Thoughts On Getting Healthy
This posting is a compiled list of tips, information, and answers to popular questions I have been asked about my personal journey to get healthy and fit. I am sure I will be adding to this post as time goes on as well.
The micro-version of my story is that I used to weigh 405 pound and was on several medications for both type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure. I have since lost over 140 pounds and no longer need any medications (I have no signs of either the diabetes or the high blood pressure). However, my journey as of this posting is not yet over. I hope to lose about another 40-60 pounds to reach a good target weight for my height and build. I’m 6′-3″ (1.9m) tall.
Also, this post focuses on my recent 85+ pound (38.5kg) weight loss effort in 2012 (and now continuing into 2013). I had loss about 55 pounds (29.9kg) over a few years time before this from less than ideal reasons. If you’re interested in learning more specifics about that and other personal experiences from my entire weight loss journey, you might be interested in reading my other related post – My Journey So Far
Please understand that the following is just what is working for ME. Your mileage may vary and of course you should to seek professional advice and fully educate yourself in order to best make choices that are best for YOU.
Before we even get into specifics, I think it is very important that you understand my initial game plan because it is a critical part of the success I have had and is also what has me confident that I have actually made permanent changes to my diet and lifestyle.
In my day job I am always having to address unplanned crisis, external obstacles and restrictions, learn new technologies/software/programming languages and data structures, and other things– while also being responsible for making key decisions that can directly lead to success or failure on projects that can cost millions of dollars and impact entire teams and their families. I of course take this very seriously and put a massive amount of focus and passion into being great at what I do (I make video games for a living by the way).
As mentioned in the “My Journey So Far” post, this all started for me when I saw a very specific clip from the film Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead where Joe Cross was talking about the priorities in his life before he also transformed himself. They were a pretty good match with mine– with “work” being at the top of the list. Something clicked in me and I thought to myself – “Hmm, what if I put the focus and energy into my health that I put into my work?“. I am really good at learning very complex and difficult things when I apply myself.
So, what was the plan I came up with? Simple:
Step 1 -Educate myself
I decided to first learn all I could about nutrition and weight loss/gain. I watched documentaries, read books, read research papers, etc. I encountered a range of information (and dogma!). I took it all in and formed my own strategy and opinions that I would try to put into practice. I adjust this as I continue on this journey and learn even more through my personal experiences.
I also changed almost nothing about my diet or lifestyle at first. I just focused 100% on learning.
See this blog’s Resources section for a list of documentaries I suggest to get you started in a fun and entertaining way (you just need to sit there and enjoy films– you can do it!).
Step 2 – Fix the root problem
I realized that in order to be ultimately successful I would need to keep the weight off permanently. In order to do that I had to really dive deep and try and figure out how I got that way in the first place. Why did my body want to be fat? I know consciously I definitely didn’t want to be! It was at this point I discovered another key component of my “secret recipe”– Jon Gabriel’s book The Gabriel Method. Jon was also very overweight at one point at around 430 pounds (195kg) and had, after many failed diet attempts, managed to lose all his extra weight and has now maintained it perfectly for over 7 years. I figured this is someone I could learn at least something from.
What I learned was a deep understanding of my connection with food and the events that led my body to want to be fat. Once I could identify them and make the conscious facts of my problem– they were no longer a problem. For everyone this is very unique and personal, but I think it is critical that you go through this journey (even if it requires professional assistance) to really be able to break free. Once you can do that you are good to go.
Jon asks people a very simple question that helped me start this process– “What happened to you when you first started gaining weight?“.
I need to repeat this because it is very important. Don’t start with the physical act of losing weight without understanding the foundational issues first– or you will never be able to have permanent success. You need to have this figured out to make permanent change.
Another important tip I took away from the book and practice daily is visualization. I have a picture of a target body and I visualize that body as mine every day, twice a day. This really helps keep me focused on my long term fitness goal and motivates me. The one thing I have learned about motivation is that you have to self-motivate. You cannot rely on anything external to provide the motivation– it will lead to excuses and failure.
Read The Gabriel Method book for a detailed understanding of what I am saying in this step. I highly recommend it.
Step 3 – Juice fasting
Of course I was very interested in trying a juice fast after seeing Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead and, after my initial learning period, I decided to give a 30 day juice fast a try. By this time I was fully committed to doing the fast. My reasoning was simple – if it worked and I stayed at least as healthy as I was at the time (which was not very healthy!) what did I have to lose?
The taste of the juice (Mean Green recipe) or not eating any solid food didn’t matter to me. I saw it as a new medicine– so it could taste like crap and I would still drink it with a smile on my face! As luck would have it however I only mildly despised drinking it at first and after a few days I was neutral about the taste. However, once my taste buds re-adjusted to natural foods and my body made the connection that the juice was responsible for feel amazing and energetic I started to actually crave it (and I still do).
I lost about 45 pounds (20.4kg) from that first juice fast and felt AMAZING! I didn’t exercise at all for this fast. I literally changed nothing about my life other than what I put into my body.
Step 4 – Gut check break
The purpose of this step was to literally check my gut– over a good period of time. Did I gain weight back? If so I had more work to do before I even tried to lose more weight. If I did gain… it was back to Step 2!
Luckily I did not and actually kept loosing (though at a much slower pace than while juice fasting). I did this pause (no juice fasting) for just about 3 months. I did continue to drink the mean green juice at least once almost daily (or grab a wheat grass shot), but I fully intend to always do that for the rest of my life anyway.
I decided after my first juice fast to apply a “plant-strong diet” where I would eat mostly raw (vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, etc.) but also start going back out with friends for lunches and dinners (thought I also tried to look for vegan menu items to try when we did go out– though I wouldn’t sweat it if there wasn’t a good option).
I now KNEW that type of diet worked very well without any calorie restrictions (a healthy diet is NOT the same as dieting!) and I had heard that after a juice fast you would actually really enjoy a plant-based diet. I was never a big eater of fruit or vegetables (most of us only ever eat a very small set of these based on what we were exposed to as children) and thought I would see how it worked for me. The juice fast must have done the trick. I was trying everything I could get my hands on and loved it all. I was amazed! People were in shock as even vegetables I couldn’t stand and they knew I avoided before were now perfectly fine for me.
One final part to this step– I spent about a week going back to my “old diet” and eating mostly poor choices. I found that, at least for the short term I did it, that I still did not gain weight. I did stop loosing and just maintained my current weight when I did my “worst” eating, but I didn’t gain. I found that I passed this junk through my system much faster than before (it was almost out of me within 12 hours– usually even faster). It also made me feel like crap and I actually lost a lot of my old food cravings this way. It just didn’t appeal to me anymore because I felt so horrible after eating that food. I now actually feel like one of “those” people who can eat what they want and not gain weight– it’s insane to me! The good part though is that “what I want” is usually a healthy choice now anyway. I’m sure if I just ate the “old food” I would eventually gain the weight back and get sick again. It’s just that my “healthy body” can take a hit once in a while and bounce back. One weekend I ate an entire medium pizza by myself (and made other poor choices all weekend) and I still lost a pound!
Step 5 – Keep going and add exercise
At this point there really didn’t need to be a solid plan. I had made a lifestyle change for the better and was good to go to lose the rest of my weight. I have done a few more juice fasts with breaks in between to speed things along (between 10 and 30 day fasts) and they continue to work very well for me. I just needed to keep going at this point.
I did start exercising recently though. I did this for a few key reasons:
First, because I craved it. That’s right– the guy who has spent the last 25 years of his life sitting down indoors all day now WANTED to exercise. I just have so much energy now. I tried daily exercising (cardio and weights) for my last 15 day juice fast for the first time and had no issues.
The second major reason I have started exercising is that I want to be tone and fit looking at the end of this. I want my skin to continue to tighten up, build muscle definition and be cardiovascularly fit. Being skinny and being fit are two different things! I have to say though that I am really enjoying exercising. I have yet to go to a gym as I am so new to it that doing body weight and dumbbell exercises at home along with cardio are plenty good enough for me for now (and maybe always).
Two exercising resources I recommend are the social network website for fitness called Fitocracy (www.fitocracy.com) which gamifies fitness where you have levels and achievements (and also has a great supportive community– look me up!) and a book on body weight exercise by Mark Lauren called You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible Of Bodyweight Exercises.
I did start taking a basic set of daily supplements at this point though. See the Questions section below for details.
* If you have a question you don’t see answered here, please let me know in the comments section!
Q: What did you do to lose weight?
See “The Plan” above for details. In a nut shell, I greatly elevated the priority of health in my life and applied my energy and focus to educating myself about nutrition, identified the root causes of my weight gain, daily visualize my target body, switched to a plant-strong diet, and did several juice fasts to detox my system and speed up the weight loss.
Q: Do you take supplements?
Yes I do, but I did not until after the first couple of juice fasts I did. Now that I also exercise frequently, I take the following daily:
• Omega 3
• Multi-vitamin (mostly for the B12 actually)
In my latest juice fast (which I am on as of the time of this post) I am now trying to do moderate exercise while fasting that includes weight training/lifting. Because of this I have just started to also add a daily vegan protein drink to the mix to observe the results of that. It is much to early however for me to provide any insight into doing this. For those interested, I went with SunWarrior vegan protein powder supplement (the Warrior Blend).
Q: Is your skin loose?
Yes and no. My skin is a bit loose since I am losing weight at a fairly good clip, but it also continues to tighten up. At this time I do not have a large concern over having loose skin long term. My body is very nutritionally satisfied from my new diet (and juicing) and seems to be responding very well. I have even seen my skin be pretty loose in areas right after a long juice fast with over 30 lbs of weight loss in a month and have it tighten up quite a bit after a little time.
I guess it does remain to be seen how it finally looks once I am at my target weight, but I’m not concerned at this point. I have realistic expectations that my skin will take time to tighten up mayeb as muh as a couple of years after I reach my target weight. Also, even if it did stay loose, isn’t it better to be healthy with loose skin than on your deathbed with tight skin?
Lastly, I would also point to Jon Gabriel’s before-and-after photo above as an example of someone who’s skin also bounced back after losing weight in a very nutritional way.
Q: What medicine did you take?
I took four total medicines to treat both my type-2 diabetes and my high blood pressure. As mentioned above, I am no longer on any medications.
• Metformin (for type-2 diabetes)
• Glyburide (for type-2 diabetes)
• Byetta (for type-2 diabetes)
• Benazepril (for high blood pressure)
Q: What juicer do you use?
I currently am using an Omega 8006 juicer and I love it. I specifically choose this juicer because it excels at extracting leafy green vegetable juice (which I do a lot of), it minimizes aeration of the juice which allows me to make larger batches of juice at once while minimizing damage to the nutrients in it (because it is a slower spinning masticating juicer), and lastly because it is built to last and take the daily abuse I give it (and has the best-in-class warranty to back it up). See my blog section on Juicers for more information and some helpful links on choosing a juicer.
Q: What about juice purchased in the store?
Unless it is fresh pressed on-site and handed right to you it is almost always garbage. It has been pasteurized and heated to kill bacterial and most likely also packed with preservatives to give it a shelf life and keep the ingredients from separating. Avoid at all costs.
Q: You have mentioned doing juice fasts “the right way“– what does this mean?
- It means that you are making fresh juice daily with you own juicer from the freshest possible produce you can get.
- It means you are drinking primarily green vegetable-based juices and not mostly fruit juices so you get all the nutrients you need (if you are not sure what this means, just start with a Mean Green recipe and go from there).
- It means not cheating at all and adding in things like coffee, alcohol, or a little bite of food here or there.
- Most importantly– it means you have done the research on what you might be about to do to make sure you do it correctly and safely.
Q: What juices do you drink when fasting?
While many people try a bunch of healthy juice recipes while fasting, I keep it pretty simple because it works and I am fairly busy.
I stick with a simple Mean Green recipe that can be found on blog under the recipes section. I will at times add something to this like a bit of pineapple, grapes, plum, pear, parsley, or other leafy greens, but it is always just added to my base recipe.
Q: I heard you are on the toilet all the time if juice fasting– is that true?
(now to be clear– we’re not talking about going pee here)
This has not been the case for me. I think for everyone’s first juice fast you might need to stay close to a bathroom for a few days as you purge all the junk from your system and detox, but after that I have been just fine. In fact, after juicing for a week or so you will find you will only need to go every 2 or 3 days. because there is hardly anything that is solid in your system. The exact frequency will be determined by your juicer and how much pulp gets into the juice.
Q: How do you feel when doing a juice fast? What’s your energy like?
For the first few days I feel pretty good– taking in a lot of nutrients will do that! Then from about days three to five I feel a bit crappy as I go through detox. I get lethargic and some headaches. For this reason I try to plan a juice fast to put me on a weekend for these days so I am not at work and can take it easy. The exact extent of this really has to do with what your diet is when not fasting. For my first one it wasn’t the best and I had years of bad diet beforehand to clear out. My later fasts where I eat healthy anyway has really reduced the effect of detoxing on the fasts.
Once I get over that “detox hump” I feel amazing and full of energy for the rest of the fast. I also feel clearer of mind. The first time I reached this state I was almost overwhelmed with how good I felt. It was this very feeling that kept me going since then. I just continue to feel better and better.
Q: How do you sleep while fasting?
I sleep better when I am juice fasting than at any other time. Not only do I go to sleep quickly and have a great deep sleep, I also don’t need as much sleep. I found myself waking up 1-2 hours before my alarm clock in the morning and ready to start the day. It is crazy to me because I have NEVER been a morning person.
Q: Do you ever crave “bad foods” that you love?
Absolutely! But it is getting less and less so as I go through this. When taking my “gut check break” (see The Plan section above) I made sure to eat most of the worse foods that I absolutely loved. Something interesting happened though– because I now felt great and energetic all the time and got a perspective of how good I COULD feel, I really noticed how horrible I felt after eating most of these foods. That alone made me not want to eat those foods anymore. I found I simply started to crave new healthier foods. I didn’t force myself to eat them, I wanted them.
The hardest one for me was peanut butter – I loved it. That one I did have to make an effort to not eat as much as I would have wanted to. I actually ended up using visualization to break my addiction to peanut butter. To do this you basically visualize that food in some disgusting/nasty circumstance before you decide to eat it and it will help you break that addiction. What did I visualize? I visualized that the peanut butter was smeared all over a dirty toilet before it was collected and put back in the jar. Now THAT did the trick!
(sorry if that sounded groos– but that’s the point!)
Q: You mentioned visualization– how do you do this and what do you visualize?
I visualize my perfect body twice a day. Once when I get up in the morning and then just as I am going to sleep at night.
In the morning I look at my target body picture and visualize myself in such a body and what it feels like. I then continue that visualization as I shower– almost like I am washing the old body away as an unwanted second skin.
In the evening I also start by looking at my target body picture. I then use the free visualization CD that comes with Jon Gabriel’s book, The Gabriel Method. It works really well for me and I fall asleep while it is playing.
Q: What is this Target Body Picture which you speak of?
This is simply a picture of someone who physically represents the body I am striving for. It can be a picture of yourself when more fit/healthy or of someone else.
In my case I choose someone else because I had been heavy most of my life. I made sure to choose someone that somewhat resembled me, but in a very fit state. The end result has to be possible for you to really believe in it and train your subconscious that that is the body it should have to be healthy and safe.
It is also important to understand that the actual person you choose for this picture (if not yourself) is not really important. You are no trying to be that person– you are trying to reach a similar physical goal. You really just sort of look “through” the picture and absorb it into your subconscious.
One final tip if using a picture that is not you (or even if it is I guess!)- make sure you choose a realistic and un-altered photo!
Q: Any final advice you can give?
Sure- here are a couple of things:
- First I would say you need to self-educate. Do not rely on what you have been told to be accurate (and that goes for what I am saying too!).
- Second, if for some reason you get the impression that I am saying I am perfectly executing on my journey– please don’t! I have my bad days just like everyone else. I just keep one thing in mind that gives me endless drive– forget the lost battle… focus on winning the war!