In the Plant-Based 101 series, we’ve looked at what a plant-based diet actually is, diseases it can help prevent, the truth about protein, its surprising sources, and how to get started on a plant-based diet. In this last and very special post in the series, you’ll see the personal side of plant-based eating.
What’s more, this guest post is written by one of the most incredible women I know: Mama Veggie Quest herself! Bright, warm, and energetic, my mom Connie has always been an inspiration to me, no matter her weight. So it’s been heartbreaking to witness her decades-long battle with the scale—and the unfair toll it’s taken on her self esteem.
Yet by shifting to a plant-based diet, over the past few years, something amazing has happened: She has lost over 85 pounds. While her journey has been challenging at times, she has kindly agreed to share it—the ups, downs, and everything in between—in the hopes it might encourage someone.
So without further ado, here is her story…
The journey begins
When Lee first asked me to write a post for Veggie Quest, I told her that I would when I had lost over 60 pounds. Then I just kept moving the goal post—I wanted to make sure the weight loss was going to stick, because I always feel like I’m just a forkful away from gaining all the weight back. Well, I am now down more than 85 pounds! Guess I have no more excuses, because here I am and here goes.
One morning late in the summer of 2012, I stepped on the scales and weighed 273 pounds. For a few minutes, I really despaired about whether life was worth living. My knees hurt, my hips hurt, I had to stop half way up a flight of stairs to catch my breath, and I could not play on the floor with my grandbabies, because I couldn’t get up. I was sporting clothes in 3X. Now where is the fun in that?
How in the world did I get here?
I’ve struggled with weight problems my whole life. I was very overweight as a child, and while I managed to reach a healthy weight in my 20s and 30s, in my 40s the slow creep upward began. However, when my beloved mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and passed away not long thereafter, I turned to food to cope and my weight gain really took off.
Ironically, I had switched to a vegetarian (not vegan) diet a couple of years before reaching my all-time high weight in 2012. While many people lose weight on a vegetarian diet, I found a wide variety of absolutely delicious vegetarian comfort foods. When stressed, I turned to pancakes and maple syrup, massive cupcakes loaded with icing (hey, if one is good, three are great) and bean burritos with cheese, sour cream, white rice, and avocado. Emotional eating in combination with these foods can really pack on the pounds.
Which way to go
As a result of my moment of despair, I decided I had to get myself in gear. I pulled Eat to Live, a whole-food, plant-based eating plan by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, off my bookshelf where it had been collecting dust. Using Fuhrman’s book as a guide, although not following it perfectly, I managed to pull off some 20 pounds on my own.
But then I stalled out, and bad habits snuck back in.
By February 2013, I found myself headed back up into the 260s. Yikes! At 64, I dug in for a fight. I just didn’t want to weigh that much anymore. So I began anew by ditching the processed carbs and most of the fats and reading Eat to Live yet again. I was obsessive about following Fuhrman’s plan at first and dropped 25 pounds in just a few weeks. Lots of water weight went flying off and gave me the kick start I needed.
Reaching out for help
Unfortunately, as is so typical for me, perfection didn’t last. I plateaued for a couple of weeks, got frustrated, and true to form, turned to comfort food. Horror of horrors, the pounds reappeared. Intervention time, folks! I knew I needed an accountability partner and a coach, and who better than Lee? I called my absolutely fabulous daughter and said “HELP!”
Lee and I had our first session in March 2013 and outlined a game plan. I would use MyFitness Pal to record what I ate, because that had helped me stay on track in the past. I have to have immediate feedback! I also wrote down a basic meal plan and got trigger foods out of the house as best I could.
Frankly, I was still too heavy to do much land exercise, weighing 238 pounds with achy joints, so my exercise option was water aerobics. By January 2014, I had reached 212 pounds and somehow thought I had won the battle. Life got busy for Lee and me, and we gave up our weekly meetings.
Slipping and sliding
Fast forward to summer 2015.
Okay, I am very human! 🙂 After many, many months of going up and down about 10 pounds, I thought I would just stay securely in the lower 200s. After all, I was eating mostly what I wanted and was more active…even though I still had trouble going up and down the stairs and couldn’t get off the floor. I really thought that at 66, this was as good as it was going to get. So I let down my guard; I ignored the scales. Then in early September, I stepped on the scales and those sneaky, beastly pounds were packing on. I was back up to 230‒gads! Emergency call to Lee…HELP!!! Whew, back to the future, and we were off and running again.
We restarted weekly coaching meetings, I reviewed Fuhrman’s advice in Eat to Live, I got back to logging what I ate on MyFitnessPal, and, best of all, I turned to Veggie Quest for yummy whole-food plant-based recipes and suggestions. (When you love what you eat, this game gets lots easier and is lots more fun to play!)
The best part? I lost 40 pounds in 4 months.
And for now
As I write this post, I am in the 180s…we’ll see how much further I go! I still struggle with eating ups and downs. My weight is fluctuating a couple of pounds, and I seem to be in another plateau. Frustration, one of my worst bugaboos, is upon me. The temptation to yield into overeating again looms over me like a ghost from Christmas past. This time, though, I’m sticking to what works for me…I record my food, continue coaching sessions with Lee (Bless you, Lee!), stay plant-based (cutting out highly processed carbohydrates is big for me), and try to work in more exercise. (After losing 85 pounds, guess who can run up a flight of stairs without stopping to catch her breath, get up from the floor without help, and walk over 5,000 steps a day! Cool, huh?)
These last few years have taught me that I do not have to accept the theory that I cannot succeed at losing weight and getting more active just because I am older. I do accept that there have been and will continue to be ups and downs; I will just have to work with that. In the final analysis, I am not on a diet…I am on a live-it. 🙂 Just being on and sticking to the path is a victory of its own!
And that’s my story. Now, though, I’m curious. Do you struggle with your weight? What’s the hardest part of losing weight for you? And please share what works for you. I’m always looking for suggestions; I love to mix it up!