How joint pain motivated my 57 pounds of weight loss

In this post I’m going to talk about my recent weight loss and how I was able to lose over 50 pounds during the past 3 months (May 25 ~ August 25).  Or specifically, how I found motivation to follow through on doing what I already knew I should do.

For those of you new to the party, in my last blog post I provided an extensive look at the history of my joint pain issues.  If you haven’t read it, then you might want to do that so you have the right context for what I’m going to talk about here.

If you’re interested, I also did a video summary for this blog post on my vlog.  Here is is for those of you who prefer to watch than read:

Health Factors

As I said in the previous post, the first 6 months of this year I was under a lot of stress from various sources: working 3 jobs, teaching martial arts on two islands, taking a full course load at the University, along with a stressful living environment, plus poor sleeping and eating habits all combined to cause another bout of joint inflammation in my left leg.

Looking back, the three health factors that I talked about in the previous post were all there:

  1. Poor nutrition: I was eating a lot of convenience food because I didn’t have anywhere to cook, and was pretty busy.
  2. Increase of stress: I already talked about that, but I was feeling rather stressed out
  3. Lack of sleep: I had poor, inconsistent sleeping habits

So, at first it felt like one of my standard, “should be cleared out in about a week” sort of joint inflammations.  But after a few days I realized that this wasn’t the case.  The pain was going up to the levels I had in Hong Kong and I had to lie in bed for several days in a row.

It was during this time that I made a decision that would have a profound impact on my health.  I decided that this would be the last time I would have a bout of joint inflammation.  That I would completely change those three factors of health to be the healthiest possible.  And I would start with my nutrition, since I knew that would have the greatest impact on my health.

Completely changing my nutrition

If you read my earlier post about the “Keto-Green” protocol, then you have a general idea of what I did with my food intake.  But here is a breakdown of how I changed things:

  1. I eliminated all processed foods.  Period.  I haven’t been to a fast food restaurant or convenience store in 3 months.
  2. I eliminated all grains and starches.  No wheat, barley, beans, rice, potatoes, etc.  Basically all foods that spike insulin were taken out of the equation.  Period.
  3. I eliminated all foods that cause an inflammation response.  No eggplant, spicy foods, etc.  There are a lot of foods that cause your body to become inflammed that you might think are healthy, but for these purposes go against my goals.
  4. Of course, I eliminated all sugars and high sugar fruits.  Certain fruits are okay, such as organic blueberries or strawberries, but I took out the ones that were mostly sugar with less fiber, such as melons, mangos, papaya, etc.
  5. I only drank water.  I completely cut out juice, coffee or energy drinks.  Besides water I would occasionally have green tea, or water with lemon or Apple Cider Vinegar in it.  I also started having a wheat grass juice powder, which is a highly concentrated drink from sprouted wheat grass filled with lots of good stuff.
  6. Rather than what most people on a “ketogenic” plan do, I stayed away from lots of protein, and only took in about 3 – 6 oz. per meal.  I also didn’t rely on as many fats and instead loaded up on tons of veggies.  Speaking of which …
  7. I focused on nutritional quality of the food, mainly lots of green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, arugula, etc.), good sources of protein and healthy fats.  I stayed away from anything that wasn’t organic, GMO free or raised with any chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, etc.

Now, in the past when I tried to do something similar to this — go cold turkey on bad food and be super healthy — it would only last a few days or weeks.

The reason?  I would cheat.  I would think “Oh, I’m doing pretty good.  I’ll just have a small bite of [prohibited food] and get back on track”, but that is never what would happen.

Cheaters never lose (weight), and losers never cheat

The problem is, food that isn’t very good for you is also super delicious.

I LOVE rice.  I love processed meats (hot dogs, spam, etc.), I love fast food and I love noodles and potatoes and all that stuff.  I mean … it tastes delicious.  When you’re surrounded by temptation all the time it is only a matter of time before your will power wanes and you give in.

But here is what was different this time and why I’ve been able to maintain this pattern of eating for the past 3 months:

I was in constant pain.

I’ll be honest.  If I wasn’t in so much pain for much of the past 3 months — especially in June and the first few weeks of July — I probably would have given in and eaten something I shouldn’t have.

But when you’re laid up in bed, and you are experiencing pain that makes you want to chop your leg off, you have major motivation to do whatever it takes to solve the problem.

I knew drugs weren’t the answer.  They never were.  I don’t even like taking medication. In the past I did it because I didn’t know what else to do.  Or rather, I never did what I knew I should have done (due to the aforementioned laziness and giving in to temptation) and medication was the easiest option to quickly take care of the problem.

The only way I would truly recover and never have this happen again was if I cured the root problem from the inside-out.  And that was all about what I ate.  (At least, the first thing I tackled was food, but I’ll get into the other health factors at a later time.)

Getting hormonal

I’m going to keep things simple here, but I plan (and have already started to write) a blog about the specific biology of what I’m just briefly touching on here.

Long story short: I focused on my body’s hormonal response to food — both what I ate and when I ate it — to promote decreased inflammation, better body function and (it turns out) increased fat burning. I minimized insulin/glucagon production, increased growth hormone production, and changed from glucose (glycolysis) to ketones (ketosis) as a primary energy source for my body.

The conversion from glycolysis to ketosis has an adaptation period, which for me lasted about 10 days.  Headaches and some flu-like symptoms (people call it “keto flu”), but it’s because your body is changing it’s primary fuel source to fat stores.  In any case, since then my energy levels have been really consistent and I never get the mid-afternoon groggies or brain fog like I used to.

Anyway, it’s much more detailed than that, but I’ll get into that in a future blog post.

The challenge of changing

And, it’s not like I didn’t know what to do for the past 12 years.

Here’s the thing: we all know what it takes to be healthy.  Eat more plants.  Eat less garbage.  It’s pretty easy, really. I’ve known it for a long time, but I didn’t do it because, for one, I just assumed that at some point I would make the switch and start doing what I knew I should have been doing the whole time.

Well, that is practically the pledge of allegiance for procrastinators.  “I’ll put off being healthy until later, because this plate of nachos looks really good“.

So, here I was, in lots of pain, which provided the motivation to stay the course, and pretty soon I noticed that my weight was coming off.  It first started coming off my stomach and belly, but then my face started thinning out too.

It didn’t happen over night, but it happened pretty quickly.  And it made me realize something: if anyone did the same thing they would lose weight just as fast.  The reason they (and the former version of myself) don’t?  Because everyone (including myself) cheats.

A piece of bread here.  A bit of rice there.  Some chocolate ice cream all over the place.

Any one of those things will tip the balance in the wrong direction and in order to really promote fat burning and weight loss you have to be incredibly diligent in not eating the wrong foods.

And honestly, I’ve never been good at diligent behavior.  That is, until now when it was forced on me by my ailment.

They say it takes between 25 and 70 days to form a habit, depending on how challenging it is.  Well, I’ve been doing this for 90 days and I still have the occasional impulse to eat something I shouldn’t.  But, I’m able to temper it because I’ve also built up my resistance to those urges.

Weight Loss Results

So, you’re probably wondering about the specific numbers, right?  Here is how it broke down:

  • Starting weight: 250 lbs on May 25, 2017
  • Current weight: 193 lbs on Aug 22, 2017

That is a total weight loss of 57 pounds over 88 days.  (Actually, less than that since I’ve been holding steady at 193 lbs for the past couple weeks.)

Here are some intermediate weight numbers and dates:

  • 227 lbs on June 10 (23 lbs. in 16 days)
  • 217 lbs on July 5 (10 lbs in 25 days = 33 lbs. in 41 days)
  • 207 lbs on July 16 (10 lbs. in 11 days = 43 lbs. in 52 days)
  • 193 lbs on August 5 (14 lbs. in 20 days = 57 lbs. in 72 days)
  • And I have stayed steady at 193 lbs. for the past 20 days.

Now, that initial 23 lbs. of weight loss was mostly water weight so don’t get too excited about those numbers (I was visiting the bathroom a lot during those 2 weeks).  And, as you can see during the rest of the time it would fluctuate, but for the most part it was a fairly steady weight loss.

You’ll also notice that I’ve been on a plateau for the past 3 weeks.  And I think that is a good thing.  Why?  Because my body needs to find equilibrium.  If, during the whole 3 months, I had been doing daily weight checks, we would probably see other plateaus during the time as well.

And that is sort of how the body works, right?  You have some growth/loss in one area, and then your body rests to find equilibrium and balance. Then it has another bit of growth/loss and another bit of rest.  That is a natural cycle and I’m happy that my body is doing things in a natural way.

Here’s the thing: Weight loss was never my goal — my goal was to get healthy.  Weight loss was just one of the results of making healthy life changes.

I’m actually now at the weight I was in 1997.  However, my “ideal weight” is still another 30 or 40 pounds lower, somewhere between 150 to 160 pounds.  But with my weight loss leveling out, I probably won’t get there for another three months, give or take.

Other stats and pictures

Here are some other numbers that are interesting to note:

  • My waist went down 8 sizes
  • My shirt went down 3 sizes
  • My shoes went down 4 sizes <– just kidding.

And, of course, a blog post about weight loss is nothing without some before and after photos.  Here are some picture of me before, during and after the last 3 months of weight loss.

 

This is what I looked like at the beginning of this year.

 

These are some photos during the middle of the process

 

And here is what I’m looking like these days.

 

And here is a side-by-side comparison photo:

Side by side comparison

 

And here is one of my torso.  It is hard to find a picture of my body from before because I wasn’t too keen on taking or keeping photos that showed how big I was.  The picture on the left was actually taken after I had started losing some weight — about 15 – 20 pounds lost at this point.

My body at around 230 lbs. on the left and 193 lbs. on the right.

 

If you want to follow along and see pictures of myself you can also check out my Instagram feed here.

So, that is how I was motivated to do everything I could to be super healthy, change my physical state, habits and lose weight.  And, as I said, this is something anyone could do, provided there is no cheating.  And I mean NO cheating.  Not even a little bit.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  None.

How I would do it without pain

And, like I also said, for most people this is almost impossible.  Going cold turkey on unhealthy foods (even rice, bread, potatoes, fruits, etc.) is really hard to maintain.  So, rather than try to go all in, just gradually change one thing at a time.  That is the best way to keep things going for the long term.

Here is how I would do it if I didn’t have any will power (which I don’t) or didn’t have joint pain to remind and motivate me to eat healthy:

  1. Take out sweets.  This is the easiest, because, if you have a sweet tooth, you can replace them with other alternatives.  You can get soft drinks with stevia leaf extract, which doesn’t spike insulin like sugar or high fructose corn syrup does.  You can have fruit berries on greek yogurt instead of ice cream.
  2. Take out processed foods.  That means fast food, convenience store food, or anything that doesn’t look like the original things that comprises its ingredients.  Instead, replace them with real food that tastes good.  Instead of a hot dog, go have a good quality chicken sausage.  Instead of a hamburger from McDonald’s go pick up a nice grass fed ground beef and make one yourself.  Instead of iodized salt, use sea salt that has lots of important trace minerals that your body needs.  Basically, raise your standards of what you will accept as “food”.
  3. Take out wheat.  Gluten really does a number on your digestion.  If you can take non-sprouted grains out of your diet you’ll go along way to improving digestion and nutrient absorption.  Replace it with sprouted wheat or other healthier grains.
  4. Include more greens.  Eating 7 – 9 cups of greens a day is the minimum to get the necessary nutrients you need.  Spinach, kale, arugula, broccoli … the more green the better.  Did you know the RDA for potassium is 4700 mg / day?  Most people get closer to 500 mg / day.  Potassium and sodium work in tandem as electrolytes to maintain balance in your cells, so you need lots of potassium for proper cell function.
  5. Stop snacking.  Instead of snacking between meals (typically caused by a combination of improper nutrition and not eating enough healthy fats during your meals) focus on eating just 2 or 3 meals a day and making sure they keep you satiated.  Snacking raises insulin which causes  your body to store fat.  Actually, eating anything raises insulin to some degree, so the idea is to reduce those spikes to as few and small as possible.

If you just did these 5 things, you’d see quite an improvement.  It wouldn’t be nearly as fast as it would be if you did the full-on gang-busters route, but it will sure help.

So, since this post is already long enough, I’m going to save a later post to talk about the progress of my attempts to heal my joint inflammation.  But since you might be wondering, here it is in a nutshell preview:  It is still around, but not nearly as bad as it was in June and July.  But more on that next time.

Until then … have a relaxing and enjoyable life!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I’m really happy for you! Coincidentally, I found Dr. Berg in April and have been eating keto as well. I found I have to supplement my magnesium, potassium and sodium to stay feeling good. I knew something was really different when I could taste the sweetness in broccoli (especially because I don’t care for broccoli very much). Thanks for sharing your journey and I hope you pain levels continue to subside.

    1. Hi April! Thanks for the comment. Yeah, Dr. Berg is cool. I use his electrolyte drink powder to help with Potassium intake as I’m pretty sure that is where I am mainly deficient. (I already took a Magnesium supplement.) I’m slightly ashamed to say I’ve been following his videos for over a year, but it took the joint issues and paint to finally get myself to take action on what I’ve been learning all this time. I’m happy that you have found the information beneficial for yourself and are seeing positive changes. Broccoli rocks! 🙂

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