This Is Why We Do What We Do (Part Three)

I enjoy giving speeches, but I hate making slides.  It’s so friggin’ tedious.  Putting slides together is pretty much all I’ve been doing the past few days, and I still have a long way to go before I’m ready to give my presentation in D.C. next week.

I’ve been grumbling a bit as I’ve been working, so it was good to receive a little reminder of why I’m dedicated to the cause.  I received this email from a woman I’ll call Linda, who recently saw Fat Head on Netflix:

——————————————————————————–

Dear Mr. Naughton,

I don’t enjoy talking about myself, especially not personal stuff. But I’m going to. At length. About things most people closest to me have no idea about. So please bear with me while I tell you my story, regarding my life-long struggle with food.

I am a 25-year-old woman who was raised as young as I can remember to feel guilty about food. My first food-related memory was just before I entered kindergarten and my mother, a chronic yo-yo dieter, was arguing with me to “Give that Oreo back, you could have 2 heads of lettuce for the number of calories in that cookie.” My parents were not only subscribed to a low fat, high carb diet, they were depressed alcoholics who both left work when I was 10 and went on disability, never to recover. They were drunk every night and attempted suicide about a dozen times each when I was between 7 and 14 years old.

Naturally, as an only child and loner, I found comfort in food – specifically the “bad” foods my mother told me I should not eat. However, after secretly binging in my closet and hiding the food wrappers under my bed, I always felt repulsed with myself, so I would restrict my food intake until the urge to eat became overwhelming, then I would binge again, etc. By the time I was 11 years old, I was a few inches above average height and about 170 pounds. That same year, I ate a trough-sized portion of potato salad at my grandmother’s house, contracted food poisoning from the rancid mayonnaise, and proceeded to vomit for about two hours straight (I know this because the drive from grandma’s house was 2 hours and I puked the whole car ride home).

Gross? Yes. But this is not gratuitous information, because that was the day my bulimia came to be. Something snapped in me that day. I went from 200 pounds at the age of 12 to 110 pounds the following year (I was about 5’7″ by the age of 13). It is also worthy to mention that as a small child who was in love with animals, I adopted a vegetarian lifestyle and decided to stop eating meat at 5 years old. My parents believed it to be a phase, but it stuck, and at 13 I went fully vegan. I was diagnosed with major depression and ADHD that year.

By 14, at 5’9″ and 90 pounds, I was hospitalized on medical bed rest constantly, for 2-3 months at a time. My heart was giving up. I did not care about myself and I did not fear death. I ceased to be a person; I was a walking eating disorder. Ironically, my bulimia had very little to do with counting calories or “being fat”, but instead the emotional association I had attached to those “bad” foods, the foods you should feel disgusting, gluttonous and ashamed for craving and eating.

It took me many years to function again, even on a basic level. I had to drop out of high school, despite a straight A average, because I was missing 2 months at a time for chronic hospitalizations. I have been at war with food for as long as I can remember. A decade later, despite the fact I have it under control, the feelings are still there. A few years ago, I attempted suicide. Seriously, not halfhearted. I would have been successful if a friend with my spare key hadn’t come by to check on me because I wasn’t returning her calls for a week.

After that scare, I began taking control of my life back. I stopped taking my antidepressants, pills that did nothing but make me feel like a doped up zombie, and substituted them for vitamins and St. John’s Wort. I was able to slowly bring my binging and purging down from a dozen times a day, keeping in no nutrition whatsoever, to once a day and keeping in about 1500 calories a day. I am now a healthy weight for my height, 5’10” and 145 pounds, but thanks to everything I was told in eating disorder treatment by dieticians, in addition to advice from my doctor, my diet was mostly carbohydrates, a small amount of bogus protein (tofu, fake soy meat, yuck) and no fat.

Despite being in “better” health than ever, I was exhausted all the time. Despite being identified as a “gifted” child with a “genius” IQ at a young age, I could not concentrate on anything and had to leave university not once but twice. Last year, I had my gallbladder removed due to a large gallstone, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and had emergency surgery to repair an intestinal obstruction, which was so excruciatingly painful and debilitating. With my long history of bulimia and digestive problems, my doctor fears I am a high risk candidate for developing stomach or colon cancer.

I stumbled upon your documentary completely by accident a month ago. I cancelled my plans to go out that night (not that I had the energy to anyway) and instead watched it 4 more times in a row. It was not only groundbreaking, extraordinarily informative, brilliantly written and hilarious, it was an overwhelmingly emotional experience for me. I cried, for the first time in too long. I cried bitter, angry tears, tears of frustration, followed by hopeful tears of relief. I can’t believe I was blind to all of this for so long. I pride myself on being informed, on questioning everything, on being passionate about world issues, on opting out of the Western bubble of ignorance. Yet I had no idea about anything you described in your documentary. I blindly trusted “experts” like doctors and dieticians.

The morning after I watched your documentary, I went to the grocery store and bought three things: eggs, bacon and butter. I ate 3 sunny side up eggs, cooked in butter, with two slices of bacon. I did not feel guilt. I did not make myself sick. Then I cried yet again, because I never thought I would live to see a day when those shackles were broken.

Within an hour, I felt more energized than I have in years. I showered, got dressed, did my hair and makeup and did something I love but haven’t had the energy to do in years – I went for a hike and took nature photos. Before even realizing it or feeling tired, I had walked the entire 4 mile path. I stopped at a nearby restaurant and had a mushroom swiss burger and a salad for lunch. Again, no guilt, no shame. On my way home, I picked up a well-marbled steak and fresh cauliflower for dinner. I began reading up on the paleolithic diet that night and decided to adopt it.

Over the course of the month of February, my mood and energy level has improved at a shockingly rapid and consistent pace. The chronic, painful digestive problems I was experiencing have almost completely subsided. I went to my doctor this morning, who read me my blood work results from last week. She was baffled by the improvements and blatantly asked what the $%&# I did differently this past month.

My body fat has gone down, my muscle mass has gone up. My hair, which was previously falling out in clumps so badly that I chopped off 20 inches out of frustration, is thick and shiny. My skin went from sickly pale to glowing porcelain. I even applied to begin school again in September. Best of all, this has been the first month I can recall since my bulimia started – 14 long years ago – that I have lived completely (aside of 2 slip-ups) without it.

The precise version of this overly verbose, borderline incoherent rant is that you have completely changed my life; that is indisputable, and because there is no possible way I could have gone on living the way I was, nor did I want to, I don’t believe I’m guilty of hyperbole in saying you may have saved my life, and given me a second chance at it. For the first time, I feel like I am actually living instead of just barely existing.  And I truly have absolutely no idea how to begin thanking you for that.

I wish you, your beautiful wife and precious children all the health, happiness and success this world has to offer.

Yours very truly,
Linda

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Linda, you put a lump in my throat.  I wish you all the best on your path back to real health.  Thanks for reminding me that this is why we do what we do. (And no more slip-ups, okay?)

I’m going to busy making slides and otherwise preparing that presentation for the next several days, then flying off to D.C. to deliver it.  Fortunately, The Older Brother has agreed to take over the guest-host chair for a couple of posts next week.


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93 thoughts on “This Is Why We Do What We Do (Part Three)

  1. Peggy Cihocki

    Very Moving story! Congratulations, Linda, and please keep doing what you’re doing, Tom. I’m so excited that you are speaking in D.C.

    Reply
  2. David Evans

    Peggy: Here are a few studies that show how higher fat or high red meat diets result in less incidence of colon cancer:

    http://healthydietsandscience.blogspot.com/2012/01/analysis-of-13-studies-reveals-high-fat.html
    http://healthydietsandscience.blogspot.com/2012/01/higher-fat-diet-reduces-colon-cancer-by.html
    http://healthydietsandscience.blogspot.com/2012/02/red-meat-reduces-colon-cancer-by-34.html

    Thanks for the links. I appreciate all the studies you pull together for your site.

    Reply
  3. Cindy D

    Linda, what an amazing story! Thank you for sharing. For me, my depression almost completely disappears on a low-carb diet. When I eat carb-rich food, my brain “sinks” – that’s what I call it. I can literally feel my brain and emotions falling, and when they do, they are sunk for the whole day.

    On a low-carb diet, my brain is usually very happy. When a sinking does occur, it is rare and not as deep, and a short nap will completely take care of the issue.

    Doctors used to prescribe Wellbutrin and Zoloft for me, but I hated the side effects. All it took was a low-carb diet to cure me. And the side effects of the low-carb diet? Being thin and healthy!

    Reply
  4. Scott D.

    Wow Linda, you go girl!! Welcome back to the life you were MEANT to have.

    Tom, all of us who are your fans (it is kind of sad to think you will never meet 98% of us, but we all feel like we know you,) are your fans because of stories like Linda’s. You are funny, and you write well, and that helps you explain sometimes complicated scientific theories and concepts so clearly. We all know you don’t honestly like to ‘toot’ your own horn, but it is so heartening to see the effect you are having on the lives of people who had given up. You are changing lives, letting people live free of the mental and emotional shackles that our beloved.. sorry, ‘beloved’ USDA and other agencies and their ilk have polluted our lives with.

    We are lucky you have appeared on the scene.

    All the best from another paleo-type family in Chicago.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Marilyn

    Linda, your story is astounding and beautifully written. I hope your gallbladder-less experience is as good as mine. I’ve been without a gallbladder for twenty years. I happily eat lots of fat. All the best to you.

    Reply
  6. Cindy D

    Linda, what an amazing story! Thank you for sharing. For me, my depression almost completely disappears on a low-carb diet. When I eat carb-rich food, my brain “sinks” – that’s what I call it. I can literally feel my brain and emotions falling, and when they do, they are sunk for the whole day.

    On a low-carb diet, my brain is usually very happy. When a sinking does occur, it is rare and not as deep, and a short nap will completely take care of the issue.

    Doctors used to prescribe Wellbutrin and Zoloft for me, but I hated the side effects. All it took was a low-carb diet to cure me. And the side effects of the low-carb diet? Being thin and healthy!

    Reply
  7. Scott D.

    Wow Linda, you go girl!! Welcome back to the life you were MEANT to have.

    Tom, all of us who are your fans (it is kind of sad to think you will never meet 98% of us, but we all feel like we know you,) are your fans because of stories like Linda’s. You are funny, and you write well, and that helps you explain sometimes complicated scientific theories and concepts so clearly. We all know you don’t honestly like to ‘toot’ your own horn, but it is so heartening to see the effect you are having on the lives of people who had given up. You are changing lives, letting people live free of the mental and emotional shackles that our beloved.. sorry, ‘beloved’ USDA and other agencies and their ilk have polluted our lives with.

    We are lucky you have appeared on the scene.

    All the best from another paleo-type family in Chicago.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  8. TonyNZ

    What the flip?

    Unrelated, but this article makes my blood boil. Journalistic integrity is dead.

    Synopsis: Article about starting a research project into childhood obesity somehow morphs into recommendations that father’s laziness in food choices contribute to childhood obesity. It then looks at two examples of fathers with normal weight, healthy children to illustrate that feeding children full milk is wrong! It doesn’t say what the study is actually going to do (other than cost 2.3 million dollars), just that it is investigating methods to prevent weight gain in children, apparently splitting 805 children into 4 groups with different types of “counselling”.

    The author even states he has no idea what the results will be!

    Opinion presented as fact and continuing to skew the nations’ health.

    What kind of idiot could believe this:

    “That ability to self-regulate food intake stops at about 3, he said.
    At that age it becomes hard for children to turn down food placed in front of them.”

    I can’t think of a single parent I know who would agree with that. Kids are notoriously fussy eaters. They turn down food all the time.

    Reply
  9. Kevind

    Stunning!!! This is like the movie “Groundhog Day”!!! Every day is the same old story, but what a great story and what a great service you are providing to humanity Tom. Please keep doing what your doing!!! My guess is your Karma bank is full beyond what the FDIC would insure. If I’ve learned anything about you, I doubt you would be comfortable with government assurances anyway.
    I’ll end with my favorite Dennis Miller quote: “If you can only help one person…..it’s not enough”. Thanks for doing your share!!!, and a few others too!!

    I’ll take the good karma and hope the government doesn’t try to tax me on it.

    Reply
  10. TonyNZ

    What the flip?

    Unrelated, but this article makes my blood boil. Journalistic integrity is dead.

    Synopsis: Article about starting a research project into childhood obesity somehow morphs into recommendations that father’s laziness in food choices contribute to childhood obesity. It then looks at two examples of fathers with normal weight, healthy children to illustrate that feeding children full milk is wrong! It doesn’t say what the study is actually going to do (other than cost 2.3 million dollars), just that it is investigating methods to prevent weight gain in children, apparently splitting 805 children into 4 groups with different types of “counselling”.

    The author even states he has no idea what the results will be!

    Opinion presented as fact and continuing to skew the nations’ health.

    What kind of idiot could believe this:

    “That ability to self-regulate food intake stops at about 3, he said.
    At that age it becomes hard for children to turn down food placed in front of them.”

    I can’t think of a single parent I know who would agree with that. Kids are notoriously fussy eaters. They turn down food all the time.

    Reply
  11. TonyNZ

    “Kids are notoriously fussy eaters. They turn down food all the time.”

    My one ain’t that old yet, but my three year old nephew is a nightmare to get food into, except for:

    Cake
    Sweets
    Crisps
    Soft Drinks
    Bread
    Anything brightly coloured

    The last one is important. He WILL NOT eat silver-beet (you guys might call it Swiss chard there). When he came to stay here he was thrilled because he got to pick, cook and eat the multicoloured silver-beet we were growing.

    I think the problem is that children cannot turn down the types of food that are marketed for children. You know, the overly sweet, carb-laden ones.

    A lot of adults have that same problem.

    Reply
  12. Kevind

    Stunning!!! This is like the movie “Groundhog Day”!!! Every day is the same old story, but what a great story and what a great service you are providing to humanity Tom. Please keep doing what your doing!!! My guess is your Karma bank is full beyond what the FDIC would insure. If I’ve learned anything about you, I doubt you would be comfortable with government assurances anyway.
    I’ll end with my favorite Dennis Miller quote: “If you can only help one person…..it’s not enough”. Thanks for doing your share!!!, and a few others too!!

    I’ll take the good karma and hope the government doesn’t try to tax me on it.

    Reply
  13. TonyNZ

    “Kids are notoriously fussy eaters. They turn down food all the time.”

    My one ain’t that old yet, but my three year old nephew is a nightmare to get food into, except for:

    Cake
    Sweets
    Crisps
    Soft Drinks
    Bread
    Anything brightly coloured

    The last one is important. He WILL NOT eat silver-beet (you guys might call it Swiss chard there). When he came to stay here he was thrilled because he got to pick, cook and eat the multicoloured silver-beet we were growing.

    I think the problem is that children cannot turn down the types of food that are marketed for children. You know, the overly sweet, carb-laden ones.

    A lot of adults have that same problem.

    Reply
  14. Erik

    Bring a vegetable tray to a child’s birthday party and you’ll notice a remarkable ability to self-regulate food intake.

    Indeed.

    Reply
  15. Erik

    Bring a vegetable tray to a child’s birthday party and you’ll notice a remarkable ability to self-regulate food intake.

    Indeed.

    Reply
  16. Greta

    What an amazing story, Linda! Keep up the good work, and come join us in the Fathead group on Facebook. There are terrific folks there and they are very knowledgeable and willing to share.

    Fathead gave me the courage and hope that I should try again after I gave up in utter frustration 13 years ago. It opened lots of doors and windows for me, told me that there were reasons for what I had experienced trying to lose weight, and that I wasn’t just making it up. There is no way to repay that. Thank you, Tom.

    You’re repaying it by being here and in the Facebook group and spreading the word.

    Reply
  17. Greta

    What an amazing story, Linda! Keep up the good work, and come join us in the Fathead group on Facebook. There are terrific folks there and they are very knowledgeable and willing to share.

    Fathead gave me the courage and hope that I should try again after I gave up in utter frustration 13 years ago. It opened lots of doors and windows for me, told me that there were reasons for what I had experienced trying to lose weight, and that I wasn’t just making it up. There is no way to repay that. Thank you, Tom.

    You’re repaying it by being here and in the Facebook group and spreading the word.

    Reply
  18. hausfrau

    Very well-written story. Amazing how our emotional turmoil effects our relationship with food. On another issue entirely…. “That ability to self-regulate food intake stops at about 3, he said”. Interesting. I wonder how he explains all the people who aren’t over wieght. Do they take out a deck of cards to use as a template everytime they eat meat? Do they all chart their calories and nutrients for each day of the week? Is the rigorous application of food guilt and self disgust more sharply honed in the homes of thin families? Is the creation of food related neurosis simply the price of a svelt figure? This brings to mind the disturbing idea that Linda’s mother was on the right track in this guy’s mind.

    Reply
  19. hausfrau

    Very well-written story. Amazing how our emotional turmoil effects our relationship with food. On another issue entirely…. “That ability to self-regulate food intake stops at about 3, he said”. Interesting. I wonder how he explains all the people who aren’t over wieght. Do they take out a deck of cards to use as a template everytime they eat meat? Do they all chart their calories and nutrients for each day of the week? Is the rigorous application of food guilt and self disgust more sharply honed in the homes of thin families? Is the creation of food related neurosis simply the price of a svelt figure? This brings to mind the disturbing idea that Linda’s mother was on the right track in this guy’s mind.

    Reply
  20. dlm

    Dr: “What the #$%@ did you do differently this month?”

    Linda: “I’ve been eating a high fat paleo diet.”

    Dr: “That’s very dangerous, you should eat your grains and go on a statin.”

    If Dr. hears patient often enough, won’t Dr. finally question Dr. bias against fat/meat?
    I make it a point to tell Drs. I do not need diabetes drugs because low carb diet controls blood sugar (and weight).

    Reply
  21. dlm

    Dr: “What the #$%@ did you do differently this month?”

    Linda: “I’ve been eating a high fat paleo diet.”

    Dr: “That’s very dangerous, you should eat your grains and go on a statin.”

    If Dr. hears patient often enough, won’t Dr. finally question Dr. bias against fat/meat?
    I make it a point to tell Drs. I do not need diabetes drugs because low carb diet controls blood sugar (and weight).

    Reply
  22. Randie

    It is time that people take their own health into their own hands. It is 2012, there is so much information at our finger tips, we can no longer blame anyone but ourselves.
    Even past president Bill Clinton has gone Vegan !! Take note people!
    GROW YOUR OWN FOOD!!
    and remember that if it is MAN MADE it is probably not good for you !!! Take action and take control.
    We are a Vegan family and proud to say we are happy and healthy. It is not as hard as you would think.
    Take a Chance and Go For It! Take your life back now!!

    Reply
  23. Kevin

    Ordering a calf today so I can grow it myself….feed it grass….then eat it. Not sure that is EXACTLY what Randie had in mind.

    Reply
  24. Randie

    It is time that people take their own health into their own hands. It is 2012, there is so much information at our finger tips, we can no longer blame anyone but ourselves.
    Even past president Bill Clinton has gone Vegan !! Take note people!
    GROW YOUR OWN FOOD!!
    and remember that if it is MAN MADE it is probably not good for you !!! Take action and take control.
    We are a Vegan family and proud to say we are happy and healthy. It is not as hard as you would think.
    Take a Chance and Go For It! Take your life back now!!

    Reply
  25. Kevin

    Ordering a calf today so I can grow it myself….feed it grass….then eat it. Not sure that is EXACTLY what Randie had in mind.

    Reply
  26. Thomas

    I don’t have quite the way with words that a lot of the people that write a sincere thank you to Tom but I share their sentiments all the same. This way of living has improved my life immeasurably. I was pushing 400 pounds and severely depressed when I was flipping through netflix and happened onto Tom’s outstanding movie. Now I am 70 pounds lighter, my lipid panel is back in the normal range and I am well… happy. Now if this weight would come off a little faster I would be even happier.

    A thousand thanks Tom.

    Give it time with the weight. This is about health. Weight loss is a side benefit.

    Reply
  27. Thomas

    I don’t have quite the way with words that a lot of the people that write a sincere thank you to Tom but I share their sentiments all the same. This way of living has improved my life immeasurably. I was pushing 400 pounds and severely depressed when I was flipping through netflix and happened onto Tom’s outstanding movie. Now I am 70 pounds lighter, my lipid panel is back in the normal range and I am well… happy. Now if this weight would come off a little faster I would be even happier.

    A thousand thanks Tom.

    Give it time with the weight. This is about health. Weight loss is a side benefit.

    Reply
  28. Rachel

    Another ex-vegan/veggie here, off Zoloft and 90lb down from my known highest weight (nearer 100lb down in reality, I think). In my case, first credit goes to Tom. Gary Taubes and Chris Gardner of the Stanford A to Z Study sealed the deal.

    But you can add more links to the chain, as I inspired my mother, who’s 20lb down, my sister, 14lb down, and 3 co-workers. My proudest moment was when a co-worker, who had been brought up to fear cholesterol and fat, decided to switch to butter. I had described to her how canola oil is made, from the video posted on this blog! 😀

    These people in turn are influencing their family, friends and co-workers. So that’s just 1 person who saw Fat Head, but many lives improved!

    Outstanding!

    Reply
  29. Rachel

    Another ex-vegan/veggie here, off Zoloft and 90lb down from my known highest weight (nearer 100lb down in reality, I think). In my case, first credit goes to Tom. Gary Taubes and Chris Gardner of the Stanford A to Z Study sealed the deal.

    But you can add more links to the chain, as I inspired my mother, who’s 20lb down, my sister, 14lb down, and 3 co-workers. My proudest moment was when a co-worker, who had been brought up to fear cholesterol and fat, decided to switch to butter. I had described to her how canola oil is made, from the video posted on this blog! 😀

    These people in turn are influencing their family, friends and co-workers. So that’s just 1 person who saw Fat Head, but many lives improved!

    Outstanding!

    Reply
  30. Lori

    Linda, I got goose bumps. Hope life is everything you can make of it. Peace.

    Thank you for sharing, Tom.

    Reply
  31. Ashes

    woah, I am a tough girl but I just burst out crying tears of joy for you Linda.
    Amazing transformation.

    Reply

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