This is a post from My Health Journey, an ongoing series where I document my health progress. Follow along to see, month after month, how I implement my recovery protocol, handle stressful situations, eliminate food sensitivities, incrementally train my nervous system to handle more stress, and ultimately, how my method continues to allow me greater and greater freedom, happiness, and health!
I am bubbling with excitement for this December 2021 health update! It’s been quite a close to the year for me, going far beyond my best expectations. Due to the extraordinary improvements I experienced, I’ll go to more length than typical in these updates.
A Major Pain Breakthrough
The floodgates of health burst forth for me this month despite being busier than ever with client work! Through November, I had 25 days with time where I had no pain in the last 25 years. I had 13 days in December, including the final four straight days of the month! I even had one day with two separate periods without pain, which has never happened before. When I did have some pain, it was hardly more than a 2 out of 10. I used to have at least a period of 4 out of 10. I’m getting spoiled with having so few pain distractions. I’ve found that I have to exert mental effort to remember what I had to do to manage it.
I track every day that I don’t have pain, so I have a concrete measure of my progress. Doing so also gives my mind a standing order to celebrate these successes and not take them for granted. I look at them as the achievements of all my effort over the almost five years of my recovery. They are moments to appreciate how far I’ve come and to spark me to push for more growth. To end the month, I had a celebratory sushi dinner at Uchi to cherish the best year of my life! (More on that in a little over two weeks!)
The important question regarding this month’s improvement is: what led to my health breakthrough? I think four main contributors can explain it.
- Increased happiness
- Treating Klebsiella oxytoca
- A diet tweak and beginning use of my Black Friday health buys
I’ll explain each of these.
Happiness Equals More Healing
I’m a loud and repeated advocate for the supreme power of happiness in a healing journey. Such feelings are crucial for generating endorphins and other biochemicals and are opportunities to get away from inflammatory stress responses from one’s thinking and the biological processes of chronic health problems. I’ve continually experienced health breakthroughs when I’ve achieved significant values. These values include deciding to write a book, becoming a health coach, and moving out of my parents’ house after fifteen years of disability.
Most importantly, happiness is the spiritual fuel of life. Feeling it comes from seeing the achievement of your values either by you or, secondarily, by others or in art. Regularly experiencing this satisfaction is a necessary contributor to a successful healing journey due to the biochemical effects. Of further importance, feeling the pleasurable confirmation that life and betterment are possible stokes your motivation to set up benevolent cycles of self-improvement in every area of your life that you can. These are the seeds of possibility that, when nurtured, can lead to flourishing health that allows you to escape the vicious cycles of symptoms and pain.
I’ve cultivated this framework for value-achievement for the last 15 years. It’s what drives every choice I make. I think it’s as important to a health recovery as the nuts and bolts of diet, exercise, and so on from a lifestyle or Functional Medicine protocol. In the coming months, I’ll have more to say about this vast subject in some articles soon.
I saw a great deal of payoff from my mindset approach this month. To set the stage for why it was so powerful recently, I’ll give a bit of context about my general direction in life. Becoming healthy enough to write, speak, and apply coaching techniques that I help others with has led me to feel a profound sense of satisfaction. This satisfaction comes from seeing my efficacy in action and the benefits it leads to in the improved health of others. These feelings greatly surpass the pleasure I could attain when I was disabled and could only appreciate the achievements of others in their work and consume art. This proof of one’s efficacy is at the deepest root of self-esteem.
This month, I had many such feelings and am happier than ever for several reasons. First, I had a large influx of new clients and continue to see the concrete improvements of everyone I’m working with. Seeing this improvement deeply satisfies my central purpose of inspiring people to be their best. Fulfilling part of this vision on an ever-widening scope is bringing me more satisfaction. Having many warm moments of pleasure from seeing their progress while attached to my highest value brought about the most intense happiness I have ever had from work. I had several moments after calls with clients where I felt minor pain melting away from the pleasure I was feeling.
Mid-month, I passed the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching certification exam. Now, I’m a proud NBC-HWC in addition to my ADAPT certification. This achievement marked the fulfillment of a three-year goal to become a doubly-certified Functional Health Coach and evoked a great deal of vibrant joy.
Finally, I recorded my second appearance on The Natural Evolution podcast with Michael Roesslein, which will air in 2022. I felt delighted to give my best explanation yet of “the how” of getting better from a dire health situation. I explained across 80-minutes how a three-phase application of my health approach led to my recovery. In that season, I will be in the lineup with guests such as Dr. Dale Bredesen, author of the excellent books from a Functional Medicine perspective, The End of Alzheimer’s and The First Survivors of Alzheimer’s. It’s an honor to be working in such esteemed company. Finding that out led to feelings of awe about how far I’ve come with my recovery and work. They all positively affected my mood, and immediately dropped my pain for hours afterward.
In all, I generated a ton of endorphins just from my achievements that had an impressively beneficial impact on my health.
Die, Bugs, Die!
It’s been three months since a test showed that I had Klebsiella oxytoca. Klebsiella is a bacteria that can be a player in autoimmunity. When I got the test results, I began taking uva ursi and grape seed extract. This month, I also added grapefruit seed extract to my regimen, which may have sped the process up. I have noticed fewer aches in my muscle attachment points since I began this regimen, so I think it’s another definite contributor to why I’m feeling my best yet.
Diet Tweak and Product Integration
I stuck with my change in dropping my fat calorie intake by 8-12% and filled the void with protein. Since then, I haven’t had any post-breakfast inflammatory symptoms that I was getting with the higher fat breakfasts. I also am on a daily 20-25% calorie deficit to aid in reaching my goal of 12% body fat. I think both of these dietary factors are variables in my equation of monthly improvement. The lack of food triggering symptoms is obviously helping. And I think getting leaner could be part of my upward trend since adipose tissue is a suspected storer of toxins. I certainly had a very unhealthy past with contact with all sorts of foul material that could be in my adipose tissue. Burning my excess fat could give my body a chance to detoxify what’s been stored there.
In addition, I started using Flex and Lean supplements from Kion, my massage gun, and barefoot running shoes. I detailed these purchases in my Black Friday extravaganza. The Flex supplement and massage gun are the standouts to this point. Flex is designed to help with workout recovery through the mechanisms of protease enzymes and a few other ingredients. I estimate that my workout recovery has been about 50% better with less inflammatory pain since I began the supplement. Of further help, I use the massage gun on a weak setting to loosen up before a workout and more intense pressure post-workouts. I think both of these have led to lowering my baseline pain with exercise.
The biggest development with my workouts is that I now feel better 90% of the time when I lift weights. I also made significant strides with running. There’s no doubt that these are a significant contributor to my new lack of pain.
I had to decrease the amounts I was lifting due to a two-week break around Thanksgiving. But by the end of the month, I progressed back to where I was. I even set a new personal high with 28-pound weighted chin-ups. To my astonishment, during one late-month workout, my pain completely vanished during a bench press set. That’s the first time I’ve been pain-free while lifting weights during my recovery!
Running was the other area I pushed my boundaries to an unprecedented level. In my first run post-Thanksgiving, my legs felt so great that I felt like I could run all day. I ran ten minutes more than I ever had, but stopped so that I wouldn’t overdo the exercise. Hilariously, I’m so running-ignorant due to my 31-years with exercise-induced asthma that I went home and looked up the distance of a 5k. I was shocked to discover that I had just run one without any breathing trouble! I ran two more 5ks in December and had a best time of 28:10, which is a beginner runner for a man my age. For now, I’ll happily take that classification after being repeatedly told that I’d never run without extreme difficulty and medication assistance!
Finding measurements of running times sparked my desire for self-improvement. To test my explosive speed, I went all-out and ran a mile in 7:29. That’s over four minutes faster than the last time I had my time clocked in high school, and a novice ranking!
While running one 5k, a powerful image came to me. I imagined running past my younger, wheezing, teenage self. Back then, I hated the constant discomfort from a constricted airway I’d get while running. My mindset was negative since I’d accepted what I’d been told that I’d never run without extreme difficulty. As I dashed along during that 5k, I imagined telling the younger version of myself that I could achieve ideal health with the correct principles, and I wasn’t genetically doomed. As soon as the reverie was over, I thought that since I couldn’t change the past, I’d spend the rest of my career telling others!
On the bouldering front, I made two trips to go climbing in December. I went to Austin Bouldering Project once and the to Crux Climbing Center for the other outing. There was noticeable progress with my bouldering skills!
I usually have enough pain and achiness in my joints that I need about 45 minutes of climbing before I feel like my body loosens up. On top of that, I need to massage my muscles at their attachment points to work some of the pain out. I also typically need a few minutes of rest between each attempt to climb.
On the first trip, I arrived at the gym pain-free and was successfully scrambling up at the rate of my healthy 25-year-old friend without any aches. It was one of the best workout sessions of my life! I matched my 20 wall record from November. As the session went on, I realized I had progressed enough that I was wasting some energy on beginner walls but was too tired to try anything more challenging.
On the second trip, I altered my approach and bypassed many V0-1 difficulty beginner walls. Instead, I went for harder routes in the V2 range. Thanks to this approach, I completed a wall with three new challenges for me, shown in the video here! I had never used round finger holds. Nor had I completed a dynamic lunge to finish a wall, or performed a dynamic move on a slanted wall. My success after several failures led to my joyous impromptu celebration at the end of the video.
One last physical note: I noticed that my strength is lacking in pullup-type moves while bouldering, so I added them to my weighted chin-up workout days. I haven’t regularly been doing pullups for the past few years because of the intense nerve pain they would cause. However, it seems I’ve gained some strength since I last attempted them. Across three sets, I can now do seven, five, and four slow repetitions with perfect form. I had much less pain afterward with them, so that was a relief and even more progress!
To sum up, I think all the endorphin release from exercise is another potent contributor to my improvement this month. Being able to lift, run, climb, and do non-painful pullups is creating many new opportunities to generate pain relief. I finally seem to be a normal man who consistently feels better from exercising instead of someone who has to expect pain from my efforts at physical improvement. I think my fitness future is bright!
Welcome to 2022!
That’s a wrap for my December 2021 health update. It was a landmark month for me!
Happy holidays, everyone! I hope you had a good 2021 and an even healthier 2022!
I’ll change my usual schedule and publish a special health update on January 16th. That will mark my fifth anniversary of beginning to turn my health around. I’ll recap my progress at the five-year mark, how I did with my yearly goals, and what my goals are for year six! I’ll see you all then!