At his heaviest, Joel Peterson weighed 320 pounds, a result of poor eating habits.
After losing a hundred pounds and gaining it back again a couple of times, Joel elected for gastric bypass surgery.
The surgery allowed him to maintain a weight of 160 pounds for about five years, but then the weight started to come back little by little.
When his weight hit 209 pounds, Joel knew he had to make some changes in his life.
Another surgery was off the table, so Joel focused on changing his diet.
Joel got down to his ideal weight of 160 pounds twice, but the triggering events were different each time.
The first time, a visit to an amusement park pushed Joel to seek gastric bypass surgery.
Joel was on a ride waiting to be secured into the seat.
“I go to get on this ride,” says Joel of the experience.
“And, the guy goes to put the bar down and he can’t get it down.
He’s pushing on the thing for about two or three minutes and finally he’s like, ‘Sorry sir, you can’t ride this ride.’
I had to get off and do the walk of shame off the ride.
I just remember that day, just crying and just going, ‘that’s it, I have to take control’.”
Ten years after the gastric bypass, Joel’s weight had crept back to 209 pounds and he found himself again at a crossroads.
He couldn’t have bypass surgery again.
“The second time was just realizing that I started having some health problems,” Joel says.
“I was having some dizzy spells and I saw that weight coming up to 209, and those memories of when I was heavy before.
I’m getting older and I thought to myself, you know what?
I’ve just got to maintain and get back down to that optimal weight.”
Gastric bypass surgery got Joel down to 160 pounds the first time, but for his second weight loss journey another surgery was not an option.
“The second time, yes, and that’s actually what I’m the most proud of,” Joel says of turning to healthier eating to gain control of his health and weight. “I started going on a really low carb diet and eating a lot of healthy proteins.
I tried to eat grass fed meats when I could and healthy salmon and fish and I ate a lot of nuts.
I just went on this healthy oils- avocado oil and olive oil, stopped eating bread.”
“The other big thing is sugar,” Joel says. “I pretty much just eliminated sugar from my life, including fruit juices and a lot of sugary fruits.
I really kind of limit myself on that.
Boy, for me that worked wonders and I had a lot more energy and the weight just melted off.
That, combined with some exercise really got me to be able to maintain where I’ve been.”
“You know what,” Joel says when he starts to talk about keeping off the weight.
“I think for me it’s just looking back and having a strong WHY, like why I wanted to lose it and how good it makes me feel now.
I think really just once you start to do something and you do it for simple things over a long period of time it just becomes habit.
And that becomes part of you, and you just want to do that.”
Part of that for Joel also came with some mental adjustments, focusing on his goal and remove bad influences to the way he ate.
“I had to change the way of thinking of how everyone out there eats,” Joel says.
“Throw away the side things of like, my kids would say, ‘Oh, dad what about the food pyramid?
The government says you should eat this.’”
For me, it’s really important that I am always prepared,” Joel explains that having healthy things ready at hand to snack on controls his temptation.
”What I found is I actually eat a lot and believe it or not I snack a lot.
I just snack on the good things.
“I snack on what I’ve chosen to eat like low carb snacks, not the kind of crap you buy at the store that says, ‘Gluten free’ and all that kind of stuff, but nuts and whole foods and I eat cheese.
I always make sure that I have something that can keep me satisfied and I drink a lot of liquids, because if I don’t have something to snack on that’s healthy then I start craving a donut or start craving the bad stuff.”
“In my pantry I have pistachios, cashews, macadamia nuts, string cheese,” Joel elaborates.
“I do eat a lot of jerky as well.
I’m careful of the jerky I eat because there’s a lot of jerky that has a lot of sugar out there, but I eat jerky.
I found these crackers that are made with almond flour and I will eat those and again, I eat a lot of low carbs so I’ll eat a lot of salsa because you can have almost an unlimited amount of salsa.”
“Those are kind of my go-to snacks.
I do a lot of nuts and then I also like bell peppers too.
I’ll grab some bell peppers and grab some veggies every once in a while, carrots, hummus is a good snack, usually have that in the fridge, dip my bell peppers in it.
Those are a lot of things specifically that I’ll snack on.”
Joel rounds out the snacking with protein bars, which he says he has about one a day.
“When I wake up in the morning I’ll make breakfast,” Joel details his low carb eating plan.
“I found some turkey bacon that’s minimally processed that I’ll eat.
Sometimes I’ll have mozzarella cheese with balsamic vinegar on it.
I found balsamic vinegar has been a great condiment for me.
I’ll have some bell peppers and I’ll have some hummus.
Sometimes I’ll have a protein shake for breakfast along with some vegetables.”
“Lunch I’ll eat a lot of lean meats and high quality meats.
I’ll usually make lettuce wrap sandwiches.
I eat a lot of mustard as a condiment.
I kind of found that mustard has been a great condiment.
Usually meats, vegetables, and nuts are a lot of my meals.
Then I do kind of the same thing for dinner.
I don’t eat pasta or a lot of sugary stuff.”
Although his diet consists mostly of meat, nuts and vegetables, Joel admits he still craves dessert.
His strategy to combat these cravings is to find recipes that use almond flour and Stevia, in place of traditional flour and sugars.
Other dessert favorites are dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher) and coconut.
“It’s tough,” Joel admits.
“I’ll make a meal or my wife will make a meal and if it’s something that I can’t eat or if it’s one that we want to eat and the kids don’t, we have to have some alternatives.
We’re slowly integrating them with what we eat but sometimes they resist us a lot.”
“I just make sure that I always have something really simple that I can pull out of the fridge and make for myself.
So, if my wife made a meal that I can’t eat, I have something else that I can just quickly grab out of the fridge, some meat, some mustard and lettuce and boom, because we don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen making all these double meals.
Nobody likes to do that, but it’s making sure you have some quick alternatives to turn to.”
Joel says he would have started earlier about educating himself about healthier eating.
“I think at a lot younger age,” he says.
“I wish I would have known and been educated in how bad our diets are and what kind of crud I was putting into my body before and how it really affects us later in life.”
“I always wondered, would I have had to have the gastric bypass surgery if I would have changed to a diet like this?
You never know, you can’t go back and turn the clock back, but I know that the second time around it really, really helped me because I do know a lot of people that have gained a lot of weight back even after a weight loss surgery.”