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Battling Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Updated: Jan 10


These four guys have something in common. Yeah, they're all me. However, they're all in various stages of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). Even that outdoorsman in the last photo, where I thought I was in way better shape than that brand new dad in the first one.


These photos were taken over the course of a decade. It was a long road of KFC Double Down sandwiches, cases of Mountain Dew, introducing my body to the double-edged sword of energy drinks on all-night MMORPG binges, and discovering my fondness for IPAs. As well as losing any and all desire to exercise or eat right. I mean, why should I? I had a lady that loved me, a comfortable job, and "no time" for that sort of thing with a new baby. Then "no time" when that baby got older. Oh, and then "no time" with a job change. Then no time with multiple jobs. Time just kept on getting shorter and shorter, until one doctor visit.


I had gone in for what I thought was just a skin irritation, but when the doctor came back with my bloodwork. Well, it turns out I'd been terrible to my body, and it was my body's turn to remind me of that fact. I had no idea that poor liver health could lead to skin irritation, inflammation, abdominal pain, yellowing eyes, near-constant sweating, and a myriad of other symptoms I was exhibiting. The doctor warned me that my early thirties was not a good place to have all of this. I should be in my prime!


Now, I would love to say that I turned to that doctor and vowed on my life to do all of the things he handed me on that piece of paper. However, I simply didn't. I didn't think it was that big of a deal whatsoever. I changed the way I ate a bit... at first.


Before we get into what made me fight with all I have, let's take a more in-depth look at NAFLD. A disease that afflicts anywhere between 80 million to 100 million of us Americans.

 

What is NAFLD?

Very simply put, Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is an excess buildup of fat deposits in the liver. If it's caused by heavy drinking, then it's Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. However, both types of liver disease can lead to permanent liver scarring or cirrhosis.


Though, as mentioned above, even with so many folks affected by the disease, there is actually very little known about exactly why it happens. Most early indicators point to a direct correlation with insulin resistance. Other indicators include increased blood sugar, obesity, and high triglycerides in the bloodstream.


I was diagnosed, as stated above, with a blood test. However, there are a few other ways doctors can diagnose NAFLD. These include palpation during a physical exam, imaging studies, or biopsy in a last-ditch scenario.

 

The Tipping Point

So, what was it that finally lit a fire under me to get this under control? Was it the depressingly large collection of pants I could no longer wear? The new belts? The khakis with built-in elastic panels?


It really was a series of events. The first was my wife asking about getting in shape. So, for her birthday, I purchased our family a gym membership at a local gym. Next, my coworkers challenged me to join them in working out. The final straw was our daughter's eating habits were not great, and ours was worse. My biggest kick in the pants came when I realized that she was following right after me.


That's a sobering moment. Knowing that you are leading your child down a path of unhealthiness that you tread willingly. That's when I started my own research. That research finally led me to create this very site a year later. The internet is a fantastic and fantastically dangerous tool. When you look through fitness sites, nutrition sites, and health sites, it feels much like drinking from a fire hose. Not to mention the crazy different formats of each site or blog. Some make it impossible to access their older files, while others glitch out every five seconds.


After educating myself as best I could, I decided to forge my own roadmap out of NAFLD. Trial and error turned to effort and success. My wife and daughter bought into meal prepping and my crazy workout schedules. My work family gathered around me and helped forge the path. I refuse to sugarcoat this. It was hard. Like reversing any chronic health issue, it takes effort and discipline. Maybe you're asking, "Well, why not just get medication?"

 

Just Medicate

One would think with medical advancements, and there being a pill for just about any ailment, that science would have cooked up a get-rid-of-fatty-liver-fast medication. I mean, they have medication that lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, reduces anxiety, grows your hair back, gives *ahem* gusto back to men that have lost it, and pills that allow you to feel no pain.


Now, imagine the Family Feud big red X noise. Nope, you're on your own for this one!


Honestly, it's for the best. While wonderful in their effectiveness and life-extending capabilities, most medications simply treat symptoms rather than the underlying issues causing the symptoms. For example, a symptom of your fatty liver might be itchy skin patches (like I had). There are all sorts of creams and salves for that symptom. However, the cause was the fast food, soft drinks, beer, and lack of exercise causing skin irritation through NAFLD. See, there is no medication to reverse you being absolutely negligent of your health.


Therefore, it's up to you! Don't fret, however. I said it was hard, not impossible.

 

The Road Back To The Best You

So, how did I pave my way back to reversing NAFLD and a handful of other self-inflicted ailments? Hold on; it's a bumpy ride.


First off, I got that family gym membership. I was so pumped to get back in the gym and lift like I used to back... well, to be honest, I couldn't remember when. It would come back. So we loaded up and went to the gym, looked at machines that didn't make any sense to us, ran a little on the treadmill, randomly threw around some dumbbells, and then left after doing absolutely nothing worthwhile. I had failed to plan out my attack on the iron. So, I made a plan, stuck to it, and promptly saw no results.


What in the world!? I was working hard, too! Oh, diet! I forgot about diet. Fitness starts in the kitchen, after all. So, being the cook in the family, I started meal prepping for the three of us each Sunday. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each of us based on our individual needs and goals. The weight started shifting after that, and that's when we hit the wall.


The wall: Excuses and burnout associated with going too hard without giving yourself a break. We hit it like Harry and Ron hit platform 9 3/4 that time they had to take the flying car. We failed to incorporate rest days, cheat days, and the ability to mix and match. Then you reach a point where you're headed back in the other direction and decide to turn around. You learn from your mistakes and try again. Try harder. Try smarter.

 

I had a blood panel taken two weeks ago. I had done it. I reversed NAFLD without turning to diet pills, surgery, bro-science, or fad diets. I did it through trial, error, failure, friendship, and pure determination to let my daughter see that you can change your whole world with a little bit of sweat and effort.


Now, if you're saying, "Wait! That's not enough information on how you did it!"


You're absolutely right. That's why my next post is going to be my complete map (thus far) to the best me. That way, you might learn from my mistakes, make my processes better. Make my ideas work for you. Maybe even glean a little inspiration from the journey.


Know that it's not too late to get back what you think is too far out of reach. It's taken me nearly two years, but who's to say it will take you that long? Who's to say it won't take you longer? Who's to know that one day isn't this day? So let today be day one! Make the you two years from now your hero.

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