Papa Joe Aviance Lost 250 Pounds on the '99-Cent Diet'

Ask anyone who’s lost a large amount of weight what jumpstarted their journey to better health, and they’ll probably tell you about their “light bulb moment,” the instant that they decided they’d had enough and were willing to do whatever it took to change. For LA-based musician and clothing designer Papa Joe Aviance, that moment arrived in 2009 when his first house music release, “Last Night a DJ Saved my Life,” hit #6 on the Billboard Magazine Dance Charts. When he saw the music video for the song—which at that time was playing on MTV and VH1—he couldn’t get over how large he’d become. “I was 450 pounds—I was two cheeseburgers away from diabetes or high cholesterol,” recalls Aviance. “I had been big for pretty much all of my life, and I was sick of hating myself. It was now or never.”

To start, he trashed nearly all the contents of his kitchen. “I cleared everything out of my fridge that was going to get in the way of me losing weight—cookies, candy, sodas,” he says. “I was only going to drink water or unsweetened iced tea, and no more fast food. At that point, I’d  been drinking a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew every day, and if I went through any local drive-thru, they knew my name—that’s how often I used to eat that stuff.”

 But he had a roadblock to contend with—at the time, he was broke. Aviance, who was then pursuing music and clothing design on the side, had recently been laid off work. “I was unemployed and couldn’t afford a gym membership or fancy diets,” says Aviance. “I realized that walking was the easiest exercise I could do and it cost nothing. So I grabbed my dance music and tennis shoes, and started walking.” (Walk off the weight with these 14 walking workouts to burn fat and boost energy!)

 At first, his walks were short—to the end of his block and back to grab the daily Billboard. “The first time around the block—I couldn’t even do it, it was just mounds of sweat,” he says. But he kept at it. One trip around the block became two, and soon he was walking a few miles every day.

Only $50 Per Week for Food

While he was determined to eat better, Aviance had to find a way to do it on a shoestring budget. “A friend told me I should check out the 99-Cent Store. Since I couldn’t afford Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, I decided to see what they had.” Aviance was pleasantly surprised to find that the 99-Cent Store in his neighborhood had plenty of healthy foods to choose from. “Oatmeal, raisins, nuts, bananas, apples, oranges, bell peppers, spinach, salad dressing, tuna fish, eggs… I was shocked. I was blown away,” recalls Aviance. “It was a huge savings. I literally spent no more than $50 a week on food.” (Feeding a family? You can still do it on the (healthy) cheap—here are 20 ways to feed your family for $100 a week.) 

Within three to four weeks, Aviance started to see changes. “And within 3 months, I was like ‘Hey, this is working!” he laughs. “I started to take all of my clothes to a seamstress so she could take everything in. I was still too broke to go out and buy new clothes, but I didn’t care. I was on a mission.”

Aviance’s morning walks become so regular, that people in his neighborhood started to take notice. “Since I walk every morning, people have started giving me high fives. I felt like a mini rock star in my community. I’ve even had people stop me and tell them I motivated and inspired them to start walking.”

Low-Cost Healthy Meals

Papa Joe was able to prepare a variety of healthy meals using ingredients he purchased at the 99-Cent Store. Here are a several examples of what he ate on his diet.

Breakfasts
1.  3 egg omelette with spinach, green pepper, tomatoes, and 2 slices of wheat toast
2.  Cottage cheese with fresh fruit (oranges, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or apples)

Snacks (1 or 2 items)
1. Trail Mix
2. Peanut Butter and Jelly on Whole Wheat
3. Raisins
4. Snack Size Peanut M&M’s (For cheat day only) – Keeping it real!
 
Lunches
1.  Yogurt with fresh fruit (Cantaloupe, Mango, Banana, or Honeydew)
2.  Salad with tuna or salmon and balsamic dressing

Dinners
1.  Chicken Pot Pie with a side of potatoes, squash, or mixed vegetables (broccoli, string beans, cauliflower, carrots)
2.  Quiche (eggs, spinach, mixed vegetables) with beans and rice

Health Risks Disappeared

Within 18 months, Aviance lost 250 pounds, and a visit to his doctor confirmed that he was no longer at risk for diabetes, elevated cholesterol, or high blood pressure. “I’ve always been a very happy guy who would kid around with anyone, but when I was heavy, I felt like I had to be that way because I thought people were judging me based on my size. But now it’s a happiness that is really shining from the inside out.” To speed along his transformation, he started to incorporate breaks for pushups and other strength moves during his walks. “I do pushups right in the street—the city is my gym,” he says. (Try these simple strength-training moves you can do anywhere, anytime.) 

Today, Aviance is a health and wellness expert touring the country to inspire obese children and adults to start moving. “I want people to be as happy as I am, and part of that is being healthy. The sidewalk is my treadmill. Every morning I walk right outside my door and go. They can do it, too.” 

More from Prevention: How To Overcome Any Fitness Obstacle

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