Ben is 27 years old, and he has been overweight for as long as he can remember. Whenever Ben feels inspired to make changes to his diet, he is quickly dissuaded by his friends, activists against “fat-shaming” who are content with their plus size figures. Ben’s friends believe that their bodies are beautiful as they are and meant to be different. They resent the social pressures that overweight people face daily. Recently, Ben has faced troubling health concerns. Nausea first thing in the morning, a tightness in his chest, and he finds himself struggling to catch his breath while walking short distances.
Ben’s friends insist that his problems are psychosomatic due mainly to society’s unrelenting subliminal messages that to be thin is to be beautiful and thus happy. Ben chooses to visit his family doctor despite their concern and partakes in a full-body workup for his health.
The results of Ben's workup reveal that his physical weight is not the only cause of his discomfort. “I don’t have good news for you, Ben.” His Doctor says, “Your blood tests results are all quite concerning. Though we will need to do a follow-up, it seems that you have Type 2 Diabetes. Your Triglycerides and LDL—or “bad”—cholesterol is exceptionally high. You have developed fatty deposits in your blood vessels, which if not addressed, will make it very difficult for blood to flow in your arteries.” Stunned, Ben asked aloud, “But how did this happen? What should I do?” “My recommendation is for you to take on healthier eating habits and incorporate exercise as part of your daily routine.” His Doctor responded.
As Ben drove home, he felt overwhelmed by anxiety. He imagined his friends criticizing him for his sudden devotion to a new healthy lifestyle. Ben also feared their anger over what could be perceived as a betrayal of their campaign against fat-shaming.
Arriving at home, Ben shared his diagnosis and fears with his roommate John. Ben was very grateful to discover that John not only supported his new goal to take control of his health - he also wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, declaring himself to be 30+ pounds overweight as well. Ben and John come up with a plan to tackle their health issues together.
As a team, Ben and John explore their dietary options. “How about Keto?” Ben suggests. “I have a coworker that swears by this diet!” “I don’t know. It seems like a big step to give up carbs all at once; what about a vegetarian diet?” John counter suggests. After listening to several Joe Rogan interviews, where guests claimed to have gained numerous health benefits, including weight loss, the men finally decide to try the Carnivore Diet.
Time to shop! The first thing that Ben and John do is research carnivore diet recipes as part of their meal prep for the week. After concluding that their pantry needs restocking, they head to the supermarket and stock up on beef, steak, salmon, eggs and bacon. The new diet is a bit intimidating to the men, but they are eager to begin!
After establishing a new eating routine, Ben and his roommate feel ready to incorporate a fitness program. As a team, they create the following plan.
Yoga 4x per week (1-hour sessions)
Weight training 5x per week (45-minute sessions at the gym)
Running 4x per week (30 minutes outside)
Ben’s friends expect him to join up with them at their favourite hangout, the local pub. However, because Ben has not yet shared his new lifestyle changes with his friends, he cancels on them, making up the excuse that he has come down with a cold and doesn’t want to infect his friends.
Ben calls a Yoga Studio to inquire which class would be most appropriate for beginners looking to lose weight. The receptionist suggests he try intermediate power hot yoga.
Halfway through the class, having acted upon the recommendation, Ben and John find themselves drenched in sweat and a little nauseous. Struggling to breathe, Ben lays flat on his back. When the Yogi comes over and gently encourages him to move from Savasana and instead find rest in the “child’s pose”, Ben feels guilty and ashamed. Upset that he doesn’t know what “child’s pose” or “Savasana” is and worried that the other students are judging him, Ben gathers his things and abandons the class.
Since beginning the new carnivore diet, Ben has been experiencing extreme diarrhoea. After some research, Ben learns too late that diarrhoea is a common, if unfortunate, side effect for some while their body is adjusting to a new diet. A little discouraged, he pushes through by reading other carnivorans' success stories online and re-establishes his motivation.
Ben’s new lifestyle is far more challenging than either he or John could have anticipated. Their strict diet of meat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks had not only become mundane but physically unbearable. Both men have begun to struggle with feelings of rejection. Not only are there mental and physical challenges induced by the lifestyle changes, but old friendships are at risk due to social isolation,
Pushing through his fear and discomfort, Ben bolsters himself and John with false bravado. “It’s cool! We’ve got this! The beginning is always the hardest part! We just need a little more motivation! Let’s sign up for the gym like we said we would!”
Upon arrival at said gym, both John and Ben become overwhelmed. The sheer density of athletes working out in the popular centre was intimidating. To ease their discomfort, they decide to start with something easy, like cardio, and head over to the elliptical section. Ben feels he has something to prove to himself after his dismal performance at the yoga studio, but despite his intention, ten minutes into the run, Ben feels his knees begin to shake. Next to Ben, John glides faster than ever before, having set his machine for a steep incline at a 6.0 speed. However, four minutes in, John is also exhausted and needs to catch his breath. “Maybe we should start with some weights instead?” John suggests. Together they wander the gym.
In the free weight section, the two men begin a 3 set of 12 reps. To their surprise, the first set of bicep curls felt good! With only two more sets to go, they challenge themselves with a heavier weight. However, the increased weight swiftly left Ben discouraged, as he found himself unable to complete the reps. John managed to push through his exhaustion this time but hurt himself in the process.
When their one minute rest was up, neither wanted to complete the next set. A few moments later, Ben got up, gathered his towel and water bottle and left the gym, John not far behind.
Feeling defeated, Ben texts the friends he has been avoiding and plans to meet up with them at their favourite cafe. On his way to the cafe, Ben takes a detour. In the parking lot of a fast-food joint and the safety of his car, Ben devours the supersized cheeseburger meal, thinking to himself, “Who was I kidding! The only thing that changed this month was that I was more miserable and uncomfortable than ever!”
From the Lens of Behavior Analysis, Ben's Behavior is no mystery. What do you think were some of his errors? What could he have done differently?
Javon Behavioural Institute (JBI)