What does weight loss mean to you?

That’s a hard question. Would it mean you could lose the weight you have tried to lose your whole life, and regain control over your relationship with food? Would it mean you have more stable energy and better cognitive function? Could you regain that confidence you have always struggled with because of your weight? Or would it mean reducing your risk of chronic illness?

What if this could be effortlessly achievable?

To illustrate, let me tell you a bit about my story…

Weight loss & health were not easy for me

Weight loss and health did not come easy to me – I have been overweight most of my life. As a kid, I always had a ‘belly’ and was never one of those skinny kids. I remember in grade 5 taking special lunches to school that mum had organised for me because I was wanting to lose weight. Well, I’m not sure if it was something I actually wanted, or something my parents wanted for me – to not have problems growing up dealing with weight related issues. We all do what we know best, and for a lot of people, they turn to weight loss programs that organise all your meals for you – so this is what I had. I don’t remember an awful lot about these lunches, but I do remember feeling that I was somehow different, having to follow this ‘special diet’. I also remember lots of sandwiches – dry sandwiches… Why didn’t the other kids have problems like me? I didn’t really have the answers, and even now it is hard to describe, but on some level it is like you are broken and ‘need fixing’. When you are a kid, I don’t think you stop to really analyse this stuff, but it damages your confidence more than you realise growing up. And so the dieting began…

Blood-type, Shakes & Low-Fat diets

So I went on and grew up, not paying an awful lot of time and attention to my health – we all have more important things to worry about, don’t we? I had to get treatment for cystic acne around 13 years old and I remember the doctor telling me to avoid full-fat milk because my triglycerides were high. In fact, they had always been high – right on the top of the normal range or just over. As a society we have this constant undertone to our everyday life that a low fat diet is the way to go. We are all bombarded by the calories-in/calories-out model of weight loss, and as a consequence anyone wanting to lose weight goes on a low-fat diet. The dietary guidelines follows the same suit – lots of wholegrains and low fat. So if I followed this low-fat diet, I should lose weight. Anyway, I never was able to keep with a low fat diet, because I didn’t find the food satisfying enough, or it didn’t produce results I could see so I gave up. I tried the diet where you drink shakes, too. It was based on a VLCD (very low calorie diet), and also was very difficult to sustain. Then there’s the blood type diet – all I remember from this was being extremely hungry because I could eat fruit (as much as I wanted) but that was no good at filling me up. What was I to do?

It’s Easy to Give-up and Settle

So I grew up with all these failed diets, and to be honest, I basically just gave up trying anymore. I figured that I had this baseline body I was going to have and that was not really going to change. At this point my ‘normal’ weight was usually around 85-90kg (@ 170cm – I’m a shorty!) that put my BMI squarely in the overweight range (although BMI is not always a reliable indicator of health, it gives an okay proxy – especially considering body measurements too). But hey – I was a pharmacist now, and we can sell a pill for just about anything! There’s heaps of weight loss pills because no one else can lose weight – I didn’t think I needed one of them, but the thought had passed my mind. Anyway, I more or less just decided that my weight was settled, and I could make a minimal impact on it. I knew if I had a lot of cakes or treats I would gain weight (I’ve got some pretty wicked stretch marks) but I figured that I would always have this belly and man boobs.

Eczema, Sinus Infections & More…

Now that the diets were off the table, I just continued to maintain this body that I had gotten used to. I actually ate a lot of processed food meat substitutes (I was a vegetarian for 11 years – but that story is for another day!). Especially when doing it hard financially, noodles were the centrepiece of my diet (or baked beans) for some time. I hadn’t even made the connection at the time between my diet and my poor quality of life, but I had several major issues troubling me. I used to get sinus infections all the time; I had terrible flare ups of my skin inflammation (eczema) and I used to have regular inflammation in my wrists. I had put the inflammation in my wrists down to guitar playing, and that it would just be a regular occurrence and consequence of getting older (geez, and I wasn’t even 30!). As a pharmacist, I see people all the time with niggling inflammation, pain, reflux, eczema and more that they can’t seem to pinpoint the cause. When you see these conditions all the time, it is easy to not make the connection between food and diet – especially when food is not even on your radar (like it was for me)! Because of this, I had put the cause down to ‘unknown’ and continued to eat the way I always ate…

Turning My Life Around

It took over 11 years of being an overweight, processed food guzzling vegetarian to put 2 and 2 together and think – what if changing my food would help my problems? I had watched the Magic Pill, and it made me wonder about diet and how much of a role it played in health. So I started researching…

I was sceptical, but open-minded. How could a high fat diet produce weight loss & health? It had gone against all my intuition about diet, as well as everything I thought that I knew. My wife Bridget wanted to give the ketogenic diet a go, so I decided to embark on the journey with her to support her decision and we did a one month trial. As a long term vegetarian for 11 years I decided to reposition myself and start eating meat again. I was doing the low-carb high fat vegetarian style, but it dawned on me that I was eating a lot of processed meat-replacement type meals. The way I see it, the goal of the ketogenic diet (or any low-carb diet) is not just the lower carbohydrate, but also to get rid of the processed foods! Eating real, whole, fresh, natural food is what our ancestors have done for over 2.5 million years, and is the reason we are here today!

Ben Sielaff (pictured above) after his amazing 20kg weight loss.

Now, at age 33, I feel better than ever! I’ve lost about 20kg and have maintained this effortlessly for over a year. Eating the foods we are designed to eat makes maintaining weight, being happy, healthy and productive a breeze. Now, I am such a huge advocate of this way of eating, so much I created Health Coach Ben to spread the word and help other people. I am also fitter than I have ever been – I have gotten back the motivation to exercise and love it. I don’t suffer from recurrent, niggling colds or inflammation, and I am super satisfied with the delicious food I eat.

So, I’ll ask you again –

What does rapid weight loss and great health mean to you?

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