Here’s How One Crossfit Coach Defines Healthy

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

It doesn’t matter how early you got up this morning, because Brandon Fulwider is already way ahead of you. The hard-working 36-year-old is a firefighter, logging exhausting 24-hour shifts at the station and then, either before or after his full-time job, he coaches classes at Top Tier Crossfit. He did slow down long enough to answer some questions for us about healthy eating, being accountable to his coworkers, and how to cope with sub-par pancake syrup.

1. Has being a Crossfit coach changed your approach to health and nutrition?

Absolutely. When I first started, I was a thick 230 pounds, like a football player who could only move in short bursts, before having to lean over, put my hands on my knees and try to breathe. Then I discovered Crossfit, got in shape, and then hit a plateau until I learned that you can’t out-train a bad diet. I’m about to turn 37, and diet is even more key to performing well in the gym.

2. Does being a coach make you feel more accountable when it comes to trying to eat healthy?

Yes, I have to walk the walk and talk the talk. If I’m going to preach it to the [gym] members, I have to have done it and experienced it too. I’ll never ask anything of them that I haven’t asked of myself. The same goes for firefighting: I owe it to the guy I ride the truck with and go into the fire with. If I’m not in shape and conditioned enough to pull him out of a fire if I need to, then I’m letting him down.

3. How do you define being healthy?

For me, it’s more than just food and exercise. I’m a recovering alcoholic — I’ll celebrate 14 years sober in 10 days — so for me, being healthy is also about handling the mental and emotional aspects too. I always have to be vigilant and true to what I’m doing. Like firefighters say, you can’t make yourself another victim, which means you have to take care of yourself before you take care of anyone else.

4. What does healthy eating look like for you?

My biggest struggle is eating enough and the timing of it. My schedule is so full, I have to remind myself to stop to get food so I have enough energy. It’s also about staying disciplined. When I’m in the firehouse, the biggest challenge is trying not to eat the crap that everybody else eats. People always bring us cupcakes and homemade food, or we’ll be out on a call and someone will say “Hey, milkshakes are free for us right now, let’s go get one!” Healthy eating means that, at least 50 percent of the time, I need to try to resist that kind of food when it’s presented to me.

5. What’s your favorite healthy breakfast?

I love a good omelette, especially with mushrooms, tomato, avocado, bacon, and a little bit of cheese.

6. Do you have a favorite grocery snack?

Mochi! Give me strawberry or vanilla mochi, and I’m like a little kid in a candy store.

7. Do you have any weird food rituals?

I took my own maple syrup into my favorite pancake place forever, because they tried to pass butterscotch syrup off as being as good as maple.

8. What’s your go-to healthy dinner?

I’ll put a skirt steak on the grill, then do some asparagus, mushrooms, and squash.

9. What do you eat when you’re too tired to cook?

I’ll steal one of my wife’s pre-prepared meals, or I’ll pick up sushi from Whole Foods. That’s my typical go-to.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.