117: Ben Boukari Committed to Better Health and Dropped 140 Pounds (M/30)

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“Push through, don’t cheat.”

Weight Gain Background and Contributing Factors

Ben shares that he began to put on weight in fourth or fifth grade. He was “just not eating healthy, and eating all the time.

This eating pattern continued throughout high school and beyond. Once Ben could drive, he would always head out in the car for fast food or snacks.

How Being Overweight Impacted Ben’s Life

Ben recalls breaking two school desks middle school in the same week. He was an active child, and played full-court basketball even when he was gaining weight.

However, he recalls knowing there were some things he just could not do, such as climb a tree or climb out of the pool without a ladder. The advice to “just eat healthy” didn’t work for Ben, and he tried various programs over the years, such as slim fast and eating low-carb.

In the eighth grade, he worked with a trainer at a gym, but didn’t enjoy the experience. In attempting weight loss, Ben says:

“I had tried this thousands of times.”

The Turning Point

In the spring of 2010, Ben felt sharp pains in his head and was diagnosed with sleep apnea.

“That hit me.”

He was prescribed a C-pap machine, but hated it. He decided to lose weight to help with the sleep apnea, but a technician at the sleep clinic technician told Ben that he would likely be on the machine the rest of his life. His response was

“Are you doubting I can’t lose the weight?”

Sitting in his brother’s office in September 2010, his brother got onto him when Ben was eating a big meal. Ben’s brother said that voters might be thinking about him:

“How can this person take care of my city if he can’t take care of himself?”

That moment sent Ben on a new path, and the very next day he started a different eating plan. Ben was troubled by the fact that people might see his weight and judge whether he could do his job effectively or not, no matter what job he had.

“That bothered me…that my weight could affect me professionally.”

Since Ben has a job very much in the public eye, he is always making public appearances and didn’t ever want to be compared to Chris Christie, who has drawn fire for being heavy.

Starting The Weight Loss Journey

Ben began by eating very low carb, and used information he got on the web to get started. He ate 20 grams of carbohydrates or less per day, and got his body into ketosis. He was conscious to take things one week at a time. He ate lots of meat and salads.

Within a few months, Ben was able to see the difference in photos and knew he was losing weight. When he passed the 45-day mark of staying on track with his eating, Ben was proud, since the longest he had stayed on a diet before this was 45 days.

Dividing the time into 7 day units was helpful, and after a while, it was even easy to turn down a cookie. While growing up, his brothers would tell Ben that he didn’t have enough discipline or willpower. Now Ben says he thinks everyone has the potential for cultivating their willpower and changing habits.

“It’s mental toughness.”

Even when you have been working hard on a diet for 30, 60 days and you are still heavy—you have to keep pushing. During his weight loss, Ben got daily encouragement from people who were noticing his weight loss.

“Their encouragement kept me going all along.”

For Ben, cheating is like starting over, since it’s a lifestyle, not just a diet. Ben would constantly remind himself when he had a craving, that when he was done with his weight loss, the snickers bar, the pizza, the ice cream would still be there, and he could have it later.

Ben thinks that many types of lifestyle changes (eating vegan, vegetarian, doing intense exercise, etc.) can work to help you lose weight, if you stick with it. You do have to sacrifice. Ben says: “I eat all the same things I used to eat.” But, he’s quick to point out, he doesn’t eat the same quantities or frequencies he used to. Ben discusses how he knows he worked hard to get to this point in his journey, so he knows he can put off a treat for a more special occasion.

June 1, 2011 was when he first weighed himself, 9 months after beginning his journey. Ben had dropped from over 380 pounds to 294. (172.7 to 133.6kg)

“I was ecstatic!”

Ben feels like knowing the constant fluctuations of the scale add to the challenge of weight loss. The behavior itself should be the goal, versus the incremental changes on the scale and the ups and downs that you see if you weigh yourself a lot.

Ben thinks that in weight loss there’s no math formula, and you can’t plan how many pounds you will lose in a month or two. Ben still has a XXXL shirt and size 52 pants that he keeps in his closet for inspiration, and he threw out all the other old clothes.

Since Ben lost weight and can do so many more physical things, he says only now does he realize just how much being heavy held him back as a kid. Ben still loves good food, but physically feels like he can’t eat as much as he used to, like his stomach has shrunk.

Ben works out now, but his initial weight loss was solely through diet. Committing to a friend to meet at 6 am and work out was the most effective way to exercise once Ben started, since it was a social commitment. As Ben began to tone up, the most noticeable thing was losing his double chin. He also felt motivated to keep going as he saw positive physical changes in the mirror, like building muscles.

Staying Motivated

Plateaus were a struggle for Ben. Ben mentions he had tried diets many, many times before, and one of the consistently difficult challenged Ben faced this time was not eating all the foods that he encounters through his job—corndogs at games, fried catfish at fairs, etc—and staying on track.

Ben stays conscious of parking farther from the door of the office, taking the stairs, and other small exercise he can at any point in the day. He says he used to be hot all the time. Now that he has lost weight, he often feels cold.

Ben feels good now after working out, instead of worn out, like he used to. The first time Ben found himself leaving food on a plate or taking only a few sips of a milkshake and throwing the rest away, he was astonished at this brand new experience, and felt empowered.

Maintenance and New goals

Even though Ben has a great success story, he says: “It’s not easy. It’s still not easy for me.

Ben has promised himself and loved ones that he will not put the weight back on, and feels totally motivated by how much better he feels now as compared to how he felt when he was heavier.

Mental strength has been a huge aspect of Ben’s continuing journey. He says that he always kept in mind the fact that you have people who love you and depend on you, and your weight loss also helps them.

Now that he is closer to his goal weight, sometimes Ben takes a small taste of things that he used to eat too much of, and now can let his self take just one bite.

As the youngest elected official to his city commission in Florida, Ben is very active in his community, and he also gets some fun exercise coaching high school basketball. Ben is 6’3”, his current weight is “250-ish,” (113 kg) and he has been as low as 235. (106 kg) Ben wants to lose 30 more pounds and tone up.  A 36-38” waist is another goal.

Ben’s Advice For Your Journey

People will love to watch you succeed, so don’t cheat and don’t quit. Ben says that on a weight loss journey, “sometimes making it [through] 24 hours is a long time.” Even if you’ve heard it before, “you can do it.

Ben encourages longer time frames—like 30 or 60 days—to see changes.

“You will experience things and feel a way that you have never, never felt before. You will surprise people around you with things you can do…it is incredible.”

On Ben’s Workout Playlist

Contacting Ben

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