I’ve received many an email from people telling me what a bastard I am to mention weight loss as a benefit of eating a Whole-Food Plant-Based diet.
I’m always happy to get these emails because I like hearing different viewpoints.
From what I’ve gathered there are a couple of directions that people generally take on the losing weight train.
There are the people who stand up for Big is Beautiful and any mention of weight loss stems from a collective societal dictation based on unrealistic and contrived views on beauty and acceptance. (Say that three times fast)
Then we have people who for whatever reason are pro losing weight. Maybe for people trying to sell stuff it’s an easy market to tap; maybe some people are hung up on supermodels, and maybe some people just feel better after they lose a few pounds.
It’s different for everyone, and everyone’s view should be accepted, regardless of your take.
But here’s the thing.
There’s not a fine line, there’s a line the size of the Grand fucking Canyon between losing weight when one is already healthy, and losing weight to save one’s life or to add a great deal of quality to that life.
The conversation about losing weight for actual health reasons transcends any conversation about whether or not the topic of weight loss puts a damper on people’s confidence and self acceptance in society.
For some people, there’s no angle or agenda, losing weight for them means going from pre-diabetes to no diabetes, having high blood pressure to normal blood pressure and having high cholesterol to perfect cholesterol.
So for me, mentioning weight loss as a benefit of eating a plant based diet isn’t important; it’s really fucking important.
There are people who have turned their entire world around by dropping extra weight.
And today I have a guest who has done just that.
Stephen Smith signed up for one of my limited rapid coaching calls several weeks back.
Five minutes into our phone call I asked him if he would share his story with you.
Stephen’s story is exactly why I do what I do.
There are so many people in constant pain and who are perpetually tired. They wake up groggy and feel like, Oh – this again. These are the same people who are on multiple medications, the people who have lost hope, and the people who feel like living is a chore.
And this breaks my fucking heart. And what cracks my heart even more is that for the majority of people, it does not have to be like this.
I’m confident that one day people will understand the correlation between food and health as blatantly as the correlation between unprotected sex and babies.
And it’s people like Stephen who are willing to share their stories with the world that is slowly making people’s views of cause and effect less and less selective.
With that, I give it over to Stephen to tell you his story. Prepare yourself for inspiration and maybe some welling up of the eyes.
This is a story of transformation. How switching to a Whole-Food Plant-Based lifestyle rocked my world and changed everything.
I am a 51 year old single father, having raised two rather difficult boys since the ages of 3 and 5. While they are both adults now, the years had taken their toll, both physically and mentally.
When I was a kid, I used to boast that I could eat anything and never gain weight. Well, that is, until I became an adult and started to gain weight. Soon my stressful adventures in single parenting led me to treat food as comfort.
And comfort myself I did. With cheesesteaks, Wendy’s, Chinese food, donuts, soda, and eating out nearly every single night. The few times I didn’t eat out, it was either a microwave dinner or a steak on the grill.
I guzzled coffee like a madman, at least 64 ounces every day. I snacked constantly. Always had dessert. Except for the iceberg lettuce and pickle on my triple bacon cheeseburger, I never touched a vegetable. Actually, I usually removed the lettuce. Fruit was completely out of the picture. Exercise was in the form of walking between my house, my car and the office.
Soon I ballooned up to 280 pounds. At only 5’5″, that’s downright obese. Morbidly obese to be precise. I was perpetually miserable. I groaned like an old man when I got up off the couch, usually on my way to the kitchen.
Under the slightest strain I could feel my heart trying to pound its way out of my chest. I wheezed. After inhaling a bag of candy I would feel dizzy and flushed, like I was going to pass out. The arches of my feet started to ache, as they collapsed under the heavy load.
I broke down and went to the doctor, and found out I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, bad numbers all around, and pre-diabetes. I was given medications, and a little kit to prick my finger every day for glucose checks.
In terms of weight loss attempts, I tried everything. Well, everything the mainstream told me to try. Counting calories worked for a little while, but faded. Atkins worked for a while, and I actually lost about 60 pounds, but it nearly killed me (Ketosis and livers don’t get along very well). I’m thankful I never tried the diet pill route.
Maybe exercise was the key! So I joined a gym, went several times per week, and even got a personal trainer. Again, this worked for a while, but it just wasn’t sticking, and I soon hit a plateau. Now I was simply a strong fat guy.
I just couldn’t stop eating. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I used to leave the gym and stop at Dunkin Donuts on the ride home. I would get two extra-large coffees with cream (if you can call that substance cream), a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a bagel, and two glazed donuts. I would eat the sandwich and donuts on the 5 minute ride home, and drink the coffee later. I did this every single time I came home from the gym. Can you say self-defeating behavior?
Something had to change. And then one day, while wasting away in Netflix, I saw a movie that changed my life: Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.
This documentary followed a regular guy, Joe Cross, as he embarked on a 60 day juice-fast to lose weight and control his chronic illness, an autoimmune disease in the form of a painful skin condition. By the time he was done he was completely off all medications, lost an insane amount of weight, and was full of energy and vitality.
I wanted this!
I bought a juicer and a stack of books. I slowly eliminated caffeine over a two week period, and tried to generally eat healthier leading up to my own 10 day fast. The fast itself was actually much easier than I expected. I was told I could drink absolutely as much as I wanted, knowing that the hunger would soon fade and I would stabilize at a reasonable quantity of juice.
And sure enough, in only a day or so, all hunger was gone and I could drink a civilized amount of juice. I had a few days of detox symptoms like headaches, metallic tastes, and fatigue, but after that it was a breeze.
During the 10 day fast I lost about 30 pounds, although half of that came back within another week or so (and I fully expected that). When it was time to slowly break my fast, I started with a single strawberry. And it was the most magnificent thing I had ever eaten! In that moment of bliss I made a snap decision to go vegan (which I have since refined to be whole food plant based).
Over the coming months I went overboard, which is typical for me. I bought more books. I started a daily yoga practice. A bought a chest freezer to store all the wonderful food I would be cooking. I bought a high powered blender and started making green smoothies. I started weekend cooking marathons and taught myself how to successfully wing it in the kitchen.
I discovered things like kale and flax seeds and coconut oil. I ate a Brussel Sprout and didn’t die (as a kid I was convinced I would). The caffeine and soda are gone for good. All I drink now is water and decaf green tea.
Fast forward two years. I have lost 100 pounds, my blood pressure is normal, my cholesterol is normal, the pre-diabetes is gone, the meds are gone, and all my numbers are perfect. I haven’t been sick in two years. Not even a headache. I feel better than I did when I was 20.
My waist size dropped from 46 to 38 inches. My tee-shirt size dropped from 3XL to L. I wake up bright and cheery (well okay, maybe just bright) every morning at sunrise, full of energy and ready for some yoga (I used to sleep until noon whenever I could get away with it).
Of course, things aren’t 100% perfect. I still allow myself to “cheat” once in a while. Holiday meals with the family? Count me in! And sometimes, pizza just happens. Cookies too. I would still like to lose another 40-50 pounds.
The BMI charts still consider me on the edge of obese, and while I’m not a fan of such blanket guidelines, I agree with it. I still eat far too many calories each day and my salads and green smoothies have too many ingredients to be low calorie.
I need to start making my own dressings and generally buy less food and more ingredients. I can only cook so much in advance, and sometimes fall back on frozen dinners in a pinch. But at least they’re the organic, higher quality ones. And of course, I still eat far too much hummus. It’s like crack on a carrot stick.
But it’s all good. Instead of feeling hopeless and out of control like before, I simply need to buckle down a little bit and clean up some rough edges. I’ll get there with a little more work and dedication. And how could I not? Just a few years ago I felt broken and lethargic, in body and spirit. Food was my comfort, and yet it made me so uncomfortable. In fact it made me miserable.
But with a little self-love, and more than a little kale, real change is possible. And while it may take several months or even a few years to reach my goal in terms of weight, that is only part of it.
The fact is, in a matter of only weeks I had completely reversed how I felt, both inside and out. Who knew such wonderful transformation was not only possible, but well within reach.
I wish I did this years ago. But it’s never too late. Give it a try. Your body, mind and spirit will love you for it.
Did I tell you!?
Bravo Stephen for taking charge of your life. You deserve all the health and happiness in the world. I’m honored to have you as part of my crew.
If you know anyone who would benefit from hearing about Stephen’s story, will you share this post with them?
If you’re ready to turn your life around by changing how you eat, check out our weekly Plant Fueled Meal Plans for a ton of inspiration.
Today’s recipe is in the same category as unicorns and miracles.
Check it out.
I’ve always thought that people who say they like oatmeal are lying.
How can you wake up in the morning and think:
Oatmeal! That’s what I realllllly want to put in my mouth right now.
I call bullshit. Mainly because I can’t understand that concept.
It’s not that I hate oatmeal, it’s just that there are about 100 things, including a bowl of pinto beans that I would rather willingly consume at breakfast time.
Well – that all changed last week when I created today’s recipe for you. Fuckin’ A – I ate steel cut oats every single morning last week.
And I liked it.
So here it is, my game changing oat concoction.
No Cook Overnight Steel Cut Oats with Date Syrup – Whole Food Plant Based
For the oats
4 cups water (945ml)
1 cup steel cut oats (160g)
- Bring the water to a boil in a medium sized pan.
- Add the oats, bring back up to a boil and allow to boil for one minute.
- Turn off the heat, cover the pan with a lid and let them set overnight (on your stove, not in the fridge).
- The next morning stir your oats and be amazed at the perfection of it all.
You can heat them up or eat them just like that.
The beauty of this recipe is that when you refrigerate them and then heat them up later, they don’t get mushy and slimy. They stay the perfect consistency.
From here you can top them with whatever you like, but whatever you do be sure you make my Date Syrup to drizzle on top.
For the Date Syrup
8 dates, soaked in hot water for at least 10 minutes.
1 1/4 cup water (295ml)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- After the dates have soaked, strain the water and take the pits out of each date.
- Place the dates in a blender along with the water, cinnamon, vanilla and sea salt.
- Blend until there are no more date pieces and the mixture is smooth.
I’ve been eating my oats cold and topping them with berries, toasted coconut and chopped pistachios and then of course, drizzling some Date Syrup over them.
There’s no need to add non-dairy milk because they aren’t dry. I urge you to get creative with your toppings. Apple and almond pieces could be awesome, peaches and toasted walnuts sounds like a wet dream and even going old school with banana and raisins sounds like a plan.
Have fun and if you have an Instagram account, tag me @cleanfooddirtygirl and show me your goods!
I hope you have a happy week. May it be filled with making decisions that suck ass, but will ultimately pay off.