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?