I USED TO BELIEVE if a product was labeled “Fat Free” or “Low Fat” it meant that you wouldn’t get fat if you ate it. Honestly.
In fact, I believed this so much that I gained 80 lbs when I was pregnant with my first child. Looking back, I can’t help but shake my head. My favorite things to eat during that pregnancy were sour sugar candies. Mmmmm….I ate Sour Patch Kids and Cherry Sours by the bag full. I honestly couldn’t figure out why I was gaining so much weight! It wasn’t until after my son was born that I embarked on what would become a 15 year weight loss/gain roller coaster ride that would eventually lead to my undertaking this radical challenge.
As a girl, I was so skinny that I was often compared to Twiggy (an anorexic supermodel in the 60’s). I never thought about what I ate in terms of nutritional value (or lack thereof). I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I used to scorn my mother for making us eat nasty health food like whole wheat toast with peanut butter and shredded carrots. (Actually, I still think that’s nasty!)
SO YOU CAN IMAGINE what a shock it was to see the scale climb so quickly after I became pregnant with my first child. When I married my husband in 1996, I wore size 7. Just 15 short months and 80 lbs later, I tipped the scales at 215 lbs and I could barely squeeze into a size 20!
I REMEMBER the first, and only, time he ever commented on my weight. We had only been married for a few months, and I was changing into my pajamas when my sweet husband, in all innocence, asked, “Honey, would you like to start exercising with me?” I was absolutely devastated!
For the first time in my life, I wasn’t thin and trim. My body had begun expanding, and I had no idea how to stop it! The 80 lbs I gained with my first son would be a recurring theme in all of my pregnancies. I felt like I was completely out of control, and nothing I did seemed to make any kind of difference.
OVER THE LAST 14 YEARS I have been on every diet imaginable. I’ve succeeded losing most of my weight several times; but for the most part, I just failed. The common thread with all of the diets I’ve tried is that they all left me feeling deprived, and always planning my next meal. Each time I dieted, I would think to myself, “If I can just lose 20/30/40 lbs, then I will be happy!” However, the happiness was fleeting, and the weight quickly returned as soon as I resumed my old eating habits.
And then, last year, I ran across “Food, Inc.” on Netflix. Little did I know, that entertaining and highly informative program would set the ball in motion for what would become the most radical lifestyle shift I have ever experienced. Before viewing this program, I hadn’t given much thought about how much harm the “Typical American Diet” was causing everyone. This program truly helped to open my eyes to the growing problem of obesity in our country:
“High calorie, sugar laden processed foods coupled with our sedentary lifestyles is growing our waistlines and contributing to serious health issues like diabetes, heart ailments and cancers” (Food, Inc.).
FOR THE FIRST TIME in my life, the idea that the kind of food we ate actually affected our health really sunk in. “Food, Inc.” was quickly followed by “Food Matters”, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”, “King Corn”, “Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution”, and “Forks Over Knives”.
The main theme of each these documentaries is that a whole food, plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat. The people who undertook this lifestyle claimed that they were able to lose all their extra weight, heal chronic health problems, and eliminate the need for prescription medications. They claimed to feel better than they ever had, and their testimonials were very convincing. I was awed and inspired by their stories. The information that was presented in those programs resonated with me, and I knew that what I was learning was true.
For months afterwards, I dabbled with changing my eating habits. I cleaned out my pantry and refrigerator of all products containing MSG and high fructose corn syrup. I started sprouting grains, and even began to cook vegetarian meals for my family. The changes I had made were good, but I knew I could do better. What I didn’t know was how to find the motivation that would inspire me to make a real lasting change.
AND THEN I signed up for English 2010.
The very first day of class, our instructor told us that we would have only one assignment that would last the entire semester. The assignment was simple. We were to come up with an idea that would change the world, and create a blog about it. I was instantly filled with inspiration. This was the motivation I had searched for! This was my chance to do something that would make a difference. I would change the world one person at a time, starting with myself!
I HAVE DECIDED to undertake an experiment to see if all the hype I’ve heard about is true. For the next 10 months, I will stop eating all the refined, processed, fatty foods that had become mainstays in my life, completely switch to a 100% plant-based, whole foods diet, (no more Sour Patch Kids) and blog about my experiences. That way, if it really does work the way they say it should, I will be able to add my voice of testimony to that of so many others and hopefully inspire others to make positive lifestyle changes as well.
Food, Inc. Prod. Robert Kenner. Perf. Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan. Magnolia Pictures, 2009.