Weight Loss For Spondy Patients (Part 2)

spondylolisthesis weight loss

In Part One of Weight Loss For Spondy Patients I discussed some of the common reasons why it is so hard for spondy patients to lose weight. I also provided some helpful links and information to help you gain a solid understanding of weight loss and the battles spondy patients face in their weight loss journey.

If you have yet to give Part One a read you can do so by clicking the link below:

Weight Loss For Spondy Patients (Part One).

Today we are going to progress and discuss the nitty gritty of weight loss. This includes what I consider to be the three main components of weight loss. I will also provide you with some helpful tips that you can use in your weight loss goals along with some examples of things I did to get long-lasting results.

Let’s begin!


The Three Parts Of Weight Loss

Since graduating from college with a degree in Exercise Science I have helped numerous people in the field of Strength & Conditioning and Health. Naturally, my family and friends have also always come to me with workout, health, physical pain and weight loss questions.

Needless to say, when I was working full time as a strength coach I was frequently asked questions regarding weight loss.

I wanted to develop an easy to understand platform that people would have an easy time learning. It took some trial and error, but I have developed what I would consider to be a pretty straightforward, simple to understand and most importantly easy to follow method of explaining to those who want to lose weight.

Simple is better.

I have always believed this. Weight loss can seem so hard and difficult, but the only difficult part is committing to it and keeping the course.

To help people understand what you need focus on I use one simple sentence. Throughout your weight loss journey you need to remember this one thing:

Add positives and subtract negatives.

It really is that simple. You need to add positives to your daily routine and subtract negatives.

Where most people get into trouble is they take a cold turkey approach. Like I mentioned in part 1, we live in a world of instant results and people want instant feedback.

Weight loss does not fall into that category.

It takes time and effort. And if you want long-lasting, noticeable results you need to take this process one day at a time. Making dramatic changes in a day leads to withdrawals, greater challenges and a much greater chance of falling off the plan and reverting back to old habits.

Making changes slowly, but surely engrains new habits and a new lifestyle into your brain and makes a long term change much more likely.

So as I explain these 3 parts of weight loss remember one thing throughout:

Add positives and subtract negatives.

When breaking down the parts of weight loss I explain the following:

In my opinion you have 3 crucial components of weight loss. Diet, exercise and movement.

If we were to take a pie graph and place each one of these components into the graph with their space representing the role they play on weight loss it would look something like this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 5.29.42 AM

Part 1. Diet

What you put into your body plays a HUGE role in how you feel and what you look like.

Nothing will speed up your weight loss journey like improving what you put into your body. No matter how much you exercise, unless you improve upon your eating habits the pounds will keep hanging on and most likely adding up.

I believe diet makes up about 60% of the battle if not more. And the important thing to remember is that as you age your diet plays a larger and larger role in weight loss.

For example, if you are in your early 30’s diet may make up 60% of your weight loss. As you age that number climbs and the diet component becomes more and more important.

Why Your Diet Becomes More Important As You Age

1. Your metabolism slows down with age.

In a nutshell your metabolism is your body’s ability to convert food into energy. When we are young and full of energy and activity we have a raging fire of metabolism.

Every thing we put into our mouth is used for energy to help us play, learn and be active. As we age this slows down. We are not as active, not playing as much and our body tends to start storing food as fat instead of using it for energy.

This can often be combated by reducing the number of calories you put into your body on a daily basis while at the same time improving the quality of food you put into your body.

2. Your hormones change.

Without going into boring details here, as we age Estrogen and Testosterone levels drop. This has an effect on your blood sugar levels, which can increase your hunger.

People become hungrier more often and crave certain foods. This can be combated by eating foods that create a feeling of being full. Foods such as healthy fats, high fiber foods and whole grains and leafy vegetables.

3. You lose muscle mass.

Dropping hormone levels do not just affect your hunger. They affect your muscle mass as well. Muscle mass helps to burn calories, more calories than the fat so many of us have.

The more muscle mass you develop the more calories you can burn off. This can be improved by adding strength training to your program and focusing on developing strength though exercise.

4. Stress rises with age.

As you know the responsibilities only pile on as we age. This leads to pressures we have never dealt with such as job, family, house, payments, etc.

Stress leads to the secretion of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is your bodies way of preparing you for a very stressful situation. Cortisiol helps improve your reaction time and is basically a way to prepare your body for a fight or flight (run away) situation (think encountering a large bear on a hike).

However, the body cannot tell the difference between encountering a large bear and being faced with mounting personal debt, a rough week at work or a big argument with a loved one. It will still produce that cortisol and if you do not use it (fight or flight) your body will then store it as fat.

Using various methods to help control stress such as meditations, yoga and pilates will help to keep stress at a minimum.

These things add up and as we age it becomes more and more difficult to lose weight. This is a big reason why diet should become your number one focus!

As I discussed in Part 1 I am not a registered nutritionist nor am I dietician.

And when I was working full time as a Strength & Conditioning Coach I had several resources of people in this field that I could not only send my clients to for help, but also reach out to with questions.

When I was unsure I always asked someone who knew. I suggest you do the same. When constructing a plan for yourself seek some professional help to achieve the best results. And most importantly, make sure you are healthy enough to diet and exercise in the first place by getting the okay from your doctor.

With that being said I will not go into exact details on the foods you should or should not eat. In Part 1 I listed a few resources that I found very helpful in regards to food and what you should focus on. I listed a few books and resources that I also point family members towards as well.

I encourage you to research this on your own and come up with a plan.

Remember…. Add positives and subtract negatives.

When it comes to diet the initial changes are pretty easy. Mainly because many of us have such a bad slate to begin with. We may eat desert twice a day or snack in-between meals, etc.

It can be easy to subtract a few negatives when you start.

But as I explained to a recent family member who is trying to shed a few pounds…. you should think about subtracting, not eliminate completely.

Eliminating everything or all of the “bad” foods would be no fun and makes losing weight a big time challenge. Cutting things out cold turkey increases the odds of reverting back to old habits. Some people can do it, most cannot.

With that being said here is an example of what I personally did with my diet to help me drop 20 lbs.

I did this slowly and steadily. And by 6 months I was down 20 lbs.


Diet Positives I added

The main thing I wanted to focus on was adding healthy, whole, quality foods to my diet. Unfortunately America is becoming dependent on quantity and not quality.

We are also marketed on speed and convenience, which makes healthy food choices hard.

Its easy to drive through McDonalds and get an inexpensive meal and supersize it. Or walk through the grocery isle and pick up some packaged pre-made dinner.

I did my best to avoid these traps.

I focused on whole foods. The more natural the better.


Focus on whole, natural foods in your spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis weight loss journey.

Things such as:

Vegetables. If possible we buy organic, but any vegetable is a better choice than chips, fries or other fried oil based products.

Quality cuts of protein. We discovered a local farmer who raised pastured chicken, pork and beef and we do our best to get these quality meats.

Water. Water became my main source of liquid. I also had my morning coffee and occasional beer in the evening, but for the most part I focused on adding more water to my diet.

“Healthy Fats” – Here is a link explaining healthy fats more. But in general I started consuming more heart healthy fats. Things such as avocado, a variety of whole nuts, dark chocolate and pastured pork and beef.

Ate at home more – Eating out is great. It’s fast, convenient and enjoyable. But it can be tough on the scale and your body. I have never been a big fast food guy, and I packed my lunch most of the time. But when my wife and I first got married we did eat out a lot on the weekends.

I worked hard on eating more at home. Filling up with quality foods instead of eating out so often. We ended up enjoying this and still eat out every now and then, just not nearly as much.


Diet Negatives I Subtracted

There were a few things in my diet that I cut back on gradually. Surprisingly it was not nearly as hard as I expected.

Sugar – sugar is in almost all packaged foods. Take a look at a label sometime and glance at the sugar levels. It’s shocking.

The bottom line is subtracting sugar from your diet will make the biggest impact on your weight loss and how you feel.

Sugar contains a ton of calories and very little, if any at all, added nutrients. Sugar has been linked to several deadly diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cancers.

My main focus was to slowly cut back on the amount of sugar I was consuming. Whether it be packaged foods, sugary cereals or deserts I made this my number one goal.

The marketing tricks of big time food companies can trap you so be careful. Those “healthy” low fat yogurts contain upwards of 25 grams of sugar!

Those “fat free” cookies can still contain 30 grams of sugar. Always read your labels.

And don’t get me wrong. Fruits are healthy, but remember they do contain sugar and often times in large quantities. So don’t just consume a ton of fruit when you are initially trying to lose weight.

I started off focusing on avoiding things with more than 10 grams of sugar. This then dropped to 5 grams. Currently I probably consume less than 10-15 grams of sugar a day. That includes fruit.

According to authoritynutrition.com the average American in 2008 consumed 76.7 grams per day! No wonder our country is loaded with obesity!

Processed foods and additives. Processed foods are everywhere. A bag of chips, pre-packaged dinners, cookies, crackers and the list goes on and on.


Subtracting the amount of processed foods in my diet was a key to my weight loss.

I cut back dramatically on these foods. I avoided foods with ingredients on the labels that I did not recognize or understand.

Companies will do anything to increase the shelf life of food. This includes adding wild ingredients that play negative roles on our bodies and minds.

These ingredients can affect our metabolism and hormones in a negative way.

Drinks other than water – I enjoyed having a diet soda, flavored water, cocktail or lemonade at the height of my weight gain. Truth is these drinks are loaded with sugars and artificial ingredients.

I cut back on these for that reason. Like I mentioned earlier I focused on water. If I needed some flavor I added fresh cut lemons or limes to my water or sipped on a carbonated water.

Eating out – As I mentioned above I cut back on the number of times we ate out per week. Instead focusing on making quality meals at home. A recent family member who wanted to start losing weight focused on her sugar intake and eating out less during the week.

Her big issue was lunch meetings. I explained that she did not need to cut them out, just subtract negatives and add positives to the lunches. She started putting down burgers and fries and adding salads with the dressing on the side. Three weeks in and she is already down 5 lbs.

Again, I made these changes slowly. Week by week I added more positives and subtracted more negatives. It makes losing weight much, much easier!


Part 2. Exercise

Let’s go back to that chart for a moment. In my opinion exercise makes up about 30% of the weight loss chart.

I think when people begin a weight loss goal or journey they put too much stock into exercise. They think the key is they have to exercise for hours upon hours during the week to get that perfect body.

Now do not get me wrong, you cannot gain muscle and lose fat without an increase in exercise or activity. However, you do not need to put in 4 hours a day at the gym to see result either.

Also, remember this. You cannot out work a bad diet.

Make your diet your number one priority and always remember it will have the largest impact of your weight loss totals. The exercise is like adding fuel to the weight loss fire.

The benefits of exercise go well beyond how you look on the outside. Performing some type of exercise accomplishes so many things from a health standpoint. Here are just a few:

  • Reduces blood sugar
  • Reduces heart attacks
  • Burns calories
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Increases muscle mass
  • Increases bone density
  • Decreases stress
  • Increases longevity

So remember, you are doing more than just working out to look good. You are creating a healthy lifestyle that improves an overall quality of life.

Now this all sounds great. Let’s hit the gym and workout…..Oh wait, my spondy pain!

This is the problem most encounter. It’s a big obstacle and most people stop working out when confronted with the pain and discomfort of their spondy.

Before starting an exercise program it is important to have a full understanding of your body, your exact spondy situation and your pain.

Luckily our website is full of resources to help you get your spondy under control so you can start working out without the setbacks you once endured.

I encourage you to take a look at these articles to help you develop a solid understanding of ways you can go about improving how you move and feel so you can begin working out again.


Helpful Movement Links

How Poor Movement Can Affect Your Spondy – And How To Fix It – This is a must read article from our blog that goes into detail just how important movement is and how you can go about getting your movement checked by a professional.

My 5 Daily Spondylolisthesis Stretches/Movements (Part 1) – A collection of the 5 stretches I do everyday to help maintain a solid foundation of movement and prepare my body for the day.

SpondyInfo.com’s Home Exercise Program – A link to our Home Exercise Program designed to target specific weaknesses and common movement issues in spondy patients.


Part 3. Movement

Again, lets go back to that chart I provided earlier.

Movement makes up the smallest piece of the pie for weight loss. However, for spondy patients I believe it is THE MOST OVERLOOKED and forgotten component of weight loss.

For the sake of this article I consider movement to be grouped into two categories.

1. Overall Movement Quality – Your body’s ability to go through multi-joint movements which place demand on the body’s core musculature and innervation.

In a nutshell, your overall movement quality is your ability to go through everyday movements efficiently. Things such as pain, past injuries, muscular weaknesses and tightness all can negatively affect your quality of movement.

2. Overall Movement Volume — The frequency for which you go about changing location.

Most spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis patients who have a desire to lose weight jump right into exercises, weight loss programs, high intensity training, running and other weight loss programs without addressing their overall quality of movement first.

This can be a disaster for the body, your spondy and a one-way ticket to more pain and discomfort. If you have a desire and goal of losing weight the first thing you should do is address your movement and diet simultaneously. You will get great results improving your diet. At the same time you want to improve your movement to set your body up into a position to be able to perform exercise in the future.

We discussed this topic in the Exercise section of this post, but its importance deserves to be mentioned again. Once you have a solid platform of movement you can begin to add more aggressive exercises and movements that your body will be prepared to handle.

Most spondy patients do the opposite. They have a poor platform to begin with and they aggressively try to take care of their weight loss with explosive movements, high intensity exercise and other aggressive forms of exercise. This is where a large majority of pain sets in and its quickly back to bed rest and little activity.

In combination with improving the quality of your movement you need to think about your overall movement volume.

This is another area where adding positives and subtracting negatives should be fairly easy to attain.

Think about it…how often do you really move around in a day?

I understand the pain can be a limiting factor, but hopefully that will improve now that you have an idea on ways to go about improving your quality of movement.

Do you walk up the stairs or take the elevator?

Do you go for walks during the day?

Do you mow your own lawn, wash your own car, do your own house chores or do your own landscaping?

Or do you spend hours behind a desk, in front of a television and in bed?

Again, I understand pain does play a role here as many of us spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis patients are limited, but I encourage you to start small.

Think about how much overall movement you have in a day. Where can you add more movement (positives) and subtract some negatives.


Adding a walk during the day is a great way to get extra movement.

Perhaps park a little farther at work and take a longer route to get inside. Add a morning walk instead of watching the news. Do your own chores instead of hiring help.

There are multiple ways to add positives and subtracting negatives in this category.

The bottom line is you simply want to add more movement and reduce the amount of time you are sedentary.

Those small steps can add up and make a big difference when it comes to losing weight. Not only will you lose weight, but you will also gain strength, confidence and well-being.

These three components of weight loss are fairly simple, yet they contain a ton of valuable information. I encourage you to look them over and gain a solid understanding of what they mean.

Also, consider how you can begin incorporating what you have learned into your lifestyle to help you improve upon your goals.

I hope this stuff makes sense and help you to gain a better understanding of the topic of weight loss in combination with having a spondy. Keep an eye out for Part 3 as I will discuss one of the biggest mistakes spondy patients make when it comes to losing weight. I will also talk about how to approach working out with a spondy along with some helpful tips to aid you in your journey.

In the mean time I encourage you to review this article again and give the links a read. Also, make sure to comment below to let me know what you think about the article and/or what else you would like to hear or discuss.

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Leave A Reply (4 comments so far)

  1. Krista
    1 year ago

    This has been my favourite article by far! Very down-to-earth, practical, and doable. Thank you so much for this article.

    • SpondyInfo
      1 year ago

      Thats great to hear Krista! I am glad you find it down-to-earth. Thanks for the comment!

  2. C
    1 year ago

    I really appreciate these last 2! Yes you get us!!! LOL Thank you for your encouragement. This year I’ve had some great PT that I got to work with but met my quota with insurance. I’m not giving up. And I am looking forward to having my life back. Thank you!

    • SpondyInfo
      1 year ago

      No problem C. I am glad you enjoy the articles! Keep working and striving to improve. Don’t hesitate to share your experience with the Spondy community along the way.

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