Note from Jane: This is the latest in a monthly series by Duffy, who went whole food, plant-based late in 2013 with the goal of losing over 200+ pounds. Duffy is doing an awesome job and has experienced significant successes. At the same time, she still struggles with a problem many food addicts have: indulging in high-calorie dense foods that feed cravings and slow weight loss or even cause weight gain. Duffy understands this issue well and is working hard to overcome it. I hope others struggling with similar food addictions can learn from her experience. To see previous posts, click Duffy Chronicles.
As 2014 comes to a conclusion, I have been looking back on the year and asking myself whether I accomplished all that I wanted to with my New Year’s resolution to go whole food, plant-based. While I did not lose as much weight as I hoped at the outset of the year, I have lost 72 pounds since 2013 and have kept about 60 of that off. I also accomplished several things of great significance. For instance, I remember a time before I began this way of eating that I couldn’t walk the length of a high school and was in great pain when I tried to do so. I remember having near-constant back pain when I stood and not being able to bend over to reach the gas tank release button while sitting in the driver’s seat of my car. All of those issues resolved quickly when I changed my diet, lost a little weight, and started being able to move better. Perhaps the more significant outcome though is that for one full, entire year I kept a promise to myself. It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever kept a New Year’s resolution, and I am so proud of myself.
I wish that I could say that after a year of abstinence I’m no longer tempted by baked good, sugary treats, fast food, or soda. That is not the case. In the last few weeks of work before Winter break, there seemed to be an influx of Skittles in the community candy dish. Although I never partook, I just wanted to sit next to whomever was eating them at any given time and smell their breath (you know, in a totally non-creepy way). I had a veggie sandwich at Subway the other day (no cheese, just veggies and mustard—I know the bread isn’t oil-free so not something I had done all year). I could not believe the strength of the baking scent that was present and how much it made me crave Subway cookies and a coke! When I brought the sandwich home, the scent seemed to have followed, and I was dismayed to pick up the plastic sack and realize that it smelled exactly like the restaurant. What do they spray those things with? Eau de fresh baked cookies?!
Sometimes as a single person living in a family-centered church, the holidays can be difficult for me. On years when I don’t travel back to my home state, I either spend the holidays alone or, if I’m fortunate, with a family in my ward who has invited me over. This year no invitations had been forthcoming but my visiting teacher Kristen had asked whether I would be willing to give up my diet for just one night, for Christmas Eve dinner. I shook my head with a rueful expression. If the conversation had gone further, I might have suggested how some of the side dishes could be made compliant, like setting aside some mashed potatoes before she added butter and milk to them. But it didn’t, and I didn’t worry about it. I know that to some this level of rigidity may seem incongruous with a happy and Christ-centered life in that it cuts me off from being with people at times. It is not my goal to be so rigid about my eating, it is only that I knew with absolute certainty that if I veered off the path, it would not stop with one meal; it would be a terrible downward spiral into the depths of sugar-fat-salt-food-temptation-hell.
Then on the afternoon of December 23rd, Kristen called me to say that she and her younger three children, all teenagers, had decided to give their traditional Christmas Eve dinner to the homeless. They were going to drive downtown and see if they could find some homeless people to give food to. It sounded like a grand adventure to me, so we agreed that they would pick me up in an hour, and I set about sorting through my cupboards for canned and boxed goods I could give.
Kristen and her kids had made twenty ham and potato dinners with a side of fresh rolls and bottled water. Each was wrapped in ribbon with a fork and the cardboard on top of the box read “Merry Christmas.” We had a good time giving away their dinner and were able to do so in only two stops. Since it was still early, Kristen drove through Sonic to get shakes for the kids. I was glad to say that nothing on the menu tempted me, and I had a cup of water. Since we had given away their big dinner for the following night, I asked Kristen what they were going to eat. Her reply was, “I have no idea!” I said that if they were willing to eat vegan fare, I would be happy to make them dinner. So it happened that I joined Kristen and her family, along with a senior couple from our ward, for a beautiful meal and an informal but Spirit-filled Christmas program on the 24th. I made Chef AJ’s Disappearing Lasagna and a fruit salad with just apples, pomegranates, blueberries and bananas. Kristen added a green salad (I brought my own WFPB dressing), plus pasta and rolls for the other guests. The lasagna is definitely on the rich end of WFPB meals, but it makes for a special holiday meal.
So my holiday turned out beautifully. With good friends and service, it went from lonely to lovely and I was able to feel so much gratitude for my Savior’s birth and subsequent life, ministry, atonement and resurrection. But that’s not really what this post is about. It’s about the portion of leftover lasagna that I took home. It had been calling to me ever since dinner. I had a slice that night for a “midnight snack.” And then because it tasted so good, I had another. The next morning I reheated two pieces for breakfast. And a couple hours later I finished it off for lunch. They were small pieces to be sure but that isn’t the point. The point is that the fat/salt combination in the lasagna (tofu, nuts, miso) made it so appealing that I actually ate until I was stuffed and probably would have eaten more, just for the pleasure of the taste, if more had been available. That, my friends, is food addiction.
I had been wrestling with whether to just simply renew my New Year’s Resolution for 2015 or to take it one step further and eliminate the pleasure trap foods (fat, sugar, salt) so that I can be freed from addiction and really develop a taste for whole, unrefined plant foods. I did a lot of wavering. I absolutely know that sugar and fat are triggers for me to overeat. But salt? I don’t add salt to my food and I am as likely as not to leave it out when baking or cooking. I didn’t want to give up two items: miso and coconut aminos. However I ultimately decided that if my goal is to adjust my palate to so that I learn to enjoy whole, natural, unrefined foods then I have to eliminate all hyper-palatable, hyper-stimulating items from my diet for a time. And if we’re in for a month or two or three… well, why not just make it a year?
So here is my New Year’s resolution for 2015:
- Eat 100% whole food plant-based, no oil just as in 2014 with these additional guidelines:
- Avoid salt, oil and sugar (SOS)
- Eat on the green end of the Calorie Density spectrum (see below)
- Take an opportunity to move my body each day
It has been encouraging to share my journey with you and read your comments on each of my posts. I appreciate your support and feedback, and I read and savor each and every comment.
For 2015, I’m planning to move the Duffy Chronicles to a quarterly feature. So expect an update around the end of March/beginning of April 2015. Happy New Year to you and yours; may this year bring you closer to the Lord and happier and healthier in body, mind and spirit.