How my life was saved by the anti-GMO movement

 

Today my Facebook page about loving GMOs reached 100,000 followers, the same month of my third anniversary running it. I often get accused of being set up with help from Monsanto or Ketchum. The truth is that I am a creation of the anti-GMO movement itself. `

In January of 2014 I contracted mononucleosis and was stuck home for a couple of weeks. The fever blisters in my mouth got so bad that even eating was difficult. Spending a lot of time on social media as a distraction, I stumbled on a YouTube video called I Love Monsanto (NSFW). At the time I had never heard of GMOs or Monsanto. I began to see a lot in common between the arguments used by the anto-GMO movement and the anti-vaccination movement.

I have always enjoyed arguing about politics and religion, so I jumped right into it. Being a teacher I thought it would be fun to share what I was learning. I created a page called We F***ing Love GMOs and Vaccines, and began using it to comment on Monsanto’s page and elsewhere on Facebook. In less than a month I was at 1,000 likes.

This is when the first stalker decided to contact the principal of the school I was teaching at. Very politely and ignoring most of the person’s email, I was asked if I would mind dropping the expletive. So in February We Love GMOs and Vaccines was born.

It was about this time that I looked at the scale. My weight had gotten out of control over the previous decade. When I realized that I had lost 10 pounds while sick and eating so little, I vowed to keep it off.

Prior to this starting the page I had fallen for all the catch phrases and marketing gimmicks. Fat free salad dressing, eating organic, and drinking lots of juice had been my health plan for years. When I first saw the an anti-GMO page share the meme about counting chemicals instead of counting calories, I thought they might be onto something. So I did what they taught me, do the opposite.

I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app for my phone and started counting calories. I logged everything, setting myself a maximum of 1500 calories on weekdays and 2000 on weekends. I learned that the more I did cardio, the more calories I could earn back. I would get up early and spend an hour on the exercise bike, or throw the kids in the stroller and go for a long walk.

A lot of people criticize calorie counting because they say that not all calories are the same. Yes and no. What I found was that if I wanted to remain full, I had to find filling food that didn’t have many calories in it. Grilled chicken with buffalo sauce, ground turkey tacos, and grilled vegetables piled high. Plain baked potatoes became a regular part of my diet. A banana with breakfast and lunch always helped to curb my appetite.

I learned why the Atkins diet worked for some people. I had to cut pasta out of my life. Wheat isn’t killing people, gluten isn’t killing people, it’s just the massive portion sizes of pasta and the associated calories. I had bread when making a sandwich, and that was it. No more dinner rolls for me. I gave up beer and margaritas in favor of wine and Diet Coke with rum.

I lost close to 100 pounds, with my waist size dropping from 42 to a 34. This was done over more than a year, rather than the quickie weight loss plans that never last. I never even had to feel guilty about eating the occasional pizza.

According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Eating a healthy diet and regular exercise can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. Many cases of cancer, the second leading cause of death, are also tied to body fatness and physical inactivity according to the American Cancer Society.

I firmly believe that my life expectancy has been extended.

When GMO labeling failed in Colorado and Oregon back in 2014 the Washington Post offered this explanation for why the claim that 90% of voters want labeling didn’t hold up, “when people tell pollsters they favor GMO labeling, they don’t really know what they’re saying. Because overall public knowledge about GMOs is very low…..”.

When the anti-GMO movement forced the issue on these states, people began to learn about GMOs. All of a sudden the public was gaining the knowledge they needed to make an informed decision. In this case, that labeling was not needed when “organic” and “non-GMO” labels already exist. Monsanto and the rest, who had never seen the need to speak to people who weren’t farmers before, found themselves doing public outreach.

My own journey was similar. Had these anti-GMO pages and groups not existed, I probably would have kept falling for the misleading “health halo” labels in stores like “organic” or “100% juice”. I began to truly take charge of my own health.

Unfortunately there is too much money to be made for people like Food Babe who offer “lose weight quick schemes” and unrealistic lifestyles. “Minimize calories, take walks, and eat a variety of fruits and vegetables” just doesn’t sell that many books.

Author: Stephan Neidenbach

Stephan Neidenbach is a middle school teacher, husband, and father living in Annapolis, MD. He holds a BS in business administration from Salisbury University and a MS in Instructional Technology from University of Maryland University College. He started and runs the Facebook page We Love GMOs and Vaccines, follow him on twitter @welovegv.