In the past, I have refused to stand on our home bathroom scale. Mom said I should monitor my weight so it wouldn’t come as such a dreaded shock when I go to the doctor’s office, but I would refuse. Knowing my weight used to only make me feel ashamed, depressed and discouraged. But Sunday, January 18, 2015 was different. The first thing I did was stand on the scale. I knew I wouldn’t like the number, and I didn’t. But I knew it was necessary to get a baseline weight. I was hoping friends and family would be able to tell me I looked thinner by the end of the six-week phase, but the best way to really assess whether the changes I made were successful was with real data.
My reading that day was 168.6 pounds. Now I realize that people who may read this and weigh 350, 400 or 500 pounds may laugh or even be insulted that I am making such a big deal over 168.6 pounds. I apologize if this is how you feel, but I think this struggle is worth writing about for two reasons.
First, had I let my eating trends continue, it is possible that I could have become obese myself. I know from experience that weight gain does not happen overnight. It happens so gradually in fact, that it is easy not to notice the trend. I am only twenty-four years old, but I have heard that adults become obese with a few pounds here, a few pounds there, gradually year after year. When I encounter someone who is obese, I never laugh at them, shame them or taunt them because that’s just mean and I am not that kind of person. But in private, I am guilty of thinking “how could people let themselves get that heavy?” But this is wrong too and I apologize for these thoughts as well. They are wrong, not only because of my Christian faith which teaches that unkind thoughts are just as sinful as a mean comment to someone’s face, but also because of karma. A few sentences earlier, I said that I could have become obese myself had I let my eating trends continue, but on closer reflection, it occurred to me that it still could happen to me. I am doing great and loosing weight right now, but then again, my life is easy right now too. It is easy to stay on track when I live a comfortable middle-class lifestyle where only one parent has to work, and the other parent cooks bean soups from scratch and mixes up vegan salad dressings for me. It is easy to stay on track with a Costco membership that allows us to stock up on beautiful, fresh produce each week. And it is easy to stay on track when there is no stress in my life at all. Everyone I love is healthy and happy, and I have very few responsibilities. But that could all change. It is easy for me to talk tough now, pledge to live this nutritarian lifestyle for life. But only time will tell whether I can resist the socially acceptable temptation to fall off the wagon and drown my sorrows in junk food if I land a job where the demands are overwhelming me and my co-workers are unkind, or I am faced with tragedy.
The second reason why I feel my weight is worth writing has to do with something my grandma used to say to me growing up. I forget what the context was for these situations, but my devoutly Catholic grandma liked to say, “when you die and stand before Almighty God to account for your sins, he’s not going to want to hear, “but God, give me a break! I wasn’t nearly as sinful as so-and-so.” He will say, “I am not asking about So-and-so. I’m asking about you.” How does this apply to my weight situation? Well, although I may not be as overweight as some, being even a little overweight puts me at greater risk for diabetes, heart disease and some cancers too. Grandma’s words came into my mind one day, and I realized that if how well you cared for the body He gave me is something God will judge, and I try to say, “But God, I wasn’t as overweight as some people.” He could say, “I’m not asking about those people. I’m asking about you.” The bottom line is, the only person whose behavior I can control, and for whom I will be held accountable is myself, and when looked at from that standpoint, my weight is a serious issue.
So after this first weigh-in, I said a silent prayer for success and headed downstairs for my first meal. In Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat To Live cookbook a few days earlier, I had seen a recipe for Quick Banana Berry Breakfast To Go. I am often sleepy in the morning, so I like breakfasts that are simple to prepare, meaning microwavable and not too many ingredients. This seemed like a simple recipe. The main ingredients were simply blueberries, a banana, and oatmeal. But then I got to wondering if this combination of ingredients would be gross to me once microwaved. Then it occurred to me, “why not just make my breakfast oatmeal, blueberries and a banana, all things which I like by themselves?” Thus, this was my breakfast most days on the plan. The recipe was created to serve two, so I just halved everything and had one banana, a cup of blueberries (Costco’s blueberries are big and sweet and delicious) and 1/4 a cup of oatmeal, which yielded 1/2 cup once microwaved. If we ran out of blueberries, I would substitute a clementine or some cantaloupe for the blueberries.
Perhaps nowhere is the contrast between my former gluttony and my new lifestyle more apparent than at breakfast time. I cannot believe how a breakfast I once thought was healthy is so over-the-top now that I am living the nutritarian lifestyle. I always knew that eggs loaded with cheese, with a side of hashbrowns and a muffin was pretty fattening, and that was my breakfast on average twice a week. But the breakfast I considered healthy was a full cup of oatmeal, topped with a teaspoon of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of raisins and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, a banana, applesauce (at least this was the no added sugar kind), a slice of gluten free toast with easily a full two tablespoon serving of Jif peanut butter on top, and a big tall glass of skim milk. This former breakfast alone exceeded the amount of grain one is supposed to eat in a day, had lots of added sugar between my oatmeal and the peanut butter, had twice the recommended amount of dried fruit one should eat in a day, had dairy which is another form of sugar that lacks nutrients, and I don’t even know how many calories it all was. I probably could have lost weight just modifying breakfast and nothing else, but then again, I was so addicted to food that eating smaller meals hadn’t been successful in the past.
That first morning, I was on fire with passion for this healthier lifestyle and wanted to be extra good, so although two tablespoons of dried fruit was allowed, I did not add my raisins. All I had on my oatmeal was cinnamon, and let me tell you it was one bland bowl of oatmeal! But maybe bland was a fact of life I was going to have to accept. Maybe for too long, I lived to eat, when nature intended for us to eat to live, using food only to fuel us rather than for pleasure. By Tuesday, my mom had convinced me to add the raisins. After all, a healthier lifestyle is not intended to strip all the pleasure from food. The purpose is simply to reset our taste buds to appreciate the natural flavors of food rather than drowning it in so much salt and sugar we no longer taste the food itself. The raisins made a huge difference, so much in fact that I didn’t even miss the brown sugar.
After breakfast, I thought I would still be hungry, but I wasn’t. Maybe I was so passionate about my new lifestyle that I overlooked the hunger pangs, or maybe I was already starting to understand that most of the calories my breakfast used to contain were eaten out of toxic hunger, another principle Dr. Fuhrman discusses in his book, meaning that I was simply addicted to the tastes of food, food which my body never really needed. I once read an article that gave a time-table for how quickly symptoms could resolve when smokers quit smoking, and some symptoms lifted immediately. If I ever had the chance to write a similar article for people who abstain from unhealthy foods, I would say that the symptoms that resolve immediately are a feeling of sluggishness, and a rumbly stomach. I will never forget how that morning as I got ready for church, my stomach was silent, and I felt lighter on my feet and full of energy! It was amazing, and I noticed it all that first week! It was almost like being re-born! I think now I have gotten used to it, but I hope if my diet ever starts to slip, that I would notice right away that I feel heavier, and quickly get back on track to feel light again!
By the time church ended, my mouth was starting to water and I was starting to feel hungry, but by then it was lunchtime! For lunch, I just had a huge plate of spinach with no dressing that first day, and an apple. The day before, we had gone to Good Harvest, an upscale grocery store we thought would have nutritional yeast for my salad dressing, but we didn’t trust that their offerings were gluten free, so I ordered Bob’s Red Mill nutritional yeast from Amazon, but it wouldn’t arrive until Monday. Oh well, I figured. Like I said, I needed to get used to the idea of eating to live anyway. That afternoon, I alternated between hanging out with my family who was watching the Packer Game (which I never cared about) and reading in my room, which I purged of all Christmas candy and junk food stashes the night before. My dad wanted chicken wings, so my mom made those for him and my brother. They smelled good, but I wasn’t tempted because for me, she was making a 9-bean chili recipe! We have had this chili before and it was wonderful! The recipe called for some of the vegetables to be sautéed in oil before they were added to the beans, so this was the only step we had to modify for it to be Fuhrman-approved.
The chili was ready at about 5:30 and it was the most delicious, comforting thing I had eaten all day. I had two heaping bowls of it! But around then, I noticed I was starting to get a headache. This could only be the beginning of withdrawal, I realized. Dr. Fuhrman warned this could happen. It is just amazing the similarities between drug addiction, and an addiction to toxic food. I never thought I was an “addict” but that night I found out I was. I had planned to watch a little television with the family and let my chili digest, then do my usual treadmill workout, but realized that wouldn’t be wise when my headache worsened, and I starting getting chills. Around 8:00 or so, I said goodnight to everyone and hobbled up to bed.
I found my warmest pajamas and slept well for awhile, but sometime during the night, my headache got a lot worse and by morning, it was so bad I felt like I might throw up or pass out. My intention if I got a headache had been to try and tough it out without medicine so that my body could fully eliminate all the toxins from my tissues, but by 7:00 that morning, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I hobbled down to the kitchen and ate a cup of applesauce to coat my stomach so I could take Excedrin. Dr. Fuhrman doesn’t like processed fruit, but that was all I felt like my stomach could take, and my mom assured me it had no added sugar, and for that reason, I decided I wasn’t cheating by eating it. Then I went back to bed and slept until about 11:00. Thank goodness I started this diet when I didn’t have a job to report to is all I can say! But when I woke up, I felt great! I felt even lighter than I had the day before, and although Dr. Fuhrman said withdrawal symptoms could last up to a week, I did not experience any more withdrawal symptoms besides this migraine. I would have a very mild headache Tuesday morning, but I think that one was sinus related not diet related because my nose was stuffed up. The remainder of that week, I felt absolutely fantastic!
My nutritional yeast I had ordered arrived that morning and later that evening, Mom mixed up the first of many batches of Creamy Roasted Garlic salad dressing. It was thinner than I was used to salad dressing being, but it had a wonderful flavor. I wouldn’t miss Marie’s Chipolte Ranch at all with this delicious, and much more nutritious alternative in our refrigerator.
That first week, there were plenty of occasions when I could have easily given into temptation. On Tuesday, Mom, who was assigned that day to bring treats to her bible study, baked almond spice cookies, one of my favorite kinds, but I resisted. On Wednesday, I decided to accompany my parents to Chicago to visit my sister. She lives on the other side of the country so we don’t get to see her very often, but it so happened that she had to take a business trip to Chicago, just an hour and a half’s drive from us, so we decided to drive down and meet her for dinner. We went to Noodles, one of my favorite restaurants where I could have ordered Penne Rosa with gluten free pasta, but I ate my own salad from home. And to top it all off, my brother wanted Chinese food Saturday evening, which always smells wonderful, but I filled up on a wonderful vegetable medley Mom and Dad concocted using pea pods, broccoli, onions, peppers and asian spices. With heaping bowls of soup for lunch every day–the 9-bean chili lasted through Tuesday and then Mom cooked me a wonderful lentil soup–I didn’t miss the chips, bread and lunch meat I used to eat at all. As I woke up every day feeling more light and full of energy than I ever have in my life, I wondered anew why I had let myself become so addicted to food that in retrospect, left me sluggish, heavy and sick to my stomach when healthy food was so satisfying and made me feel so much better!
As I drifted off to sleep that Saturday night, I smiled in irony as I realized that in just one week, I went from someone who dreaded standing on the scale, to someone who couldn’t wait to stand on it the next morning. Every day I felt lighter. I couldn’t wait to learn exactly how much lighter I really was!