When I tell people I was overweight, they often don’t believe me.
Maybe I hid it well, or maybe it was because at the peak of my girth, I was the least sociable. But recently, I found a health journal I kept nearly 4 years ago, which depicts the struggle of a typical American woman who realized she needed to change her life, but was at a loss as how to do so.
The journal doesn’t lie: I weighed 184 pounds (unless I was, in fact, lying, in which case I was closer to 190) and could squeeze into a size 14, though I could actually bend in a 16.
Not surprisingly, I also had many health problems…which I will happily talk about with you over coffee sometime–if you really want to know.
The saddest part of that little pink journal was the desperation that poured from its pages.
I wrote about all the diets I had been on in my life: low fat, low cal, South Beach, cabbage soup (twice…makes me shudder to think of it), Atkins, and I even resolved to follow that farcical ‘guide’ known as the USDA food pyramid (which requires a ranting blog post of its own).
But in the end, I always gained back the weight, and when I moved to the land of strudel and schnitzel, the weight came back with a vengeance, leaving me with a sense of despair and helplessness.
Then due to medical problems, I had to go gluten-free.
It was tough at first (especially with the many pity-parties I was quick to host), but my loved ones were supportive. After all, gluten was a medical issue.
But this new plant-based life has been tougher. And with my track record, I don’t blame people for being skeptical–especially when I become passionate on the subject.
I probably come across like some caricature from an infomercial.
I am from a nation that is notorious for exporting its fad diets, and I have been steeped in a culture that strives to bring newer, faster, cheaper products to the market. So to stumble upon a simple, ancient plan that brings good health seemed too good to be true.
I remember the feelings of helplessness and desperation that excess weight and health problem pack onto a person’s psyche. And I know that in American culture we look for fast results with minimal introspection. We want to be thin, healthy and comfortable–and we want it now…or at least before the next family reunion.
I distinctly recall feeling so desperate to lose weight, I would have tried almost anything.
But what I discovered is that the secret of obtaining good health is to slow down, to take control over what you put into your mouth, to not count calories or follow a ‘diet,’ but to simply eat foods found in nature.
Unless you drench them in ranch and top them with bacon & cheese, you can NOT get fat from eating veggies. If you don’t believe me, try it and prove me wrong!
While weight-loss is a fabulous by-product of plant-based eating habits, the best part, by far, is the sense of well-being you get from nourishing your body on a cellular level. Every cell in your body is a microscopic factory, and by eating veggies and fruit, you are giving those cells the fuel they need to work efficiently. It is that simple.
Long before meals came in a take-out bag, meat was not on the Ancient Daily Specials list. If meat WAS on the menu at all, it was 100 percent grass-fed and organic–and the consumer burned a lot of calories to get the food from plains to plates.
As a modern-day human, you may feel completely discouraged about your health. While there’s no going back to a completely agrarian society, there are steps you can take (like I did) to take control over your own health destiny.
My unsolicited advice:
- Eat a salad before every meal (use quality balsamic or find a natural topping, such as nuts or fruit)
- Stop using oil in your cooking (even ‘good’ olive oil–it’s still fat)
- If you have a sweet tooth–eat dry fruit instead of candy
- Refuse to purchase anything that contains high fructose corn syrup, now also under the happy name ‘corn sugar’
- Think of processed food as poison–a small dose may not kill you right away, but it won’t help you either
- Try limiting your dairy or only choose organic, whole or raw
- Take time to re-train your taste buds
- Eat beans or legumes instead of meat products
- If you do eat meat, choose organic–from a local farm, if possible
- Vote for politicians who support the small farmer. This may seem irrelevant (and nearly impossible), but America’s obesity/cancer/diabetes epidemics are symptoms of a corrupt and injust political system. If government officials no longer come to the banquet escorted by Monsanto & Tyson, there might be real and lasting change in our nation. (Yes…I just watched Farmageddon and was shocked)
If you feel powerless about achieving your own good health, please do some research. The following resources opened my eyes, first to my own nutritional needs, and second, to the preventable epidemics sweeping through our nation:
- Eat to Live and Disease-Proof Your Child, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman: Lots of nutritional information and a 6 week program for plant-based eating (which can turn into a complete overhaul of your eating habits)
- Forks Over Knives: The scientific research behind the benefits of plant-based eating
- Food Inc: a candid look at the food system in America
- Farmageddon: a shocking documentary on how current food policies in America are killing the small farm, and how our rights to nutritional foods are being whittled away
- King Corn: a funny, yet sad look at the effects of corn subsidies in America–a must see if you’re from the Midwest:)