Weight Loss For Spondy Patients (Part 3)

spondy weight loss

If you have yet to catch Part 1 or Part 2 of the Ultimate Weight Loss Guide For Spondylolisthesis or Spondylolysis Patients you can read them here:

Weight Loss For Spondylolisthesis Patients (Part 1)

Weight Loss For Spondylolisthesis Patients (Part 2)

In Parts one and two we have discussed in detail the three main components of weight loss. In our final installment of this series we are going to discuss one of the biggest mistakes spondy patients make when it comes to losing weight.  I will also share with you some of the most helpful changes I personally made to help me shed unwanted bodyweight.

As a quick refresher, here the 3 components we discussed in the previous posts along with some tips from each component.

1. Diet

  • You diet makes up the biggest part of weight loss. You cannot out-train or out-work a bad diet.
  • Focus on adding positives and subtracting negatives.
  • Start small and improve slowly but surely.
  • Every month review how you did, set goals and think ahead on how you can add more positives and subtract more negatives in the month ahead.
  • Do not stress, worry or feel down about missing a day or falling off the proverbial diet bandwagon. Remember, we are aiming for a lifestyle change and not a short diet with rapid weight loss.
  • It is o.k. to have a nice dinner with friends and family every once in a while.  Enjoy that glass of wine, ice cream cone with the kids or desert with the grandchildren. Just don’t make it a daily habit.
  • Plan your meals ahead to make things easier. Plan your day the night before. Especially if you have to pack your lunch for work.
2. Exercise
  • Do not fall victim to going too hard and too fast (we will discuss these points in more detail below).
  • Start slowly and progress slowly.
  • Treat working out like building a house. You need a solid foundation first, followed by a well-constructed first floor and then the rest of the house. Do not overlook the importance of a solid foundation.
  • Listen to your body!
3. Movement
  • Focus on improving your movement quality first and foremost. In combination with diet improvements this should be your first step.
  • Add positives and decrease negatives when it comes to the amount of movement you perform in a day.
  • Find areas in your daily routine where you can add more movement and you can subtract sedentary times.

In case you are wondering what these changes look like, let me share with you some of the changes I have made in each category over the years to help me shed around 20 lbs of unwanted bodyweight.

I made these changes in an effort to improve my quality of life and I hope you can find the same amounts of success I have had.

Remember, before making any major changes to speak with your health professional to find out what dietary changes and exercises additions would be appropriate for you. These are the changes that worked for me, this does not mean they are the exact changes you should make.

Also, these changes occurred over a period of time. I did not make them all at once. I added them slowly and surely to make sure my changes would be a part of my life, not just a short fad-diet.


Diet Changes I Have Made

Added Positives – I added more vegetables, whole/natural foods, natural sources of protein and water.

Subtracted Negatives – I subtracted high sugar foods, processed foods, fried foods, soda, and reduced alcohol (I still have to have a beer now and then!).

I also subtracted snack times and focused on 3 solid meals a day.  At each meal I went out of my way to have some kind of vegetable and limited my carbs. I made sure I got enough calories from healthy sources at each meal to last me until the next meal.

Example – Breakfast for me used to be some kind of cereal, pancakes, waffles, etc. I slowly subtracted those foods and I have since replaced them with eggs, steel cut oatmeal with fresh berries and nuts, sprouted grain bread with natural butters and vegetable smoothies.


Adding fruit and vegetable smoothies was a very helpful addition for my weight loss.


Exercise Changes I Have Made

Added Positives – A workout program I could follow that focuses on what I need. This includes limiting my workouts to under 30 minutes a few times a week. I am a VERY busy guy with a family and two young boys. I do not have 2 hours a day to work out. I follow the short and sweet saying when it comes to working out. I work on my weaknesses at the same time I elevate my heart rate and improve my strength.

Subtracted Negatives – I avoid skipping workouts. If I do not feel like working out (which happens at times) I replace doing nothing with going for a light walk or doing a simple stretch. I have found that once I skip one workout, things begin to snowball in the wrong direction.

Example – I used to workout for over an hour a day for 4 times a week or so. This lead me to quickly falling off the workout bandwagon due to not having time or simply becoming tired of working out in general.

Now, I workout 3 times a week for less than 30 min a day.

This allows me to stay on track and keep moving in the right direction towards my healthy lifestyle.  And it is a plan I can follow and stick to. If I am feeling great one week I may add an extra sprint workout or something else. If I am sick or feeling crappy, I will replace a workout with light stretching or foam rolling.

Movement Changes I Have Made

Added Positives – For my movement quantity, I have added walks to my daily routine and I walk places when I can.  I also make sure I get up and move around if I am spending excessive time behind a computer desk.  I started washing my own vehicles instead of paying to have them done, and I also play with my kids as much as possible. This includes running around with them at the park and playing games and sports with them at home.


Walking has been a great addition to increasing my movement quantity.

For my movement quality I spend 4 days a week or so working on my weaknesses for 10-15 minutes in the mornings before my day begins. I foam roll tight restricted areas and perform a few movement exercises to work on my deficiencies. I found out what these were by having a movement screen and learning my specific weaknesses.

Subtracted Negatives – For my movement quantity I avoid long computer sessions by using a timer to get up frequently, I found times during the day where I was sedentary and replaced it with walks or movement.

For my movement quality I simply avoided things that I thought were adding to my weaknesses. As I mentioned, one such thing was long hours behind a desk working on my computer. Instead of avoiding this all together, I set a timer to make sure I get up and sometimes I stand when I work. I also avoid exercises or activities that I know have given me problems in the past.

Now that you have a good idea of what you can do to get your weight loss efforts moving in the right direction, we need discuss what I believe is the biggest mistake spondy patients make when it comes to losing weight.

Please keep reading so you can avoid this common and painful mistake!


Working Out Too Hard & Too Fast

I will never forget what it is like to be in a gym on the First of January. EVERYONE has a New Years resolution to lose weight. The alarm goes off, you get up early and head to the gym motivated to shed weight at a rapid pace.

You hit the treadmill, you pound the weights, and you hit the treadmill again.  All in all you spend 2 hours at the gym and you are on your way to looking like a supermodel in no time.

One week later you are so exhausted and tired of working out you decide to skip one day. Then you skip two days. Before you know it your off the workout bandwagon and back to your old habits.

People picture adding workouts as a quick fix. They go too hard and too fast when they start. They are excited to see results and they want them quickly.

The key, especially for spondy patients,  is to add working out slowly but steadily to your daily regimen.

Pick a workout time during the day that works for you. It can be YOUR time.

And the best part is the research now days is showing you do not need to spend 3 hours at the gym to get benefits from exercise.

There are lots of studies these days backing up the results so many have experienced with shorter workouts.  You can get all of the benefits from above by spending around 20 min a day working out.


You do not need to spend hours on a treadmill to see weight loss results.

The one thing spondylolisthesis  and spondylolysis patients need to think about and remember is we are unique. We cannot not just jump into CrossFit, P-90x or Insanity workouts like our friends.

These high intensity, high impact exercise programs force the body to work to its limits. They force us to compensate and complete the movements no matter what the quality of the movement is like.

For those not suffering from a spondy this is often not an issue. Most will not experience pain or discomfort (at least not right away). But for us spondy patients this is a recipe for disaster.

Most of us have some kind of movement issue. Whether it be tight hips, a weak core, poor instability in the hips, poor ankle mobitity, etc.

When we are faced with exhaustive exercise our bodies can no longer handle the compensations associated with our spondy and we fall even deeper into compromising positions.

So remember this…. START SLOW, IMPROVE SLOWLY!

Your results will not come overnight.

I have made the mistake a few times of trying the latest workout fads only to wake up the next day with excruciating pain and spending weeks recovering.

O.K., so hopefully you now understand that you cannot just jump into a new workout regimen. So how should a Spondy patient go about working out?


How To Approach Working Out With A Spondy

In our Spondy Home Exercise Program & Ebook we go into great detail discussing and providing exercises that are designed for those with spondy’s.  If you would like more information on this topic I encourage you to check out this program. In this article,  I am going to explain how you should be approaching working out if you have a spondy.

This will give you a better understanding of why working out often leads to pain for spondy patients.

The way you need to think about working out needs to be the same way you would approach building a house. We call this progressive exercise.

Let’s break building a house down into three categories.

1. The Foundation

The foundation is the most important component of a solid, well-built house. A well- built foundation keeps a house upright, strong and stable.

Without a solid foundation a house is vulnerable to storms, shifting, and breaking down.

2. The Main Floor

The Main Floor is the second most important component of a house. A solid built foundation followed up by a well constructed main floor will last for years and years.

3. The Rest Of The House

On top of the main floor you may have an upper level, two upper levels or just an attic with a roof. Although this area is not considered as important as the floors below, it is still a vital component to a well built house.

Now here is the key and this is where most spondy patients go wrong. Our bodies are just like this house analogy and so is working out.

The Foundation involves your body’s integral support system. This includes basic mobility and the way your brain communicates with your muscles, develops patterns of movement, etc.

Exercises at this level should be basic, and aim at improving a solid base. (Hint: basic does not necessarily mean “easy to perform”….basic exercises may actually feel quite challenging)

Unfortunately, this is where most spondy patients suffer.


Having a weak foundation can lead to major structural issues in both a house and our bodies.

The main floor uses what you already have present with your foundation and includes stability and the recruitment of muscle to aid in this process.  This may include the addition of movement or weight for added difficulty to exercises in a progressive nature.

However, with a weak foundation you are going to miss the benefits of the main floor as you will have it all sitting on a poor foundation.

The upper levels of a house come last. Without a solid foundation and a solid main floor the upper levels are useless.

The house would be fragile. Swaying side to side in a windstorm and looking like it is ready to crash and crumble at any minute.

Exercises in this level of building contain full body movements and increased intensity (most exercises associated with weight loss).

A majority of the time people with spondy’s have poor overall movement. In other words, they have an issue with the foundation of their house. On top of that they often times have issues with the main floor as well.

BUT, when we try to lose weight we jump right to building the rest of the house.  We attempt high intensity full body exercises that require a high level of stability and mobility that we do not have.

Compensations, pain and inflammation are likely to soon follow.

Basically, we are trying to build a fancy, upper level to our house with a very poor foundation and main level!

We then end up in pain, frustration and fear and revert to sitting around and feeling sorry for ourselves (weight gain).

Instead of jumping right into hardcore, intense exercises we instead need to focus on Diet and improving our bodies from the ground up.  Then use a progressive approach to exercise to build upon our solid foundation and main floor to eventually reach the upper levels of the house. Only this time we will be ready to build that upper level.


Time To Get Started!

I hope this Guide has provided you with everything you need to begin losing weight. Most importantly, remember; break your weight loss into three categories.

1. Diet

2. Exercise

3. Movement

Add positives and subtract negatives in each category and do so on a slow and steady path. Be the tortoise, not the hare!

You should now have all the tools and knowledge you need to get started on a successful weight loss journey. I would love to hear what you have tried in an attempt to lose weight and any tips you have tried. Also, let me know about what positives you can add and what negatives you can subtract.

Get started now and get on the right track to losing weight!

I encourage you to share your progress or weight loss stories by commenting below. The more we can discuss this topic, the more spondy patients will learn!

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Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

  1. Annmarie
    1 year ago

    Hi, can you direct me to someone reputable in my area (Grand Rapids Michigan) that I can see an get evaluated for movement issues and such for my Grade 1 Spondy? I have been dealing with this on my own for several years but am getting frustrated because I can’t seem to do much beyond 30 minutes without pain? Thanks in advance.

    • SpondyInfo
      1 year ago

      Hi Annmarie. I understand your frustration and I think its a great move to seek some kind of professional to help you in the process of determining if movement related issues are playing a role in your pain. Unfortunately, I do not personally know of anyone in your area, however here is how I would recommend finding help.

      1. Use our Spondy Toolbox and the link provided to locate a board certified physical therapist in your neck of the woods who is certified in the SFMA screening mechanics. You can use this link here to go directly to the SFMA website and use their location tool (make sure to select the SFMA in the drop down menu): http://www.functionalmovement.com/experts

      2. Write down the name and number of all the people who pop up in your area that are within driving distance and qualify. Visit their website if provided and just take a look at their experience or past. Get a feel for their believes and methods.

      3. Call each one and get a feel for who they are. It is like an interview process for the most part. Ask them if they have any experience working with spondy’s. If so did they improve? Ask them about cost, plan of attack, etc. Most importantly share your story with them and tell them exactly where you are coming from. Let them know you are very interested in learning about your bodies movement and if it is playing a role in your spondy pain. You will get a good feel for them and if they are a match for you. You can then make your decision after you have analyzed all of your data.

      I understand this is a time consuming process, but your health is worth it. Unfortunately, there is no other way and it is why people get stuck finding help. Many people also do not realize that they can make a choice in their rehab. Most people go with the doctors suggestion without doing research on their own. This is no knock on the doctors suggestion, but often times this has to do about doctor/therapist relationships and not so much the therapists experience or success working with specific conditions such as a spondy.

      As always, if you have any questions feel free to email me privately at info@spondyinfo.com. I hope this helps!

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