My First Year -- Progress Report .

Just over a year ago I weighed more than 400 pounds.  I’ve lost just over 160 pounds to date and would like to lose another 30 to 50 pounds.  In hopes that others may benefit from my story I am sharing it here. 

I’ll start with a review of what I did for my first year and take it from there.  Last year the emphasis was on weight loss for obvious reasons.  This year, while I still have weight to lose I would like to gain muscle and strength and eventually shift my focus to those tasks.  I have no experience with that phase of things but I think I can muddle through with the help of my trainer.  

 Here is a synopsis of my first year:

February 2015:  I started on February 9th of last year.  Believing that a dramatic problem will require an equally dramatic solution I began with a 28-day water fast.  In retrospect, I believe that my thinking was correct but my approach was wrong so I DO NOT recommend that anyone do a water fast of that length, if at all!

I have come to believe that if you’re morbidly obese your metabolism, immune system and general health have been screwed up, damaged and otherwise compromised by years of the standard American diet  --especially sugar and processed food, yo-yo dieting, lack of fresh air, sunlight and exercise, the stress of being large, etc.  In retrospect, I feel that my water fast was like hitting an already-damaged body with a hammer and expecting it to heal.

I lost a good amount of weight on that fast but I was weak and depleted at the end.  The fast seemed to solve some problems while making others worse.  In retrospect, a 3-7 day juice cleanse probably would have been better for me or even just going straight into clean eating.  

March 2015:  At the time of the fast, I really believed that I was doing the best thing for myself.   While fasting, I did research to figure out what my next steps should be.  I had high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, asthma, allergies, arthritis, low thyroid, vitamin deficiencies, digestive difficulties and more.  I was on ten different medications and walked with a cane so I KNEW that I had to eat to regain health and not just to lose weight.

Additionally, some of my “symptoms” made me believe that I had auto-immune issues related to diet.  I was desperate enough to try anything for relief.   My research made me resolved to give up gluten and dairy once I resumed eating to see if that healed some of my physical ailments.

When I began this journey I had started to develop eczema and other weird skin conditions and also had problems with my eyes.  A pus-like substance was constantly oozing out of my eyes and they’d be crusted shut every morning.  They always felt irritated.    Two different eye doctors diagnosed two different ailments and prescribed eye drops and creams that did NOT solve the problem.

Within days of starting my fast the eye and skin problems disappeared.  By the second week my joint pain was at least cut in half and the constant runny nose that I had also cleared up.  One positive thing about the fast is that it showed me how powerful and influential food actually is.

Having horrible symptoms and ailments disappear once I stopped eating made me positive that certain foods were the cause.  If certain foods can cause illness then other foods can cause health.  A seed was planted in me at that time.  I became a believer in the healing power of being on the right diet and furthermore understood that that diet might not be the same for everyone. 

After I ended my fast with a couple of days of eating fruits and organic vegetable soup I went right into eating a paleo style diet.  One week after I resumed eating I hired a personal trainer who worked with me three days a week. 

April, May, June 2015

These were the “easiest” months on my journey.  I lived mainly on organic greens and grass-fed or wild-caught proteins.  I drank water or unsweetened green tea. My hunger greatly diminished and my health improved almost daily.  The constant positive changes kept me motivated to continue with the healthy eating and personal training. 

During this period I Iost over 100 pounds. My blood sugar became stable and I went from four blood pressure medications to two.  I no longer walked with a cane and joint pain was greatly diminished.  I ate the same things all the time (and still do to some extent) yet, miraculously, I don’t get bored.      

My personal trainer had never worked with a morbidly obese person before.   He did a lot of research and found that there aren’t a lot of examples of morbidly obese people who lose weight and become fit through diet and exercise--- and I’m speaking about long-term results here.    We both wanted me to work hard and have the pride of knowing that I really earned my results and owned my success.  But at the same time it is easy for someone that big and unfit to get injured. 

After working together for a while we came to a place of harmony with all of that but it was definitely a “learn-as-you-go” situation for both of us. In the beginning, I just wanted to lose weight and be healthier.  But as time went on and my trainer had me doing more and more  I tentatively started to wonder if I could actually become not merely less fat but actually fit.

At the end of June, my total weight loss was 109.2 pounds.

July and August 2015

My weight loss began to slow during this period.  It’s fairly easy to believe in yourself and what you’re doing when you’re pretty much getting instant rewards for your efforts.  As the weight loss slowed and the physical changes weren’t so obvious from week-to week I entered the phase where most of us quit – the phase where we have to trust the process and start thinking long-term.  Some weeks I did not lose anything or would even go up a pound or two.   It took everything in me, and more, to not get discouraged and give up.
The summer months were more about inner changes, becoming willing to fight for myself, persevering through doubt, developing patience and a long-term view.  A lot of good can happen just by keeping your promises to yourself.

At the end of August my total weight loss was 125.2 pounds.

September and October 2015

At this point in my journey I had been “eating clean” for six-months and I have to say that I never felt better.  It had been six months since I had consumed fast food, alcohol, processed food, soda, fried food, dairy or grains of any kind or even non-organic produce.  I not only removed gluten from my diet but ALL grains as I have found it is harder for me to control hunger or cravings when I eat grains.

I also had not only removed sugar from my diet but artificial sweeteners as well. I gave up coffee, not because I think that coffee, within itself, is ”bad” for you; but because I just cannot drink it without cream and sugar.

I had calculated that before I began this journey I was consuming 500 or more calories per day in beverages such as coffee or sweetened tea.   I HAD to give these things up or I’d be drinking one third (or more) of my daily calorie allowance.  In many ways I miss the things I used to drink more so than what I used to eat.  I went through the whole summer without so much as one soda, beer, lemonade or sweet tea and that tested my resolve far more than the food at social gatherings or on hot, summer days. 

It was in this period that I noticed some physical changes that I hadn’t anticipated.  Number one was a complete lack of any sort of body odor.  I mean I could work up a sweat on a hot summer day and the sweat had no smell.  The same with my urine.  It became almost odorless.  The only explanation for this that I can think of is that I am not consuming any toxins that my body must rid itself of --- consuming clean means eliminating clean.  This is not “science,” just my opinion.

My skin has become very silky and not like the skin of someone my age.   People started telling me that I looked 20-years younger and I certainly did feel that way.

I gave up working with my trainer at the end of August, largely for financial reasons.  I switched to outdoor cardio such as brisk walking and a yoga class twice a week.  I did almost no weight training during September and October.
At the end of October my total weight loss was 142 pounds.  

 November 2015

This was the month from hell but I did end up learning a lot.  It was a busy month for me with several family birthdays, a weekend getaway with a good friend, two Thanksgiving dinner parties with friends and a huge dinner with my family.

The first thing is – I allowed coffee back into my diet with small amounts of cream and sugar!  Huge mistake!  This reawakened a desire for sweets and carbs.  The reason I re-added the coffee is that I started feeling really flat and low-energy, if not very depleted.

I had experienced other months where I had a lot of social obligations and got though them with no excuses and without a lot of difficulty. For whatever reason, in November I allowed myself my first ever “cheat meals” and “cheat days” and it was an epic freaking disaster.  I allowed myself wine, Martinis and mixed drinks 4 or 5 times.  I ate cheese, potato chips and other things that I hadn’t consumed in months.  My weight began to fluctuate even more wildly than usual but instead of an overall trend downward it began an upward trend for the first time since I began this journey.

I do NOT test negative for Celiac’s disease.  Nonetheless, not eating it gave me relief and complete healing from nearly all of my previous health complaints.  A friend who is a nurse honestly believed that if I reintroduced gluten to my diet it would have no ill effects since I test negative for Celiac’s disease.

I listened to her because she is a health care professional and seemed so positive about the science of what she was saying.  I was also already lowering my standards in terms of what I consumed and was not feeling good emotionally.  I was full of self-doubt and disappointment.

From the start, I had set the goal of losing 200 pounds in one year.  Here I was, three months away from the one year mark and I knew that it was unrealistic to achieve that goal in a healthy way.  The sense of disappointment and ”failure” were very strong and hard to live with. 

Thanksgiving week I ate gluten many times in the form stuffing, gravy and numerous baked goods.  The problems I used to have with my eyes oozing a pus-like substance immediately returned as did the skin rashes, joint pain and breathing difficulties.  I had not taken asthma medicine, anti-inflammatories or pain killers in months but was forced to do so to relieve my symptoms . 

Since I felt like crap and KNEW the food was the cause I went back to how I had been eating and my system went back to normal.  This experience solidified my knowledge that I cannot eat gluten.  Period.  I don’t care what tests say or how much “science” says I should be able to eat it.  I can’t.  It messes up my immune system and fills my body with inflammation.  

After this experience, I “let go” of any resentment I felt over not being able to eat like other people.  I can sit with friends in an Italian restaurant and watch them chow down on pizza and spaghetti and literally feel zero temptation to eat any of it.  Zero. 

When I look at those foods now I remember how crappy I felt in November.  If anything, I feel a revulsion towards those foods now and think about eczema, oozing eyes, painful bloat, joint pain and breathing difficulties when I look at pizza, pasta and donuts.  No thanks. 
November ended with a net GAIN of 1.4 pounds and a renewed resolve to eat in a way that is healthy for me whether I lose weight or not and no matter what an “expert” has to say about it.

December 2015:  After November’s “dietary vacation” and gluten disaster, as well as ending the month with a net gain, I was determined to remain on track in December.  I made the decision not to do any baking for the holidays and I stuck to that.   My family LOVES the Christmas cookies that I would bake every year so the decision to break that tradition was not an easy one. 

I made a simple and healthy Christmas dinner and instructed guests to bring desserts and bread for themselves.   
I was busy that month and we had a death in the family, so exercise really suffered.  Nonetheless, I finished December with a five pound loss for the month and a total loss of 145.6  -- and proved to myself that you can have a great time without unhealthy foods and alcohol being the focus.

January 2016  -  A new year and 11-months into my weight loss and fitness journey.  I renewed my commitment to embrace health and lose weight and I wanted January to be a successful month to finish out my first year in a strong way. 

I returned to VERY strict eating, upped my water intake and returned to being VERY carb selective.   I joined a gym and started hitting it 3 times a week.  I had a nice drop in January and finished my first year with a total loss of 157.4 pounds!
This brings us to the present month.  The first month of my second year on this journey.  I’m proud of myself for not giving up!
I had a physical and all my blood work came back great!  My cholesterol is in the 170's and my blood sugar is now normal.  I no longer take meds for asthma, allergies, joint pain or inflammation.  
My resting pulse at the doctor's office was 52!  Imagine that!!
I look forward o seeing what I can do in the coming year!