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Death by Food - I survived. Now My Grandpa Needs Help

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  • Death by Food - I survived. Now My Grandpa Needs Help

    Very very long story, and plea for help. I want to tell my life story, and then about my grandfather. If you can offer any advice, I would appreciate it. Don't feel obligated to read if you don't want. The bolded stuff towards the bottom is most important, if you want to skip down there.

    I am watching my grandfather kill himself.

    My grandfather basically raised me like his son. We spent, and continue to spend, a great deal of time together and I look up to him. As with most kids, I adopted many of his habits. I ate what he ate. I can remember on Friday nights, when I would come visit him, as a kid (8-18) I would eat 2 or 3 sleeves of Saltine crackers. I would eat two large bagels covered in cream cheese. Two cans of chicken noodles soup, with a whole sleeve of crackers crushed over the bowl, and two white-bread-American-singles grilled cheese sandwiches. All washed down with a big tall glass of Pepsi. I remember every other Friday night ordering Pizza Hut's New Yorker pizzas, eating 4-5 slices plus 3-4 breadsticks with sugary marinara sauce. And then sneaking in at midnight, hungry again, for a few cold slices. And waking the next morning with an inexplicable upset stomach. I remember going to the movies every other Friday night and eating an entire large bucket of popcorn with "butter", and having diarrhea that night. I didn't ALL of these things every single night, but every Friday night for 10 years saw some combination of all of those. My all time favorite meal, that I saw my grandpa order and adopted as my own go-to, was the Chef's bread bowl salad at Perkins. A salad of iceberg lettuce with bacon, chicken, cheese, tomatos, a huge bowl of Thousand Island dressing (extra dressing, please) all in a bowl....made of bread. Once the meat ran out, I dumped the green stuff out and just ate the bowl, dipping it into the dressing as I went.

    That was just on Fridays. On Saturday, I went to grandma's house, where I was met with frozen pizza and pop. I remember on, just to guess, more than 4 dozen occasions eating an entire bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a 2 liter of Sprite. Many times I would vomit around 2am from this binge. I would also eat Hot Pockets, Bagel Bites, Pizza Rolls, ice cream. And every morning, bagels with cream cheese and a big bowl of Captain Crunch.

    And being at home during the week was no different. Food stamps bought us plenty of Hamburger Helper, and late nights at the ball field meant pizza, pizza, pizza. Once I got to junior high and high school, hanging out with friends revolved around social eating. Buffalo wings, Chinese buffet, bowling alley cuisine.

    Did I choose this diet? In the most literal sense, yes....because I asked to eat these things. But as I am now an adult, I ask whether a child can really "choose" what he/she eats. It is ultimately the parents' responsibility to nourish the child, and my family did nothing but share their bad habits and enable me to adopt more. When I was 2 or 3, I had to get 7 crowns put in my mouth because my teeth were rotting. I started getting fat at age 8. From ages 8-12 I would regularly eat bags of chips and pizza to the point of vomiting. Around 9 to 13, I had terrible night terrors and sleep walking spells. Around 13, I started going to a children's libid clinic; I was prehypertensive and my triglycerides were through the roof. I don't remember ever having this stuff explained to me, only that I needed to change my diet. I sat there and listened to the dietician, who was probably talking more to my mom than to me. When I got home, nothing changed. In one ear and out the other.

    I quit playing sports after freshman year of high school. My lipid doctor left our hospital when I was 15, so I quit going. I was diagnosed with Scheuermann's Kyphosis when I was 14 (gee, I wonder if the complete lack of nutrition during puberty had any effect on my bone growth....). I had undiagnosed depression and low self-esteem from high school until about 2 months ago (when I started getting more primal, imagine that!). The one shining light in this sea of self-depricating reflection is that I'm very intelligent: I sound like a douche, but I'm probably the most book-smart person in my family, labeled "gifted" at a young age, top 3% of my HS class, 3.9 in the honors program at Ohio State. I guess depriving my body of nutrition for 20 years hadn't hurt my cognitive functions. And to think, if I had eaten properly and studied harder, I could have reached higher-level Mentat. Hell, I could have been the Kwisatz Haderach! /nerd

    Anyway...all of this got me to 310 lbs at age 20. Over the past year (June 12, 2010 to now), I've been able to exercise and eat healthy, by CW standards but with a heavy Beachbody/de facto primal bias, and I'm now sitting at a comfortable 200 lbs. I'm 21 years old, 5'11, not-too-ugly, and expecting healthy blood work at my doctor's visit this month.

    My grandfather, however, has never broken away from his old habits. He doesn't like to talk about the numbers, but I'd peg him around 300 lbs. He's 62 years old, 5'9 or 5'10. I don't like to pry into his medical stuff, but I know he's been taking cholesterol and blood pressure medication for at least 10-15 years. He has tried every carb and fat blocker on the market. He takes a ton of vitamins, and his doctor "swears by" megadoses of vitamins D and C. I ain't no doctor, but I don't think all the D and C in the world will help you lose 140 lbs of fat. He also has he can't eat nuts anymore, although he still insists on getting popcorn at the movies. He also has low testosterone.

    In the past, he has been able to lose weight by just eating a little less and running on the treadmill (motivated more by a contest at his work than the actual health benefits). But now he has hurt his back and pines for the days of old, when he could hop on the treadmill. I try to tell him that just walking would help, but he suffers from the "when I get my back fixed, I'll feel like exercising" attitude. He also bought a total gym style machine, spent a week building it, and has yet to touch it (over 6 months ago).

    His diet has changed a bit (for the worse) since I was a kid. During the week, he has coffee with either a bagel and fat-free cream cheese or a sugary donut. I don't know what he eats at work, but he talks a lot about stuffed pretzels and hamburgers and such. When he gets home, he eat fried bologna sandwiches (in vegetable shortening), or he makes grilled cheese sandwiches with white bread, margarine, and fat free American singles. He will occasional cook ground beef or chicken breast (victory!) and forego the bread (double victory!), but then he SMOTHERS it in HFCS ketchup (total defeat).

    His girlfriend moved in recently, and she eats a little bit of veggies and fruit with her meals....but she has yet to convert him to that habit. Her baking of trans-fatty desserts every weekend sure doesn't help. She got him on Weight Watchers, and he has lost 12 lbs so far. He told me that he thinks he wasn't losing weight before because he was in starvation mode, because he "doesn't really eat all that much." False.

  • #2
    Since I've been home for the summer, and he has confided in me that he really looks up to me for my weight loss journey, I have tried to help him lose weight. There have been a few victories and many setbacks. I'm not trying to convert him to Primal, but I want to use some of our knowledge here, along with some of the least offensive CW, to help him out. He won't give up grains or eat a ton of veggies.

    Victories -
    - He did some reading online about omega 3. He doesn't know anything about omega 6 ratio, or else he would throw his computer out the window because all his favorite foods (bread/margarine) are on that badlist. He started taking flax oil, instead of fish oil. I told him that plant-based ALA omega 3 isn't as good as fish-based DHA/EPA. He believed me, and he's going to switch back to fish oil. Check.
    - He is getting more receptive to veggies. We go to the store and get all kinds of stuff for my BAS, and he is starting to grab a few things. A few onions here, tomatoes there. Unfortunately, last weekend, he said "I'm in the mood for a salad" and proceeded to put some iceberg lettuce in a bowl and drown it in fat free 1000 island dressing. That is NOT a salad, but it shows a willingness to touch green things....I'm going to keep pursuing that path. He has also started buying watermelon: I don't want to tell him not to, because that may turn him off to all fruit, but I really don't think he could have picked a worse, more insulin spiking fruit.....

    - He still buys all "fat free" food products. I am actively working to convince him not to. He simply refuses. He won't buy butter. He won't listen to me when I talk about trans fats. He simply doesn't know what HFCS is or does to his body. I don't know how to convince him that the similarly tasting products that have fat in them are actually better for him. I don't know how to convince him...
    - He has always eaten white bread. He read last week that wheat bread is better for you. He came into the living room and started comparing the labels. "This has more fiber, but this has less fat". I should have kept my mouth shut because it was a step forward for him, but I said "there really isn't a difference in those two loaves you're holding. They're both stripped of their nutrients and full of additives and sugar." He got upset, thinking that he had finally taken a step towards better health, and thew away the wheat bread. He LOVES bread. Lets take off our primal hats here for a second: if we first assume that he isn't going to give up bread, what kind can I tell him to buy that will be better for him than straight up white bread?
    - He can't read labels. As I mentioned before, he is "afraid of fat" and ignores me when I tell him not to. He willfully consumes transfats in the form of vegetable and soybean oil, but he only buys fat free products. He does not look at carbs or sugar. He does not care about fiber. He doesn't buy anything for protein besides sliced ham, bologna, and chicken breast. He buys huge tubs of ice cream every weekend, and just doesn't "get" that insulin causes bad health and obesity, not just eating fat.

    A typical attempt to help him usually goes down like this: He and I were shopping the other day, and his eye rolling at my vegetable haul had put me in a bad mood. When he was in the soda aisle, his girlfriend grabbed him a 2 liter of root beer. "On second thought," he said, "Debbie, grab me the Diet Root Beer." I calmly said, "Just get regular. You don't need the aspartame." He gave me dirty look and kept going. I said again, "Papa, please just get the regular." He gave me another look and said, in a very sarcastic tone, "Oh, Debbie, put it back. Dr. Phil over here says the diet's not good for me." I lost it. I started in on a rant about artificial sweeteners and cancer, "I'm trying to help you! You shouldn't be drinking this crap," gesturing to the wall of soda, "in the first place." And I stormed off. I think he stuck with the Diet.

    What are some obvious things I can tell him to look out for and avoid on the labels, besides HFCS and the trans fats?

    - He lives a sedentary lifestyle, drives over an hour each way to work, lays on the couch most of the evening. He has shoulder, back, and past hernia problems. He uses that as an excuse to continue to be inactive. I did some shoulder dislocation stretches in front of him last weekend, and when I left the house he tried one, and had to go to the clinic after work the next day. His doctors cant really help him. He wants to get on the treadmill again, but he can't run because of his back. What can I tell him to do, exercise-wise, to get him moving again? He would probably only devote 10-15 minutes a day, but that's all he needs to see a little improvement.

    So, biggest concerns are: too much (white) bread and vegetable oil, he believes fat-makes-fat, too much HFCS condiments/ice cream, too little exercise, not enough knowledge/concern that diet, not medicine, is what heals the body, and a general attitude that he should be able to eat what he likes without someone telling him he's wrong. I know that's quite a list. I was able to reverse 20 years of terrible eating in one year. 100 lbs lost on a CW/unknowingly-primal hybrid, and another 10 from going full primal. There has to be something, some series of small changes, that can help my grandpa escape his terrible lifestyle.

    Thanks for reading.



    • #3
      Do you think he would watch Fat Head? That movie explains so much in an entertaining way.

      I feel for you, it can't be easy to watch someone you love do this to themselves
      My Primal Journal with lots of food pr0n


      • #4
        First off, congratulations on your own success.

        I can somewhat identify with you. My dad has a pretty crappy diet and has had 2 heart attacks over the past few years (he isn't even 50 yet). He has diabetes that he doesn't monitor and doesn't really control other than using Lantus. I haven't tried like you have to get him to change, so I can't imagine how frustrating it must be. I admire your courage in being committed to getting him to change his diet. I'm afraid that if I pushed too hard with my dad, it would damage the great relationship we have, so I just let it slide.

        One thing that came to mind was cooking for him. How about a nice steak and salad (real salad, not iceberg w/ 1000 Island ;-) ). Stuff that is easy to cook (so that eventually he could do it for himself). Other than that, I'm not sure what else to try. Good luck and keep us updates on your progress.


        • #5
          I was thinking about showing it to him. I watched it for the first time last weekend, actually. I didn't like the libertarian bend to it, but he tends to subscribe to that "government does more harm than good" stuff more than I do. He may watch it. He hasn't seen Supersize Me, and he doesn't read or watch any other nutrition related media.

          Also, I'm not sure a full primal conversion would help him. He has told me plain and simple he won't quit bread. Wouldn't a higher fat diet mixed with the insulin spikes from the bread be dangerous?


          • #6
            Originally posted by yodiewan View Post
            One thing that came to mind was cooking for him. How about a nice steak and salad (real salad, not iceberg w/ 1000 Island ;-) ). Stuff that is easy to cook (so that eventually he could do it for himself). Other than that, I'm not sure what else to try. Good luck and keep us updates on your progress.
            I did actually try to do steak and salad last week. He won't let me make veggies for him, and he insists on cutting the fat off his steak. Its a step forward though. It kills me though when I make him something to eat, and he ruins it with gobs of dressing or ketchup. It probably doesn't help that he thinks I'm trying to secretly feed him offal haha. I've been making beef heart and beef tongue lately, and he thinks the only way I want to help him is by making him eat nasty organs.


            • #7
              I think its really nice that you want to help. Its odd, how information gets into our heads. Its a circular process. Maybe someone saw a friend lose weight on atkins, and didn't think anything of it, and three years later stumbles on MDA while looking for a recipe, and tada! "Instant" convert.

              There's a saying that nothing worth knowing can be taught, but everything worth knowing can be learned.

              Your grandpa won't get it by being told, taught, lectured etc. If you eat your way around him, and invite him to ask questions, it'll help. If he just observes that you have lost weight, and seem perfectly content eating good food, then that helps. I think that what most people wonder about is "giving up" their usual foods....they just don't realize how easy it is, and how good real food tastes, and how it feels to be properly nourished and satisfied, instead of just "full."

              You said your grandpa admires you. Let him admire you, and keep on doing what you do. It'll click.
              I love the book nourishing traditions. I don't care for most of the recipes, but all of the little sidebars are great bits of information, in small pieces, about what the SAD does to us. Leave it at his house.


              • #8
                Congratulations on your personal turn around. I want to see you in Mark's Success Story series soon.

                Keep trying with your grandpa. It's hard, I know that, being a stubborn old coot myself. Here are some ideas about selling primal. Most of them were gleaned from posts in MDA.
                Ancestral Health Info

                I design websites and blogs for a living. If you would like a blog or website designed by someone who understands Primal, see my web page.

                Primal Blueprint Explorer My blog for people who are not into the Grok thing. Since starting the blog, I have moved close to being Archevore instead of Primal. But Mark's Daily Apple is still the best source of information about living an ancestral lifestyle.


                • #9
                  Bring people to their senses, not their knees.

                  After yeaaaaaars of telling my mom not to eat so much crap, she's finally trying Paleo. Is she perfect? No. She hates eggs and prefers just eating fruit in the morning. She still used bottled dressing and artificial sweeneters. But she's eating better now than she has in years -- no grains except for occasional rice/rice pasta, more veggies and meat, etc. I can tell when what I'm saying is going in one year and out the other (just listen for becomes obvious when "oks" are just polite). But don't let perfect become the enemy of the good.

                  I think you're doing well by just eating healthy around him. If he asks, indulge. But serve as a shining example until he does.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Phoenixflame View Post
                    Bring people to their senses, not their knees.
                    I love it.
                    Ancestral Health Info

                    I design websites and blogs for a living. If you would like a blog or website designed by someone who understands Primal, see my web page.

                    Primal Blueprint Explorer My blog for people who are not into the Grok thing. Since starting the blog, I have moved close to being Archevore instead of Primal. But Mark's Daily Apple is still the best source of information about living an ancestral lifestyle.


                    • #11
                      Many of us here have aging parents and grandparents that subscribe to the CW way of thinking, and I've seen thread after thread about how heartbreaking it is to watch them aging horribly. My mom is one of them too.

                      The thing is, you can't make anyone choose to completely turn their life around, even when they say that's what they want to do. That's even more true for something like Primal or Paleo, which goes against everything the media, their doctors and their friends have been saying for decades. It's like driving on the wrong side of the road for them.

                      The best thing you can do is make Primal/Paleo a normal part of your life, be very open about it without preaching, and let the results speak for themselves. Make it very clear that this is why you are healthier and happier, but whatever you do, don't nag or preach. All that does is make people even more resistant and stubborn. If he comes around, it will probably be in baby steps, so be patient.


                      • #12
                        Not to be rude, but I think you guys missed it: I'm not trying to convert him to full paleo/primal. He is living a totally unhealthy lifestyle by CW AND Primal standards. He doesn't even avoid trans fats, HFCS, and processed white grains, the three things that every CW health-conscious person knows about.


                        • #13
                          That may be the case, but it doesn't matter. No matter what he's eating, HE has to be the one that wants to change, even if it's to a healthier version that embraces CW. You can't make him, and the more he feels pressured, the more stubborn he's going to be about changing.


                          • #14
                            I asked him if he wanted "eggs and bacon" for breakfast, and he said yes. So, this morning he's eating bacon and an omelet with omega 3 eggs, yellow bell pepper, spinach, and a fresh tomato from our garden.


                            • #15
                              Just keep setting a good example, the fat you are eating good fats, he will make the connection soon enough. Keep cooking tasty things. Do not worry that he is cutting the fat off, you are competing with 60 years of CW.

                              I think the best thing that explains HFCS is the lecture Children of the Corn Syrup. I also thought King Corn was pretty good. Robert Lustig as well.

                              ‪Sugar: The Bitter Truth‬‏ - YouTube

                              ‪"Children of the Corn Syrup" lecture by Dr. Stephen W. Ponder‬‏ - YouTube

                              White bread is bad but I think the sugars and trans fats are worse, he's an old man, let him have his treat. People struggle when they know it is the right thing, he does not even understand that yet.

                              Does he enjoy the radio, you could listen to Underground Wellness together.
                              Life. Be in it.