Can professional athletes at the top of their game actually be in poor health? Steve Spangler found out that yes, they can. Steve was a professional soccer player with Sporting Kansas City, working in a dream job at his peak, but was secretly feeling awful. He was sleeping 14 hours a day and taking nine different medications. Although he could perform on the field, he literally didn’t have the energy to do anything else. This led Steve to think about whole body wellness and what he needed to do for himself to heal and be at his optimal best.
Dr. Michelle Robin sat down with Steve Spangler, who now owns Simple Science Juices, about the changes he made to regain his health and recapture his life.
DMR: Hi, I’m Dr. Robin, and I’m here with my friend, Steve Spangler, with Simple Science Juices, today. Steve, what I love about you and your story is you were this elite athlete, living the dream as a professional soccer player, so tell us a little about yourself and your journey.
SS: In 2012, I was playing with Sporting Kansas City, and at the same time I was on nine different medications. I was sleeping 14 hours a day, every single day. Physically I could compete at a higher level, but emotionally and mentally, I was just a wreck. I just felt awful. It wasn’t until I started looking at food as medicine that my whole world changed. I got into juicing, which is basically turning whole fruits and vegetables into a juice form. You remove all the insoluble fiber, you’re left with just the water soluble fiber in its most nutrient-dense form, and I just started slugging away. I slowly converted my fast-food diet over to a whole foods diet. And I just feel so much better.
DMR: We’re focusing on mechanical well-being, and you had spent your life doing that, but you realized it was just a piece of a puzzle. So talk about how you look at the whole person now.
SS: Yes, and that’s exactly why I love the aspect of the four quadrants so much, because it ties in the athlete as a complete whole person. If your mind isn’t there, you don’t have that mental aptitude to take on challenges, in the gym, or at a workout, or just emotionally, because you’re losing, you’re winning, you’re high in the clouds, and then the next day, you’re the worst player ever. You can’t sustain anything without the other three quadrants, which is the big truth here.
As Steve discusses, there was a period in his life when he was entirely focused on mechanical health. He was exercising, sleeping, and making sure his physical body was as fit as it could be. But because he was ignoring the other three quadrants, he did not feel healthy.
When he began juicing and changing his eating habits, he was incorporating the chemical quadrant. Chemical well-being focuses on what we put in our bodies and what we put on our bodies or use in our environment. When we discuss the chemical quadrant, we talk about the food we eat. Are we eating whole foods, or are we living a fast-food life like Steve used to? Are the whole foods we eat good quality or organic? We also look at what we are drinking and what medicines we are taking in the chemical quadrant.
In addition to what we are putting into our bodies, we also want to consider what we are putting on our bodies. Many of the soaps, shampoos, lotions, and sunscreens that we can buy have toxic chemicals in them that can be absorbed through our skin. When we are considering our chemical health, we don’t want to use those. Likewise, many of the cleaning products we can use in our environments can contain chemicals that can be harmful.
Steve changed his approach to the chemical quadrant by cutting out fast food, and adding healthy whole foods and organic juices. This allowed him to eliminate the medications that he was taking for conditions like acid reflux, chronic sinus infections, chronic fatigue, allergies, ADHD, and asthma.
In addition to the mechanical and chemical quadrants, Steve emphasizes the importance of the energetic quadrant. During his professional soccer years, he was sleeping 14 hours every day. He did not have enough energy to do anything other than practice and compete. As he took control of his health, his energy changed too. Instead of sleeping for 14 hours, he was able to work for that long or longer.
The final piece of the puzzle is the mind. As Steve says, if your mind isn’t there, you can’t take on the challenges that we all face. The psycho-spiritual quadrant is the area that we can focus on to build mental strength and resilience. When we are connected to the community or something larger than ourselves, it gives us the ability to face the challenges and the ups-and-downs, whether they are coming from competing as an athlete at a high level, or from the normal happenings of our daily lives.
For Steve, as an athlete and now, and for all of us, it is important to understand the Quadrants of Well-being and incorporate them to live our healthiest lives and put the odds in our favor.