This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper
With the title of my column a few short weeks ago, ‘What Matters to You?’ I received several story referrals. As March is National Nutrition Month, I wanted to focus on those aiming to eat healthier and focus on how an inner change can begin to pay it forward. One story in particular grabbed my attention.
J. Andreassi has been living in the Hamptons for over 35 years with his wife, Donna. Together, they raised two sons and currently run and own Sabrosa Mexican Grill, a location I’ve passed countless of times on Route 27 in Water Mill, but hadn’t made my way in—until recently. I became inspired, when I stopped in to chat with the couple.
Business aside, Andreassi began his wellness journey over five years ago with the Wellness Foundation with an aim to better his life.
What was your life like before? What prompted your new lifestyle?
Since 1997 I had heart issues—clogged arteries and stents. I consumed much of anything I wanted, attempting to stay away from fatty meats and doing some light exercise. I never paid much attention to food preservatives and unnatural foods much. I was lured into participating in the Wellness Challenge by chance. My doctor friend was planning to take the challenge with his wife and, at the last minute his wife decided against making the commitment and I had the opportunity to fill her spot.
During the initial stages, I was not familiar with, but was interested in learning about this new lifestyle. I realized quickly that the program was one of a plant based diet and exercise. At the end of the challenge, I realized the importance of a better diet and exercise. The Wellness Challenge has educated me enough to know what kind of life is right for me even if I do not follow the regiment 100 percent of the time.
Having heart issues, what would your cardiologist recommend?
My annual visits with my cardiology doctor and good friend Dr. Prateek Dalal always ends with a discussion about my weight. I know the weight charts are from India when my weight—based on my height—should be 164. Prateek told me one visit that I need to “go to bed a little hungry.” I had to remind him that “Italians never go to bed hungry!” As a kid, my father and I would enjoy a supper meal at 6 PM cooked by mom and cook again at 10 PM as if we missed dinner.
Do you work out or take any sort of fitness classes?
I keep as much of a plant based diet as possible and exercise either by being physically active or having some gym time. Unlike most people, I would rather wash my truck for 30 minutes, play a game of tennis, or rowing a kayak versus walking on a treadmill.
What’s been the hardest part about your journey?
The most difficult part of my journey has been to have the extra time to relax and think about the mental aspect of the journey. In my opinion, your mental and physical state need to be in sync for all to work at an optimum level.
What’s been the greatest personal achievement?
For me, knowing how I should be living, and trying to keep true to that knowledge, is rewarding, paying high dividends. It’s not always easy, but the toughest part of it all is when I go off course and actually feel guilty about missing my exercise (low pedometer daily total) or eating something not part of a good diet.
Has your family adopted certain changes with you?
My family has been greatly impacted by my life change five years ago. We have never had as much fruit and vegetables as we do now and my 20-year-old daughter has been vegan for a year-and-a-half.
What would you say to someone looking to make a healthier lifestyle change but who needs some motivation to get rolling?
I would tell a person ready to make a lifestyle change to give the “Challenge a Chance!”
You would look and feel better in a short period of time.
Andreassi lives by the motto “never look back,” and with a zest for life, I understand why. Sitting down for lunch, we had a quinoa bowl with Sabrosa marinated chicken and fresh fillings.
“You can eat all you want and you won’t feel weighed down,” he said to me as we indulged in a little post-lunch gelato. From one Italian to another, the importance of food certainly isn’t lost—just cleaned up.