Stray Dog Revolution
I've been a plant-based eater for over a decade now and could often be heard espousing the benefits of eating a whole-foods, plant-strong diet. "It's not only better for the environment, it's the only way to better health!" You see, when I started in 2005 after reading Eat to Live, I was at the heaviest I'd ever been in my life. I had a new son and still couldn't seem to crack those last 30 pounds, regardless of all my low-fat eating. I was on the verge of trying something drastic, like pills or starvation. But I knew deep down that even if these things worked, it wasn't the right way, the healthy way, to go about it. That's when I found Dr. Fuhrman.
And what I read in that book made sense. Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, while limiting nuts and avocado. Avoid dairy like the plague. Same for meat, of any kind... not even chicken, which I always thought was healthy. This book touted itself as quick weight loss, but it was about so much more. And? It worked. I dropped the weight. All of it. And then some. All in only about 6 months and without any real exercise regime.
And I kept it off. For years. But then life happened. I had another child, ended up getting divorced, and starting my life over. As a single mom working as a full-time high school teacher, it was tough to cook like I did when I was a stay-at-home mom. I relied too much on the food that was ever-present in our faculty lounge. I relied too much on the convenience and fun of going out to eat. I drank way too much alcohol while I was enjoying a new freedom that I hadn't had in a long, long time. Right at the edge of my divorce, in the fall of 2009, I weighed the least I'd ever weighed since high school: 136.
Fast forward several years... I still ate plant-based, but didn't cook as much as I should. Ate out way more than was healthy, for my wallet and waistline. And I put weight back on. Back up it crept, until one day I looked in the mirror and didn't know who it was staring back at me. I hesitantly got on the scale. 170. I hadn't been this heavy since I picked up Eat to Live the first time. So I picked it up again, and started all over with the 6-week plan. And that's when something weird happened. It didn't work.
In fact, I didn't feel great. I felt tired and sad much of the time. And 3 weeks in, I weighed myself again, just to see. 175. I was so confused. Why wasn't it working??? I kept at it though, because I'm no quitter. My husband was seeing amazing results, and he was cheating a bit. I just kept gaining, even though I was also doing P90X3. And it wasn't muscle. I looked and felt worse than I'd ever felt.
At this point, I decided a doctor visit was in order. She told me I was old. ~shrug~ That's what happens. I pushed her to run some tests, and she did. Everything appeared normal. I pushed for a vitamin D test, and a B12 test. Both were dangerously low, so I started supplementing. It helped a bit, but only with mood. My weight would still not budge.
But I wasn't going to quit. As frustrating as this journey was, I was certain there were answers, just maybe not where I was looking. And I decided, against my better judgement, and against everything I'd been led to believe over the years, to try paleo.
I felt ashamed. When your identity is wrapped up in the plant-based community, it's hard to unravel it, even when it's not working for you anymore. I was never vegan by any stretch of the imagination, but I stuck to my diet 90% of the time. So I quietly started adding in more animal products: sardines in my salad, chicken with veggies for dinner, bison on top of steamed leafy greens, eggs and greens and avocado for breakfast. And I felt good. I wasn't losing weight, but I had more energy than I'd had in a long time.
I wasn't sold, though. The weight loss still didn't come... I mean, I lost a little, but nothing to write home about. So after a couple of months, I decided I needed a new workout program and I needed something to help me stay motivated to do it, regardless of the results. So I signed up to become a Beachbody coach, got a challenge pack called 21 Day Fix, and decided to follow it to the letter, meal plan and all. I mean, I already had basically all the Beachbody workouts (another obsession of mine over the years) but whenever I'd considered coaching in the past, I'd decided it was a scam and not my thing. I was too afraid of what people would think of me. At this point in my life, I don't give two fucks what anyone thinks of me anymore. Well, that's not entirely true. A lifetime of being a pleaser has left scar tissue. But I figure if I keep telling myself I don't give a fuck, at some point I won't actually give a fuck. Fake it until you make it, right?
(If you're reading this, please don't wait until you're in your 40s to realize this... I wasted so many years being afraid to be who I was for fear of judgment... the only person you need to impress is you.)
So I did it. And? I've been making progress. Slow and steady progress. My weight has dropped to 160 and I feel good, but I still would like to lose about 15-20 more pounds. Or? Have my body be lean and muscular without a lot of extra fat and stay 160. I'm not married to a number or anything. And I actually did Fuhrman's 6-week plan again with portion control and saw some results, but felt the lethargy coming back with a vengeance.
So, why did I call this post On Belief and Dogma? Because for too long I stuck to my belief and dogma around what the best diet is for everyone: plant-based. Period. End of story. I was dismissive of other schools of thought. They weren't science based. I was stubborn in my beliefs and despite my own evidence to the contrary, was a believer. I thought I just wasn't doing it right, I wasn't strict enough, or pure enough in my eating. I blamed myself and felt like a failure. And a fraud. I mean, I clearly didn't have the body of an athlete- I wasn't even lean. But here I was telling people that this way of eating would get them there.
The truth is it probably will. I mean, at one time it did for me. If you're coming off of eating the Standard American Diet, any shift towards less processed crap and more real food is going to work wonders. But it didn't last for me. I wish it had. I like believing in something with all my being. It's why I love math so much- the truth is out there and the answer can be proved. But our bodies don't work like that.
And this? Is terrifying. Letting go of belief and structure and that feeling that you know what's right is like hanging by your fingertips on a ledge and trusting that if you let go, something will be there to catch you. I'm choosing to consider other ideas without judgment, without pre-conceived notions, and without assumptions. I'm trying to quiet the fear that's deep down inside of everyone when we decide to pick a new direction, to follow a different path. Will this lead to where I'm trying to go? I don't know. That question cannot be answered without first making the decision to let go of the ledge.
So now I'm on a new journey. I've watched documentaries like Fed Up, Sugarcoated, and That Sugar Film and am exploring the link between sugar and obesity. I'm a total sugar addict, so this speaks to me: sugar was definitely the one constant that always remained in my life. So I'm exploring that and what happens if I eliminate sugar from my diet. I've also ordered Eat Fat, Get Thin and will be trying the 21-Day Challenge to see what kind of results I get.
The point is, I'm no longer tied to a system of belief that doesn't serve me anymore. I'm willing to go outside my comfort zone and try new things. I'm experimenting and honoring my body and how it's changed over the years. Because when you're a prisoner to a belief system, you no longer see the complete picture. You have blinders on. You are seeing the world through a lens and when you do this for too long, it becomes harder and harder to accept that there could be other ways.
In your search for answers, I hope that you will be willing to think outside the box and try things. I hope that you will not judge yourself too harshly or automatically blame yourself if something doesn't work they way you think it should. And most of all, I hope that you never give up searching for answers. Because your truth is out there. It just might not be what you expected.
I've been studying nutrition and healthy eating for over a decade. As the saying goes, food can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.