“Every day feels like a cheat day to me”

Maria AveryBy: Maria Avery

I want to share how I’ve lost 110 pounds, going from size 24 to a size 10, on a whole food, plant-based diet.

My family immigrated to the United States from Azores, Portugal when I was three years old. I grew up on a small family dairy farm in California. I learned how to feed animals, mend fences, milk cows, and all the other things that go along with running a dairy. I never thought I would become vegan. That wasn’t something I was exposed to when I was growing up. My mom cooked traditional meat based Portuguese dishes and is a wonderful cook. (Sadly, I didn’t inherit that gene.)

In 2012 my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and a friend died of cancer. Another friend was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig Disease) and passed away the next year. All these events made me seriously think about my health. I knew that diabetes and heart disease ran in my immediate and extended family. Now, I could add cancer to the list of family health concerns. I knew that it was only a matter of time before I would follow in my family’s footsteps. Those were not the footsteps I wanted to follow!

At this time, I was overweight, pre-diabetic, had a high liver count, acid reflux and high cholesterol (219 out of a normal range of 130-199). I was on medicine for acid reflex, and my doctor wanted to put me on medication for high liver count. As I pondered my health and family history, I decided I needed to make some changes. I was not sure where to start, but I knew something had to happen.

A friend encouraged me to watch Forks over Knives, a documentary recommended by her doctor. After watching it, I decided to become vegan. Although I lost 25 pounds in about nine months, I struggled finding recipes and making this way of life sustainable. Then I came across a whole food, plant-based program called Protective Diet, which eliminates oils, sugar, nuts and food additives.

The Protective Diet program includes many free recipes, but paid members can participate in the weekly interactive educational classes and receive additional recipes. Having recipes that you don’t have to worry about converting to no meat, sugar, nuts or food additives is so nice to have. The information I learned in the classes far outweighed the cost of the program. The classes discuss how to apply this plan and make it sustainable. I learned to stock my pantry, read labels, save on my grocery bill, overcome food cravings, and much more. My cooking skills improved. I focused on all the new foods I could eat and did not dwell on the foods I had given up. I was even able to start my food storage, something I had struggled to make a reality before.

The Protective Diet Living Facebook support group (free for anyone to join) has also been very helpful. Being a part of a supportive group and interacting with others who are on the same plan is a huge help. It helps me know I am not going through this alone. The support and encouragement of my husband has also been invaluable. My husband has supported me in everything I have decided to do. He has encouraged me along this journey to not give up.

There was a time that I did go off plan, not a lot, but I ate foods with sugar and oil. I found that my cravings came back and that I did not feel well. I realized how easy it would be for me to return to my old habits. I decided it was not worth it. Before starting on a Protective Diet I had heartburn almost daily. Since starting this plan I have not had heartburn even once. I can also eat foods that are spicier now than I have ever eaten.

I was motivated by the weight loss, feeling good, and seeing improvement in my blood work. I didn’t worry about how long it would take to lose the weight or the total amount of weight I had to lose. I was excited about every small loss no matter the amount. After seeing my weight increasing for so long, I was thrilled when the scale was moving in the other direction. It all starts with making the decision to make a change, and having people help and support you along the journey is priceless.

Following a Protective Diet, I was able to lose an additional 85 pounds in a year. I lost this weight without counting calories, points, or measuring my food and with very little exercise. I never felt deprived or hungry. I was able to lower my cholesterol (from 219 to 116), normalize my liver count, and eliminate my need for acid reflux medicine. I also noticed that my skin was no longer oily. Since I was a teenager I have had oily skin, now it is normal.

As the weight came off, my activity level naturally increased. In August 2014, I ran my first 5K. I was never a runner growing up, but I have found enjoyment in this new activity. I was able to upgrade my life insurance to “Preferred Elite” because my health had improved significantly. I was told that very few people ever move into this category.

It has been over two years since my journey started with a whole food, plant-based diet. People ask me about having a cheat day. Every day feels like a cheat day to me. I don’t feel I have given anything up, other than my bad health. I have been able to stay on plan and make this a lifelong change to better health. This way of life can be sustainable, enjoyable and is definitely doable. I started a blog to encourage those that are struggling to realize that making small simple changes can improve their health. Change has to start with us; we are the only ones that can make that decision. When we help ourselves we are in a better position to help others.

Looking back over the last two years, I know that Heavenly Father guided me on this journey. When I was about to give up, he helped me find a whole food, plant-based diet that was sustainable and enjoyable. The Word of Wisdom and a whole food, plant-based diet go hand in hand in learning how to nourish the mind and body. I was guided in finding my way to better health. Reading and studying D&C 89 was a confirmation that I was on the path Heavenly Father wanted for me.

Maria Avery is 44 years old and lives in Harrisville, Utah. She and her husband John have been married for 18 years. Maria has a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. She likes bicycling, camping, ceramics, gardening and running. Her blog is www.eatlivebnspired.com. You can contact Maria through email eatlivebnspired@gmail.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram (find the links on her blog).



  1. I’m inspired by Maria’s story. It is not easy to totally change your diet and to lose that much weight, but Maria shows us that this is doable . . . on the right diet, the kind of diet our Heavenly Father counsels us to follow!

    • Jane, Thank you so much for sharing my story. I hope it can help many. Knowing that there are others out their continually trying to improve their health and follow the counsel we have been given, give me inspiration and hope.
      I am grateful to be a part of your Facebook support group. I know it will help many seeking to follow the Word of Wisdom.

  2. Maria, I just finished reading your story several times. I was really impressed with your very special attitude that you were able to develop which has brought about very significant changes in your health which appears to be surely a continuing thing. I think the following which you wrote in what I just read above, significantly helps all of the rest of us who have read your story to understand how you successfully went about doing what needed to be done to bring about such significant health improvement you have experienced, which understanding will surely also help the rest of us to succeed in continuing to improve or maintain our own health:

    “I was motivated by the weight loss, feeling good, and seeing improvement in my blood work. I did’n’t worry about how long it would take to lose the weight or the total amount of weight I had to lose. I was excited about every small loss no matter the amount. After seeing my weight increasing for so long, I was thrilled when the scale was moving in the other direction. It all starts with making the decision to make a change, and having people help and support you along the journey is priceless.”

    I pray that Heavenly Father will continue to pour out His help upon you and upon the rest of us also!

    Neil Birch

    • Thank You, Neil!
      Many times I get overwhelmed at the big picture. In the days we live in, we have become accustom to getting everything right now. I decided I needed to enjoy the journey and only focus what I could do at the time. That was a big help.

      We are all tools in Heavenly Father’s hands. He has not forgotten anyone.

      I am grateful for what Jane has accomplished in spreading a WFPBD and letting others see that these things are what Heavenly Father has been telling us. Not just in the Word of Wisdom but through out all the scriptures.

  3. I surely enjoyed reading of your adventure. I also was led by Heavenly Father to change my eating habits and learn about the true meaning of the Word of Wisdom for the same basic reasons — my health was tanking big time! I am glad you listened and found what you needed to learn and have been able to follow the WFPB lifestyle since making your discovery. I, too, feel like EVERY day is a cheat day! Don’t you just love the many colors of he vegetables available — talk about “eye candy”! I love the way I eat now. I, too, feel very good — not sick like before. Thank you so much for sharing your story and encouraging others, also!

    • Phyllis Thank You
      I am so glad you feel every day is a cheat day! It is the best feeling ever!
      I did like vegetable before but have grown to love them and enjoy and try new ones.

  4. So inspiring. I especially like your view of “cheat days.” I have often said that the idea of cheat days sends the mind and the spirit the wrong message. I loved how you said that everyday is a cheat day. It puts the focus on the wonderful, beautiful, delicious whole, plant-based food that we are blessed to enjoy, and not on the fattening, unhealthy food that we try to avoid. After returning from a trip where I try to eat WFPB but struggle to do so, and even when I select vegetarian or vegan meals, I still feel such relief and joy to be home where my home-cooked food tastes so much better and where I know that it is oil-free and low in salt and sugar. I can’t understand why more people don’t eat this way.

    • Thank You Scott

      I like your description of a cheat day, “wonderful, beautiful and delicious”. When we take the time to really enjoy what we are eating, unhealthy food loses its appeal.

      All we can do is our best when we are away from home. I know that I don’t crave going to restaurants. I focus on the people I am with, not the food. When I was growing up, it was a very rare occasion that my family went out to eat.

Leave a Reply