Calvin Schwartz, friend to our founder Samir Becic graduated from Rutgers University in 1969 with two science degrees and spent over 25 years in sales management. Along the road of personal reinvention and healthy lifestyle change there were several trips to Sedona, Arizona for barefoot, red-mountain vortex climbing and decades of Jersey shore jetty sitting with the concomitant Atlantic Ocean salt air inhalations. What followed was an evolution to spirituality, environmentalism, trans-humanism (looking for ways to live to 150 years without overdosing on broccoli). Four years ago, his first novel ‘Vichy Water’ was published and then he morphed into a journalist, producer, and writer for NJ Discover (TV & Radio) and New Jersey-The Shore Thing. He covers music, environment, people, homelessness and hunger in New Jersey. Several book projects are also in development.
Health Fitness Revolution asked Cal a few questions about his Health and Fitness journey and daily routine:
What prompted you to begin your journey into healthy living? Did you have an “aha” moment?
Cal Schwartz: I’ve gone through several stages (passages) through the revolving doors of healthy living. Beginning back in high school, my mother was a ‘health’ disciplinarian and guided me towards the value of healthy eating. In college, I continued with her notions, with occasional detours through ‘Animal House.’ Then one day I graduated Pharmacy School, got married and divorced and a funny thing happened; I was officially welcomed into middle age. All this time, I viewed myself at the fringe of healthy living; there was that awareness. In 1965 as a sophomore at Rutgers University, I began to take a cocktail of supplements approaching 40 a day, in a passing fancy that I could slow down the inevitability of aging. So healthy living has been in my consciousness for a long time. In 1975, I did stop eating animals with four legs; the reasons complex, sociological and blonde; but curiously, a healthy thing for me to do.
Middle age, a second marriage and an abandonment of the principles of healthy lifestyles took hold. For completely inexplicable reasons, I picked up a pack of French cigarettes and began a ten-year smoking habit. ‘Me’ of all people who had been so violently anti-smoking and proud of my excessive vital lung capacity began to smoke. I don’t know why. Then again maybe I do; some deeply seeded psycho-drama that needed resolution with personal fulfillment, spirituality, creativity and an understanding of the universe; present-day Calvin.
This nightmarish ten year period of excesses, gluttony, smoking and no exercise culminated one fine morning with a few hard dull bitter realizations; better known as the “aha” moment in a life. There it was, a non-spiral staircase leading to the second floor of my house that I could not ascend without gasping for breath by the time I reached the top. My great vital lung capacity had vanished into a debilitated state of not being able to breathe walking up a few steps. I caught my breath (robbed by cigarettes and excessive weight) and planted both feet firmly on a bathroom scale (first time in years so the scale had accumulated dust). I wiped the readout so I could plainly see that I was now a 351-pound middle age man who couldn’t breathe a few moments earlier walking up steps. Now I must admit that this excessive weight had been somewhat clandestine as I’m 6’ 5 ½” and big boned so it was easy to fool the people close to me including myself. That night was a restless night, tossing and turning and staring at a clock radio’s face. When I drifted off to sleep, it was probably after 4:44 AM.
If only I could capture (bottle) the molecules and ions in the air of my bedroom that morning when I awoke; the universe and spirit had come into my soul. It was the ‘aha’ moment of a lifetime. It was Cher slapping my face and telling me to “snap out of it.” It was that defining moment in a life. It saved my life. The tossing and turning had convinced me I was dying and perhaps quickly. My wife and pillar of support woke up as I was standing at the foot of the bed. “Today is the day I take care of all family business. I’m going on a diet, stopping smoking and exercising. I’m going to save my life.” To which she responded, “No one stops smoking and loses weight. Do one or the other.”
A force in the universe had taken hold and held me tight. I did throw away my cigarettes and never went back. I created my own diet by embracing sound healthful living standards but consumed a sparse caloric intake. Every night I walked a mile.
Cut to 2 ½ months later when I weighed myself at 251 pounds. It was hard to believe but the energies of the universe had given me the strength to continue obsessively and dramatically into a 100-pound weight loss and cut to two summers later when I had the stamina to play 6 ½ hours of tennis straight on a hot summer day. The ability of the body to heal and rejuvenate is a marvel as is spirit to guide. The day I began was July 21, 1989, and all is well today with moderation, maintenance and faith and I still take a varied 40 supplements a day.
Please tell us about your story and your journey.
Cal Schwartz: I was going to answer this question eventually on my own in book form; it has ingredients for an emotional quirky fascinating story of a personal journey. So perhaps this is a propitious time to collect my thoughts and see if I can spin a rather succinct answer. As mentioned earlier, I went to Rutgers Pharmacy School; mostly because my mother’s brother was a pharmacist. Growing up, I endured relentless subliminal and vociferous pharmaceutical career entrapments by my mother. Freedom of career choice was non-existent. Most vocational tests I took pointed towards history and English. Stern warnings from guidance counselors implored avoidance of scientific and mathematical pursuits which made-up the entire five-year Pharmacy curriculum. For twelve years, I practiced the profession, sometimes tumultuously (union organizer) but certainly longingly; there must be something else out there.
Then one February morning in 1981, a spiritual sense overcame me; it was time to move on with life. With my amazingly supportive wife in hand, a few hours after being overcome, I auditioned for the role of Frankenstein’s monster in a local community theater production of an ill-fated Broadway play. With no acting experience and an inability to read a script correctly, I did not get the part (their loss as I’m 6’5” and needed no height embellishment). Six months elapsed while I spent each day in front of a television with a jar of spicy brown mustard nearby to flavor all the junk food consumed daily. Imagination told me I was trying to find a direction for the rest of a life and mustard seasoned the quest. Actually I was flirting with the nadir.
Along came a relative that sat down beside me (sounds like a spider) and helped me get a job selling eyeglasses here in New Jersey. Having never sold anything before and being somewhat shy and reclusive, this sales gig was a stretch into desperation. But I was a newlywed and needed to be a provider and hunter. After a few months, something was happening to me with interpersonal skills and communicative ability; I possessed them and was flourishing and liked selling to optical people. Two years into this gig, I was recruited by the largest eyewear company in the world where I stayed for 25 years; the first 12 as a regional manager.
My inner-self, fulfillment, and creativity had been suppressed for a long time with monetary success selling eyeglasses. Restlessness began surfacing; certain energies kept me awake nights well into the early morning. On February 4th, 2004 at 4:44 AM, I was escorted into the wondrous world of spirituality; real, omnipresent and haunting in the most precious way. Indeed I was gifted and have been grateful every day of my life since. Many months later on a rainy Sunday morning when I couldn’t play tennis because of the weather and sought to channel my pent-up energy, something in the universe made me watch the movie
‘Casablanca’ and at the very last scene (which I’ve seen 44 times before) something happened to me and in a split second, an entire novel was camped-out in my cerebral chamber. I ran downstairs and outlined my novel, ‘Vichy Water’ which was published in 2010. From 2009 until 2011, I worked on the marketing and publishing of my novel, having left my sales position and concurrently slipped into the comforts of Social Security collection. I must also point out that most of my formal education centered on science courses; there was no formal writing or English training.
Often through the times of writing, the wonderment of the journey precipitated deep soulful inhalations and exhalations; how was this all happening? Sometimes I almost felt a hand taking and leading me. Writing was never my world so what was the deal? In July 2011, I got an email from a writer’s group informing me of a journalist position for a local county newspaper. With no journalism experience, I went on an interview and became a local county reporter. The assistant editor liked my energy and style; within three months I was up to three separate columns. Spirit was everywhere in my life. Waking up each day was an adventure. Where was this all going? Spiritually on October 10th 2011, I removed a great negativity (relation) from my life; painful and confusing. The universe guided me. The next night the universe rewarded me when my assistant editor, Tara-Jean Vitale, introduced me to the head of NJ Discover; a production, television, radio and news feature company.
The rest of days until now have been filled with revelations, accomplishments, and worlds beyond my wildest dreams. Imagine little old me (well entrenched with my AARP card) hanging out with rock musicians and covering the music scene, writing and producing for NJ Discover, focusing on homelessness and hunger in New Jersey, becoming a feature writer for NJ-The Shore Thing magazine and starting my own live radio talk show through NJ Discover.com. Along the way, I’ve been asked to write a biography of a world famous musician; quite a journey.
Throughout this renaissance in my life, I’ve explored, studied and practiced healthful living. Age is a state of mind. I can do anything I did when I was 40 nearly 28 years ago. The body wants to live to 150 years. Our species just mess up the opportunity. A healthy lifestyle and attitude keeps you rolling along. I hang out with 25-year-old rock musicians and it’s just hanging out; there is no age barrier; all positive mental attitude, faith, confidence, and desire. I push myself into the modern world, social media and networking. A few months ago I met Samir Becic who illuminated me and now I’m answering his questions on how I got here. It is a wonderful world and life.
What were some of the challenges you faced along your journey to healthy lifestyle?
Cal Schwartz: When I decided to make changes in my life style, knowing I weighed 351 pounds, hadn’t exercised and smoked for ten years, also knowing the whole notion of fixing my life style was overwhelming; like being an ant or amoeba (I get visualizations often) standing at the foot of Mount Everest about to ascend to the summit. The challenge of effecting a lifestyle change and beginning with so much to overcome, giving up food and nicotine, addictive substances in their own right, was daunting. How do you this? Where do you begin? Rationalizations of giving one or the other up were hard to absorb. It just all seemed pointless and impossible. Therein resided the greatest challenge I ever faced.
How do I approach myself and plunge into this herculean task? The challenge was to take everything a day at a time and to stay focused. I needed to keep my mind active and busy focusing on music which conjured up positive memories. Everywhere I went for those 2 ½ months, I had my 60’s music to keep me on that magic carpet of memory energy. Memories and dreams are powerful; it was a challenge to collect these on a daily basis and fuel the energy needed to diet, keep from smoking and to exercise every day in spite of the steep odds against me and the difficulty of losing massive weight and giving up smoking.
I was doing it for my extending my time here on earth and the continuing challenge was to battle the realization every day of the gravity of failure. There could never be failure. Twenty-five years later (which is a cool quarter century) from those healthy pursuit challenging days, I sit here in my office filled with gratitude and expressing myself to help others. It’s all good stuff; the right stuff.
How do you feel your life has been improved by your lifestyle change? What are some of the positive manifestations of you being healthier?
Cal Schwartz: This may be my favorite question; the answer with the most practicality showing a better life style. It reminds me of an old Super Bowl commercial (Super Bowl is two days away) where an elderly woman yells “Where’s the Beef?” This is the beef and rewards of a lifestyle change. Remember I take 40 supplements a day, don’t eat anything with four legs, do 90 minutes of exercise a day, take time to meditate and envelop my world with spirituality.
I am going to be 69 years old in August. Most people meeting me for the first time think I just turned 50. I think and act perhaps like 40. In my life now as a journalist, producer, radio talk-show host, music journalist and college sports aficionado, I’m immersed in a much younger world, often with rock musicians or college basketball players, engaging them and hanging out. Eight years ago I auditioned for Donald Trump’s The Apprentice at 60 years old. Why? Because I knew I’d be able to compete with the twenty or thirty something contestants. And I got pretty far in the process until I backed off; I wasn’t in the mood to spend my summer in a tent in Los Angeles if my Apprentice team lost an event.
Where am I going citing my current life style? The point being (as my 28 year old son always says) is this lifestyle change allows me (bought me) a few more decades of extremely active life style. Cerebrally I’m functioning as a 40 year old. I think I’m sharper today than I’ve ever been; surely maturity and decades of experience come into play. But I have the confidence because I feel so alive and vibrant to engage anyone; I’ll talk to anyone about anything; a healthy mind as a result of a lifestyle change and maintenance.
I’ve become a big fan of telomeres; tips of chromosomes which protect cerebral cells that wither with age. Exercise rejuvenates them. I’m willing to bet I’ve got telomeres like a thirty year old. Exercise may obviate the onset of diabetes. I’m almost 69 and hang around without diabetes when all four of my grandparents had it. So there is something to lifestyle change.
I continue in a life style of creativity and personal growth as if I were two decades younger. It is a wonderful life and it’s all because I had the vision, spirit and determination to implement life style change. One of my favorite pastimes is engaging someone in talk and somehow working my age (always look for the perfect segue) into the conversation and then watch the facial disbelief when my age comes out. Usually I’m older than their parents or as old as their grandparents and they may’ve just given me their newly released rock music CD to review. It’s like an old black and white television commercial. “Better Living Through….Lifestyle Change.”
To connect with Cal:
Website and Author’s Blog: http://www.vichywater.net
Facebook: Cal Schwartz
Calvin Schwartz-Cerebral Writer