Last year I made a New Year’s resolution to go 100% whole-food plant-based for all of 2014. Given the initial burst and quick fizzling out of my previous New Year’s resolutions, I figured I’d need a running start. So I began on December 25th, 2013. Christmas day.
Today is February 2nd, my 40th day of eating 100% WFPB.
Because people define WFPB in various ways, and because my definition may evolve over time, let me tell you what that has meant for me so far:
- All plant foods are acceptable
- oatmeal cookies made with vegan chocolate chips are acceptable (if not ideal)
- absolutely no oil whatsoever (full disclosure: oil is listed as one of the last ingredients on the Bearitos taco seasoning mix I’ve been using. Since its a dry mix, I wonder if one of the spices was oil-roasted before being ground. In any case its a trace amount).
- absolutely no animal products whatsoever
- no soda or other junk food
- only naked nuts are allowed (e.g., no salted, or honey roasted doctored nuts)
- I haven’t actually been using nuts but allowed for them just in case
How I’ve stayed the course so far
So how, when I’ve known about this way of eating for a couple of years and yet never before managed to completely make the change, when I’ve tried dozens of diets over the years and yet never lasted beyond two weeks of full compliance on any of them, have I been able to give up all of my old favorite foods and habits in favor of 100% whole food plant based lifestyle? I don’t have a definitive answer to the question of what changed now but I do have at least 3 tools I’ve been relying on:
1. The first and most powerful tool came in the form of a personal inspiration before I made this commitment: that I was addicted to S.A.D./junk food and that I was powerless to overcome the addiction on my own. I needed to ask for help from a Higher Power. I know, sounds familiar, right? If only I could have opened a 12-step book and recognized this truth years ago, right? Actually, I did… learn about the first principle in the 12 step programs that is. But it was only just before I made my resolution that I learned it in a truly personal way– that I, Duffy, am incapable of conquering my junk food addiction on my own and need my own Higher Power, my Heavenly Father’s intervention. So I’ve relied on prayer. Specifically my inspiration was to “pray always” and I’ve taken that to heart. I pray every morning and many times throughout the day not only to stay the path but also to desire to eat only 100% WFPB. To liken Alma 32:27 to myself “even if ye can no more than desire to [want to eat 100% WFPB], let this desire work in you, even until ye [do want to eat 100% WFPB all the time and not go back] in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words [and the blessings and promises of the Word of Wisdom, given by the same source as Alma’s exhortation on faith].
I pray before I walk into the staff goodie break room at lunch time which is always laden with chocolate, candies and pastries. I pray when I’m driving to and from appointments during the work day, times when I previously would have been tempted to stop at a convenience store for a S.A.D. treat. I pray in the morning and at night. I pray before I go grocery shopping. I pray at each meal time… I pray ‘always.’
2. Although prayer has by far been my greatest strength, I know that the Lord also expects us to do all that we can. A second source of strength and accountability has been my good friend Jane Birch. She expects an e-mail report from me Every. Single. Day. She has been an amazing source of love and encouragement. And also, she graciously agreed to give me anything I wanted for each week that I go 100% WFPB. I asked for stories. I love listening to stories, reading stories, being read to… I love stories! Poor Jane is having to stretch in new ways to meet me at the intersection of what I asked for (“long” emails) and what she considers deliverable (“longish” emails). Discovering joy in non-food rewards such as a love-filled hug, good news from a friend, a task well done, or a thoughtfully crafted reminiscence from Jane at the end of each week of 100% WFPB eating has been one of the beautifully evolving gifts of my journey.
3. My third tool has been the food itself. I’ve been patient and kind with myself. I haven’t forced myself to eat anything I don’t like. I have stuck to comfort foods and known quantities, giving myself a ‘constant’ in this new experience.
What I’ve been eating
So… what have I been eating and what kind of benefits have I seen so far? Well, don’t be too disappointed but… I haven’t been eating vegetables. Like, not at all.
I’ve been eating:
- Taco rice (brown/wild rice mixtures with taco sauce, which is a McDougall tofu sour cream recipe mixed with Bearritos taco seasoning)
- bananas… and an occasional pear or orange
- vegan chocolate chip oatmeal cookies
- Ezekiel gluten-free, oil-free English muffins with strawberry preserves
That’s about it. I’ve been eating Taco Rice 3 times per day most days. Unless I had English muffins for 1 or 2 meals. Oh and about a week ago I ate a boatload of fingerling potatoes and a few Yukon golds as baked fries with mustard. Mmm.
So as you can see, my diet has been seriously lacking in vegetation. But I gave myself permission for the first month to eat only things I liked… comfort food. And that has been a good transition strategy. But now its time to move on. Because my weight loss has hit a serious stall.
Alright, if you’ve read this far, I’m going to let you in on a secret. All told, I have over two hundred pounds to lose. There, I said it. So right now, the weight should be coming off pretty quickly, shouldn’t it? Yeah, I think so too.
Weight loss to date
Here is whats kind of happened over the past few months since I started (not at all at 100%) in September/October-ish:
First, there was a period where I was eating between 1 and 2 meals per day on plan. For the 3rd meal I was eating fast food– 2 cheese & mayo sandwiches, a pickle, sometimes cookies or potato chips, and a 20 oz soda from Jimmy Johns. My on-plan meals were oatmeal with fruit for breakfast and mashed potatoes with a small amount of steamed vegetables for lunch, plus a piece of fresh fruit. I lost about 25 lbs in 3 months or so despite consuming around 1200 calories in that daily dinner binge alone.
Then I went through a period where I started eating more and more junk food until I was eating 100% S.A.D. again (albeit no fast food and no cheese. Those I had left behind and I wasn’t going back! Well actually cheese did sneak back in, in the form of white cheddar popcorn. And it gave me the most debilitating headaches). You can read more about my journey on my blog at http://duffyswfpbjourney.blogspot.com/ See the blog archive on the top right. During this period I was fortunate not to regain any of my lost weight. It was a double-edged sword however because I let the lack of re-gain be a permission to continue indulging in health-destroying behavior. Much like a smoker who says “I can quit anytime I want to,” I figured I could pick up where I left off with my weight loss anytime.
But I just kept getting sicker and sicker. Until I made my New Year’s resolution. And in the past 40 days of 100% WFPB compliance I’ve lost… are you ready for it?…. 3 lbs. And two of those were just in the last week since I’ve been sick (oh and stopped eating the English muffins-refined flour-and for a week, because I was too sick to bake, stopped eating cookies too). So yes, an entire 30+ days went by where I lost only 1 lb. I was disappointed, to say the least. But instead of allowing it to derail me I looked at it logically:
The English muffins, which are made of refined flour, the tofu-based taco sauce, which is a higher-fat plant food, and the chocolate-chip cookies, which although dairy-free are probably about equivalent to oil on the calorie-density scale, all increased my calorie density significantly. So I made a plan: switch to potatoes/root veggies as my main starch, increase the veggie intake (yes, first initiate it, then increase it!) and quit making those c.chip cookies! … And then I got sick. For the past two weeks I’ve been dealing with a cold-turned-outer-ear-infection-turned-sinus-infection-turned-middle-ear-infection. I’ve been a mess. And I’ve not been baking, cooking or eating vegetables.
Now that I’m on day 3 of my antibiotic regimen (sometimes I am SO grateful for the miracle of modern medicine in the face of infection!) and feeling downright chipper compared to the past few weeks, I’m ready to make February my month of lowering the calorie density, increasing the veggie intake, and releasing fat like crazy (please, let my body release fat like crazy!!).
By the way, the past 40 days have not been without health benefits despite the lack of significant weight loss. First, I have been absolutely in awe of my lack of soda cravings (thank you Heavenly Father for working this miracle in my body and in my life!!) I was drinking at least 40oz of coke and/or mountain dew per day. When I stopped cold-turkey I expected the withdrawl headaches I’ve experienced in the past but I didn’t have any and, even more incredibly, I haven’t craved it. Because I don’t like herbal tea, fruit juice has too much sugar, vegetable juice lacks the fiber of the original vegetable, and I’m not a fan of hot cocoa, I’ve only been drinking water.
In the first week or so, my lower back aches eased and within a couple weeks disappeared altogether. I had not been able to stand for more than a solid minute without pain. Walking around the grocery store was a painful experience, even leaning on the cart. I couldn’t get up off the floor without leaning on a piece of furniture. Since I work at a preschool (as an SLP) I am up and down on and off the floor A LOT. Its still effortful at my weight/size but I can now do it without leaning on furniture and I can walk and stand for longer periods without pain. I have keratosis pilaris (a skin condition) and I’ve noticed some smoother patches on my arms where its starting to dissipate some. Strangely enough, my eyebrows started growing back in just a little bit, whereas they had completely stopped growing at all about a year ago. It was nice not to have to pluck and all but kind of a dilemma for re-shaping! 😉 I think my tastes are starting to change. I used to only like potatoes mashed and no other way (and even that was a stretch without butter!) but last week I ate some baked potato plain, fresh out of the oven and some cold baked potato with mustard. Both were good. There are many other health issues I want to resolve including pre-diabetes but the biggest one is my weight. I don’t want to be inhibited or encumbered in doing the work that the Lord has for me to do while on this earth.
So my friends, thank you for reading. I’ll be posting around the first of each month about the previous month’s portion of this journey I’m on to reach my ideal weight and gain robust health. Given the amount of weight I need to lose, this could turn into quite the saga. Bear with me. I want to thank those who commented on my first blog post. Your outpouring of support and love was very special to me.
If you want to know anything about me, please ask in the comments and if its something I feel comfortable sharing I’ll answer it in my next post. In the meantime I may (or may not) write more frequently than the monthly posts here, on my own blog at http://duffyswfpbjourney.blogspot.com/. Feel free to come visit me over there.
Love and blessings (Chef AJ already coined the best line: Love and kale!)