What was your life like before discovering Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian eating-style?
I was fat, tired, had “brain fog” much of the time, and I felt ashamed of myself. When I first discovered Dr. Fuhrman and the nutritarian eating style, I was 50-years-old, 256 pounds, I had asthma and allergies, and I’d been struggling with my (increasing) weight for a number of years.
How did you feel then?
I felt hopeless – utterly powerless to change my life and my health. I was always tired and was beginning to have some health issues (a shoulder problem and a sciatica issue), that the doctors affirmed were caused or aggravated by my obesity.
Most of all, the excess weight had a huge impact on my self-image. I was acutely aware of being fat; it impacted my identity professionally and personally. It kept me from trying new things or going new places as I knew that I would be the fattest person wherever I went. I wondered how people could take me seriously professionally (I’m a minister in a church) when I was so obviously out-of-control with my own eating. Of course, the biggest issue was that I didn’t respect myself.
I also felt sad for my kids that their mom was so fat and inactive; and it certainly has contributed to challenges in my marriage, although my husband has never criticized my weight.
Tell us about your Eat to Live journey.
In 2005, I had read John Robbins’ book Diet for a New America and committed to begin vegan for a whole spectrum of reasons he addresses so well: heart issues, cancer, world hunger, animal cruelty, environmental issues, and when I joined Earthsave I saw an ad for the first edition of Eat to Live. I ordered the book, found it compelling, lost 40 pounds, but didn’t learn enough about cooking or adapting to challenges to stick with it so I gained back the weight, plus 5 more pounds. Then last spring I realized that I needed to come to terms with my weight problem again. I wanted to feel as good as I had in 2005 while following Eat to Live so I recommitted on Mother’s Day 2010. I lost 20 pounds by Father’s Day and have continued to lose weight at a slower pace since then. Altogether I’ve lost 53 pounds since last Mother’s Day.
I’ve had work conferences, family visits, and international travel to deal with during this past year, as well as the usual special occasions. I knew that one of the things I was going to have to learn to do is how to decide when to make an exception and eat off-plan, when to go hungry, and how to get back on-plan after an exception. When I committed to ETL again, I made up my mind that this would be for the rest of my life; but I knew that I couldn’t keep the commitment unless I figured out how to make exceptions (as a choice, not as a failure of will) and how to get back on track.
Someone else may choose to eat birthday cake (I haven’t had to – I make the Healthy Chocolate Cake), or to make an exception for a dinner date with a spouse (my husband hates eating out), or to make foods for children (mine are grown). I have to eat out at restaurants regularly; I go to non-nutritarian conferences; I get invited to church members’ homes and want to be gracious; and most recently, I traveled through Scotland and England with my son for two weeks and didn’t want to be obsessing about food. Making the choice to eat off-plan in those situations has cost me weight loss, and has sometimes reignited cravings that I had kicked; but this is a commitment that I’ve made for the rest of my life, and I now know that when I choose to eat off-plan there will be a price to pay. For me, knowing that I have the choice, if I want to, to eat a ‘forbidden’ food, helps me keep the commitment.*
I still have a long way to my goal weight so I’m re-evaluating what I’m eating, and trying to get as close to 100% as possible; plus, I’ve realized that I need to be more consistent with daily exercise.
How do you feel now?
I feel great! I feel such a sense of energy and zest. I feel healthy, resilient, happy, and grateful. I’m no longer defensive or embarrassed, and I can meet people and try new things without fearing that I’ll be thought of as simply a fat person.
Before I started Eat to Live, I was plagued with allergies (ragweed, cats and dogs) and took Zyrtec everyday. Now, even during ragweed season, I rarely take it. I used to also have awful gastric reflux/heartburn and carried a large bottle of Tums with me everywhere: work, car, home, etc. Now, I'm not even sure if there are any in the house, because I don't need them.
Do you have any success tip(s) to share with others?
Most important ~ “know yourself”. Some people do better asking a lot of themselves; others do better succeeding with one change at a time, and then building on that success.
Join and be active on the Member Center. Nutritarian eating is very counter-cultural, and having the support of others who are making it work is really helpful. I have now met in- person five people from the Member Center, and some of the other members have been so helpful to me over the past year – not only in nutritarian eating, but in everything from recipes to travel tips to sharing clothes and knitting tips!
Learn new recipes. In my life, I can get away with not much variety – I like the same smoothie most of the time and the same salad most days. But even this week I changed the salad completely, and learning a variety of soup and main dish recipes has been critical to succeeding…especially when my family is around and I cook for them.
Be gentle with yourself. I try to treat myself to non-food treats as part of learning how not to be a food addict. For example, I bought a beautiful, African grass basket to take to the market; I get a massage regularly; and I try to buy clothes that make me feel pretty, even though I won’t fit in them very long. If I feel good about myself, I’m better at staying on-plan.
Don’t worry about pleasing others. I still struggle with this, because of being a minister and not wanting my own food choices to be seen as judgmental of others, but most of the time, I’m able to do this part.
Exercise. Again, I am “in process” on this – but I know it’s important, and I am going to make it work.
To the extent that you can afford it, buy good tools to make cooking fun. I purchased all new pots and pans for free with points from my debit card. I bought a couple of good knives, a VitaMix, and a small food processor. These tools make cooking much easier.
Plan, plan, plan, plan…and don’t forget to plan. When I’m hungry, I don’t always choose as well, so I need to plan ahead so that I will be able to make good choices. If I remember to take along beans, some seeds, dressing, etc., then even a bowl of lettuce can be satisfying.
And when you fail, start right back the next choice (not the next day).
Seek help and advice from those who are successful and more experienced.
Keep a food log.
In a nutshell, what has nutritarian eating done for you?
Nutritarian eating has given me my life back, and it’s given me hope, energy, wellness, and joy. It’s enabled me to leave shame behind – I never even knew I was feeling shame all the time.
Congratulations Suz for recommitting to eat for health for the rest of your life!
* Dr. Fuhrman says that planned compromises are permissible on occasion as long as they do not become consistent choices. Such compromises should involve just one meal, or one dish, not stretches with days or weeks off the program. The achievable goal is to make repeated excursions into the standard American diet not something you would prefer or tolerate. Many nutritarians have evolved to find such SAD meals repulsive. Marginal weight loss results and lack of protection against diseases later in life are the result of repeated compromises.