The sad truth about John Cena’s childhood

John Cena’s career has been defined by his physical constitution – more evident as a professional wrestler, but also in his acting work. But going to the gym and cultivating your body is far more than a means to an end. It’s a lifestyle he hopes to die with. And he’s taking the necessary steps to ensure that happens. “I’m trying to be able to lift weights when I’m 80, so I need to take a little more care of myself in the long run,” he told GQ in February 2022. Cena’s health comes first, including his taste buds. After all, getting this protein into your system on a day-to-day basis is what matters.

As it turns out, consuming 3,613 calories that hit all the macros isn’t easy, as fitness YouTuber Aseel Soueid found out firsthand while following Cena’s diet for a day in 2020. “I’m very fed up. I feel like I need to go to the bathroom,” Soueid told Men’s Health. As Cena transitioned into his 40s, he stopped focusing on strenuous exercise routines and instead placed greater emphasis on other aspects of health, such as diet, hydration, and flexibility “My quest for strength probably lasted until my mid-30s, I don’t know. And now I’m on a quest for well-being,” he told People.

His ability to think long-term is certainly impressive, especially considering he’s been like this since Cena was a child. Unfortunately, his motivation for starting weightlifting was rooted in trauma.

John Cena was bullied during his childhood

John Cena may be famous for his massive physique, but he’s not built that way naturally. Cena was actually a lanky kid, which made him a target for bullies. “I was really skinny — really skinny and scrawny — like 100 pounds,” he said on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in 2019, referring to his weight at age 11 or 12 (via Boston.com). Cena’s general tastes also differed from the crowd, further complicating matters. “I was teased and bullied a lot because of it [my] Selection of clothes and music I’ve listened to,” he added.

The bullying wasn’t limited to verbal abuse; Cena also experienced physical violence. “I remember running to the school bus at least five times, bumping off, falling,” he said on the Come As You Are campaign in partnership with Crocs (via Entertainment Tonight). Cena believed he could protect himself better if he built some muscle mass. So he got his father’s permission to start training. By the time he was 12, Cena was already a weightlifter, he told GQ.

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His tactic worked. “When I was 15, I weighed 150 pounds. And when I was 17, I weighed 225 pounds,” he told Fallon. “Needless to say, I wasn’t teased.” His former thugs even tried to get on Cena’s good side. “The guys who were holding me down were like, ‘We’re cool?'” he said in the campaign.

John Cena turned trauma into passion

John Cena was able to turn his traumatic childhood experience into an opportunity. “As awful as the time was for me, it was a catalyst for me to find a passion of my life,” he said on the Come As You Are campaign (via Entertainment Tonight). His intention was never to be seen as threatening, but simply to keep bullies away. Cena fell in love with weightlifting, a newfound passion that opened many unexpected doors. While attending Springfield College, Cena not only qualified for the football team, but also captained them to their first NCAA Division III tournament in 1988, according to the school’s website. But that wasn’t the ultimate goal.

Before finding fame in WWE, Cena studied exercise science and kinesiology in Springfield with hopes of becoming a professional bodybuilder, according to People. “[After college] I didn’t go to Los Angeles for entertainment, but because that was where the center was for fitness equipment, fitness manufacturing, fitness distribution, everything that was relevant to my degree,” he told the magazine. The rest is, well, history.

Despite this, Cena never lost touch with the quirky side that made him an outcast as a child. That’s why Cena-the-actor likes to work in comedies like “Trainwreck” and “Sisters,” he told CBS News in 2017. “I’m just not a naturally intimidating guy, so a bigger guy doing things that contradict the guy is kind of funny.”