Spotlight On: Rob Aquilina

June 28, 2013


Rob Aquilina

Educational Counselor/Tutor Coordinator
Center for Academic Resources (CFAR)

Year Started at UNH: 2011

What does health mean to you?: Health is the ability to thrive physically, mentally, spiritually, socially…it’s having something for every dimension of wellness.

What do you do to make a Healthy UNH?: I like to stay active when I can. I built a standing work station, I go for a walk, run or work out on my lunch breaks or at the end of the day. I try to be as social as I can and engage with the community around me; I try to smile, laugh and learn, and find opportunities for others to do the same.

How do you stay fit?: I move slow a lot, and fast a little bit, lift heavy things, and play. I love exercise that doesn't feel like exercise: walking, hiking, biking, some jogging, playing sports, climbing trees and other things. When I do exercise, I keep it short and intense by running sprints or doing intense body weight resistance movements—no gym…just give me a spot of grass or floor and a place to do some pull ups. Those keep me ready to run in a 5k, 10k or mud run. My favorite way to stay fit is taking my dog for a walk and helping him chase squirrels.

Do you have any tips for eating healthfully?: Eat whole foods, and eat a variety. Good food doesn't come in a box; it comes from gardens and trees and animals (wild or raised eating what they were designed to eat) and the ocean. It doesn't come from companies; it comes from farmers or the natural world. After that, you've got to find the food that works for you. I eat to feel good, so an ancestral health diet works for me.

How do you find motivation to stay healthy?: I used to be obese. Very obese. It was prohibitively debilitating, and I was ashamed of myself. When I made the choice to get healthy, I started losing weight and increasing my activity, I was suddenly able to do more things. Everything got better as I continued to improve my health. Instead of focusing on what I couldn't do, I was focusing on what I could do (5k, climb a mountain, run a triathlon). My shame turned to pride and the world filled up with new experiences. I build my own motivation by setting goals and constantly exploring my fullest potential.

Have you made any tangible improvements to your physical or mental well-being by making positive changes in your life?: Yes. I grew up heavier than my peers. I was extremely obese all through my 20’s, suffered from sleep apnea and insomnia, had very high blood pressure that caused lots of nosebleeds, couldn’t do much, ate poorly and struggled with ongoing depression. I was active from time to time, but mostly sedentary, and ended up with 5 subluxations/bulging discs causing constant back pain, and carrying that weight around made my knees scream from time to time. These were just some of the problems I encountered before getting healthy; there were dozens more I didn’t even know about. Then I decided to get healthy and lose some weight. Throughout that process, my blood pressure regulated, my pain started to dissipate, and my sleep started to improve. I was starting to feel better. As I continued to improve my health, things improved even more. I stopped focusing on weight and started losing fat, I was able to do more, and my energy skyrocketed. Plus, I keep finding more and more benefits. But the biggest change wasn't physical; it was mental. Being obese and unhealthy affected my mental health in a negative way. At times, I was in a very dark place. My journey to health brought me to a much more positive mental space. This is often overlooked as people tend to focus only on measurable, physical health, but I think the real secret to staying healthy is to give equal attention to both the body and the mind.

Anything else you would like to add?: Being healthy is a choice, and it can be a difficult one. It may seem like the hard part is changing diet and exercising, but they are easy compared to the commitment you make to your life. It’s the best choice a person can make because our health affects everything in our lives. The body already wants to be healthy; it’s the mind that needs to change. And, true health isn't something that can be measured. Weight, body fat percentage, blood pressure, cholesterol…those are all just indicators of health, and unreliable ones at that. True health is felt from within, and it’s different for everyone. Nobody can tell you you’re healthy but you. When you feel it, you’ll know it.

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