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On October 18, 2015 I started a new way of life. At approximately 300 pounds, I was on a miserable journey to an early death, with out-of-control type II diabetes and high blood pressure. I'm going to write about my journey, and the dramatic recent turn, here on my blog. Follow along, or, maybe you'll join me!
My weight issues began with my first pregnancy at 21 and just went up steadily from there. Many jaunts into the weight loss arena I've had - usually with initial success, but eventually reaching a plateau that would make the struggle unbearable, and any loss was swiftly regained, with interest. Diets, exercise regimens, counseling, encouragement from friends - all ended the same way. I eventually weighed a little over twice as much as I did at age 21 (in 1979 - do the math).
So I have been reluctant to say much about what I am doing to anyone - past failures haunt me - so I've mentioned it to only just a handful of my close friends and family. But as of December 31, 2015, I was down 29 pounds! So I felt encouraged that this was a good time to be public about it because I do like an audience and when I have one I tend to perform better - so I can call this my show and sharing it might actually help.
One time for a couple of weeks back in the early 90's I did a vegetarian diet, but that is the only time in my life I've restricted meat and dairy. Anything that resembled that type of thing I have steered clear of. I'd seen a series of articles on the Word of Wisdom (LDS health guide) in an online news source that quickly revealed a sans animal products mentality and I avoided them like the plague. Until one day I saw a before and after picture that caught my eye - and I couldn't resist reading about it. The woman reminded me of me - she had a similar starting weight, similar health issues and her after photo was amazing - so I read her story.
She started her turn around with a stay in a clinic that offered monitored water fasting for a few weeks to break all addictions and allergies, then reintroduced a whole food plant based diet. It was very expensive and far from home. But I looked into it. It didn't seem a viable alternative for me.
A few days later I saw another article with an impressive before and after picture and read another woman's story. Again, it reminded me of myself and I was interested in what she did to turn her life around. Again it was a whole food plant based diet. I attended a stake religion class on the Word of Wisdom and low and behold, the teacher introduced the benefits of a whole food plant based diet. I felt like I was being guided (reluctantly) to what I had been avoiding for many years.
You see, my patriarchal blessing specifically tells me I will be healthy - run and not be weary, walk and not faint - etc - all the blessings of the Word of Wisdom are spelled out in my blessing . . . IF I live the principles closely. Since I don't have those promised blessings, I am clearly not living the Word of Wisdom closely enough. And so maybe my refusal to consider not eating meat might just be the issue I needed to overcome, whether I had strong moral convictions about it or not.
I then watched the film Forks over Knives and that influenced me to give a whole foods plant based diet a try. I took a look at the program, mentioned in the second before and after article I read, at ProtectiveDiet.com and it seemed very do-able - so I bit the bullet, joined the program, and after clearing my kitchen of the things I would no longer be eating, and stocking it with what I needed to start, I launched into my own whole foods plant based diet on October 18, 2015. I didn't have a good way to take my photo that day, I have no big mirrors in my house - but I wasn't going to let a lack of a picture or health data delay my start. The photo above was taken a month and a half before I started my journey.
WFPB is beyond vegetarian. It is beyond vegan. In essence, it means you only eat plants in their whole form. Meaning, not things extracted from whole foods - like sugar, refined grains and oil, or processed foods. You can cook them! Yeah! I don't think I could maintain a raw food diet at all. This particular brand of WFPB diet also goes a step further and eliminates high-fat plants like avocado, most nuts/seeds, and coconut. It's sounding like there isn't much you CAN eat, but, actually, I eat very well! ProtectiveDiet.com provides the recipes and instructions and methods for implementing this diet. Without that kind of support, I couldn't do it. Most people who start a WFPB diet all alone cannot maintain it for long. I am really grateful for the recipes and training provided at ProtectiveDiet.com. I've yet to try a recipe that was yucky - and I have a long way to go to even begin to try all of them and new recipes are added every week - often with cooking videos and very detailed instructions. Old culinary favorites are redesigned with healthy ingredients, it is pretty amazing.
One of the things that made me consider such a change was that there are no restrictions on starches like almost every other diet I have ever tried - except refined carbs like white flour, white rice, pasta made with white flour - but in each case, there are healthy and yummy alternatives - whole grain flour, brown rice, whole grain pasta. And I love me my taters and pasta and rice - my whole life, every dinner included one of those. And I had cut corn out of my menus because I didn't consider it a healthy vegetable, but still wanted my rice/pasta/potato - so just never had corn, though I love it. Now I eat all the corn I want! I had never purchased or cooked with Masa - corn flour - and now I use it a lot. I was most pleased with my very first ever homemade tamales I prepared on Christmas day - adopting a popular Mexican tradition - they were better than I even hoped!
That's not to say all I eat is starch - not at all - but I AM saying, having plenty of starch without the guilt is truly integral to me being able to stay on course. I remember eating these baked french fries one day and I started to cry because here I was indulging in something I loved and there was no reason for me to feel guilty or ashamed to be enjoying good food.
After only two days, I noticed a major physical change. I'd been struggling with swollen feet and hands for several months and nothing I did seemed to help much. Only two days on my WFPB diet, the swelling was gone. WOW! I believe it was cutting out dairy that allowed that dramatic and swift change. I LOVE dairy in every conceivable form - so I ate a LOT of it every day! Eliminating it was pretty distressing at first - but the swelling going away clued me into the fact that I probably had a dairy allergy I had never before identified, and that has made it easy to leave out the moo in my kitchen.
I lost 15 pounds my first full month! WOOT WOOT! I didn't weigh every day - more like 1-2 times a week. I was finding the diet easy and the food tasted great.
But a few days later was Thanksgiving. I was pretty good, but decided I just wanted a turkey to serve my son and I, and did indulge that way. It was good, but I am not sure it was worth it. My weight loss came to a stand still. For a couple weeks I only lost a half a pound. I was struggling to feel satisfied and getting discouraged. I think my problem was not planning ahead and waiting till I was starving before going into the kitchen and not wanting to wait even long enough to prepare a good meal - just wanted to grab and go, and frankly - you simply have to start cooking at home with a WFPB diet - not much is grab and go, so I was feeling less and less satisfied and wondering if I could carry on.
Once I realized that was the problem, I started being more mindful about what I was going to prepare, so I wasn't left in that desperate situation. Then the weight began to drop again. By the end of the second month, I was down 24 pounds!
At first I had to buy a lot of new ingredients and some gadgets and small appliances that I hadn't had before. But after that initial outlay - which wasn't necessarily required but I wanted every advantage and could afford it, so I made the investment in myself - I have discovered I am saving a lot of money. Believe it or not, it is less expensive than the way I had been eating. I mean - meat??? Dairy??? Baked goods??? They ain't free, my friends, and cutting them out of my shopping sprees freed up a lot of "dough." Not to mention that I had been eating out 3-5 times a week, and since I started with ProtectiveDiet.com, I have only eaten at a restaurant 3 times, and two of those were treats from friends. The reason being very few restaurants have anything on their menu that is truly WFPB. Even salads - none of the dressings offered are free of oil AND sugar or other unpronounceable mystery ingredients. So these days, if I see some WFPB item at the grocery that looks yummy but is a little pricey - I figure it is worth it and my alternative to what I used to spend on chicken, beef, pork, cheese, eggs etc.
Down 30 pounds from my start date 11 weeks ago. It doesn't really look like much because I don't have a before picture in the same clothes or position - but this is where we will start and I'll try to have my picture taken here at my front door in the future so it is easier to tell. Maybe a couple of pounds was from my hair cut! That was actually before I started, but I had a lot of thick hair cut off since the picture in August.
My motivation, after seeing this photo, is wow - I have a long way to go, reality check - we imagine ourselves looking better than the camera forces us to admit. So since this is public, I feel motivated to have a better photo next month!
I think you can see it in my face - less round, more oblong. I have to admit that I am a little worried about looking like a deflated balloon. I haven't got a lot of wrinkles, but they might start showing up as I lose weight. Ah well, I still would rather have wrinkles than diabetes!
I have been at war with my body since puberty. I was shocked by each new repulsive change that came over me during adolescence. My nose grew, my skin got oily, I got pimples, body odor, hair where there hadn't been hair, my hair got oily, my permanent teeth came in crooked requiring braces, my period started, I became more temperamental than ever, and gravity suddenly made EVERYTHING harder - I was no longer an effortless sprinter - and I HATED it. I was MAD. I don't think I ever really accepted that physical activity was always going to take effort it never had as a child. I think I was 40 before I could stand calling myself a woman, I really still don't like it.
The next major change was pregnancy. I was wholly unprepared. Again, I found it shocking what was happening to me - how my body reacted. I was nauseated by everything, again, more temperamental than ever, I felt out of control - and the weight gain was so distressing. I never felt like ME anymore. I resented having to quit school, but that is un-motherly - so I held the feelings inside.
I think I've been some level of depressed ever since. But I understand now that the seeds of depression and despair go farther back than I even can readily recall. Maybe even back before I was born. Mom didn't want another baby. I probably sensed that in-vitro. I certainly felt it after birth. I don't know the details - I can only guess her reasons, she was 40 and thought she was done after Kathy, and who knows what else. That my dad adored me, that the sweet middle-aged, childless neighbor across the street took me under her wing and loved me like her own helped a great deal, but there was a hole in my heart because of Mom's inability to bond with me that changed me. I was scolded for feeling sorry for myself if I ever complained ("you're so spoiled, what a joke that you feel neglected" came from onlookers in the family) - so I learned that I had no right to feel bad. It was not acceptable to voice my hurt. I developed some coping techniques that may have gotten me something - comfort - attention - my way - at times, but never Mom's love, and have long since morphed into destructive behaviors that hurt me and those around me.
Healing from early traumas and the adult ones - including two divorces - are every bit as important as the physical healing I am going through. I have been working on that earnestly in a plethora of ways for at least a dozen years. I feel like an onion. I explore some thing, and it is like peeling a layer away to reveal something below - and the effort is exhausting - when I do it, I have to rest - take a nap - and then I know that more lies down deeper. And this is no run of the mill onion. The layers seem never ending. They are like layers of armor. They are there to protect me, but have become like a prison. Maybe I am "safe" but so isolated it is killing me. So I continue to peel back the layers.
When I begin to despair - it seems the Lord swoops in - sending angels to assist me. He whispers to someone - "call Debbi" it has happened many times. Or - "go to that class today" or "don't be late for Sunday School today" or "check out the BYU devotional today" or "a drive in the canyon is in order today" or "come to my house today."
Gratitude helps - and staying positive - which means more laughter and less dark influences like crime shows and people who complain a lot, and my own negative thoughts. So I am working on these things. I added America's Funniest Home Videos to my Netflix list.
There are side effects to this diet. Here are some I've experienced:
Not everyone is thrilled. I need to be careful not to go on and on about it - it can come across as pressure, and no one likes to feel they are being pressured. So I write in my journal - and now, I am blogging about it.
I won't know if anyone has read this or not, but the possibility of it being read makes me a little nervous. So does the possibility that no one will read it. That's the e-world we live in!
Time to eat!
~Debbi (Debra, Deb, Mom, Granny, Sister Woods, etc.)