By Lyndsey Hafer-Williams
May 18, 2019,
When I started on my Whole Food Plant Based No Oil 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 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 I was such a fraud.
I was so thoroughly disgusted and disappointed in myself when I had to 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 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 with 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 continue to struggle with disordered eating and resulting weight gain completely understand the insanity. It 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 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.
So, I started to breathe.
I deeply inhaled love, courage, hope, and energy.
I slowly breathed out fear, impatience, and anxiety.
As I sat there breathing mindfully, I began to extend forgiveness to myself for mistakes and missteps over the last few months. I gained a little perspective, practiced a bit of grace, and made a plan to batch one of my favorite Plant Fueled Meal Plans, #Malaysia.
I made a commitment to keep moving forward, keep batching, and keep eating all the plants of the plant-powered rainbow.
I made a commitment to do the emotional work on the inside, rather than using food to self-medicate the pain and numb the sadness.
My love affair with this simple, whole, thoroughly cell-nourishing way of eating was rekindled. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually my passion for plants and their astonishing ability to heal was reignited.
Every day, I got up and made the choice to reclaim my health. Every good choice that I made led to another good choice and that led to healthier behaviors.
It didn’t happen overnight, but I began to see results in both my physical appearance and in my mental health. I was shedding pounds and gaining confidence. 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.
I can tell you from experience, that if you want change, you must make the commitment and then take action in whatever way that works for you.
It’s that simple.
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.
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 (and your mind!) 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 the CFDG Plant Fueled Meal Plans.
I’m 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 invite you to recommit to the things in your life that you feel need more attention. It’s worth it. What will be your new story?
- 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.
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So proud of you, Lyndsey. I cried reading this because I’ve had the same insane thoughts pass through my brain on multiple occasions. Sadly, I have all but lost hope that I will ever be able to shed the weight—enough to constitute an entire extra adult—from my body. I wish I could participate in the Lighten Up plan, but since I can’t swing it right now, I’ll just keep eating the plants, making as many good choices as I can, and move my body more. Thanks for sharing your struggle. ❤️
I’m so proud of you that you recognize your struggle and have made a plan to keep eating all the plants. We are in this life journey together and we must do the things that bring love and healing to our body and mind.
“Every good choice that I made led to another good choice and that led to healthier behaviors.” YES!
I was suspended from work in 1984 and went home and ate 3 peanut butter, butter, & honey sandwiches. I hadn’t made a bad food choice in two years and in one afternoon discovered I wasn’t as in control as I thought. Even returning to work a week later didn’t fix what was broken in me. (I temporarily gained control until my next huge stressor in 2000.) The support in this group is incredible. I love it and everyone here. That helps with always making good choices. I would Lighten Up if I had it in my finances, but I am looking forward to hearing all the great results as I continue just CFDGing. I’m sure everyone in the class will succeed beyond their dreams. <3
Isn’t it amazing to know that we absolutely DO have control over our actions and that we CAN make the commitment to do better? Keep eating all the plants, my friend!
Thank you so much Lyndsey! Reading your story brought tears to my eyes! My own story is so much like yours, two weeks ago I weighed in at 192.8 after being down to 167 on plants. I am so glad Lighten up came at this time, I can’t wait to do the work to change my relationship with food! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you too Molly and the whole team for putting this together for us dirties!
I’m so excited for you! And me! Lighten Up will rock your world and we will support and encourage each other. Glad you’ll be with me!
Lyndsey – I cried when I read this. Switch the names around and this piece describes me exactly. It’s so hard and I’ve struggled for so long and I don’t know how I can ever be free from the urges that I feel control me and very few people really understand and it all feels so monstrously hopeless. You just gave me hope. I had already purchased Lighten Up before I read this, and I was already letting in those thoughts that are saying “You just spent that much money on something that you’re probably not going to do anyway” I’m going to do it. I’ve ordered my balls and I’ll buy knee high socks today. I’m crazy busy at work, working 60+ hours every week and I don’t have time for this. I don’t have time to batch. But I don’t have time for diabetes or heart disease either. I don’t have time for knee replacement surgery, and that’s where I’m headed. I don’t have time to be this sad, and feel like crap both mentally and physically. I’m taking the next few days to get all my materials and write out a game plan (I’m a planner, I need to see it on paper and check things off a list), and then I’m going to fucking reset myself, for myself. Thank you for being you, for being raw and real, and for speaking to my heart.
I have absolute faith that you can achieve everything you set out to accomplish! Here’s the thing, though: Lighten Up will only work if you work it. I’ll be right there with you and we will support each other, but you have to do the work. Molly and Michelle have got us – all we have to do is follow along. So excited and looking forward to each of us living our best lives!
Thank you Lyndsey! Add a few years and a lot more lbs, and you have my life. Signed up for lighten up, getting items in order, done with day 1. Today is a new day (2). Thank you for sharing from your heart. <3
Isn’t it amazing how we always think we’re alone, but we really aren’t? I am so excited to see you in Lighten Up! You’ve got this and I’ll be there with you cheering you on!
Lyndsey, you are a big part of the reason why I love this group. Thank you for sharing this because so many of us relate. In a big way. You are such an inspiration…heart, body and soul. Love to you and enjoy the rest of hi our time in Italy!!!!
Thank you for your kind words! We are all in this together and none of us are ever alone if we reach out.
I’m enjoying my holiday and will be back soon to batching and eating all the plants.
Lyndsey, I was honestly sobbing at one point as I read this. You may or may not already realize this, but I’m guessing that I’m not only speaking for myself when I write that you have become as much of a CFDG gift to me in some ways as Molly and Team Dirty (and of course the meal plans). True bravery requires complete vulnerability, which takes a level of courage most people don’t have. You, my friend, are a gift to the world and an inspiration to be brave. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s moving through fear with love…and holy shit this is a testament to the transformation that can accompany such actions. Thank you for being a continuous source of joy, humor, inspiration, hope, and love. If you don’t mind, I plan to connect with you via FB privately. I will enjoy thinking of you continuing to explore Italy ~ safe travels.
Thank you so very much for your kind words. It brings a huge smile to my heart.
I’m continuing to enjoy my big Italian adventure and will be back soon to batching and eating all the plants.
Lynsey, you’re just fucking awesome! I’m sure at some level, the you that had been waiting for you to make this decision was waiting to tell this story. Speaking to that true part of all of us that wants to be in an amazing relationship with our mind, body and spirit not beating the crap out of each other every day! It made me think of a time I was crying on the phone to a friend and telling her about some (not ALL) of the crazy thoughts I was thinking. She said “Wait – are you alone?” Me: Well, yeah, I am. Her: “OH MY GOD, get out of there! You’re alone with a crazy person!!” I say that to myself now whenever I’m having those crazy thoughts, even when they are dark and seem so real. Thank you for sharing the places in you where you’ve shined a light and not always liked what you saw, so WE could do the same and let it go.
Yep, I totally get it. It’s so nice to know that we aren’t alone, isn’t it? I am sending you tons of love and big hugs. Thank you so much for your kind words. Means so much to me!
Thanks lindsay for sharing your story. I can so relate. I have been swirling the drain for awhile. I have gained almost 20 lbs back. I am lacking motivation to do right thing for me and cant seem to get back into the game. After being bullied at work for close to a year, being put on anti depressents, seeking couseling for the 1st time in my life, I finally quit my job with no plan b. I am excited for all of you that get to be involved with the lighten up and get to push the “restart” button. I have the utmost confidence that this program will be supportive to anyone who stays committed and puts the effort in. For me its not a financial option at this time. However, after reading your piece it still gives me the kick in the pants to get back into the kitchen and batch like a crazy person. Thanks for sharing your wonderful self and getting me to rethink which path I need to be on. Love you and the inspiration you give to so many.
Thank you for your kind words. It’s so important to nourish your body, mind, and spirit with eating all the plants. If you can’t do the reset, then there’s the meal plans, or the free blog recipes. There’s always a way and I’ll be there cheering for you! Sending tons of love and hugs to you!
Thank you for sharing from such a vulnerable place. Your story resonates with me and I feel much of your pain. I am somewhat new here and am always trying the recipes that are posted. I’ve been eating “clean” for a few years and WFPB now for some 5 months. I’ve been on a very long journey myself and have battled thyroid issues my whole life but feel as though things are now in control. I am diligent in buying, making and eating according to a WFPB lifestyle BUT I am actually GAINING weight and totally freaked out! How can this be? I often think of going back to a keto diet myself as I felt amazing and lost all my weight after so many years. It was sustainable for a very long time as I am diligent, especially when there are results. My stress is under control, I get great sleep, I don’t snack and don’t purchase anything ready made, so I am puzzled to say the least. (Disheartened, yes a much better word.) I look at the Lighten Up as a possible next step but fearful of throwing money towards “one more thing.”
I’ve been pouring through any and all posts and comments on Lighten Up. I’m in the same boat as you… I’m completely disheartened and disappointed. I’ve been on the WFPB journey for years and lost a good deal of weight a few years back with CFDS’s “Drop It” program… I pretty much followed the guidelines from there after, but at some point my my body got used to it and I began slowly gaining the weight. If I’m being completely honest, it could be alcohol. I didn’t drink during the initial Drop-It but I haven’t given it up. It’s a slippery slope. Now I’m back where I was a few years ago and I get frustrated and grab things like tortilla chips with my guacamole, where it used to be veggies. I just dropped $200 on a 6 week program that involved tracking macros—I swore I’d never do that again, yet I did. It was a completely unattainable way for me to live… So, this is not a very helpful comment but wanted to tell you that you sure are not alone. Please let me know if you did indeed take the Lighten Up plunge! Wishing you all the luck in your journey. xo Carrie
How did your thyroid play into all of this? I am having extreme hyperthyroid symptoms now and feel like I’m going crazy. I want a good endocrinologist to figure out why my TSH is not coming up despite four dose reductions. I know this WOE isn’t a cure-all, but it has certainly helped everything else going on with my body. I feel great except for these hyperthyroid symptoms. My thyroid was ablated in 2007 so it feels awful to have these symptoms again.
If you can and feel up to it, will you share your thyroid story in the future? The thyroid is such a sensitive and sometimes irrational mf. I just want to hear your story so I know I’m not going crazy.
Recover quickly! Take care.
Wow, I just read this. This so resonated! Kudos to you! I’ve been having the same thoughts over the past few days. “Go back to HCG or maybe keto, just for a little bit, (my brain is saying), you know it works”. I’ve been wholefoods (lots of plant foods though) based for 7 years or so and very rarely eat anything processed. Now fully WFPB for past 6 – 8 weeks and still no luck in shifting anything. I’m a little concerned that paying out the $500+ (I’m an Aussie) and it still wont make a difference. Don’t want it to sound that negative, sorry. Do I just trust the process? I’ve got about 12kgs to lose ( I think that’s about 30lbs?) I want to stop the creep, and desperately want to find a way of living/eating that stops the weight increase and that is sustainable. The other 2 diets I know are not sustainable or ultimately healthy. I regularly go to a holistic doctor and we work on gut health etc. I’m guessing by now that it is really just emotional. Thanks for your advice.
So, here’s the absolute truth:
That is a large chunk of change to shell out and you need to make sure you’re committed to doing the work required to make the changes you desire.
But! The LU program had been so lovingly and thoughtfully designed that it is totally doable.
Anyone willing to follow the program can make beautiful changes in their life, not just in appearance, but in the soul as well.
It is the first time in my entire life that everything just clicked.
It absolutely changed my world!
Please email me if you’d like to chat more about the program:
Lyndsay I am just reading this now Dec 2022 and just wanted to let you know how much I miss your wit and humor on our group page. You really were our cheerleader and I hope we’ll see you back here soon!!
Hi Devi 🙂
I’m still here – just cheering you on behind the scenes. Thank you for your kind words. Sending you a big hug and best wishes for a bright holiday season!!