On this journey over the last five years I have been amazed and inspired by some of the stories I’ve read or have been told and thought it was only fair to share mine, in case someone else benefits from me opening up.
Since I healed myself I have spoken in public a lot in recent years and when I do, I completely open up and talk about how my day to day battle with Crohn’s Disease and being obese panned out in gory detail. I think when you’re brave enough to open up like that in front of what could be hundreds of people, it allows people into your world.
Opening up has allowed me to meet many, many people that have been suffering with their own lifestyle issues and made them brave enough to talk about it.
I’m very proud to say that I now know many people who have been affected by my story and this has led them to achieving major health improvements themselves, including curing themselves of Type 2 diabetes and stopping lifelong asthma and it’s associated medication.
Why Bendy? It's just my nickname I've had for years. I used to do Tae Kwon Do when I was younger and I was very flexible. So the nickname 'Bendy' Benzies just stuck.
We migrated from the South East of England to Perth, Australia in 2008.
My health had been ok up until then but I had always suffered from intolerable indigestion and almost lived on Rennies. I practically bought them wholesale. I thought they were harmless as you can just buy them anywhere. However, I had got myself quite physically fit when I migrated as I had to pass a fitness test for my new job.
My diet was a fairly average Western diet but I ate far too much take-away, crisps, chocolate and alcohol if I'm honest with myself... and once I'd settled into life in Australia, now on two incomes and with much more expendable income, I slowly gained weight.
Work always ended with a stubbie (or two or three) and all those white rolls and sausage sizzles take their toll. I was addicted to McDonalds too. Fast food is much more prevalent in Australia than the UK and it’s much cheaper in relation to income. And McDonalds had me dangling on their line. It’s the sauce in the Big Macs I swear…
I had suffered from bouts of diarrhoea very often but put these down to something I’d eaten or a bout of gastro or a dirty beer glass...
These bouts got more and more frequent and then got worse until I suffered from constant diarrhoea. And I mean constant. Every single day. I felt bloated and generally ill all the time. I suffered from severe cramping and it was excruciating when an attack came on, coupled with the sheer panic of trying to immediately find a toilet.
I was also always tired and always woke up feeling as if I needed to go straight back to bed.
My weight crept up and up. I ordered yet another new uniform for work and just put it down to ‘middle aged spread’.
I took a lot of sick leave as it was just not possible to do my job when I was suffering from these bouts but just thought I was prone to gastro bugs.
I tried cutting certain foods out but not with any real conviction as it never seemed to make any difference.
I had a real problem with urgency. If I needed to go I needed to go right then, which obviously caused some horrendous problems. Especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere at work. Even in the middle of a conversation I would have to make excuses and run.
I lost control of my bowel a few times in public and had to run up the side of the freeway or down a laneway and I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me in. Once when travelling home with a colleague I had to bail out on the freeway and run up the bank in broad daylight.
It was humiliating and there were times when I questioned how long I wanted to live like this.
I had blood in my stools often and eventually I started to think the worst and that maybe the C Word had got me, but I did the manly thing….I just buried my head in the sand and hoped it would go away. I was the proverbial ostrich.
And I drank more. And ate more rubbish. And got bigger. And got sicker. So I drank more. You get the idea….
Eventually it all got on top of me and I braved it and went to the doctors. I was so scared.
I had tests for celiac, bowel cancer and had a colonoscopy, which showed inflammation of the ileum, conducive with Crohn's Disease.
I was told to manage it as best I could, strangely prescribed anti-depressants (which I never took), Prednisone and told to manage the constant diarrhoea with Loperamide. I would take 5 or 6 of these a day at least (later, often many more) to stop the diarrhoea and allow me to function. Just about.
I was also prescribed Nexium for reflux disease I also suffered with, which was debilitating and often woke me up constantly throughout the night.
I asked if there was anything else I could do and was basically told that its common and I have to take Loperamide and just get on with it. That was my lot.
I also suffered from neck and shoulder pain regularly and my knees gave me problems and I would get through a packet of Nurofen a week, just routinely popping them.
I suddenly felt really old. I remember a Billy Connolly sketch where he said he’d become old enough to get the (language warning) “Oh Fuck Disease". This occurs when you get up in the morning and your first few steps are accompanied by walking really stiffly in pain and you saying, “Oh fuck, oh fuck” until you’ve ‘warmed up.’ I definitely had this disease. And it was getting worse.
I couldn’t even face going on holiday as the thought of flying and needing the toilet and not being able to jump a queue terrified me.
No doctor ever mentioned diet once they’d eliminated celiac. Not one. They just gave me prescriptions.
I actually thought my diet was ok, well not too bad, I tried to convince myself anyway... I ate from the five food groups and didn't eat fried food often. Mel was a much healthier eater than me and she tried to convince me (nagged) so many times to clean up my act. But did I listen…?
In tears of desperation one day, I asked my doctor if I could be fitted with a colostomy bag, as I felt my quality of life would improve. At least then I wouldn’t spend all my life worrying where the nearest toilet was. I had a relation who had needed a bag and he still played regular sport and could travel.
Work was becoming unbearable. Often I had to run off and my colleagues would text me to see where I was and I would simply answer, “Crohns”. They were great to me but this couldn’t go on forever.
Throughout all this Mel had suffered some serious health issues with a brain infection and watched her mum die of pancreatic cancer, caused by poor diet and smoking. Read her story here…
She decided to go on a real health kick and get fit (she was already in pretty good shape even after her health scare). Mel had always been a healthy eater and a bit of a hippy chick and had been a vegetarian most of her life.
She started off with a group of friends doing fitness workshops and progressed into long distance running (something she’d never done before).
I was really jealous of her new found fitness achievements and to be honest I thought we would drift apart. I didn't feel part of the circle. She’d made a new group of friends and they were all into running and fitness. I was invited to be part of this but I felt like I was the fat old bloke that would hold everyone up and that I would be suddenly running for a toilet in the middle of nowhere.
I desperately wanted to be part of this new world but I was drowning in my own ill health and self pity and I couldn’t seem to reach the lifebuoy.
I started to become a recluse. Socialising was a real problem as it was driven by toilets as far as I was concerned.
First I had to get somewhere without an issue. Then I had to be sure I could get to a toilet immediately if I needed it wherever we were. Then I had to be able to get home.
Even going to friends for dinner was a nightmare as I knew I’d spend half the evening in their toilet, with everyone wondering where I was.
I missed countless last quarters of football games, parts of theatre plays and movies.
In the end I just wanted to stay at home.
I had put on weight mainly due to inactivity, Prednisone and poor diet, coupled with excess alcohol and was sitting around 95 kg at 174 cm (nearly 15 stone at 5ft 7”). I felt fat, bloated and couldn’t run as this exacerbated my bowel condition and I was petrified of having issues. I also had terrible G.E.R.D. (reflux disease) and took medication for that every day. Without it I simply could not sleep or function. I was lacking in energy, I was unmotivated and I was often short tempered. I was looking down the barrel of a heart attack and knew I was only just coping. Only just.
But one day, borne out of sheer frustration of being left behind, I put on my old running shoes. It was hard to even do the laces up. However I ran around the block. I really thought I would embarrass myself and would fart and follow through. But I’d got sort of past caring. When I got back I was totally out of breath and realised just how unfit I’d become. Where had that once fit, lean young man gone to?
But it was a start and from that day on my spirits lifted.
I knew that I was a fat, steroid-affected sick person. I'd become old and infirm.
So right then and there I made a deal with myself that I wasn’t going to let this beat me. I’d found a voice inside screaming for the real me to emerge again.
I started to research health and nutrition, even the ‘wacky hippie stuff’ I’d previously looked down my nose upon, thinking I knew better…
Even though I was cynical, I arranged for a series of hypnotherapy sessions to help with stress and help me to deal with the stomach issues. I cannot believe how relaxing these were and how they helped me develop strategies to cope and believe in myself.
I also started a course of chiropractic therapy to improve my body’s balance and posture. I was really round shouldered and I'd heard great things about chiro and thought I'd try everything. I figured that I needed a more holistic approach rather than being full of the doctors' pills that were just a band-aid over a gaping wound.
I’d heard about this ‘caveman’ diet a friend told me about and I started to look into it all.
But it was Pete Evans who really brought it into my home. He had championed the way of life and was looking great (after being a bit tubby before…sorry Pete!) and I loved his new energy and positivity. I was hooked. Just him being him sold it to me. How could anyone not want a part of that?
We bought the books and I then started to read. And read. And read.
And then I read some more. And then I watched every You Tube video on the subject. And another one…you get the picture….studying took all available time ( and still does today).
And that’s when it all started. We adopted Paleo. Not full-on at first (I still drank coffee with milk and still drank alcohol) but I made big changes.
At that time I was also still drinking alcohol but the food was pretty strict.
The main thing for me was cutting out all wheat.
Everything; pasta, bread, cereals, biscuits, cakes, pastries. I felt so much better almost immediately. I only ate organic vegetables, grass fed organic beef and lamb, organic chicken and wild caught fish and pasture raised eggs and studied nutrition. I read everything I could and soaked up all this new knowledge. I still do. Every day.
I thrived on learning and strangely found myself remembering facts and figures and made myself an expert.
In no time at all the weight started to literally just drop off me and I had to buy new clothes as the others looked ridiculous.
My symptoms all but stopped. Just like that. I felt well and alive. I felt lighter and so energised. I was sleeping great and had no reflux issues. It just vanished.
I started to exercise more (because I could now) and started to cycle and do high intensity workouts I found on the internet. I did push-ups and dips and squats and with alarming speed started to notice the change in my body.
Others started noticing and their comments spurred me onto to keep it up.
And then I stopped taking all the medication and I was fine. I was still nervous about journeys to work and managing to get there without having to stop at a service station in a panic en-route and I still had to get my head in a better space but I was coping. Everything was beginning to click.
The weight kept falling off and I had to buy new clothes yet again. I loved it as I actually began to look good in clothes again.
People started to comment on how I looked. All the time. Especially people who hadn’t seen me for a while. One friend bumped into me at a local theatre and literally didn’t recognise me and took a step back.
My wife had, by now, built up to running her first ever half marathon. I had built up to my first organised 5 km race which I did with her in a reasonable time and I was ecstatic that I finished with no ‘toilet issues’. It was one of those moments in life where you just know things are only going to get better.
We attended the Paleo Way Tour in Perth and sucked in Pete’s enthusiasm, heard Dr Libby Weaver talk about nutrition and the way in which the body works and heard Helen Padarin telling us about regaining our health and it all just seemed to make sense. I spoke to Pete in the interval and then he made my day by mentioning my story on stage later.
The penny had finally dropped. A light went on.
From then on it has just got better. I have gone from 33% body fat to 13% and lost approaching 30 kilograms (or 66 pounds or 4 stone 10lb). I am leaner, much more muscular, fitter, have heaps of energy and life is good. I reckon I eat more nowadays but I just eat better. But the amazing thing is I’ve kept that weight off now for approaching five years effortlessly. I just reset my body and gave it the right fuel.
I now have a complete wardrobe of new funky clothes that are the same size I was in when I was 19. Probably way too young for me but I just don’t care.
I have been promoted at work and can now cope with working shifts again without any real detriment to my health. I am thoroughly enjoying work again. I prepare and manage myself better nowadays.
I have gone from a ‘large’ to a ‘small’ or an ‘extra small’ sometimes, have lost 12 inches from my waist and it’s stayed off.
I used to buy size 38-inch pants (96.5 cm) but I had an ugly muffin top. Now I'm comfortably in size 28-inch (71 cm).
I am much more muscular and do basic bodyweight routines a few times a week and have seen very quick results.
Mel and I bought decent bicycles and enjoy them on our days off too. We started playing tennis and enjoy veggie gardening together now and grow a lot of our own stuff.
I feel about 20 years younger but I’m actually fitter than I was back then.
My relationships are all better and I am happy. I realised just how unhappy (probably technically depressed) I was. Let’s face it, being romantic is not often on the agenda when you’re chained to a toilet with diarrhoea…
I do not take ANY medication and haven’t for well over 4 years. I simply don't have the niggling pain in my neck or shoulders and my knees aren't buckling under an extra 30kgs!! My posture is so much better which probably helps my organs function better. I'm actually a centimetre taller!
I did Pete Evan's ‘The Paleo Way Ten Week Challenge’ and completely came off alcohol, caffeine and stuck to the 'program' religiously for ten weeks. I thought I'd have a real issue going without grog but I did it! It completely reset my bad old habits. I was in pretty good shape again when I did this but I cannot recommend it enough. At the moment it’s totally free too! Ten weeks of real science, recipes, workout routines and motivation. It got me 'moving every day' as I had committed to it and I have never really looked back. No calorie counting, no scales, just good advice and common sense. I'd already seen amazing health befits by going alone but somehow the program redefined me. I can't really explain it other than to say it fine-tuned my life. I'd got it back in tune before but this was better. Much better.
I'm drinking socially again but only in real moderation nowadays and only on days off, high days and holidays and then just preservative free red wine. The beer has gone. The whiskey has gone. The gin and tonics have gone. I cannot believe I haven’t had a beer in over four years. Believe me, this is big news.
Sometimes I just don’t know how I’ve done it and how I’ve completely changed my life around.
In every way I am better. As I look better I feel better, I’m more confident and just because my gut is healthier I don’t have the stress of wondering where the nearest toilet is all day, day in day out, which wears you down and is debilitating.
I’m afraid I have lost lots of respect for some so-called expert gastroenterologists who told me that diet cannot change the outcome of Crohn’s. Very closed-minded people in a closed-shop who are more interested in sending you their bill and playing golf than your health. I know now there are some great doctors out there, but sadly they are few and far between and have to almost operate under the radar for fear of being ostracised by their profession.
I’ve realised however, that a lot of the doctors are simply winging it with a holier than thou attitude and they often don’t keep up with modern science that’s been discovered since they were at med school. Sad but true.
Even my GP who was previously supportive, states the reason for my good health and excellent blood results now is simply losing weight. He still thinks things like coconut oil should be used sparingly as it is a saturated fat and “They’re not good for you.”
He didn’t understand new science regarding cholesterol and tried to prescribe me with statins. I tried to explain but it fell on deaf ears. Deaf ears that last heard science in 1990.
The best thing about all this though is the sheer number of friends and colleagues who have approached me and asked me what I’ve done. Also the friends I’ve made through this lifestyle.
I’ve been able to guide them in the right direction and some have completely wrapped themselves up in the lifestyle and seen major changes in health and lost serious amounts of weight.
I have friends who are diabetic who are almost completely off medication and loving life again, one friend whose asthma has been suppressed completely ( he used to get hospitalised every year and now doesn’t even use a puffer) and others who’ve seen massive changes in blood pressure or cholesterol issues.
And they then spread the message amongst their friends and family and on it goes.
The other great thing is being part of a fledgeling movement that really is ahead of its time and one which others will follow in due course. We have met beautiful people we’d never otherwise have met who have similar aspirations for themselves and the planet and its great surrounding yourself with like-minded people.
So I hope you can help to spread our message and help your loved ones regain their health and be the best version of themselves they can.
I’d love you all to become Paleonutters!