Traditional diet leaves film-maker with a bounce in his step

Author:  By Jennifer Ashawasegai
Windspeaker Contributor
Volume:  30 Issue:  5
Year:  2012

Bossy Ducharme lost a whopping 80 lbs when he decided to eat a diet made up of primarily traditional fare.

Ducharme feasted daily on berries, wild rice and fish.
One of the surprising things is that the 41-year old didn’t exercise while he was on the diet for more than a year.
Bossy decided to do something about his health after his doctor told him he was obese and headed for a heart attack. That was four years ago. Two years ago, he decided to go to film school, plus planned on documenting his diet.

“In my first film I was going to be like our Native ancestors for one year, and see what happens, and I did it,” said Ducharme.

Sticking to the diet and losing weight wasn’t very easy in the beginning. Ducharme said he had to adjust his eating habits to not allow himself to go hungry, plus there was a lot more thinking about what and how he would put food in his body. “I started having to prepare foods for a day, the day before. I never did that before. I was also cooking.”

The diet actually lasted nearly a year-and-a-half, from September 2010 to about the end of January 2012.
Ducharme said the change in his body was dramatic. Not only did he lose weight, he had really good energy, plus great skin.

Ducharme isn’t the first one to go back to his dietary roots. A documentary was done a few years ago, and it followed a handful of Namgis people in Alert Bay, B.C. That diet wasn’t nearly as strict as Ducharme’s though. It allowed for other fresh produce from local markets in addition to salmon and oolichan grease. Meat, eggs and cheese were also allowed. Starchy carbohydrates and sugar were really the only diet no-nos. After losing nearly 100 lbs, one diabetic dieter used less insulin.

Not only can obesity lead to heart disease, it can lead to Type 2 diabetes. According to the Canadian Obesity Network, the disease has become an epidemic in First Nation communities. A three-year research project has found that up to 40 per cent of First Nation adults on-reserve have Type 2 diabetes, versus seven per cent in the general population. Also, about a quarter of the people participating in the study were overweight and another quarter were obese, while a third were morbidly obese.

Losing weight for Ducharme while on his traditional diet may seem almost fast and easy, but there’s nothing to gaining weight. Since Ducharme has been filming his journey for his documentary, ‘A Good Day not to Die’, he allowed for a month to scrap the diet to find out what would happen.

“I returned to the typical North American diet, including fast and processed foods and gained about 30 lbs in that month.”

Not only did he gain nearly a third of the weight back, Bossy lost the bounce in his step. His energy level went down quite significantly and found he was also tired again much of the time.

“I think the physical changes of gaining weight, 30 lbs in 30 days, is a lot right there,” said Ducharme.

After that experience, Ducharme returned to his traditional diet, and has started to shed the pounds again and re-gain his energy.

While Ducharme lost a lot of weight on his diet, his doctor is cautious about recommending it to other people of Aboriginal heritage. Dr. Arbess says, “This is one case, and I can’t really comment. Typically when we make recommendations, it’s based on a clinical trial of numerous people. But I think anecdotally, this is very impressive.”

“I suspect that the traditional diet is much healthier than the typical western diet, which is high fat, high salt, processed foods. I think that’s what’s driven obesity epidemic in the general population as well as the Aboriginal population,” Arbess said.