- Name: Benjamin Carstens (ask him anything on Talk)
- Height: 6’1″ (185.4 cm)
- Job: I work as Marketing Manager and Fitness Coach at Mission: Fitness (www.missionfitnessia.com) gym in Waukee, Iowa. I also run my own marketing communications business, B. Potamus, LLC., and have a Young Living Essential Oils business with my wife, Kellie, called FaithFull Drops (www.faithfulldrops.com)
- Age: 36
- Location: Adel, Iowa.
- Highest weight: 450 lbs (204.1 kg)
- Lowest weight: 225 lbs (102 kg)
One of the things that amazes me about weight loss stories is that they’re so varied. Guys have lost weight with so many motivations and methods that it’s nearly never-ending. Tell us a bit about your background before we discuss what drove you. What was it that caused the issues you were having? There are many reasons why I got to 450 lbs. I wasn’t interested in taking care of myself. I was lazy. I was angry at the world and I expected to be given the things I wanted without really putting any effort into attaining them. I really didn’t expect to live as long as I have. I was just in a miserable state mentally and emotionally. I really felt cheated because I thought I deserved better. I ate and drank the same as all my friends did and they didn’t have weight problems. I really bought into every fad that came out and trusted the marketing food companies bombarded me with. I’d bounce around, up and down, and always ended up worse than where I started. Those frustrations just led me to stop caring.
Looking back can you understand why you were in that sort of place?
That was my mindset and I was just a miserable person! I couldn’t do anything I wanted because of my weight. I couldn’t go watch my favorite teams play because I didn’t fit in the seats. I couldn’t have and maintain a relationship with a woman. I couldn’t have kids. And, the perception of overweight people is so bad that it was hard to do anything. Everywhere I went I drew negative attention.
What was it that led to that mindset though?
More than anything, I didn’t have the confidence to go out and get those things I wanted because I knew in my mind I wasn’t going to get it. I knew the world around me and how a man at 450 pounds was perceived. I was convinced the world was divided into haves and have nots. I was one of the have nots and wasn’t ever going to get what I wanted.
That’s pretty full-on – I know that this led you to having some big discussions with God. What happened? What was said? And what was the answer?!
When I turned 30 I made a pact with God that if he didn’t come down and change my life, that if I was as miserable at 40 that I was at 30, that I wouldn’t let myself live to see 41. I waited for Him to make those changes without any effort on my part. It didn’t happen and I got angry. Eventually I got sick and had to go to the doctor. That’s when I found out how much I truly weighed for the first time in years. I also found out I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and a fatty liver. If that wasn’t bad enough, I lost my job a month later. I was in a place where things couldn’t get worse.
Wow! How did it feel after you’d made that pact to have all of those negatives crowd in?
I truly thank God for that, because that’s when I started looking up and living my life for God. I made real changes, committed to those changes and slowly I started seeing positive results.
That’s amazing but I think a lot of people in that situation would feel that God wasn’t answering your prayers – how did you get past that?
I held onto a lot of anger in those times when I felt like God wasn’t there, or wasn’t listening to my prayers. But, He gave me the strength to keep asking. Now when I look back, there’s not a single prayer that he didn’t answer. He always answers. Sometimes it’s not what we thought we wanted. Now I look back and all those prayers I thought weren’t getting answered were – it just wasn’t how I expected or perceived. I thank God for my struggles now because it forced me to lean into Him more. To rely on him. And that’s what’s it’s all about. “In all things rejoice…” I don’t think the Bible is telling us to be happy when bad things are happening, but to rejoice because when they are happening we aren’t alone. We serve a loving God who will never leave us behind and He didn’t with me.
So let’s go back to the changes that you made – you said they were small – what did you do?
I started by slowly changing my diet. Then I purchased an elliptical and set it up right in my living room so I couldn’t ignore it. The first time I climbed on it I could only do about five minutes. I was broken-hearted. I knew I had wasted my money because I wasn’t ever going to be able to use it. But then I shook off that negative outlook and pledged to get on it every day and every night – adding a minute each day. Before long I was clocking 2-3 hours every day on it. Then, after I lost a significant amount of weight, I started hitting the gym and getting involved with group fitness classes.
What were the nutrition changes that you made?
When I was overweight I would drink a lot of diet pop. Lots of “fat free” and “sugar free” foods. I wouldn’t lose any weight, so I’d get frustrated. My go-to foods then were fried potatoes, pastas, all kinds of red meat, pork, cheese. I ate out a lot. Now I eat out on rare occasions. I haven’t eaten at a fast food restaurant in three years. When I started, I just began eliminating foods that I knew were not good for me. As I began to have success and started to learn more about what true nutrition is and how the body works, as well as getting past the marketing we are bombarded with by the government and food industries, I started to eat more natural foods. Eventually I started to follow the Maximized Living diet – cutting gluten and sugars.
What have been the big changes since you lost the weight?
Wow, how hasn’t life changed? Every aspect is better and more enjoyable because I see things in a whole different light. I’m more open to the Lord and the amazing path he has set me on. I still have struggles, but I’ve learned to appreciate those struggles. I’ve learned that my biggest obstacles are also my biggest opportunities for growth and to see miracles happen. So, bring them on, I say. I’ve also met and married my wife, Kellie, during this journey and I can’t think of anything that has been better in my life. When I met my wife, she changed the game and gave me so much to work for. Along the way I had to leave a lot of friends and toxic relationships behind. As I started to improve my life, they started to see it as a negative on them. It worked for them to have me at my worst because it didn’t shine a light on their problems. I think me improving my life made them feel bad about theirs. I still love and care for them, but I couldn’t maintain those relationships to continue to grow the way I wanted to.
Here’s a tough question for you. Not everyone who reads MAN v FAT is a Christian so how do you think God could help them to lose weight?
I think God can really help by knowing that, even in the depths of despair, you’re not alone. He’s with you and He wants what’s best for you. He has a purpose for your life and He never puts us down a path that we can’t make it through. It’s people who are down and out that Jesus had the most compassion for. The unwanted, the outcasts, the sinners, the failures. So, when you’re down – you’re in good company. That’s when you finally start looking up, and that’s when God can make miracles happen. I held on to a couple verses pretty tightly in those times, and still do. Phillipians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and 1 Cor. 6:19-20 “You are not your own. You were bought with a price.” I can do all these things because I have the holy spirit living inside me. My body is His temple. It’s not my own. Everything I do and every choice I make to and for my temple effects the holy spirit. It either dims that light inside me for the world to see, or it throws gasoline on it and burns bright. I prefer to light that torch as bright as possible for as long as I’m able.
It’s interesting talking to you because I strongly believe that MAN v FAT is something that God wants to see at large in the world. I think weight loss matters because He understands the pain and the misery that being overweight can bring and I believe that He wants to release men from that. I think of Leviticus 3:17 all the time when I’m working on MAN v FAT – “All the fat belongs to the Lord.” Originally that wasn’t about dieting but it’s the way I see it! What practical advice do you have for other guys who are looking to lose weight?
I think it has to start with you getting your mind right. Rip off the rearview mirror. You can’t get anywhere living in the past. Then I’d say that you need to understand that you are owed nothing. You owe. Finally, I’d say it’s vital that you do your own research and find people you trust to help you achieve success.
Our thanks to Benjamin for sharing his story with MAN v FAT. Regardless of your views on religion it’s hard to argue that he’s made an incredible change to his life and we wish him well with that. As with all our Amazing Losers and their weight loss before and after stories, you can find him on Talk.