Seven years ago I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease that causes severe abdominal pain, thousands of tiny sores in the colon, and bloody watery stools. My gastroenterologist also removed several pre-cancerous tubular adenomas at the time of my diagnosis. Sometimes I would have to go to the bathroom 30 times a day. At times I couldn’t leave the house and had a difficult time sleeping because I was so sick and in so much pain.

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I was 28 at the time. I was put on a super-high dose of a prescription steroid and lots of other heavy-duty prescription drugs to control the disease. Significant weight gain is common on high doses of steroids; and so on the drugs, I went from a healthy weight of 125 pounds to over 200 pounds in nine months. I also developed horrible acne and grew facial hair. I felt crazy and was not a nice person to be around. I would cry when I looked in the mirror.

After I started feeling a bit better, I was able to lose all the extra weight. I worked out 2 hours a day at the gym for a year and at the end of the year I ran a half marathon. I have since had a colonoscopy every year and have often had to go back on prednisone or other terrible drugs in order to get my recurring colitis symptoms under control. Every time my weight would balloon. I would feel miserable again and have to work hard to get it back off. It was like a terrible roller coaster and I couldn’t get off.

One weekend, my brother Abe was staying with me and we watched Forks Over Knives. I didn’t really pay attention to it at the time because I was watching kids, making dinner and generally uninterested. Fast forward to January 2012. Our family had just returned from Disneyland, where we had a fast food nightmare vacation. I felt like crap, was sluggish and had no energy. I thought of the film Forks Over Knives again. I decided to re-watch it, this time with my eyes wide open. I realized maybe I could heal myself by changing my diet. I talked with my spouse and we agreed to go on a whole-food, plant-based diet as a family.

Since January I’ve lost the 20 extra pounds I was carrying around without dieting or counting calories. I don’t have to work to maintain my weight anymore. I am completely off prescription drugs and my ulcerative colitis is in full remission. I’ve never felt better and I know all of this is a direct result of my diet. I wish I would have known years ago that I could heal my own body with what I was putting into my mouth. It’s really amazing that the cure I was looking for was harnessed through plants.

[Editor’s Note: More from Somer.]

Two photos showing Julie Tomlinson before and after adopting a plant-based wfpb diet for weight loss, blood pressure, and cholesterol - on the right, she's lost 100 pounds
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