Thursday, May 2, 2013

An Email to Tom Naughton

In case I haven't mentioned it, I'm a huge fan of Tom Naughton.  He has an awesome documentary called Fat Head out there that literally changed our lives, and he also writes regularly on his Fat Head blog about low carb science.  What I love about Tom is that he doesn't just tell you that LOW-CARB WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE!!!!!  He goes through the science and helps you understand why it's a good idea and what you could gain from cutting out grains and sugar. 

Since the first time I watched the Fat Head movie was about a year ago, I decided it was about time I write to Tom and tell him how he's affected my life.  Since I got a little rambly, and it describes my history, I thought I may as well post the email here.  Hopefully my story will help someone else take up low-carb eating.


Hey there Tom! 

I've emailed you in the past, but usually just to ask questions or make comments about news stories.  But today, I figured it was time I sat down and told you how you've changed at least four more lives.  I hope you'll bear with me.  I tend to ramble.

I didn't have the best upbringing.  My mom was a single mom, worked, was going to school, dealt with my older sister who was probably the worst problem child you could ever have (she kept running away, stealing, and got pregnant at 12).  Mom drank a lot and sometimes used drugs, and was severely depressed at least at one time.  Needless to say, we didn't eat very well back then.  I remember a lot of easy stuff, like frozen meals, spaghetti, pizza, and lots of chips, cookies, and candy. 

I think partially because my only friends at that time were my cats and guinea pigs, I decided to become a vegetarian at the age of 14.  I honestly can't remember what my thought process was, or what spurred me on to make that decision.  My mom didn't protest really.  Since I was already chubby at that age, I bet she thought it would help me lose weight.  When I told my pediatrician, she was pretty upset (this is the only doctor who ever questioned my vegetarianism, but I was a kid so I didn't listen to her).  She asked me where I was planning on getting my protein from, and being 14, I told her I ate lots of peanut butter. 

It was that year that my health and my life started taking a pretty nasty turn for the worse.  Since my mom didn't have the time or patience to cook separate vegetarian meals, I mostly just ate around what she made for herself.  If she made mashed potatoes with chicken gravy, I would eat just mashed potatoes for dinner.  If she made a sweet and sour stir fry with chicken and rice, I would eat the few vegetables I liked (which wasn't many back then) with rice and lots of sweet and sour sauce.  I ate cereal for breakfast.  Lots and lots of cereal.  Sometimes two huge bowls at a time.  I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  And don't forget all those chips, cookies, and candy I was still eating, because they're vegetarian.

About a year later (right before my 15th birthday), I had to have my gall bladder removed.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  No one asked if I wanted it done.  No one offered alternatives.  No one even told me what causes gall stones.  I didn't find out what causes gall stones until just last year, and when I found out, I was pretty mad.  You know what causes gall stones?  Not using your gall bladder (i.e. low-fat diets). 

That was also when I started to really pack on the weight.  I was already big to begin with.  I was a large child; tall for my age, with huge feet and big broad shoulders.  I was just big all around.  But when I started eating vegetarian, I got really fat.  When I had my gall bladder removed, I was 200 pounds.  Two years later, I hit my peak of 275 pounds.  For a 17 year old 5'8 girl, that's a lot of weight to be carrying.

But it wasn't just the weight that was the problem.  I was severely depressed.  My hair was falling out.  I started growing hair where girls shouldn't be growing hair and my menstrual cycle would skip several months at a time (which I later found out was because I had developed PCOS).  I started turning away from the world, and at age 16, I dropped out of school.  Luckily I found my future husband around that time, and even though I was morbidly obese and not always fun to be around, he loved me and helped me fight off some of my depression.  Also being around him meant I wasn't eating out of loneliness so much, and we spent a lot of time out in nature, so that by the time we moved in together when I was 22, I had managed to get down to 230 pounds. 

Then a couple years later, I finally decided to try DIETING!  I found a website called Spark People that lets you track your calories and your exercise minutes.  I became instantly addicted.  I spent literally hours a day on Spark People, reading the nutrition articles, chatting on the forums, and tracking my food.  But it wasn't fun.  I felt starved all the time.  Food was the only thing I thought about.  What I would eat, when I would eat it.  If I had 50 extra calories at the end of the day, I would plan out what small indulgence I could give myself (not much for 50 calories).  I persisted, though, and in five months, I managed to get down to 185 pounds. 

Then I got appendicitis.  Again, the doctors didn't give me an option.  No one offered me alternatives.  No one told me what causes appendicitis.  I was wheeled into the OR and had one of my organs taken from me.  It wasn't until last year that I found out that appendicitis is a "disease of civilization".  The worst part is, exactly one year later, my husband had his appendix removed too, and as the cook in our house, I know I did it to him and it makes me sick. 

The weight crept back on after that, a little at a time.  I would occasionally try low calorie dieting again, but it was almost impossible for me to stick with it.  Like I said before, I'm a big girl.  Even if I was skinny, I would be big.  My hips are big, my shoulders are big, my feet are big.  But BMI doesn't take that into consideration, and so to lose weight, I was told on Spark People to eat 1300 calories a day.  That's constant hunger. 

About a year ago, I was clicking around on Netflix when I saw your movie.  I was kind of intrigued, but a little hesitant to watch it because I just LOVED the movie Supersize Me and I didn't want to hear an opposing opinion.  But after a week or two, I finally gave in and watched it.  Holy cow.  It was so life changing.  I was like, really?  This is how it really works?  Why did I have to wait 27 years to hear it?  Why did I have to find this information in a documentary filmed by a comedian?  Why isn't this information being shouted out across the rooftops for everyone to hear it? 

I was excited about the life-changing information, but also skeptical.  I wanted to have my husband watch it, but I wasn't sure what he would think about it.  So I started just telling him some of the things you said in your film.  After about three days of constantly saying, "And something else he said in his movie..." my husband got annoyed and decided to watch the movie for himself.

I can't say we changed our diets instantly.  I think it was a couple of days before we really decided to try low carb eating.  I was still trying to be a vegetarian at that point, and since I'm the one who cooks, my husband was pretty much vegetarian himself as well.  I cooked lots of tofu, seitan (a meat substitute made from wheat gluten....seriously), and some beans.  We saw some improvements right away, but nothing huge.  After a couple of months, we started slacking off again, and almost completely went back to our old way of eating. 

Around last August or September, we decided, you know what?  If we're going to do this, we need to really do this right.  We cut out all wheat (except for the low carb wraps my husband uses in his lunch), all sugar, and I decided to give up my identity as a vegetarian.  The first steak I had was so glorious.  It was life changing.

Since then, things have really started changing at the speed of light.  For both of us, our energy has increased dramatically.  Our moods have really improved, too.  My husband used to get really depressed all the time, but now he's so chipper and full of energy when he gets home from work.  I have issues with SAD, and even though this winter was rough at times, it was no where near as dark or depressing as last winter.  My fingernails are strong and long for the first time in 14 years!  I used to always have fingernails that were thin, brittle, and would peel off in layers, but no more.  Even though it's gardening season, my fingernails are beautiful. 

The most amazing thing to me is the muscles we've both put on.  My husband was what you'd call skinnyfat all his life.  6'5, 195 pounds, with absolutely no muscle.  Even though I was a weak, depressed vegetarian, I was stronger than him.  Now, he's lean and muscular with like a runner's build.  He's almost completely lost his belly bulge and is starting to get some definition there instead. 

As for me, even though I hadn't lifted weights at all since becoming a low-carb exvegetarian, I put on a lot of muscle as well.  I can feel new bulges in my arms and legs, and I don't get winded as much when I'm lifting heavy things.  I thought all the "experts" said you can't gain muscle and lose weight at the same time!

My husband started at 195 and is now about 178.  Like I said, he's lost almost all of his flabby tummy and the flabbiness around his face and arms.  He looks awesome, and I know for a fact that he's eating more now than he did before.  He doesn't suffer from severe coldness much anymore, and if he does, he'll eat something really fatty and that helps him get warm again. 

I've only lost about ten pounds, taking me back down to 185.  But for me, it's not about the weight.  It's about my fingernails, my energy, my good mood, no longer having to eat ever two hours, no longer feeling obsessed about food, no longer having crippling wrist pain, or awful IBS, or tons of pimples.  It's about eating real whole food that makes me feel like a real whole person.  Besides, why do all women have to be stick thin?  I think round curvy women are beautiful.

We've been trying for a baby for the last year.  Sometimes I fear we'll never be able to conceive, but then I remind myself that my body is still healing from 14 years of malnutrition and carb-overload.  And it's all thanks to you, Tom.

I know this email has gone on forever already, but I also wanted to tell you that you've changed more lives than just mine and my husband's.  As we've improved and passed on info and shared books with our family and friends, they've been changing their diets, too.  My hubby's brother went low-carb and lost at least 20 pounds (probably more by now).  My mom's low-carb and has lost 11 pounds and isn't taking her blood pressure meds anymore.  My sister, who looks pregnant because she's so fat, is seriously thinking about going low-carb.  And even my mother-in-law, who is a complete and total carbivore, has cut out potatoes and pasta, and limits her sweets.  Doesn't that make you feel like a rock star?

Thanks again for all that you do.  I hope you keep spreading the word.  I know I will!
-Julie D

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