7 Pounds Lost in 5 Days

13 06 2012

And so begins week 25 of my switch to a (mostly) plant based diet with increased exercise in an attempt to lose weight and get healthy. After 6 months, I’m down nearly 70 pounds. The last month or so has been a terrible struggle for me. I went off the rails for a little while and at one point gained about 11 pounds before shedding most of it. But the gaining can happen so quickly and the shedding is an awful lot harder. What I can gain in a few days, takes weeks to take off again. And a lot of the time what further complicates things is that I’m just not disciplined enough. I’m spread very thin with work, family and other endeavors and I don’t make enough time to exercise. I’m working at getting better with this.

Lately I’ve been trying acupuncture as a way to help get me through this plateau that I’ve been stuck on. I’ve also been incorporating some Chinese root tea and other medicinal supplements. It all tastes like dirt and bark to me but I’ve managed to lose 7 pounds in 5 days following the prescribed regiment – on my doctor’s scale anyway. That’s a whole separate issue. How the doc’s scale can vary so much from mine is a great and frustrating mystery to me. But as long as both scales are moving in the same direction, I’m happy.

My acupuncture sessions have been amazing. Despite often having a very unquiet mind at the start of the sessions, by the end I am in a near dream state. I really feel like these sessions take me places. I’m talking otherworldly here. Maybe they are just taking me deeper inside my self. Either way they are fantastically peaceful. During my last session, I felt energy traveling up and down my legs and through my gut. It was amazing. I felt like a living energy super highway. That’s not overstating the feeling either. I guess it is my energy meridians opening up. Really an amazing experience. This is how the healing begins. I’m so very excited for what the future holds in store for me on this journey.

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: johnnysized@gmail.com

Never Trust a Fat Guy For Diet Advice!

4 03 2012

I’ve spoken to several people recently who have expressed an interest in trying a plant based diet.  This makes me excited that people  are willing to give it a try.   I think in trying it is where you will find its benefits (better than just reading what I think about it).  I feel that it is important to reiterate this disclaimer though:  things like protein, calcium and iron are obviously extremely important.  Eating a plant based diet requires us to be extra vigilant in making sure we are getting the things our body needs every day.  If you don’t like veggies, this is going to be a very hard road for you.  People who are going to have the greatest success with this are the ones who are going to eat the most varied amount of healthy foods.  Red, yellow and green veggies are not just pretty to look at, they provide so many different and important vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants.  Spinach lovers and others who enjoy leafy greens are going to get a lot of needed iron that way.  People who enjoy beans are going to get a lot of low fat protein. Soy is another source of protein although you will find different schools of thought regarding its use.  Nuts and seeds are other more fatty (but delicious) options.  Dry roasted edamame are a great lower fat alternative with 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of dietary fiber per 1/4 cup.  Vitamin supplements including vitamin D and especially B12 are extremely important.

I have faith that if people are willing to try going plant based, most will take the time to seek out ways of getting things they need.  If you are a finicky eater, the good news is, that after several weeks of going plant based you tastes will acclimate to your diet and trying new things that you think you may not like might begin to resonate differently with you.  If that doesn’t happen, consider a hybrid alternative where some lean meat is consumed.  Many people have success that way.  If you can’t do that, just try working more plant based food into your current diet.  That’s a good start.  It’s all about what you are personally trying to accomplish.  I’ve taken very poor care of myself for a long time so I need to be stricter now.  In general though, I find the middle path is the best.  Because my situation was bad, I needed to go more extreme.  In the future I may pare it back some.  I’m not so concerned with what I will be eating in 5 years from now.  I’m just thinking of today, tomorrow, this week.  One day at a time.  That’s enough.

Everyone has their own path.  When chosing yours, be healthy, be adventurous and be brave.   Don’t neglect to seek out the advice of your doctor and/or a nutritionist.  They are extremely important.  I’m not a guru.  Don’t trust someone my size to lead you to the road of better health and wellness.  I’m just someone who is trying to get healthy.  I have but one or two pieces of the puzzle.  The road is definitely here and there are many people on it.  Talk to them, get ideas and then experiment and see what works best for you.

Whatever your goals are, you can accomplish them when you are willing to make the change.  I recently read that failure happens not because people don’t have the willpower, it happens because people aren’t ready to commit themselves 100% to making the change.

You Can Feel 18 Again

28 02 2012

For those that are new to this blog, up until last week I’d spent over 5 months on antibiotics for a nasty staph infection. Staph is something that many of us naturally carry on our body and in our noses. Most of the time we are immune to it, but on occasion it does find a way into our systems and it can be very stubborn to get rid of. I happen to live in an area with many, many hospitals. It’s the medical capital of the northeastern United States. Because staph originally comes from hospital settings and has now found its way out into communities, this part of the country has seen dramatic increases in people becoming infected. It is an exponentially growing problem and you are now more likely to get it at the gym or while pushing your shopping cart than you are at a hospital.

I’ve never been a big fan of meds, always preferring to let my body try to fight things off naturally if possible. I don’t even use pain relievers, unless I’m burning up from a fever. But when I became sick with staph, my body was in no condition to do any serious fighting. Lack of sleep, lack of exercise and a horrendous diet left a gaping hole in my body’s natural defenses. My immune system was left weakened and susceptible. With the severity of my staph infection, I was happy to be on antibiotics and to eventually find a medicine that would do a good job in fighting it off, as I had tried a number of different ones that really didn’t do the trick. What I never expected was to be on meds for so long. At my last doctor’s appointment just before Christmas, I fully expected to be given the green light to forgo the meds, but was instead told to continue on for two more months as a precaution. At times the dosages were so high that several times a day I was suffering from “medicine gut” a term I coined to describe the fire in my belly that would rise up my esophagus. The ironic thing about being on meds for so long though, is that I eventually started to somehow believe that I wouldn’t be well without them. I was literally scared to go off of them. I had become sort of psychologically dependent on them. Being off of them for a week now has definitely raised my confidence level that things are going to be alright. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still nervous but am feeling better.

Before I got sick, I was so completely exhausted. My life was a vicious circle of poor choices leading to worse health leading to worse choices. At times I have been over 400 pounds. I don’t even no how much over 400 because even the scale in my doctor’s office wouldn’t go higher then that. It’s hard to carry that much weight around all day long. I’d get home and just want to get horizontal. I was eating poorly which also sapped my energy. Then I would turn to sugar to get an energy bump. When that rush wore off, I’d up the amounts of sugar. One day I actually totaled up my sugar intake and found out that often times I was consuming hundreds of grams of sugar daily. I was doing nothing to improve my situation and physically and emotionally I began sinking deeper and deeper.

When I did get sick with staph, I slept for days. I couldn’t even eat. I was nearly bedridden due to exhaustion. I lost 17 pounds in two weeks (some of which I would later gain back). It was a miserable time. And as overdramatic as it probably sounds, there were times that I wondered if I was going to even make it. I felt that bad.

Twenty two weeks on antibiotics gives a person a long time to mull over their situation. I researched ways to fight staph naturally and began using a variety of supplements. I began looking at my diet. Some blood-work confirmed that I would need to make some serious lifestyle changes if I was going to get well and get off meds. Shortly after switching to a plant based diet, I began to feel energized like I hadn’t been in so long. I never crashed. Some nights I had to tell myself it was time to go to sleep because I still had energy. I couldn’t imagine feeling much better. But after being antibiotic free for three days last week, I actually felt the best I have in 18 years. It’s not an exaggeration. I literally felt 18 years old again. The fog lifted and I felt so good – physically and emotionally. For two days I wanted to pinch myself. I felt like I had found the fountain of youth.

With a plant based diet that has been modified to also assist with my other health issues, there are a lot of things that I find myself missing. I do miss meat. I do really miss cheese. I miss bread. I miss Snyder’s hard pretzels (with sharp cheddar cheese). I miss fried foods. Sometimes I think of how nice it would be to have a coca cola on ice. Today, I broke down and bought three small peppers stuffed with prosciutto, hard provolone cheese and marinated in olive oil. Three no no’s. But I felt like a little bit of this stuff might actually do my system a favor as I’ve been eating nothing but fruits, veggies and beans lately. They were so good. It was the taste of my grandmother’s kitchen growing up. But afterwards, I felt rundown. And that’s what I don’t miss. And that’s why I will never go back to how I used to eat. Sure I’ll be less militant when I’m healthy and I know I will eat meat and cheese again, but I’ll never go back to having such an unbalanced diet. I feel too good to ever go back to that. It is worth the trade off. It is worth missing these things.

You really can put lightening back in a bottle. You really can feel 18 again. It’s not bullshit. If you want to feel young again put good gas in your tank. If you want to lose weight, cut out the things that the body has difficulty processing and eat more naturally. Go plant based for two weeks and tell me if you don’t feel absolutely incredible. I’m not telling you its gonna be easy. It’s gonna be very hard but everything that is worth something in life comes with a price.

Some people have asked how to make the switch to a plant based diet easier and I have said get really, really sick and see how easy it is. Because short of that, I doubt I would ever have found this path. In a few weeks, I hope to put together a daily menu for people who want to try a plant based diet out for a couple of weeks. If you are already on the path, consider leaving me some of your favorite plant based recipes below in the comment section or email them to me at johhnysized@gmail.com. Keep them easy. Remember what it was like when you first started. how overwhelming it can be.

If you aren’t yet on the path but suffer from fatigue, want to lose weight, etc. – consider going plant based just for a few weeks and see what a difference it can make. Even smaller steps like cutting out sugar, or processed foods could allow you to feel and see some real noticeable results. Learn from my mistakes, if you are unhealthy, don’t wait until you are so sick that you have no other options.

Goodbye Pills: Life Without a Net

22 02 2012

It’s been 24 hours without these:

Since September, I’ve been eating these things like candy for a staph infection that I was eventually diagnosed with.  It took a month just to find a med that really responded to it, hence all the different ones. The pink ones were for pain as a pimple on the back of my neck had swelled to something about the size of a deck of cards in less than 72 hours. Some of the white ones were to prevent the sepsis (blood poisoning)that was beginning to occur from really taking root. Then the dosage was increased but did little to stop the actual growth. So I was switched to a different and stronger med which still didn’t do the trick. Then I began getting antibiotic shots at my doctors office and again my med was changed (a third different white one). By the time I was finally diagnosed with the staph I had been on 6 different meds. The experience with my general practitioner was very difficult and I had to really fight to advocate for myself. If I hadn’t fought to get a culture done, I’m not sure what would have happened. Luckily I knew some knowledgeable people who were able to help steer me in the right direction.

The experience with my doctor was miserable and honestly I can’t even write about it in the detail that it deserves without feeling the anxiety that surrounded that time start to seep back in. So suffice to say, I found an infectious disease doctor that was quite fantastic and he put me on the blue guys for the last four months. Because the size of my infection was so large and was mostly under the skin in one of the deadliest spots you can get staph (the nape of the neck. The most deadly is on the forehead – all because of blood vessels and relatively easy access to the brain and spine), I had to take 8 of those suckers a day. That was 2400mg a day for three months. I can’t even begin to tell you what this does to a person’s stomach.  I remember my new doctor saying that I was on enough meds to sink a battleship. Gradually I was able to reduce down to half of that dose. Yesterday I stopped all together.

Over the last four months, I have felt decent but there have been times where I thought the staph was coming back. The meds kept everything in check and within hours, pimples that popped up would be gone again. But now, I’m going without that net. It feels really good to be off of meds and I hope that I will never need them again for this. But I am scared like crazy at the same time. Hopeful and scared. Once I get through a week with no problems, I will start feeling better.

As miserable an experience as this was (for a little while there, I truly thought I would be hospitalized and possibly worse) it gave me the push I so desperately needed to try to get my health and wellness in better order. The human body was created to heal itself. It is it’s own best medicine. Taking care of it allows it to better be able to do its job. I’m pretty much doing all that I can to take care of myself now. I really hope the worst is over. It’s an interesting story, but one that I’d rather not have to live through ever again.

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