Changing Diet: Our Story

admin June 28, 2010

Today’s post is about Ben, and partially written by Ben (he’s driving as we write so I’m “helping” him, haha).  Recently, he traveled for business and was forced to eat out for a three and a half days.  It inspired us to write a detailed post about “his story” because it served as a strong reminder to us about why we eat the way we do.  So now let’s go back and tell his story. 

When we met, Ben was working as a retail manager, a job that kept him on his feet most of the day.  He usually went out to eat or brought a frozen meal to work.  At that point he weighed about 220 lbs. (he is 6’2”).  He worked second shift – about 1 PM to 10 PM 5 days a week.  He typically skipped breakfast, ate frozen food for lunch, and when he got home, had fast food.  He didn’t have time to make anything that wasn’t premade.  Even on his days off, he usually ate this way, with the rare exceptions of making spaghetti or chili (but used prepared/canned ingredients and white pasta).

In 2006, when we got married, Ben left his job as a retail manager and began working for Cardinal, where he sat at a desk all day.  He gained some weight, topping out at 235 lbs. in the summer of 2007.  At this time, we ate “better” but by no means well.  When we got married a typical meal in our house was Rice’a’roni and baked chicken, or soup made with canned broth, conventional veggies, and factory-farmed chicken breast.  We never felt well; every night after dinner we just sat around feeling very bad.

Neither of us could understand why we were gaining weight when we were eating “well” by SAD (Standard American Diet) standards.  We went out to eat once or twice a week, made boxed or frozen foods, but also cooked some for ourselves.  We ate a low- fat diet as much as possible, focusing on boneless, skinless chicken, frozen veggies, margarine, vegetable oil, etc.  Yet our weight continued to climb (I topped out at 143, which is when I got pregnant with Bekah; I weighed 170 lbs. when I was 9 months pregnant).

In late 2007, in an effort to combat our weight gain, Ben started to work out.  He ran several mornings a week and also worked with weights.  He did this for several months with no effect on his weight.  Then, he was very sore and having back problems and quit.  In March 2008, Ben started an exercise program again.  By this time we were slowly starting to change our diet.  We were still not eating very well and still eating a low- fat diet, and there was still no effect on Ben’s weight.  He was running on a treadmill for about 2 miles almost everyday at this time.  We still didn’t feel well.

Towards the end of 2008, when I got pregnant again, we found the Weston A. Price Foundation and started to read about higher fat diets and different food choices.  We began to incorporate some of these principles in our diet and began to lose weight.  I was down to 127 lbs. before I got pregnant with Daniel.  Ben began to lose weight, too.  He got down to around 210 by early 2009, when we got a Wii with Wii Fit.  Daily cardio on the Wii accelerated his weight loss a little bit, although we only did it for about a month (I was about 6 months pregnant and very slowly gaining, of course).

It was towards the end of my pregnancy with Daniel (he was born July 2009) that we really started to focus on fats.  We bought coconut oil and I made smoothies everyday with a lot of coconut oil.  We baked fries in coconut or olive oil.  We began to eat a lot of real butter.  We ate a TON of food and a lot of fat and our weight began to drop.  By the end of 2009, I weighed around 125 lbs. and Ben weighed around 190 lbs.

In early 2010 we focused even more heavily on meat and fat.  We’d gotten grass-fed beef at the end of 2009 and ate a lot of that, a lot of coconut oil, lots of coconut milk, olive oil, whatever we could find that was high in fat.  We cut out grains entirely in January 2010 for about two months, as well as sugar.  During this time our weight fell further, Ben’s reaching down to 175 lbs. and mine to 113 lbs. at our lowest.  Ben’s weight has remained stable there, mine rose to about 118 lbs. after I began eating grains again (but I suspect that at my height, 5’3”, and frame, that 113 was a bit too low).

Ben was at 175 lbs. when he left for his trip recently.  While he was gone, he ate as well as he could – meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables, minimal grains.  He did not have the option to choose raw dairy, grass-fed meat, or organic produce however.  When he came home, despite eating less than usual, and not choosing “horrible” choices (i.e. fried foods, high sugar foods), he had gained 5 lbs. He also had gotten a cold and felt very fatigued and generally ill. It took him only three days eating real food again to lose the weight, and within a few days he felt much better.

When we choose whole, real foods with plenty of real fat and minimal grains (choosing sprouted whole grains when we do have them), our weight remains low naturally, no matter how much we eat.  We eat until we are satisfied, which is different on different days.  We generally feel quite good all the time, rarely getting sick and having plenty of energy. 

Also, as we’ve mentioned before, Ben had lost some of his hair and it wasn’t growing back.  At its worst, his hair completely stopped growing for over two months.  When we began to eat more fat, and stopped using our microwave to heat food (and never, ever in plastic, even when traveling), his hair began to grow back – after over a year and a half!  All of the signs of health began to return when we ate healthy, whole foods.  Our kids don’t ever burn in the sun, even after 2+ hours of direct exposure with no sunscreen at all.  I burn, but only on my back/shoulders or other areas that don’t often get exposed.  I used to burn everywhere, badly, but my legs, arms, neck and face no longer burn.  I have watched plump little children playing in the sun, slathered in SPF 45, still burning.  These are ominous signs of a lack of health.

Our modern diet is not healthy.  Conventionally grown produce, corn-fed animals, the microwave, storing food in plastics, packaged and processed foods, chemical food ingredients, etc. are causing a myriad of problems which may or may not seem obvious, but which are affecting our health in both the short- and long- term. 

Unfortunately most people lump sugar and fat in the same category: bad, avoid at all costs.  Fat is good for you!  Sugar is bad.  Remember that. 🙂

Also, I referenced in a recent post that Katie at Kitchen Stewardship had written about “bad, acceptable, good” foods, in my Good Enough Substitutes post.  There, she says that eating conventional fruits and veggies is better than not eating any.  I would have to disagree.  As I wrote in my Most Nutrient-Dense Foods for Your Money post, we shouldn’t be looking at foods based on the individual composition of nutrients.  There’s no one food that is entirely essential; nutrients are found in multiple foods.  With the heavy pesticide residue in many, especially the dirty dozen, it’s best to eat meat and cheese and avoid vegetables if the meat and cheese are less pesticide-laden than the vegetables.  I would, however, agree, that choosing conventional fruit/veggies from the Clean 15 or with heavy/inedible peels is better than none at all.

How much fat do you eat?  If you’ve switched over as we have, what has the effect been on your weight and health?

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  1. This is just fascinating. I feel like I might embark on an experiment….

    My kids are very healthy and are at a healthy weight, and I never concern myself with how much fat they are ingesting – after all, little brains need fat and low fat products often substitute things that are also not healthy (ie salt) in place of the fat. They eat lots of cheese and milk, although getting meat down them is a challenge. I recently started grinding my own wheat and making my own bread, and I think that everyone’s health has gotten better even with that small change.

    So….interesting food for thought. Can you link to this Weston Price information?


  2. One of the main reasons I started looking into real foods is my family’s health/weight. So I am very new to this. I am confused however with this article and your meal plan. On the meal plan you have grains every day. Am I misunderstanding something?


  3. Becky,

    We were grain-free for awhile at the beginning of the year. We’re currently eating grains, but trying to reduce our reliance on them again.


  4. I’ve already sent this post to a few people and will be adding it to my Monday post, thank you!


  5. It sounds like you've found what works really well for you, congratulations on improving your health so much! This may not fit your situation at all but I did Atkins for about a year, over 10 years ago… I had so much more energy making sure I was getting protein and that part was great, but I also changed my cooking and eating habits so much that all the veggies I used to eat, I really cut back on… after I while I had digestive problems and 10 years later I am still trying to get back my digestive health.

    Now I eat mostly veggies, raw and cooked, organic much of the time but not always, meat, and very limited grains (I get headaches if I eat gluten so I've cut out most grains). I feel much better now but just wanted to say – the moment anyone gets constipated is the moment to add vegetables! I so wish I could do that part differently from my 10-years-ago diet change.

    Thanks again for sharing what's working for you, keep it up!


  6. What an amazing story! We are trying to eat more real foods, slowly but surely, and when you look back and compare the befores and afters, it is truly astounding how much of a difference it really makes!


  7. it is funny how (some) americans discover a revolutionary diet – eating real food, and present it as 8th wolrd wonder, when everywhere in the world this "real food" is just normal food. i can never imagine serving my kids anything premade and not cooking every single day possible.


  8. Thanks so much for sharing your story! I am definitely on the path to changing eating habits but I have to admit I am nervous about incorporating more fat into my diet ( I eat a ton of fruits and vegetables though). When you were starting did you experience a similar apprehensions or is it just me?


  9. Nicole,

    Yes, almost everyone I've talked to has had the "this seems wrong" feeling when first starting to eat more fat! After years of "low fat is good" blaring from every corner, it's hard to re-train yourself to think otherwise! But you will get there, slowly. 🙂


  10. This is the first time I've seen sunburn correlated with health. Where have you read about that? I'd love to read more on it. I sunburn really easily – like in 15 minutes. We started 'real food' last April but I've been super lax now that I'm pregnant again. Anyway, I'd love to get rid of my sunburning tendencies! Where can I go to learn more about it?


  11. Whopper– I don't know a lot about the sunburn tendencies, as I've only recently come across the connection to food myself, but I did find a strong reference to sugar as the cause of sunburns– no sugar in the body, no tendency towards sunburn. Haven't tested it for myself yet, but it kind of makes sense from a cooking standpoint– I mean, sugar is what helps things to brown so nicely in some recipes. (Or so I've read. Honestly, I'm pretty ignorant on the sunburn concept, like I said. Just food for thought!)


  12. Wow. You just connected something that I wasn't even aware of. My grandson is a grassfed boy; raw milk, butter and grass fed meats. Lots of fruits and veggies and of course, coconut oil inside and out. At two, this is his first "real" summer with swimming and being out in the sun. He is fair skinned and blue eyed and VERY TAN after swimming for the last month in 100 degree weather. I had not read about the sugar connection with white skin and burning. Could you please send me the link to that information?. I will check the Price Weston website and see what I can find now that I know what I am looking for. Great information and congratulations to you and your husband for raising what we refer to as "the improved generation of children". My daughter is your age and I started her really eating well when we found out she was pregnant. Coconut oil is the only thing we have used on Ben since he came out of the womb and he has only been sick twice. We have a jar in the bathroom, by the sink, by the stove and in the first aid kit. LOL. Thanks for all your information. I am definitely adding your blog to my list.


  13. It all sounds good but how do you keep your heart healthy with all that fat potentially clogging your veins?


  14. This is really interesting. We have a pastured pig and 1/2 of a grass fed cow ordered. I saw on your welcome page that you are wanting to start a local whole foods course. I would be interested in that – so, where is local for you?


  15. Hi Pam,

    I am in Central OH. Anywhere near you? 🙂


  16. Hello! Reading your posts about 'real foods' actually makes me feel like it all makes sense. As opposed to some poelpe thinking 'this cant be right.' I've been taught the exact opposite of most of what you write about.

    Even if this feels completely right and it all makes sense to me. I cant help but question some things. I developed gallstone issues after my first prgnancy. Now I am 6 months pregnant with my second and the doctor (I switched to a midwife) but both say I should stick to a 'low-fat diet' in order to avoid future attacks. I refused to remove my gallbladder after the first pregnancy and of course when they suggest I have it removed during my second trimester this year I said no. I figure its ridiculous to remove it. I am positive that I can find a way to change my lifestyle and diet and excersize better in order to better the health of my gallbladder and general health.

    I think I am ranting. sorry! So I guess I am curious about what switching my diet will do to my gallbladder. being preggers I dont want to risk another gallbladder attack and end up hospitalized or something. So I cant exactly 'experiment' completely on myself. I guess what I can do is try adding a few real food living into my lifestyle and comparing how i feel.

    Honestly, right now I have been feeling like crap. just so tired and moody alllllll the time. My last pregnancy was not like this. =/

    I guess I vented a lot here… sorry again. Well thank you for all the info and if you have any comments I'd love to read it!


  17. Hi Diana,

    I'm sorry to hear about your struggles with your gallbladder. 🙁

    From what I understand (and I am not a doctor), gallbladder issues often stem from eating too little fat or the wrong types of fat over a long period of time. It takes the gallbladder awhile to heal, but it CAN. My best suggestion is to limit fat and to consume only pure, healthy fats (I have a whole post about those) in small quantities. I mean, start with a teaspoon or two at a time, and slowly work your way up. Eating too much at once will make you sick until your body adapts and begins to heal. Limiting grains and preparing the ones you do eat properly, and consuming fermented foods and lots of stock will help you towards healing too. This is optimal in pregnancy anyway. Once you have your baby, continue to slowly increase the healthy fats until you are tolerating them well. And especially while you are healing, never eat vegetable oils or any other bad fats. They're not good anyway and are a compromise at best if you are away from home (ideally no one would ever eat them, but we don't live in a perfect world), but will probably cause gallbladder attacks while you are still hurting.

    Try taking some fermented cod liver oil for good fats without having too much at once. Take B vitamins and eat lots of healthy red meat. If you can get a doctor to test you, find out if you are deficient in iron or magnesium (common in pregnancy) and supplement with high-quality, food-based supplements. This will help fatigue and moodiness to some degree. Of course, it's also somewhat par for the pregnancy course…hormones and all, you know. 🙂

    Good luck with your pregnancy and health! Check out my older pregnancy posts too if you're interested.


  18. At this point, were not able to get raw milk and milk products. I tried buying organic milk but then realized that all the organic milk that I could find was ultra pasteurized. Will drinking whole, pasteurized milk negate the weightloss benefits that you describe? What is the best thing for us to do in the are of dairy products if we can't get raw milk? Also struggling to find grass fed, local meats. Recommendations about what to purchase if can't get the grass fed meats?


  19. I loved reading your story! I can relate in so many ways because we just recently made the switch to eating real food with lots of fat. I really love your blog!


  20. Hi New2whole,

    If I couldn't get anything but regular store-bought milk, I'd use coconut milk most of the time. I'd make exceptions for heavy cream in making ice cream or baking sometimes (which I do even now if I need extra cream, sometimes).

    Have you checked That might help you find a farm near you, to buy meats. In my experience, it is hard to find places at first, but once you find a couple, a whole network opens up to you. If you can't grass-fed meats, try to purchase at least plain "real" meats — ground beef, steaks, plain chicken, etc. instead of pre-breaded or pre-flavored meats. It's not perfect but it's a lot better than "mystery meat" or the extra junk added!


  21. So, in order to be healthy and lose weight, we need to eat REAL FOOD? Really? My name is Maria, I’m new here, and I have about fifty pounds to lose. I am so confused and discouraged. I have a book case full of diet books. I don’t know how to get started. I grew up eating a lot of junk food and microwave food. Since getting married, we buy a lot of food in packages. How can I lose eating REAL FOODS? And how can I find out more??? You have me intrigued now!!



  22. I just found your blog today. We’ve been eating Paleo since September (sounds very similar to your diet) – and it’s made a world of difference in our health and our lives!


  23. Hi! I just found your blog today, and I’m already loving your posts and general values regarding food, modern medicine etc.

    My dad (I’m 15) started reading about paleo/primal ways of eating around May this year. We have been gradually making the switch to a much healthier diet. We now eat lots of fats such as butter, coconut oil, olive oil, meats, organ meat, lots of vegetables, no grains, you get the picture 🙂

    This new way of eating is so good! I can see how much it helps in so many different areas of my life. My skin has never looked better, I’m at a really good weight (as is my dad who finally shifted some fat around his stomach since changing our diet), and I’m fitter and have more energy than I’ve had since I was about 8! Another thing I’ve noticed is my nails and hairs are so much stronger and shinier.

    I just wish that this message could get around to as many people as possible! Eat real food, not the low fat, pesticide ridden junk that the food industry says is best! For example, there’s a new advert in the UK: ‘Make mine milk’ and it pretty much says drink low fat milk and you’ll become an olympian!! It really irritates me because the fat is the best bit!!

    Be the change you wish to see in the world, I guess.


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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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