Train Loco Nation! Today we have an awesome dual interview with Registered Dietician, Erik Bustillo and Mental Health Specialist, Alexandra Theis. It’s truly an honor to have them both on here and sharing a little about themselves. We are also very lucky and blessed to have them be a part of Team DDT, helping our clients out, and overall making the world a better place (we stole this from Erik. 😉 ). The cool thing about Erik and Alexandra is they are both very much into sports nutrition, evidence based, and practice what they preach and that’s training hard. At the end of this interview, make sure to follow them on their respected social media platforms, these are some of the good people in the industry! Without further ado, let’s get to know Erik and Alexandra.
– Chris and Eric
DDT: Could you give us a little background info on who Alexandra Theis and Erik Bustillo are?
Alexandra: I’d love to give you guys a little background on who I am both professionally and personally. As a professional, I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Central Florida in Psychology, in which I went on to further my education and receive a Master’s degree from Rollins College in Counseling. An extensive career working in the residential setting as well as private practice, over the past 7 years I’ve spent countless hours with clients from a vast array of populations. Additionally, I’ve received training in Dialectical Behavioral Training. In keeping up my educational component of the counseling profession, I’ve attended seminars presented by the Institute of Natural Resources in food addiction, obesity and Diabetes as well as seminars presented by The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness with an emphasis in varying populations and techniques to use with this population. I currently serve on the board of the Technology and Counseling Interest Group, an organization of professionals who strive to improve the use of technology in the counseling profession. Personally speaking, I am a long-standing advocate for the rescue and adoption of dogs, most specifically bully breeds. I was the co-founder of a rescue group located in Central Florida, which helped to rescue dogs from local shelters and place them in loving homes. I have also competed in the NGA association as a bikini competitor and currently working towards making my debut on the powerlifting platform.
Erik: I am someone who believes strongly in helping one another and making the world a better place one day at a time. Before all of my credentials, I am a human and a motivator with a mission to make things in this world better. I was born and raised in Miami, FL from Cuban/ Colombian parents and I represent Miami and my Hispanic heritage everywhere I go. I love sports, nutrition, music, FOOD, and helping people improve themselves. I also use this all the time– #MTWABP! Which stands for Make The World A Better Place. Use it! ☺
DDT: What got you started or inspired to get into the (Health, Fit, Athletic, Bodybuilding) Lifestyle?
Alexandra: This is actually a great question! Growing up, I was the furthest thing from athletic. I participated in some intramural sports such as softball, but when it came to P.E. class, I flat out refused to run or do any sort of extraneous movements. Flash forward to my Sophomore year of college. I started hitting the gym with some of my friends however, quickly turned it into an obsession, rather than a healthy activity, basically going from one extreme to the next. Combined with a restrictive diet, I quickly threw myself into the depths of an eating disorder. After struggling for years with Anorexia, I sought help through therapy, working on both my mental and physical strength. It wasn’t though until one day when I saw a female with a beautiful physique, training weights in the gym that I decided to go up to her and ask about what she was doing. For the longest time, I was the “cardio bunny” until she took me under her wing, introducing me to the world of weight-lifting, fitness and that food was fuel for your muscle! Slowly, over the next few years, I worked on my approach to training and an overall fitness lifestyle. We are still friends to this day and I would definitely say she is an inspiration (can I name-drop? Christine Keefer!!) I would be remiss to not also mention my coach for my fitness show, Paul Revelia. Ultimately, he helped me achieve a healthy balance in an approach towards food. I had still struggled from time to time with following “clean eating” and restricting certain foods, however once I met Paul, flexible dieting and I became best friends….I’ve never looked back since! I’ve taken some time away from the fitness industry in a personal vain because quite honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever compete again. I think there are some vital questions individuals looking to compete or who are in the midst of preparing, should ask themselves, namely, why do I compete and if I could not compete, what else would I be doing? I think it’s important to work on finding who you are as a person (although I’m not so sure that question is every fully answered) outside the realm of fitness and dieting. I also believe that finding alternative hobbies and mental outlets as well as having a variety of social networks, people from all walks of life is a way to finding a healthier balance. I know in the competitive world, this can sometimes be difficult to achieve simply because we as competitors often take training and our food consumption somewhat more seriously than those who may only follow those two avenues in an attempt at a healthier lifestyle. I felt compelled to share this because I think there are a lot of people out there who feel they must compete in order to fulfill some part of the “fit lifestyle” checklist, when in deed that could not be farther from the truth. So long as you are not compromising critical parts of your life (ie: health, family, career, education) to get a shot at winning a trophy, then by all means, give training and nutrition your dedication. Just remember that no award will define your moral character.
Erik: My love of sport and living well. I grew up playing and watching sports and it’s been engraved in my habits since I was a young child. Also and more importantly, seeing important people in my life suffer from preventable illnesses and growing to learn that I have the power to do something about that.
DDT: What inspired you to become a Registered Dietitian and a Mental Health Therapist?
Alexandra: Initially, my degree in Psychology kind of led me in the direction of counseling. As much as it pains me to say this, a Bachelors degree really doesn’t hold as much weight as it should in my opinion. I am a pretty structured person and really do not have much of a business background, so to make a Bachelor’s degree work for me, I would have had to become VERY creative (from a business sense) and that just was not in the cards for me at that time. At least I am honest though and can acknowledge a weakness of mine 🙂 After I had graduated from the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!) with my Bachelors, I had also just 6 months prior, exited inpatient therapy for the eating disorder. While going through treatment, I realized that therapy is an integral part of the healing process and I wanted to assist others through that portion of the path to a healthier life. It was important to me to help others see that their “diagnosis” or symptoms do not define who they are as a person. I am very happy that I took the route of counseling because while this field does mirror psychology to an extent, it goes beyond the study of human behavior and works on creating a connection between two individuals on an empathic level.
Erik: I wanted to help people. Help them be healthy. Help them perform. Now that I am in the field, I see more people need my help and I am aiming to reach the masses!
DDT: Where do you see your respected fields of study in the next 5 years?
Alexandra: Hmm good question. I am really such a “in the moment” person and unsure of what life will throw my way. Either way, I hope to still be a voice for those who’ve struggled like I have in the past. I’ve been told that by just sharing my story is inspiring and helpful to those who have been or are in the same shoes. It’s worth all the pain I endured to know that someone is benefiting from my struggle.
Erik: I see a shift for the better. Improved recommendations on nutrition and more science based information for athletes and consumers alike. We really need this. I am tired of Registered Dietitians (R.D.) having bad reputations. The media plays a HUGE role in twisting research into ridiculous/misunderstood headlines. We need more organizations like the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) who deliver science and help practitioners get it right!
DDT: Where do you see your respected fields of study making the biggest impact in the sports nutrition industry?
Alexandra: Sports psychology plays a huge impact on athletes. There are plenty of studies indicating the impact of human behavior and mental state having an effect on the athletes overall performance. While psychology does tend to be more research oriented and behavior driven, I feel that athletes can benefit from counseling as well. As with anyone, life happens and can throw us curveballs. We can become inundated with our “stuff” and that can have a detrimental effect on our performance. As fitness competitors, our performance is within the context of our training, nutrition and appearance on stage (The same can be said for those in the powerlifting realm, just sub out stage for platform.) I see counseling and overall, mental health playing a key factor in how we approach upcoming shows as well as just everyday wellness. I realize that this audience is a nice blend of those competing and those wanting to maintain a healthier way of living. Mental capacity is key in all facets of life.
Erik: Healthier and better performing athletes (weekend warriors included) through good information and ethical practice.
DDT: If you could change one thing about the Health and Fitness Industry what would that be and why?
Alexandra: For the fitness industry, it would have to first and foremost be Gossip! Like seriously how old are we again?! Rather than tearing each other down, talking behind one another backs, spreading rumors and worrying about if so and so is “natty”, why not focus on building not only a physically strong community but one that is socially strong as well! As far as the health industry is concerned, I would have to say the amount of money directed towards “fad” diets is appalling. I feel that many are misled by the copious amounts of bogus information out there and while the health industry is financially profiting, we are continuing to see a rise in the obesity rates. Doesn’t really make much sense does it?
Erik: The people who report over half of things we see in the media because one very wrong headline can completely ruin a very good recommendation… like using Creatine, for example, that is one very misunderstood supplement, but that’s a whole different article 😉
DDT: What does Alexandra Theis and Erik Bustillo like to do for fun? (Don’t hold back on us 😉
Alexandra: Honestly, my idea of fun is deadlifting. Lifting revitalizes me, it gives me time to work through my emotions and helps me to reassess myself. I try to walk out of each training session, learning something about myself and how it pertains to the way I conduct myself in other aspects of life. But ok, so aside from something “fitness” related, I do enjoy going out with friends, relaxing with a cup of Starbucks and catching up on a good conversation. I also enjoy fresh-water fishing and allocate a lot of money towards deep tissue massages. I hope that in the future, I will get the opportunity to travel more as there is so much I’ve yet to see! I’m always down to try a new burger joint too. Burgers and barbells pair well together 😉
Erik: I LOVE playing and watching sports; preferably playing. Soccer, football, basketball, volleyball… You name it, I play it! Movies, paddleboard, kayak, TRIATHLONS, running, lifting weights, eating, dancing, laughing, GOING TO THE BEACH, traveling, family and friend get-togethers, helping people (especially kids.. love them), all things Miami Heat, Miami Dolphins, and Miami Marlins, and making the best of each day, because life is short but it’s also precious!
DDT: What’s your favorite Food and Music?
Alexandra: Food wise, I’m obsessed with country-style food. My two favorites are cornbread (not sweet) and macaroni & cheese. Burgers ALWAYS and pizza is definitely a strong third. I really do not have much of a sweet tooth, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy my daily Quest Bar to curb a sugar craving here or there. As far as music is concerned, I like to say my choices are about as consistent as Florida weather in the Winter. (If you live in Florida than you know what I mean! Monday 50 degrees, Tuesday 80!) I would say though my current top choices are definitely first and foremost, Black Metal. I do enjoy me some Rap too which would probably be my second choice followed by Country as my third….I know random right, but last time I checked, there wasn’t a law on blending music styles.
DDT: What’s your Favorite Movie?
Alexandra: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. I can’t really explain why other than the simplicity of the movie is beautiful. Oh and I’m a Jaws junkie!! Have seen all 4 about 20 time a piece.
Erik: I LOVE anything MARVEL (i.e. Avengers, X-Men, and even the Superman and Batman movies which are not Marvel), but I think one of the greatest movies EVER created was “Man on Fire” with Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning. Two thumbs and two big toes up!
DDT: You are stranded on an island and you could only have 1 food to live off of, that food would be _______________?
Alexandra: Another tough one!! Hmm, I’d have to say Quest Bars a) because they won’t spoil b) because it’s a good blend of F/C/P.
Erik: PIZZA WITH BACON ON IT! ☺
DDT: Where can our supporters and readers find more of your work?
Thank you for taking the time to read about who I am and my role to Team DDT.
My name is Alexandra Theis and I am a mental health specialist with an affinity for fitness. Throughout the past few years while gaining knowledge of the industry, competing and training for an upcoming powerlifting competition, I’ve seen a vast need for attention towards the mental component that comes along with competing. Our physical and mental well-being go hand in hand, but sadly we often sacrifice a yearning desire to bring our best package to the stage at the sake of our emotional health.
Our intensity can fuel positive outcomes but unfortunately, negative ones as well. In my efforts to achieve the ideal body, I became immersed in what would turn out to be a 7- year long battle with an eating disorder. Even after all the endless hours of cardio, restricting of certain food groups and countless dollar spent on fat-burners and other supplements, I still never was rewarded with what I thought was the ideal image. It wasn’t until I realized that there was something else, not visual to the naked eye that kept me trapped in the illness, did I start to make some changes. I had to change my focus and with that change, came a healthier me.
If you are struggling with body image or eating related concerns, I am willing to listen and hopefully lend a helping hand. I look forward to talking with you.
Erik Bustillo is the Wellness Program Director at Elite Fit Forever in Miami Beach; alongside that, he is also a Registered Dietitian, Certified Sports Nutritionist through the International Society of Sports Nutrition- ISSN, and a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association – NSCA. Erik has experience in clinical research studies and extensive knowledge in medical nutrition therapy. He is actively involved with top organizations in the fields of Exercise Science and Sports Nutrition, making him well equipped with both knowledge and practice of cutting edge research in these areas. Erik specializes in performance nutrition for athletes with his specialty being sports nutrition, supplementation and motivation; this makes him a diverse health professional that excels in performance science. Erik has studied the science of nutrition for many years because he understands that nutrition is an elemental factor with our state of well-being. His mission is to make this world a better place and he strives to accomplish this by helping others achieve their health goals. He believes that with hard work and determination, everyone is capable of accomplishing what they set their mind to. Erik is passionate about making his patients/clients push themselves harder and further than they ever imagined. Erik’s practical approach puts exercise and nutritional science into easy to follow steps for action. Erik’s Affiliations International Society of Sports Nutrition National Strength and Conditioning Association
Thanks for taking the time to let us interview you Alexandra and Erik.