting? And it’s not just monetarily but in terms of emotional fulfillment.
When I’m on social media I am there 100% – but when I’m with my parents I’m hanging with them 100%, making eye contact.
It’s about quality, not quantity.
We all face these challenges every day – so we have to ask ourselves what is motivating us TODAY. What was important last year is not the same as what it is today.
Do you write it down? I know you’re into affirmations, visualization, meditation.
Everyday. I have my vision board and my priming exercises. I go there and I breathe.
And I connect my mind and body and soul and start living exactly as how I want to live and experience it. Not just visualizing but feeling it. That is a huge component.
The fat kid was the same insecure kid whether he had the Range Rover and a flourishing television career – or whether he was sweeping the floors at El PolloLoco. Same person, different scene.
But I also express gratitude, always. I am grateful for all that I have, for my employees, for my experience, for this interview. Tonight you will be on my list.
I will look at all the little things in life – because I have proven to myself that the expensive house and car were just a materialistic result of the work I had. But it didn’t fulfill me. At one point when I was in Los Angeles, I had the big house and was driving the big car. Then after not having money left, I had to go back and start working at El Pollo Loco. That was a huge lesson. It didn’t matter what happened before – and it doesn’t matter what you drive. You are going through the same pain regardless.
The fat kid was the same insecure kid whether he had the Range Rover and a flourishing television career – or whether he was sweeping the floors at El PolloLoco. Same person, different scene.
So I needed to change the way I was thinking about me and money — and the way I was relating to money and prosperity. It was ingrained in me that I was unworthy — unworthy of money, unworthy of good things, unworthy of prosperity.
So I had to relearn myself.
Summer is approaching. What are your top 3 tips on getting a head start on losing the bloat for the summer?
Read this book.
It provides the mental start you need! Get your mind and soul to start working in favor of you and your physical body.
Stay away from empty carbs.
That will elevate your sugar level and increase fat retention in your body. Forget white bread, white pasta, boxed cereal. And be careful with the fruit! You can eat fruit – but you have to learn WHEN to eat it. Don’t eat it at night since it’s fructose and your body sees it as sugar. And if you eat it at night, you don’t have time to actually burn it and consume the energy.
Also, I have the Traffic Light Diet. In the red column, we have coconut, mango, etc. They are healthy but that doesn’t mean that they won’t get you fat. Mangos have the same amount of sugar and calories that you will find in a flan. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad – but don’t have it every day and don’t eat it at night.
In the yellow column, we have pineapple. It’s healthy with a lot of water and fiber but it has a lot of sugar. If you are type 2 diabetic, then you need to stay away. Oranges too are full of sugar and a glass of orange juice is even worse. A glass has 6-8 oranges with none of the fiber. That’s like 8 tablespoons of white sugar!
In the green column, we have raspberries, cranberries, blueberries.
So many people are drinking frappuccinos and juices and smoothies that are full of sugar. Just have water and you can add mint or pieces of fruit.
Remember that 3500 calories equals one pound!
++ Thank you, Alejandro for all that you are doing, everything you are committed to doing — and for this interview. It was an honor. You are a true cheerleader for all the underdogs in this world — and for all of us aiming to achieve our optimal levels of health and wellness – mind body and soul.
++ READERS: GO BUY THIS BOOK. I loved it.