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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram (find the links on her blog).