When I was in my early twenties, I joined my mother in doing a low fat diet. I lost twenty pounds, but as soon as I began going back to eating the way I usually did I regained the weight I had lost and more. I determined then that whatever dietary changes I made would be lifelong, not a temporary weight loss measure. Because I wasn’t sure what the best changes to make were, for many years I did nothing about controlling my weight. In fact, due to emotional eating as a coping strategy for stress in my life, I gained another 50 pounds. I wanted to lose weight, so I tried to eat more fruit and vegetables and to exercise a little. I lost only 5 pounds in 2 years. I got a wake-up call one day when I donated blood and my blood pressure was 142/94. I knew I was headed for a lifetime of blood pressure medications and the side effects if I didn’t make some drastic changes. I read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II when my friend, Cherie, recommended it to me. Here at last was a scientifically sound way of eating that offered true solutions to my health problems, not band-aids for the symptoms. After eating a plant based, whole foods diet for just three months, my blood pressure dropped to 126/88. After 9 months, I lost 35 pounds. All of these health benefits came entirely from diet and not exercise. I have kept that weight off for over a year.
If you decide to eat this way and are switching from a typical American diet, some things I found helpful:
- Don’t eat cheese substitutes (soy based, etc.) until you’ve forgotten what dairy cheese tastes like. Use spices or seasonings to make your food taste better.
- Use vegetable or soy patties (hamburger or chicken flavored) in place of meat until you become accustomed to eating a plateful of vegetables without feeling deprived.
- Find substitutes for your favorites. Some of mine were bacon flavored tempeh, chocolate chip cookie and apple crisp recipes, vegannaise, soy ice cream or frozen fruit smoothies.
- Find a good alternative health grocery store where you can obtain those substitutes. I shop there every 4-6 weeks and at a regular grocery store with a good produce section about once a week.
- Know that grocery shopping will take longer for the first few weeks because you’ll spend more time reading labels.
- Make a list of everything you already eat that fits this lifestyle and try a new recipe at least once a week.
- Try a new fruit or vegetable every few weeks. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t like everything new you try; I only like about half of the new things I try.
- This doesn’t have to be a more expensive way to eat if:
a. You don’t eat all organic food. If you’re concerned about this, start by switching only the top foods that retain the most contaminants. http://www.foodnews.org/ Click on the fulllist tab at the top of the page.
b. You don’t eat much processed food (although you may eat more at the beginning to help you make the switch).
c. You take advantage of sales and freeze, dry or can fresh produce.
An unexpected side effect to eating this way is a general feeling of well-being and more energy and vigor. All of this occurred without exercise. Now that I’ve added regular exercise to my life, there are additional benefits. I am only ever tempted to eat the way I used to when I’m starving and I want to eat whatever is easy and close at hand. Whenever I am tempted, I remember how much better I feel and I continue to make the effort to eat healthy.