Neither of the above guys is Jim. But below is his story.
Dear Saga Readers: By now you get the message that while yeah, I have plenty of stories to tell, I find it equally compelling to highlight stories from my supporters who are kind enough to pen me a tome or two. Already your comments indicate that you're learning from them, getting ideas (me, too!) and that this is valuable. This is precisely what I had in mind when I began. To that, this afternoon, Jim S. who was my FIRST Saga supporter (he asked for dibs) has several times written me about his journey. And like others, this can be long, but I prefer not to edit it too much because these are your stories, not mine. At any rate I have several from the guys. One is going to take some sleuthing to track down all the material; this one was easy, just cut and paste. I hope you enjoy it.
At the age of 18 months I developed allergies. As I grew, they got worse. By first grade I was in rough shape, missing 45 days of school. (Yes, my mother kept my report card!) Growing up I was trotted off to many different doctors. The only thing that changed were the prescriptions. Every spring and summer my nose became a fountain, my eyes itched horribly, and swelled in response to my incessant rubbing. Adolescence added the bonus of what would now be called IBS or colitis. I would randomly be seized with severe cramps, leading to an urgent sprint for the bathroom where I would try hard to turn inside out.
The hope was always that I would “grow out of it." I spent more than 25 years on desensitization shots, which had little effect. I was on over-the-counter antihistamines every season, all of which have sedating side effects. I did stop those for my first ROTC “summer camp” at Fort Benning. Being off everything for six weeks led to my first asthma attack, though I had no idea what it was at the time. The second one was also while in fatigues, on campus preparing for a second summer of training. They pulled me from that, and ultimately discharged me just a few weeks before I would have received a branch assignment.
As an adult I did reasonably well, but could count on a chest or sinus infection every year, flu if it was making the rounds, and of course the shots that would someday make it stop. Through it all the one constant was obesity. That’s not to suggest that my weight was constant, as I put on two or three pounds every year. Nothing really helped that. The first big change came in my early 40s. I’d come across a book that hypothesized that if one were allergic to mold, and I was, that it would cause problems with foods containing yeast.
The book recommended removing all yeast from the diet. I soon learned that yeast is like sugar - in all kinds of food that it doesn’t need to be in. However when you cut out yeast, you eliminate just about anything grain-related. The allergies were still there, but seemed to be getting better. Another shock was the eternal allergy shots. I started getting reactions with each new dose. The doctor kept cutting it back until I was at the very beginning strength after 25 years. I stopped them at that point.
Then my next door neighbor, a runner, talked me into running with him. Overcoming a life of avoiding all outdoor exercise was not easy, but I ultimately wound up running two miles each day. This delighted our two family dogs, as I would leash the small dog to the big one, and attach the big one’s leash to my belt. We ran like some kind of weird sled-less dog team. I kind of wish I had a picture of that now. This went on for a few years until I joined my wife to help her run her growing retail business. Running eventually gave way to working. It turns out that retailing is not a lot different from farming, though the government will not pay you to not sell stuff.
The bright spot was that the company whose products we sold had really nice incentive trips if you exceeded sales quotas by a sufficient amount. When we won a trip to Paris I decided to ditch the “roots and berries” diet to enjoy the legendary French cuisine. I expected trouble, but it didn’t happen right away. My first thought was that I had finally grown out of allergy. Woohoo!
Except allergies weren’t the only thing I was growing out of. My BMI had been in obese territory for years, and was now adding the “morbid” prefix. As I passed 50 in age, the arthritis came, first in the knees, then the hips. Allergies were also coming back strong. I was tired a lot, and mentally in a kind of fog. Frequently I would get severe headaches that would last for days. I can’t say they were migraines, as I was never diagnosed, but they were crippling. The pressure of the business didn’t help with stress, but we carried on until we reached the end of what would be our last lease on retail space. Both my wife and I were exhausted, and I could see that it was time to get out.
One of the first goals for both of us was to lose all the pounds we’d accumulated. Various diets were tried, some with modest success. We even tried to be vegetarian for a while, after watching some documentaries on the subject. None of these really did much. Then I discovered the Paleo way of eating. Essentially it’s built on how our ancestors ate for thousands of years, prior to learning to farm. This was easy to follow, especially with multiple recipes being available on the Internet. Pounds started to slowly ease off.
About this time my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We found out she’d probably had it for several years, but my father wouldn’t get her tested, mostly out of fear that the test would prove she had it. As the disease progresses, it often leads to fat accumulation around the middle. She was getting seriously chubby and my father started trying to get her to walk. This was much too little, far too late. After five years with the disease, Mom died from it.
Now that my wife and I were no longer working, we started walking in the neighborhood. Initially we could barely manage a tenth of a mile, but we kept (it) up. About this time Mark (Sisson), the Paleo guru, had released his book The Keto Reset Diet. I bought it, read it, and we both started following it. Very soon the pounds started falling off, almost literally. The high-fat, low-carbohydrate system worked like magic and I wound up being 19 pounds lighter than I was at 21. I also followed everything Keto online. One name that kept coming up over and over was “Dr. Cate.” I soon learned that this was Dr. Catherine Shanahan, one of the foremost experts on diet and nutrition in the world.
By now I was a year into Keto. After every doctor I ever saw telling me to lose weight, I was told “Don’t lose any more weight”. To someone who had long since accepted fatness over fitness, this was magic. About the same time Dr. Cate published her second book, Deep Nutrition. I got it, read it, and marveled. This was like an instruction manual for the human body.
Most importantly, it explained the main cause of not just my own obesity, but that of just about every one of us carrying too much weight: industrial seed oils. These include corn, cottonseed, canola, safflower, soybean, and sunflower. You will see these in the grocery store carrying the American Heart Association’s “Heart Healthy” symbol, when the reality is that they should be sporting the skull and crossbones of the poison that they are.
Chemically these oils are very unstable. They break down when heated, into oxidizing agents in the body causing cellular damage. They also do not metabolize well, and lead to fat that is very hard to lose. But they are cheap, even though refining them is as complex as making gasoline from crude oil. You will also find these oils in 85% of the food in the grocery store. After reading about them I began making it a point to remove them from my diet.
For cooking we switched to ghee, olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil. All of these are much healthier. Even lard is much better, but it got tainted by flawed research in the 70s by researcher Ancel Keys. His hand-picked and rigged data was used to foster the notion that fat in the diet caused heart disease. He got the government to adopt this policy, and in doing so consigned generations to obesity and illness.
I thought that I had achieved all the benefits of Keto after being on it for a year, but after eliminating the seed oils the improvements kept coming. The brain fog slowly went away, and my brain at 70 was working better than ever. All arthritis disappeared, along with 90% of my allergies. No more IBS or headaches. By year 3 it was clear that my body was finally working as it should. Now at 74 my body continues to surprise me, and I feel better than I ever have before.
... About 7 years into our daily 3 mile walk, my wife tripped on a curb, fell, and broke her right wrist. We’re in Texas, so walking in summer means doing it before sunup, and in the pre-dawn dark, so the reason for the fall is on us. She had surgery to put the shattered bits back where they belong, followed by rehab. She surprised the folks at the ortho clinic. On her first day of rehab the bones had already started knitting together. She finished rehab several weeks ahead of schedule because she could do everything they wanted without pain.
A year later she fell again, and broke the other wrist. No surgery this time, but a cast and rehab. Again she surprised them all by her healing speed. (Pro tip - after the second break they recommended a bone scan-DEXA. Not surprisingly, she was diagnosed with osteoporosis. This is a fact of life for women 70 and over.*
The prescriptions that are supposed to reverse and prevent it, actually don’t and have devastating side effects.) I’m sure that Keto played a part in her recovery, but eliminating the seed oils had to be huge. Even Dr. Cate says that you can get 80% of the benefits of Keto just by eliminating those, even without cutting back on sugar.
Drop in on https://drcate.com
and read what she says about migraine and arthritis. Of course I’m not a doctor, but my own doctor has told me two things to my face: 1) I know more about nutrition than she does, and 2) She works for my insurance company not for me. I only see her twice a year, mandated by our Medicare Advantage plan, which costs us nothing. Each time she worries about my cholesterol, and each time I explain that it’s what used to be considered good. Statins are very dangerous drugs, but they are big money-makers for the folks who make them. These are the same folks that set the “safe” limits for cholesterol.
(My response to Jim on the above for me, which I included because it might just apply to my other readers: first, I eat NO seed oils, haven't for many years, nor sugar but for an occasional chunk of chocolate. I cook only with olive or avocado oil, which I also use in my homemade dressings. I cleaned up this part of my diet decades ago. And I did visit Dr. Cate's website and she validated what I had already done in my diet)
If we were meeting in person, my wife would have started pulling me to the door about the second paragraph above. She knows I am very passionate about this, and I try to help anyone I can. Some, like my neighbor Dave, 77, listen, agree, and ignore. He died last December of COPD and heart issues. I’m not a doctor, and all my experience is based on a study group size of 2. And I’m not totally out of the woods yet. I’m still dealing with psoriasis, which has manifested as random itching, mostly in places you can’t scratch in public. Back in January I paid $400 for a one hour Zoom call with Dr. Cate. She made several recommendations, which I am following, and it’s slowly getting better. Mostly it involves eating parts of the cow nobody likes - heart, liver, etc. Fortunately there are some guys here in Texas that sell those things in capsule form, made from cattle in New Zealand. There they are all grass-fed, no GMOs, no hormones, or pesticides. Not cheap, but much cheaper than prescriptions and they are working. (author bolded article points for emphasis)
*And one kind proviso. Osteoporosis is not an automatic fact of life for women past a certain age, it can happen much earlier or not at all. The factors include: being Asian or Caucasian and thin, lousy diet, little exercise, inadequate weight- bearing exercise, inadequate proper calcium (much of it is junk), I could go on. I do not have osteoporosis. I got osteopenia from too much sitting after I ruined my feet on an adventure, but that has backed off once I hit the trail hard. Operative word, HARD. Hip bones like impact. That's what they're built for. Osteoporosis is easily preventable but not if we're not willing to do the exercise, eat right and be responsible about getting proper Calcium and D3. I am no doctor so please get your DEXA scans done regularly and do your research, then do the work.
And one more thing:
I do not have Dr. Cate's book but I do also strongly recommend Metabolical by Dr. Robert Lustig. He goes into a great deal of research about the American diet and the ills we suffer as a a result. As with all diet and health advice and stories, your body is unique to you, as is your nutrition journey. That said, I love Jim's story and am delighted to pass it along!
Dear Walkabout Saga Reader:
If my work appeals to you, may I kindly invite you to consider joining those Patreon supporters whose generosity keeps the gas in my tank as it were. Those supporters get to dictate my content calendar, we engage as a community, and this website and its content acts in service to our collective best selves.
However you decide to partake of my writing, thank you.