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It Figures is Yahoo Life's body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspiring figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them. Read past interviews here.
Alex Rodriquez was built for athletics. In fact, a 2015 ESPN feature on the Major League Baseball legend wrote that the former Yankees player "was born with an embarrassment of physical riches — power, vision, energy, size, speed — and seemed designed specifically for immortality, as if assembled in some celestial workshop by baseball angels and the artists at Marvel Comics."
"I was chiseled," the sports star better known as A-Rod tells Yahoo Life of his figure during the peak of his baseball career. "I would eat like a horse when I played. I would eat everything. And by the way, nothing would stay on."
He credits that largely to "being younger and playing 162 games a year." But he also mentions that a lot of it, for him, came down to "being disciplined" in his routines.
Retirement has taught him that being physically fit and in shape don't necessarily come more easily to him than it does for the next person. At 48 years old, the 2009 World Series champion continues to reevaluate his relationship with movement, food, his body and mind.
"Training and working out were a priority in my life [in the MLB], versus when I retired, I kind of lost my way a little bit," he says. "I started focusing more on business and my health took a bit of a back seat — especially during COVID where there was so much anxiety, so much uncertainty at home and I was doing Zoom [video calls] from 8 in the morning until 2 a.m."
While Rodriguez's busy life hadn't slowed down since his days on the diamond, fitness was no longer a part of his day-to-day. He was uncomfortable in his body and feeling unmotivated. He decided to audit his life, as he had during other difficult moments.
"When I ran into a really tough time with my suspension and all of that, I had an opportunity to press the pause button and turn the lens inward. And the work that I did with [my late therapist] Dr. David has been transformative in my life," he says. By the end of 2021, "I wanted to kind of make a paradigm shift."
Rodriquez credits a decade in therapy for his ability to shift his focus. "I come from a world where back in the day, if you asked for help of any kind, you were considered, quote-unquote, a 'wimp.' I'm so happy how far we've come," he says.
In getting back into a routine that prioritized movement, he gives kudos to his professional athletic training. "I've been doing health and fitness for over 30 years as an athlete. So for me, it was about reconnecting with my old habits from the Yankees, my old routine," he says. "Really being consistent in the gym: lifting weights, doing some cardio."
The one part of that old routine that he's made an extra effort to change is his relationship with food. "It’s all connected: food, health and wellness. Now I'm thinking of food as a source to fuel myself, versus what I used to do, which was eat because I was busy or because of anxiety or because food was available to me," he says.
He's turned that approach into a lesson for his daughters, Natasha, 19, and Ella, 15, whom he shares with his ex-wife Cynthia Scurtis. Both parents recognize that the relationships that young women have with their bodies has been made even more complicated with social media.
"Cynthia has a master's in psychology. So she's really well equipped [to handle those challenges]," he says. "I think we try to lead by example. "
He takes his own health even more seriously after being diagnosed with gum disease over a year ago. "Of course, I panicked. Like, what does this mean?" he recalls thinking prior to speaking with his dentist and doing his own research. Now, he's partnered with OraPharma to make sure others are equipped with the necessary information. "Knowledge is power. Through that, I realized I can manage this and I can treat it."
And while his health journey has had its ups and downs, Rodriguez recognizes his privilege in getting good care.
"I think gratitude is like the first step for health and wellness," he says. "Some days I'm rounding second, some days I'm rounding first. I'm a work in progress."