I started struggling with obesity during childhood. Despite many attempts to manage my weight, it continually crept up. I was eventually diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I moved to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet in 2001 in an effort to control my weight and thyroid symptoms, but it didn’t help. By the time I had my youngest child, I weighed more than 250 pounds and had type 2 diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. My mobility had gotten so bad that it was difficult to move some days. I was on the waiting list for knee surgery.
Trial and Error
In September 2014, my husband suggested that we watch the Forks Over Knives documentary. As the credits rolled, we both agreed to stop buying eggs and dairy and to transition to a vegan diet. I was sure this would end my decades-long weight battle and all the health problems that came with it.
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I was shocked and confused when, in the first few months of going vegan, I gained 30 pounds (bringing my weight up to around 300 pounds). We rewatched Forks Over Knives and quickly realized that we had missed an important distinction: It was about adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—not a vegan diet in which animal-based foods were replaced by highly processed alternatives.
Going All In
In January 2015, I went full-on whole-food, plant-based. My husband and I changed how we cooked. We removed almost every trace of vegan junk food from our diets. And because we were aiming to lose a lot of weight, we initially also reduced our intake of nuts and avocados (since those are high in fat compared with other plant foods).
My husband and I both cook, which also made the transition fun—an adventure in the kitchen! Not all recipes turned out well the first time, especially with our making low-fat changes and substitutions, but we had far more successes than flops. Doing this as a couple made it easier: When one of us struggled, the other was there for support.
Almost immediately after transitioning to this new diet, my skin began to improve, I started losing weight, and my energy level increased.
Since January 2015, I’ve lost more than 150 pounds, and my husband has lost more than 60 pounds. I’ve reversed my type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease. I no longer need knee surgery. Keeping the weight off has been easy. I have reflected quite a bit on why that is. I believe it is because I like to eat a large volume of food, which I’m able to do on a WFPB diet.
My husband and I continue to get better at navigating potentially tricky situations. For instance, if we’re going to a friend’s or relative’s house, we now make sure to bring along a dish we know we can enjoy there. More often than not, our special dish is a hit with everyone else, too! Some of our friends have also adopted this way of eating. I brought one friend a meal when she was going through cancer treatment. She asked for more information, and now she, her husband, and their three beautiful little girls are all WFPB.
I teach three high-intensity interval training classes and three Zumba classes a week. I also run a weight-management program in a physician’s practice, teaching people about the power of plants, calorie density, no-oil cooking techniques, and much more. I see clients there choosing more plant-based foods and, in doing so, lowering their A1C numbers, losing weight, and improving their energy and mobility.
My health couldn’t be better than it is today. Perhaps most importantly, I can now climb with my young children, and I know I am giving them the healthiest version of myself.
Ready to get started? Check out our Plant-Based Primer to learn more about adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet.