Monday, February 27, 2012

Going from the Standard American Diet to Eat to Live: How I Got Started

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Hello Everybody!

I thought I would start off this week by sharing an e-mail that I received over the weekend. This reader needs our help, just like this reader did a few weeks ago. I know we will give her amazing advice, so here goes:

"Hi Wendy!
I recently found your blog and love it!  I'm writing to you because I have been toying with the idea of trying out Dr. Fuhrman's Eat to Live lifestyle change but don't really seem to know how to get going.  How did you start out?  I am quite overweight and while losing weight is a goal, I am more interested in making a permanent lifestyle change.  However, I'm concerned that Dr. Fuhrman's plan is so overwhelming and cold turkey that I may not stick with it for long.  Did you jump right in or start by making smaller changes?  Were your days just full of salad, salad, and more salad?  I'm just curious about how you made it work for you in a way that stuck; thanks for any advice!!"

Great question. For me, it did not happen in an instant.

I also want to begin answering this by saying that I am not 100% a Nutritarian nor could I be considered "Plant-perfect." The realities of this lifestyle for me are that I fall somewhere between "Plant-strong" and "Nutritarian" most every day. Although I love the idea of being a perfect Nutritarian, it has not been the reality of my journey, and I don't want you to think that it has.

I'll explain by giving an example. Yesterday, I was invited to a brunch buffet by my in-laws. I knew that eating my way would be challenging, both materially (what food was going to be available) and psychologically (resisting the ridiculous amount of temptation at a brunch buffet). The way I handle these situations these days is as follows: I make myself a huge plate of salad greens, topped with any and all raw and cooked vegetables on the buffet, as well as the vinaigrette that was available (yes, it had oil in it). It was a delicious salad, and I pretty much filled up on that. Then I  indulged in something totally not Nutritarian, which was blueberry bread pudding. And I'm not proud to say that I had quite a bit of it. I also avoided everything else on the brunch buffet--all the rest of the meaty, cheesy, oily dishes. But that's the truth, and I want you to know that.

What happened after the brunch? Did I give up on myself and eat junk for the rest of the day, figuring I had blown it at lunch? Heck no! I went right back to eating Plant-strong at dinner time and I will have no problem continuing to eat this way for days and days, maybe weeks, until I eat off plan again, which I am sure will happen. I have been at this long enough to understand that perfection is elusive and for me, unnecessary.

Now that does not mean that I am advising you to go at this in a willy nilly way. There is plenty of advice out there that says "Just Do It 100% Starting Right Now." But what I don't want to happen is that you think that you can't, and that you walk away.

The way I got started went like this: I was actually on Weight Watchers for my umpteenth time. I won't go into the details, but I was lucky enough to be introduced to Eat to Live and also to the book Volumetrics. So I began to incorporate the principles of nutrient density and high volume, low calorie eating into my Weight Watchers Points counting and weighing and measuring program. It worked like a charm and over the course of less than I year, I was thinner than I had been in a very, very long time.

I was still using some oil and eating some animal products. Dr. Fuhrman has an allowance of 10% of your calories to come from these things, I believe.

I was about a year into this journey when I heard Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, speak for the first time, followed shortly by his son, Rip Esselstyn, author of The Engine 2 Diet. I had already started this blog, so you can see how my recipes changed after this experience. I became convinced that I could eliminate oil and all animal products from my diet. It wasn't difficult at all because I was armed with all of the knowledge that came from reading their books and also the book The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. I had effectively brainwashed myself for the positive!

The more books I read on the subject of a no-oil vegan diet, the easier it became to make better choices, meal by meal, day by day, week by week.

I actually gained weight because I stopped weighing and measuring my food according to the Weight Watcher's plan. That was sort of okay by me because I knew that following a counting plan was unsustainable for me in the long run, while eating almost 100% no-oil vegan was something I could do for the rest of my life.

Pretty early on in this story, I was also lucky enough to be introduced to a book called The Beck Diet Solution. Without a doubt, I would be no where today without the ideas and exercises of Dr. Judith Beck. This is not a book about food, it's a book about the different thought patterns of naturally thin people versus overweight people. I learned to think like a thin person. I cannot possibly give this book enough credit for my success. Without it, I would be at square one, hating myself and feeling awful about being overweight, because there would have been no chance for me to stick to any plan.

So it's been almost three years since this story began. I have been able to pretty easily maintain about 40 pounds of my weight loss and I am thrilled every day when I wake up in the morning! I can't believe this is my life, when not so long ago I was so lost and confused every minute of every day about why I could not maintain a healthy weight.

I'm not a perfect Nutritarian, although I aspire to be. And yes, I do eat loads of salad (I love it now), but I also eat tons of wonderful soups, casseroles, oatmeals, smoothies, wraps and the no-oil, low sugar, Vegan sweets that I cannot seem to live without.

I'm not a Vegan, although all of the recipes that I create and cook are no-oil vegan recipes. And yes, I'd love to be a 100% Vegan.

I'm not Plant-perfect, but it would be nice if I was!

I am truly Plant-strong, easily and happily. I am still learning and making small tweaks to my diet as I go. I would never go back to my old way of eating. This really is a lifestyle change and not a "diet."

What about you, HGK readers? Where do you fall right now? Plant-strong? Plant-perfect? Are you able to follow a plan perfectly? Do you feel that in order to be successful, you need to be perfect?

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