I met Joe Stempien at Legacy Fit located in Downtown Miami. The warehouse gym was filled with energy. The rooms were packed with exercise and fitness equipment. Joe greeted me in the front of the gym; he was wearing a bright orange Legacy Fit shirt with the sleeves cut down the sides. Music was playing for a class in the group fitness room, weights were clacking together; you could really feel the energy. Joe gave me a tour of Legacy Fit, and more information on the classes and training at the gym. We found a seat on some box jumps in the gym’s individual training area to talk about training right and eating clean.
Lunchology (LU): So tell me how did you get into fitness? What inspired you to become a trainer?
Joe Stempien (JS): So, I actually went to college and got a business administration degree. I went into the workforce, and hated it. I hated wearing a suit and tie. I tried to run my own business, that didn’t work so well. I was married, and I had a child. I let my weight get up to about 280 pounds. I was just sick of how I was feeling and what I was eating. I had a friend, Manning Summer, who I started working out with him, and my weight going down. He helped me get down to 187.
LU: Wow. What would you say was the biggest factor that helped you lose that much weight? Was it just working out more or did you make other lifestyle changes?
JS: What really did it was my nutrition. I don’t have the great genes where I can eat whatever I want and stay fit. When you combine eating right with working out, the weight just falls off. You can stay healthy by just working out. You can stay healthy by just eating right. But, if you combine the diet and the exercise, I mean the results just speak for themselves. You know we [Legacy Fit] help people lose weight all the time. It is incredible how happy and gratuitous people are when you help them lose 40, 50, or 60 pounds.
LU: What is a simple adjustment that someone could make if they wanted to lose weight and become healthier?
JS: The simplest thing that people could do is cut out sugar. A lot of people drink sweet tea, soda, and alcohol. Really they should be drinking more water. You know people say, “I stay healthy during the week, and I’m only drinking alcohol on the weekend”. You really might be taking two steps back by doing that, instead of moving yourself forward to meet your fitness goals. Some people think, “I’ll just workout harder so I can keep drinking the things I want”, but no, it doesn’t work that way.
LU: Is there a way to balance out what you are eating or drinking, instead of cutting it out completely?
JS: Oh, yeah I mean there are certain meals that I have every once and while, and I have to have a coke with them. If I eat a burger I have to have a coke. So yeah, have a burger or have a coke, but not everyday. It’s got to be in moderation. That’s actually how meal services can really help.
LU: What do you mean by that?
JS: Well, people who struggle to eat in moderation, a meal service give you a portion. You might eat the same healthy thing a meal service gives you. But, if you are eating double the portion or until you feel full, you’re not going to see the results you want, even though you are eating healthy foods.
LU: When you started to lose weight, how did you portion control?
JS: Well, I couldn’t afford a meal prep service, so I did it all myself. My meals for 183 consecutive days, with no cheating were:
Breakfast: 4-6 Eggs scrambled with plain oatmeal and walnuts.
2nd Meal: Protein shake and a green apple, because green apples are low glycemic.
3rd Meal: 4oz of grilled chicken and a handful of spinach.
4th Meal: Protein shake and a green apple.
Dinner: 4oz – 6oz grilled chicken and spinach, sometime I would eat red meat.
LU: Did you ever get sick of eating that everyday?
JS: No, me personally I could eat the same thing everyday. I know some people get tired of eating the same thing everyday. What kept me going was seeing the results, seeing the weight I was losing. Now with Lunchology, you know I don’t think I have ever had the same meal twice. I also love that Lunchology is clean.
LU: How important is eating clean food?
JS: So important! Cleaner food is going to cost more. The alternative might be cheaper, but is also not good for you. It’s pumped with chemical and sodium, things that should not be going into your body.
LU: What are the easiest foods to cut out of your diet to eat cleaner?
JS: Bread. People in Miami love their bread. I only eat a few carbs oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and sweet potato. White rice isn’t so bad, and if you want pasta try one that is made from vegetables.
LU: When you were first dieting, you said you ate the same thing without cheating. Do you think people should have “cheat days”?
JS: Yes and No. Some people have a hard time bouncing back after a “cheat day”. They will continue to cheat, and then a “cheat day” turns into a “cheat week”. I tell people if they need a “cheat day” not to do it once a week. It is to frequent, I tell people to aim to do it once every 3-4 weeks. Also, it doesn’t have to be a “cheat day” it can be a “cheat meal”. Another problem is people who take that “cheat day”, I see them in the gym the next day over training.
LU: Do you think people over train to compensate for their diet?
JS: Yes, and it is counter productive. The classes at Legacy Fit are 1 hour. The way we run the classes, you should barely be able to make it through class. By the end of that class, if you really pushed yourself, you should be so exhausted that you can’t take another class.
LU: How often do you advice clients to workout?
JS: That is all going to depend on your goals. You have to take rest days and listen to your body when it needs to recover.
LU: What motivates you to continue with the lifestyle changes you made?
JS: My kids. I got two daughters. There is nothing better when your two daughters look at you and think you look like Superman. That’s really why I started losing the weight in the first place. Let me show you a video so you can see what I used to look like.
LU: That is incredible. The transformation you have made is inspiring. What advice would you give to someone who is starting on his or her fitness and wellness journey?
JS: I would say be patient. The results are not going to happen right away. You can’t expect to lose an unrealistic amount of weight in an unrealistic amount of time. I blame social media for some of the unrealistic expectations people set for themselves. You see posts promising you can transform into your dream body in 90 days. Well it might not happen that fast. You can’t lie to yourself. It only works when you put in the hard work and you’re honest with yourself.