Trying a Wholistic Approach to Weight Loss

9 06 2012

For years I’ve thought about using acupuncture or some other healing art to assist me in losing weight. Now after losing nearly 70 pounds, I finally feel more ready to begin exploring forces outside of my own control. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not a fan of going to a doctor’s office but I realize that this battle with weight often feels bigger than me and getting a bit of help might not be the worst thing to do at this point.

Because I’m a bit neurotic, the search for an acupuncturist becomes a complicated process. Sure there are tons of qualified people out there, but I wanted someone who had extensive experience. I wanted someone who is preferably Chinese. I wanted the Chinese medicines, herbs and teas. I wanted someone with a broken English accent. I know this is faulty thinking. Maybe I’ve watched the Karate Kid too many times but my criteria made the choice seem like a more authentic one for me.

Upon the recommendation of a colleague, I found and called a practitioner who was able to see me that same day. I had called several other practitioners before this but was not getting any warm fuzzies. The fact that this gentleman could see me the same day made it more difficult for me to be able to allow my nerves to get the best of me and back out.

For me, going to a “doctor’s office” is an anxiety producing event. When I walked toward the door of the office I read a posted sign with several rules. I was to take off my shoes and turn off my cell phone. The act of becoming untethered to my cell phone for any length of time is also quite anxiety producing. It’s the era that we live in. I always need to feel connected. The reality though is that smart phones leave us unconnected from each other a great deal of the time.

Before I knew it, I had been ushered into the space where I would receive the treatment. I spoke with the practitioner about some chronic but generally dull pain I had been experiencing for years in my left ankle as well as a new pain that had been developing over the last few months in my right shoulder. We also spoke about my weight loss journey so far and how he might be able to assist me in moving forward.

Before I knew it, it was time to disrobe and get on the table. This is also anxiety producing. At over 300lbs, this body is not ready for prime time yet.

The practitioner began working on my right foot as a way to ease my shoulder pain. I offered that the pain was likely the result of the way I sleep as I tend to sleep on my shoulder with my arm curled under my pillow and wedged up against the headboard. He remained quiet and I felt that maybe he was not accepting my hypothesis. I have since come to learn that in some Asian healing arts practices, shoulder pain is most often an indicator of a major stress build up.

With needles inserted and electrical stimulus pulse applied, the practitioner turned off the lights and left the room for a period of time. I was left alone with the sounds of the ocean mixed with a separate recording of American Indian flute. I wondered if my American Indian tattoos had inspired him to play this for me or if it was just by chance. Either way the sounds and the needles seemed to lull me off to an extremely relaxed state in no time which is really impressive given how anxious I had been feeling. I was not tired or sleepy but my mind did produce some interesting peaceful images. It reminded me of a very lucid dream. Every once in awhile I would come back to reality when my right hand unexplainably moved on it’s own, most likely the result of being a human pin cushion.

Before I knew it, the practitioner had returned and it was time to work on my ankle. I advised that my podiatrist had told me that because of the repeated sprains and strains to my ankle since the age of 18, a very large bone spur had developed and my entire ankle would need to be scoped so that the tendons could finally snap back into place and heal. I advised that I had also been told that my ankle had aged to about that of a 65 year old despite my only being 35 at the time. My practitioner laughed at this assertion and seemed to indicate with his facial expressions (although he said nothing) that surgery would probably not be necessary. Maybe that was wishful thinking on my part. I’m not completely sure.

The practitioner pushed on the exact spot on my ankle that often gives me pain. When strong pressure is applied it really hurts and I had all I could do to not sit upright and scream. Then he inserted one needle on the top of my foot near my toes and said “pain gone now” and pressed again. And it was! For the first time in 19 years my ankle was completely pain free. It felt absolutely normal. Tears began to well up. I couldn’t believe the instant difference.

The practitioner then began to add needles in a large circle around my stomach. I felt the tapping on the tops of the needles but never any actual pain (it’s very different than getting a needle at the doctor’s office). He also put needles in my arms and legs. One needle in my right leg definitely gave me an unpleasant sensation and sent a wave of something not nice down my leg for just a second and again briefly when it was finally removed later.

I also received very tiny needles in my right ear. some of these were painful but not for too long. They were covered with medical tape and I was told that I would keep them in until my next visit. These too would help with stress relief, pain relief, metabolism boosting and food craving control when massaged at least five times a day for 30 seconds each. Again the lights went out and my relaxed state returned.

At the conclusion of my visit I was told that acupuncture is not a panacea for weight loss. It will only assist in it. The hard work still belongs to me if I want to see results.

I was then given a “diet” plan for a three day caloric restriction type fast (essentially eating 1/3 of what I typically eat). This begins today. It will be difficult because I’m already eating considerably less than I had been before going plant based. After the three days, I would return to a diet not unlike what I have been doing already. No dairy, no grease, no excessive oils, low carbs and no processed foods. I also was given Chinese root tea and other herbal supplements to help with metabolism and fat absorption.

It was a very interesting experience and I’ll be going back twice this coming week. My only hope is that my insurance will get onboard and start picking up most of the tab as it is not at all cheap. I do fear that the treatments will become too cost prohibitive and I will need to stop before I’ve received enough of them to truly make an impact.

For now though I am feeling good. The shoulder and ankle were a bit sore a few hours after the session and the pain comes and goes still. Unless I become overly tired it generally remains duller and shorter in duration than it had. I expect that these issues will need more time to resolve. I’m skeptical about acupuncture’s ability to fix my ankle pain in a lasting way. This isn’t western mind. I’m definitely willing to give it a try though. I certainly cannot argue with the pain free moments in the office. That experience still amazes me.

The ear needles are neat. For some reason they make the whole right side of my face feel like it’s open (as if a piece of my skull is missing). It’s hard to find the words to explain it any other way. It’s a neat sensation. And yes my cravings have generally been in check although I’ve had my moments. We’ll see how it goes. One of the needles hurts when i massage it. The thought of having needles just stuck in my ear for days is not particularly comforting but its not stopping me from giving it a shot either.

This is an exciting new phase in my adventure. I’m interested to see where this road will lead. I definitely believe that western medicine can be beneficial but if we limit ourselves only to that, I think we miss an awful lot.

If you’ve used alternative methods to gain relief from pain and/or assist in weight loss and would like to share your experiences post a comment or email me:

Mike Watt on Life, Death and Art

16 05 2012
Mike Watt – The man in the van with a bass in his hand.  For quite awhile now, Watt has been a lighthouse in the midst of my creative ocean – not steering me to the safety of the shore, but steering me away from it to untapped regions of the unknown where beautiful things can be born if you are brave enough to plant and water the seeds.  I’ve spoken about him in other posts so I won’t beat the same old stories to death here.  Suffice to say, he’s one very creative individual who has a beautiful mind and I’ve considered myself extremely fortunate to be able to interact with him now and again.  The world would benefit from more Mike Watts…I’ll leave it at that and move on to this recent interview with him:
Pic I took from the most recent missingmen 3rd opera tour in Philly
JS: Back in September I came down with a serious infection that took me about 5 months to fight off.  It changed my outlook on a lot of things and really spurred  me to make some long overdue lifestyle changes.  You had your own experience with a seriousness illness back in 2000.  Can you talk a little about that and how that experience spurred change in you?
WATT:  yes, the experience twelve years ago with that illness provided both the inspiration for my second opera and helped make me even more earnest to make as much work as I can with the time I’ve got left.  it was very profound feelings of mortality that shook me to my core. I was only fortytwo and still had so much more I wanted to do.  it was intense for me, big time.
JS:  I’ve come to realize from being sick that I’ve been terrified of pain all of my life and will go to great lengths to avoid it.  What do you think pain teaches us?
WATT:  I was born with bad knees and had much much pain there, surgeries in my twenties.  I think it even helped make me feel more paranoid, waiting for the next “incident” hell and shit like that.  pain can mold us into trippy shapes if we let it dominate us.  it is a tough struggle but seems like a part of the journey.   damn.   probably being born without pain is a challenge also, believe or not.   life is not easy but can be interesting if you put your heart into it.   the physical hells are struggles though, that’s for sure.
JS: We all have our own insecurities and fears.  I often am afraid of opening myself up to strangers in such a public way (as I’ve been doing on this website).  When you have pushed through your own fears in the past what have you found waiting for you on the other side?
WATT:  I got into music to be with my buddy d. boon and he definitely was not so fearful.  this helped me much and I borrowed from him on this, he inspired me to try and be brave but not conceited – he was like that: a very humble man who would try his hardest with expression.  I find when I push some fears away, there’s others waiting so the “fear problem” is never “solved” but rather constantly wrestled.  that’s a trip.
JS:  One of my favorite lyrics from your third opera “hyphenated-man” comes from the song  pinned-to-the-table-man.  “Loss and liberation, forever the connection, forever the question”.  There is so much in that one little sentence.  Can you expand upon the relationship between loss and liberation?  What is the connection and what is the question as you see it?
WATT:  I wrote that in saint petersburg (russia) way after all the other stuff.  in fact I recorded the spiel at my pedro pad when I got back cuz everything had done been done at tony maimone’s studio g in brooklyn already.  the problem was I was “ending” (I say that cuz in theory it’s supposed to be circular and unending) with the “man-shitting-man” part and I realized that folks might take that as the bottom line or some kind of summation/summary of the whole piece.  so what I did was the move the middle (hub) song to the end and instead of having one instrumental as originally planned, I wrote that spiel you refer to and put that part in the middle.  the spiel itself refers to middle years and the idea of reconciliation.  of course not everything can be reconciled and I had to acknowledge that w/a part like that “man-shitting-man” one but in other places, that can happen – even it can be very painful and be a tough lesson to learn.  man treating fellow man inhumanely can’t ever be reconciled in my thinking though, it is huge problem.
angels gate lightouse – April 22, 2008
 Mike Watt 

JS: I’ve really enjoyed your photography over the years.  Some of my favorites like the angels gate lighthouse pics can be found in your new book: mike watt  on and off bass (published by Three Rooms Press).   Have you found any intrinsic similarities between snapping pictures and making music?
WATT:  snapping pictures means trying to capture something you can’t really set up, the way I do it at the crack of dawn on the bicycle or in the kayak.  with composition, you’re more in charge of preparing the situation. there’s more chance involved I think with the pictures and more personal effort with the song stuff.  there are similarities with the idea of refining an expression in a way though, I agree with you there.
JS:  There are also excerpts from your tour diaries as well as some of your poetry in the book.  You have been exploring many different forms of art.  Is there a common thread or underlying drive that spurs you into these seemingly different artistic directions?
WATT:  laurie steelink at track 16 gallery picked the first thirtyfive shots, the three rooms people kat and peter picked the diary entries and the rest of the included images so I think in a way the book is a collaboration.  as for diary writing, I do that on tour to help keep focus and never reread them, so embarrassing to me! that’s the practical side to it.  I guess it is some sort of extension of some of the same stuff in the picture taking and bass plucking too.  I guess the common thread is fucking watt.
JS:  It sometimes appears that for many of us the act of “creating” is encoded into our DNA.  I don’t necessarily mean this in a religious way, but it just seems that we are wired to want to create.  Why do you think human beings find the act of creating, especially art, so important?
Watt:  john coltrane said something about musicians being after a truth and I’m thinking that could apply to the other arts as well.  it’s a search…

JS:  If your vast body of artistic work could only accomplish one thing, what would you want it to be?
Watt: to make folks feel safe to take risks with arts and expression in each of our journeys to find our inside voice and not just flop around in the very shallow pan of marsh, finding ourselves bound up in puppet strings.


Pic of Watt and me.  I’m over 400 pounds in this pic.  I never posted it before because I have always been ashamed at how out of whack I let my weight get around this time.  Now that I’ve lost some of this weight, it feels a little bit safer.

Mike’s book (it’s awesome, buy yourself a copy) can be purchased here:

Mike’s music can be found at itunes, fine music purveyors everywhere and here at his new label:

Info on all things Mike can be found here:

Watt’s podcast of interesting music and ideas here:

(Thanks again Mike!)

Who We Are

20 04 2012

Sometimes with art, you experience something that really moves you and you really wish that you would have created it. This is often the case if I listen to a song that moves me or if I see photography that really speaks to me. And so it is with blogging… This was the case today when I read this Facebook entry from an actor friend of mine:

I am not my body. I am not the things I feel or see or taste or hear or smell. I am only what I think. My thoughts are the totality of me. At my essence, I am electrical sparks jumping from synapse to synapse in a dance of joy and despair. All that makes me ME is nothing more than energy focused, energy shared and recycled throughout the world, connecting everything that has ever lived. If we released all of this energy simultaneously, the earth would shine brighter than the sun for a moment, and the universe would finally know we were here.
– Patrick Turner

Our Biggest Competition is Us

14 03 2012

For as long as I can remember, I have despised competition. It does bring out the best in people but I’m just not wired that way. If someone comes across as being overly competitive, I will generally find myself pulling back. That’s not to say that there aren’t times that I’m competitive because I’m sure there are and I’m also sure that those times have more to do with my ego than anything else. And that is a big reason why I’m not a fan of competition. It can just look and feel ugly sometimes. One place where I don’t mind being competitive is against myself. With my artistic endeavors, I find myself trying to push myself to surpass the levels of my previous achievements. If I’m part of writing what I feel like is a fantastic song, I want to top it the next chance I get. I love photography and feel that I have a knack for it at times but I am admittedly a novice. If I have a good day of shooting pics, I will try to surpass it the next chance I get to use my camera. I’m always striving to get better in the hopes of being the best at what I do artistically. This too is ego, but at least it is aimed at self. This current journey of health and wellness that I have undertaken is also a competition against myself. I don’t mind pushing myself to see if I can achieve something that is incredibly difficult. I like the idea of taking my greatest weakness and turning into a positive force in my life. In many ways, I feel like the competition is already over because in my mind I have made it. Now it’s just about physically getting there.

Recently this blog was nominated in three separate categories (“Food”, “Fitness and Health” and “Personal”) for the Best of the Blogs for the local valley where I live. I’ve only been doing this for two months, so that was a really nice surprise and I did feel like it was an honor since I was nominated alongside people I truly respect who have been doing this with amazing quality and for far longer than I have. I also felt a bit nauseous because I hate the thought of trying to orchestrate a voting effort to win this thing. My blog is not about winning contests, it’s about winning over my weakness, It’s about getting my health back and getting a good quality of life. That is the prize for me. But I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that winning best in the area for the “Fitness and Health” category would be fantastically awesome. For one it would increase this site’s readership. And really, what is a blog without readers. But the real reason is this: it’s not every day that a guy my size wins an award for fitness and health. Frankly, it’s just about never. So it is quite appealing in that respect.

Having said that, those who read this blog and enjoy it can vote by clicking here:

Registering is fairly easy (enter your facebook or yahoo login info or your email). People can vote daily between now and March 25th. A blogger friend of mine, Jaime, has an excellent vegan food/ lifestyle blog “Save The Kales” that can be voted for in the food section. If you’ve never heard of it you really should check it out. It’s quite wonderful and has been a huge asset to me as I try to navigate my own plant based journey.

I was fortunate to meet Jaime during a recent meeting of local bloggers. I had only been blogging for a very short time and am typically a little quiet at first in new social situations. It was very difficult that night to stand up in front of a room of people whom I did not know and announce that my blog was about my efforts to lose 225 pounds and become healthy again. A gathering of bloggers quickly began to feel like an overeater’s anonymous meeting. I felt beyond skittish. I just wanted to run and hide. Afterwards, I met Jaime and she gave me a big hug. A hug from a complete stranger, sometimes that is all a person needs. I had been feeling so vulnerable and this one kind act wiped it all away. Jaime is that kind of person. She lives what she preaches. You can see it in the many local organizations that she is part of and you can read it in her writing. You should definitely check out “Save The Kales”. I think you will agree that it is an amazing food blog. We’ll be seeing more of Jaime here sometime in the future as an interview is planned. I’m excited because she is a wealth of knowledge and as a newbie to this plant based lifestyle, people who have been on the path for awhile are invaluable.

There are many other great blogs that are in the running. I’m blessed to be in an area with so many talented folks. Blogs like “No Room for Seconds”, “The Corner Seat” and “Laughing at my Nightmare” are all fantastic. Some are my “competition” (there’s that word again) – but if you find yourself with a little extra time, give them a look and consider giving them your vote. They are good people, great writers who have something worthwhile to say. And my hope is that at some point I will be able to collaborate with many of them as I definitely see crossover potential.

%d bloggers like this: