By Lyndsey Hafer-Williams
When I started on my Whole Food Plant Based No Oil (WFPBNO) journey and began the Clean Food Dirty Girl (CFDG) Plant Fueled Meal Plans in 2017, I was elated to finally find a healthy way to lose weight, eat sensational food with a clear conscience, and feel amazing from the inside out.
Within six months, I lost 58 pounds and felt absolutely radiant! I had never experienced such joy, and it all came from somewhere deep inside.
When the first day of 2019 dawned, I awakened hungover and overhanging. My head ached and my stomach rolled from a night of hijinks and shenanigans, of intoxication and elation, of indulgence and debauchery. I might’ve been ashamed if it weren’t for the fact that I was so sick I could barely stand up.
I knew that I had gained weight the previous year and had planned, as most people do, to start fresh on January 1st. I had let too much processed, vegan junk food back into my life, and I was dining out frequently instead of eating all the yummy batched food in my fridge. I was drinking a lot of empty calories in the form of wine and beer, and I was not walking or moving much.
When I got on the scale that morning, it was devastatingly confirmed—I had gained 38 pounds.
I ran to the bathroom and vomited.
Some folks might say it was because I’d imbibed too much the previous evening, but I knew it was from the sickening shame of what I’d allowed back into my body.
I was struggling really hard to hold onto the life that I had created. And the more I struggled, the more desperate I became.
I felt like a fucking, fat hypocrite.
Those ugly words rolled through my head continuously, and the self-hatred and shaming negativity that I’d spent years defeating were back with a vengeance.
I was an employee of CFDG and was known for my plant-munching, rainbow-spreading, meal plan-touting, freedom-from-food-and-yoyo-dieting-flag-waving ways.
I felt scared and mad and sick and tired and worried and guilty.
I felt wave after wave of despair and depression break upon the shores of my soul. I continued numbing out with vegan junk food—cookies, chips, donuts, pizza—and anything else that I could find.
Eventually, I got back up to 198 pounds. I had gained a whopping 43 pounds. I share this number with you because it’s important for you to understand that I know your struggle and I share your story.
I had sworn that I would never again get above my healthy, happy, completely maintainable weight of 155. Yet, here I was again, about to topple back into the land of the 200s.
I could see the weight and the sadness behind my eyes in pictures taken over Christmas. I hated the way I was constantly pulling and tugging my clothing to fit looser, better, and to hide my expanding girth. I was massively uncomfortable in my skin, miserable in my soul, and frantic in my mind.
I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that people in the CFDG Facebook group (and in my real life) could see I had gained weight, and I just knew that people were thinking that I was such a fraud.
I was so thoroughly disgusted and disappointed in myself when I had to go buy new jeans in two sizes larger. I was engulfed in sadness so real and so consuming that it was hard to breathe.
I felt like a trapped animal with nowhere else to run and nowhere to hide. Everything was about to come completely undone, unwrapped, unbalanced. It was unsustainable. I had to do something, anything, and I had to do it immediately.
I’m going to be brutally honest with you and tell you a little secret that no one on this Earth knows, not my wife, not Molly, not anyone…
One particularly bad afternoon, I was so desperate that I secretly Googled and read all about the Keto diet and then made out a shopping list. What if I was to go full-on Keto, for just a month or so, to jumpstart my body and lose a chunk of weight?
Nobody would know.
I would keep batching the meal plans but secretly and quickly do this to get back into my skinny clothes.
Nobody would be the wiser.
On that same afternoon, I also secretly Googled and read all about this new prescription appetite suppressant that a friend of mine had been raving about. What if I could take a pill, for just a month or so, to jumpstart my body and lose a chunk of weight?
Nobody would know.
I would keep batching the Plant Fueled Meal Plans, but maybe I could secretly stop eating and quickly get back into my skinny clothes.
Nobody would be the wiser.
Yes, it was going to be the most unhealthy thing I could possibly do to my body…
But, I was going to be skinny!
Yes, I was going to flare up severe symptoms of IBS and migraine headaches…
But, I was going to be skinny!
Yes, I was going to be a liar and feel like an asshole…
But, I was going to be skinny!
The thoughts raced around in my head and the ideas spread like wildfire. Planning and scheming immediately stirred up those old unhealthy patterns that were there just waiting to be unleashed. I reverted right back to that quick-fix mentality like it was my job and I was the CEO!
If this sounds crazy that’s because it was!
Those of us who have struggled or are continuing to struggle with disordered eating and resulting weight gain completely understand the insanity. It is something that is hard to describe to someone who has never had this battle or has only once lost weight and maintained it.
Those of us who know this monster understand how heart wrenching and all consuming it can be. We know, at a soul level, how it feels to hate our body, hate the way we look, and hate the discomfort of dis-ease and disuse. We know how it feels to cry quietly in the shower, or in our car after a fast food binge, or in a dressing room when nothing fits right, or under the covers as we fall asleep.
I knew these keto and diet pill thoughts were total insanity, and it was also a complete betrayal of who I had become. But I was unhappy and my soul was screaming out for change.
But then something curious happened…
As I looked at the long grocery list of items that I had created out of desperation and despair, I felt an even deeper sadness wash over me. These were the foods that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt would hurt my body.
And I’m not talking about some esoteric idea of healthy vs. unhealthy. I’m talking about a soul-level, gut-wrenching, heart-hurting knowledge of what eating animal products again would mean to my body, to the animals, and to the planet.
I knew the side effects of this type of medication well. I had spent years trying every popular appetite suppressant that came along. I knew how it would mask and hide true hunger and how it would greatly increase my risk for heart attack, stroke, and even death.
As I looked at the sticky note with the name of this weight loss medication and my physician’s phone number, I knew that I had also created this out of desperation and despair. I felt fear and frustration engulf me like an old enemy that I thought was long gone.
So, I stopped the insanity. Seriously. I just stopped. I took the grocery list and the sticky note and tossed them into the garbage where they belonged. I went outside and sat on my deck and started breathing mindfully.
It was overcast and rainy. It matched my mood and current circumstances. In that bottom-of-the-barrel moment, I had absolutely nothing but my breath and the knowledge of what truly mattered to me. I knew for sure that I valued my health, my conscience, and my one and precious body too much to continue the cycle of abuse.
I knew I needed help…
I knew I had to reach out…
I knew I was hurting and must act quickly…
So I took a deep breath and sent Molly a text and offered to help her test out the new Lighten Up program she was working on.
In typical Molly fashion she responded with a resounding, Yes! She promptly sent me the materials and asked me to commit to the program for four weeks. I agreed and got down to the business of reclaiming my life.
In typical Lyndsey fashion I dove in headfirst and went like gangbusters for five solid weeks.
Being guided, step by step, back to basics and being supported along the way made all the difference. My love affair with this simple, whole, thoroughly cell-nourishing way of eating was rekindled. And my passion for plants and their astonishing ability to heal was reignited.
And then there was the strong, yet uncomplicated, movement component of Lighten Up, guided by Michelle Andrie. I was transported every time I started breathing and moving on my mat. I learned to listen to my body and move it in a way that began to heal, restore, repair, and stimulate all my senses.
Every day, I got up and made the choice to follow the guidelines and reclaim my health. Every good choice that I made led to another good choice and that led to healthier behaviors.
It was amazing to experience my taste buds re-acclimate to the taste of real food and I felt such pride every time I walked through the grocery store without grabbing a vegan donut.
It didn’t happen overnight, but I began to see results in both my physical appearance and in my mental health. I was engulfed now, not in pain, sadness, desperation, fear, and anxiety, but with joy. I was shedding pounds and gaining confidence. I was ecstatic with electric energy coursing through my body. I could see this path clearly, and the calming clarity was in brilliant contrast to the burden of self-imposed heaviness that I had felt.
If you are unhappy with how you look, feel, move, or live in this world, I understand.
If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, I feel you.
If you are desperately yearning for something different, I know exactly how that feels.
I can tell you from experience, that if you want change, you must make the commitment and then take action.
It’s that simple.
Yes, I know that everyone has different circumstances, resources, abilities, and support.
Yes, I know that not one set of prescribed routines, regimens, and ideas work for everyone in the same way.
Yes, I know that we are all unique individuals who move, think, and function differently in this world.
But, here’s the thing!
As someone who has complicated the shit out of her relationship with food, weight, and life in general, I can tell you for sure that it is positively unnecessary to continue living that way.
There is no need for you to punish yourself for the past, berate yourself for the present, or worry needlessly about the future.
All you have is this day, this moment, this next choice. You have so much power over your own life, and you absolutely have the ability to change, to rearrange, to prioritize, to rework, and to decide how you choose to go through your journey here on earth.
I’ll say it again:
If you don’t like how you look, feel, move, function, or live in this world then you have the the power to take action and make the change.
It’s true. You have to commit, act, and put in the work to allow your body to heal from all of the years of abuse you’ve heaped upon it.
If you are serious about changing your outward appearance, then you have to show love to your soul, kindness to your spirit, and provide nourishment to your cells.
It doesn’t matter if you want to shed a hundred pounds or ten, it all comes down to taking care of your insides in order to create the outside you desire. Your body wants to be well, be whole, and be at its best, and when given the opportunity, it will find its perfect rhythm.
I found my rhythm again by following Lighten Up.
It wasn’t easy and it took really digging deep, and trusting Molly and Michelle’s process. As a result, I’ve released 32 pounds of negative energy that clung to me in the form of weight.
Lighten Up is not a miracle cure-all or a quick fix.
But, it is an incomparable celebration of life.
It is the way to teach your body how to move correctly and find joy in eating beautiful whole plant foods.
It is a sensational tool to help you be your best self and to live a most excellent life.
I am so very grateful that I chose not to fall into the trap of quick-fix fad diets again. That is no longer who I am. That is no longer my story. I am a strong, beautiful, healthy, intelligent woman who understands that her body will always require whole plant foods, fresh air, sunshine, and an intentional movement practice.
Since finishing Lighten UP (you can’t really call it finishing because this is now my life), I feel like I have unzipped a larger shell of myself and stepped out into the light. I feel unburdened, calm, and peace fills my heart. I am happy with the number on the scale, a healthy 155 pounds.
I cannot easily put into words how much joy comes from the feeling of being insanely comfortable in my own skin, but I’d like to try…
I am presently enjoying a wonderful holiday in Italy. I spent the morning, on my own, exploring the lovely port city of Bari on the Italian coast. The sun was shining, the sky was azure blue, and a warm breeze was gently stirring as I strolled through the narrow cobblestone paths and listened to the sounds of a bustling city come to life.
I was acutely aware of how easily my body moved and noticed how effortless it was to breathe. It was a pleasure to walk, to navigate steps, to stroll or move about quickly when needed. I felt as if I could go for hours on end and never get tired.
As I walked into the shopping district full of vacationing tourists, racing motorcycles, honking cars, and lovely musicians, I spotted my reflection in a store window. My clothes fit beautifully – no humps or bumps or rolls and there was no need to tug or shift or cover or hide anything.
I was astonished and completely flabbergasted that I could look at all the beautiful foodstuffs in the windows and smell the heavenly aromas, and just walk on by! I appreciated the beauty of the food and reveled in the diversity and yet, I was able to leave it there.
It dawned on me that food no longer has an emotional hold on me.
I was positively overwhelmed with simple gratitude and overcome with piercing emotion. I was grinning from ear to ear! I was, for the first time in my entire life, fully at peace with my body.
In the past when I’ve lost weight I felt happy for a time, but I have never experienced the complete and utter joy as I am now. Before, it was just changing my body, not necessarily working on my whole self. This time, and it will be the final time, I have discovered that I have been transformed from the inside out and ultimately into the person that I was meant to be.
I would love for you to experience your own personal transformation.
Are you ready for some serious change? Talk to us in the comments below and tell us about it.
Plant Based Blue Cheese Dressing (oil free)
Plant Based Blue Cheese Dressing
- 1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 10 minutes (35 g)
- Half package (14 oz / 397 g) firm tofu, drained, rinsed and pressed (directions below)
- 1/3 cup water (80 ml)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ume plum vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon white miso
- 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon brown rice vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (about 10 turns)
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
Place the cashews in a small bowl and cover with water. Set aside for 10 minutes to soak.
Remove the block of tofu from the package and rinse with water. Place the block of tofu on a plate and then set a cutting board on top of the tofu. Place something heavy on top of the cutting board, like a few cookbooks or a heavy skillet, and set aside for 10 - 15 minutes while the liquid is pressed out of the tofu.
After pressing the tofu, discard the liquid, then cut the block of tofu in half. Save the other half for another time.
Measure out 1/2 cup of tofu (75 g) by crumbling it into your measuring cup in small crumbles. Set this aside for now.
Discard the water from the cashews and place them into your blender, along with the remaining tofu (not the crumbled tofu that you set aside or the half block you saved for another time), water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, ume plum vinegar, miso, apple cider vinegar, brown rice vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard powder. Blend until super creamy and smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender as needed.
Transfer the Dressing to a mixing bowl and add the reserved, crumbled tofu and the parsley and stir until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Store in your fridge.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with changing your story.