I started to think that I needed to do something to improve my health in January of 2016 when I went to the doctor and took the Boston Heart Test. It consists of 3 full pages of tests. I did not understand all the numbers but I did understand that my numbers were way out of range. I had wanted to have a gastric bypass surgery but they told me that I could not have it because I had AFib. I told them I did not but they told me that I did indeed have AFib after a second EKG that morning. That was my AH-HA teachable moment that really got the ball rolling for me. As it turns out, I did not actually need the surgery and I no longer have the AFib. So the AFib they found at that time was a blessing in disguise. I am still losing weight and I feel better than ever.
I went to my first ATX Alive Plant Pure Potluck located at the office of Dr. Linda Carney in February of 2016. The food was so good, the people were so nice and what Dr. Carney shared made so much sense. I also somehow 'won' a DVD from Dr. Carney called "Why We Do What We Do?" about controlling cravings. After this first potluck I thought maybe I can do this, even though I love food and especially meat. I'm your top carnivore, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought about how good everything tasted and right then I decided to see what I could do to get this way of eating started.
Before I went for an office visit with Dr. Carney in April of 2016, she mentioned to me about McDougall's Maximum Weight Loss book. So I started reading that, and that helped get me going. I was only able to see Dr. Carney as my doctor for four months because I became eligible for Medicare. But it is amazing how impactful those four months were for me. They were the spark to light my fire. Dr. Carney's words of wisdom, the support of the ATX potlucks and the McDougall Facebook group all have fueled the fire which hasn't stopped burning.
Previously, I had lost 60 lbs three times in my life, but I was never able to sustain it. The diets were never satisfying. Eventually cravings would cause me to cave in. I would then have a taste of something hurtful and, like an addict, I would be hooked again. The McDougall group administrators don't allow people to focus on what they did wrong or how they failed. Instead, they focus on what they have done successfully.
My solution was breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper. Once I started eating the big breakfasts with beans and greens and squash and yams I found myself no longer hungry. A good friend came over and taught me how to cook beans, and I was hooked. Because Dr. Carney and her husband are always so open to being helpful I can ask them how to prepare things, like spaghetti squash, and they get all excited to tell me. They told me about the Instant Pot which makes this way of eating so easy. I also have an air fryer and am getting into using it. I love my mandolin and Vidalia Chop Wizard for cutting vegetables. I am truly having fun preparing food.
I credit Patty Falo for keeping on her sister Sandra to eat this way and then Sandy got me involved in attending the ATX Alive potlucks. It has been like a ripple effect. If it were not for the ATX Alive potlucks. I am not sure I would have gotten hooked. I really like the way people are so caring and sharing in the group. Sandra and I had embarked on a LOT of weight loss systems/schemes together, but neither of us ever stuck with it, until we tried the plant-based solution.
It was not difficult to me to get started because I was very determined to succeed, but I did sort of sequester myself away for a few months. I stuck close to my house. I did not want to be out and be tempted. The hardest part of this diet and this way of eating is being social with people who do not follow this way of eating. The people don't understand and so they say things like "Oh, you can have just a little bit of sugar." "Olive oil is good oil." or "There is not much oil in there." Now, I know that eating oil just once can set me back 30 days in my progress.
I have lost 84 lbs so far. But, the story is not over yet. It is very validating to me that I am an example now for others. I did this for me. Dr. Carney asked "Why do you want to do this. Do you want to get off all your medicines?" My answer was yes, this was my main goal. And, I have accomplished almost everything I wanted as far as getting off my medicines. One other blessing is that my numbers have come so far down. I went from 6.7 on my A1c to 5.1. Everything else also came down. I am still working on blood sugar control and hopefully get off my diabetes medicines and there are still some days when it is still a bit too high, but progress is being made.
One thing I maintain is a little spreadsheet of all my medicines. It shows what I take, how I take it, when I started taking it and when I discontinued taking the medicines and supplements. Since I have been on this way of eating I no longer have AFib, I do not have Sleep Apnea, I do not need to take high blood pressure medicine, I no longer need to take high cholesterol medicine, I don't need to take blood thinners. I have gone off all of that stuff. This way of eating has just been a Godsend.
The hardest thing I find about this way of eating is finding a place to go out to eat. I know that Dr. Carney doesn't like to go out to eat very much. But, there is something important about being social. So, when I go to a place that will accommodate me, I tell I my friends to go there, and you just tell them that you can't have any oil, you can't have any sugar or have any salt, just make sure you just steam it all. Most of the places are very accommodating, but you have to ask them. Even Denny's provides steamed vegetables and hash browns made without oil on their Fit Fare Platter. They leave off the cheese, red potatoes sauteed in oil and egg.
When I went on a recent vacation to visit an omnivore friend, we went out a couple times to eat but the rest of the time I cooked for my omnivore friend. She loved what I cooked. She had an electric pressure cooker that she was under-utilizing and we used it every day. It takes dedication and willpower for you to start on this. After that it is not so hard to stay on it. But to start on it and stay on it for the first while really takes a lot of dedication and you've got to be firm. This is where you have to take care of yourself. That is when you may have to hermit yourself, to sequester yourself and not go places where people will be asking you to try just one little off-limits item. It is very hard to be social and to say no, but after you have been on the program a while it becomes easier because then, why would you want to eat those things? But, you can't go out to eat in the beginning. You've got to wait three or four months to do that because it is too hard to say no when you are first getting started.
A lot of people assume that because I am plant-based I must eat a lot of salads. But, I actually don't like salad very much because, for me, the salad was always about the dressing and now I don't have a lot of dressings I like. Just because I eat a lot of vegetables doesn't mean I have to live on salads. I adore most vegetables.
I don't remember whose book it was but I read that we should "order off of the side dishes" when eating out. That is excellent advice. One of my initial disappointments came when I went to Luby's here in Texas. They have a lot of vegetables. I asked how they cooked the broccoli because it was so beautifully green. It ends up that they just boil it... in butter water. But I found out that they do have a steamer.
Another friend I met at the heart doctor has changed her diet some because of our interactions together. I have been able to send a couple people I know up to see Dr. Carney, but they were not yet ready to make health their top priority. It requires dedication. You cannot always gain back your health fully unless you drastically change. I have had a few people contacting me now on social media. I will tell anybody anything I know and have experienced about this way of eating.
When people who have not seen me for a while see the amount of weight I have lost I first assure them that I am not sick and that the weight was lost because of my change in diet. It baffles them when I tell them that I won't eat anything that had a face or a family. I try to explain this is a very clean way of life and I enjoy it. Often they want to know more. If so, I assure them that they won't need to deprive themselves and go hungry. But, I also let them know that there are some foods they will have to completely give up. I tell them this way of eating is easy to stay on and if they stray it will be easy to get right back on it.
On a humorous note, everybody thinks I must be spending a fortune on new clothes. But I tell them I am shopping the back of my closet. The clothes that are too big for me are being given away to a friend, about 37 lbs worth of clothing so far, and as I continue to lose weight, I will have more for her. Hopefully, she will be ready for them.
Recently, I went to Kansas City where I met some of my girlfriends from college. I was thrilled because I did not need to use a seatbelt extender to buckle up the plane. My seatbelt hooked without it and it has been years and years since that has happened. While visiting I made a whole foods plant-based lasagna for my college friends and they loved it. They were amazed because it was so delicious. Then, the way I was eating started to make more sense to them.
Another benefit of this new lifestyle is that I used to always be full of mucus and congestion. That is also a thing of the past. I rarely ever cough or need to blow my nose.
Going to see Dr. Carney as a patient was always an exciting time for me. She always gave me recipes and helpful hints. She is not just interested in what you eat. She wants to know how your whole being is doing. She treats the whole person. She doesn't just push you through and move on. This type of doctor doesn't exist any more. Even though I can't be her patient any more at least I get a Dr. Carney "fix" once a month when I go up to the ATX Alive potlucks.
Continuing to go to the ATX Alive potlucks really 'sealed the deal' for me. Once I saw all the foods that I could have I thought it was really great. I would still would love to have somebody teach us all how to use all the various spices to really make our meals tasty and interesting. For anybody interested in my parting words of wisdom, I would say: Do it and get someone to do it with you, form a strong support system, and develop a strong resolve. You won't want to go back. Tell everybody, but don't beat it into the ground, just offer to help people. Invite them to your home and feed them. They say that misery loves company, well this is not misery… this is pleasure, and pleasure loves company too.
My story is not finished but yet to be continued.