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Russell Okung loses nearly 100 pounds, promotes water fasting

Russell Okung loses nearly 100 pounds, promotes water fasting
After an 11-year NFL career, former Pro Bowl offensive tackle Russell Okung has shed nearly 100 pounds through a 40-day water fast and began another 40-day fast Tuesday. (Credit: Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports)

CHARLOTTE (BVM) – Russell Okung was once an NFL offensive tackle who weighed over 330 pounds, not that you’d know that based on how he looks now. The former Pro Bowler has shed nearly 100 pounds off of his 6-foot-5 frame. While it is not unique for NFL players, particularly along the offensive and defensive lines, to shed massive amounts of weight following their professional careers, Okung went about this in a very different way.

Okung credits his body transformation to water fasting, spending 40 days where he only consumed water and no food. While Okung acknowledges that he is not a medical professional, he feels that his journey has helped him grow spiritually as well as physically.

“Fasting isn’t about weight loss. It’s about regeneration, healing, and self-discovery,” Okung tweeted. “In quieting my physical hunger, I unlocked mental clarity and spiritual revelation. A total reset.  As an athlete, I was always told to eat big and stay strong. I never questioned it. But breaking away, and embracing fasting, changed everything. I’m not only lighter in weight; I’m lighter in spirit.”

The former tackle shared his journey as he plans to once again do a long fast which he began on Tuesday. Though Okung understands that fasting isn’t for everyone, he feels that doing yet another fast will help him continue to reap positive benefits.

“Fasting isn’t for everyone, I get that. But for me, it was a life-changer,” Okung wrote. “My journey hasn’t been about shedding pounds; it’s been about shedding old habits, and old ways of thinking. Fasting opened a door to a healthier, happier me. It gave me control back.  Today, I stand before you – changed, empowered, and inspired.”

Okung’s transformation came to the surprise of many. As a top-100 recruit in the Class of 2006, it didn’t take long for Okung to make an impact for his Oklahoma State Cowboys as he started eight games at right tackle as a true freshman. Over the course of his four-year college career, Okung raised his profile to being one of the best offensive line prospects in the 2010 NFL Draft. During the NFL combine that year, Okung measured in at 6-foot-5 and 307 pounds.

Russell Okung Oklahoma State Cowboys tackle
Nov 28, 2009; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys left tackle Russell Okung (76) in action against the Oklahoma Sooners at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Oklahoma won the game 27-0. (Credit: John Rieger/USA TODAY Sports)

Given his stellar college performance and successful pre-draft process, Okung was selected with the sixth overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Okung spent six seasons in Seattle, playing mostly left tackle for the Seahawks, where he played and started 72 regular season games and 12 playoff games including two Super Bowls. The offensive tackle helped the Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory in XLVIII and was also named to a Pro Bowl in 2012.

Russell Okung Seattle Seahawks tackle
October 22, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks tackle Russell Okung (76) blocks San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (55) during the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 20-3. (Credit: Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)

After spending the 2016 season with the Denver Broncos, Okung spent three seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers where he was once again named a Pro Bowler in 2017 and helped lead the teams to the postseason in 2018. He spent one more season with the Carolina Panthers in 2020 and hasn’t played in the NFL since.

Russell Okung Carolina Panthers tackle
Oct 18, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung (76) on the field in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. (Credit: Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports)

Injuries did play a part in Okung’s time in the NFL. Okung tore ligaments in his left big toe of the 2013 season which caused him to miss eight games. In 2019, Okung missed 10 games with a pulmonary embolism due to blood clots. While injuries weren’t the reason Okung ultimately stopped playing, he believes fasting has helped him improve his quality of life.

“The benefits are profound,” Okung wrote. “Clearer skin, better digestion, improved mental focus, and even my joint pain lessened.”

Now beginning his second water fast, Okung will look to continue his physical and spiritual rebirth. Though he has seen benefits through his journey, Okung knows that fasting isn’t designed for everyone and is certainly not easy, but he does hope people will listen to his journey as they look to change their own lives.

“Whether you’re considering fasting, or just looking to change your life, remember: The first day is always the hardest,” Okung wrote.