Fourteen months ago I began my journey to better health and a lesser me. At that time I had just turned 44 years old, weighed 223 pounds, and faced a number of all too common ailments including high cholesterol, high triglycerides, kidney stones, chronic cough [undiagnosed asthma], severe chest pain, pre-diabetes, Lupus, embarrassing skin rashes, chronic depression, constant fatigue, dizzy spells, and the all too familiar aches and pains associated with being 100+ pounds over-weight. In addition to all this, I also dealt with a few physical issues that I am too embarrassed to mention that were (as it turns out) directly related to my diet.
If you have read my ‘About Me’ page then you already know the circumstances that brought me to this journey. Rather than rehashing that I would encourage you to go there for more information on why I made this change.
Brief history…. I didn’t follow any particular ‘fad diet’. I didn’t even ask friends for advice. I basically made up my own guideline and then took things a day at a time. My rules have been flexible and I’ve been forgiving of myself whenever I [cheat] failed to meet my expectation. I really started out without a clear long term plan. I only knew that I needed to change and so I did. I began with a three week [cleanse] of just raw, organic fruits and veggies. Basically, if I couldn’t grow it, I didn’t eat it. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do after the three weeks were up. I just knew that this was how I wanted to start. During that time, I quickly became bored with salads and bananas! Rather than breaking the one and only rule I had set up, I started searching the internet for ideas of how to make raw food more exciting. That began my journey into studying nutrition. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know. It also shaped the path of this journey and has continued to lead my along the way.
Two weeks into my new diet I went for an annual checkup. Already my lab results were greatly improved over my previous checkup and I had lost 20 pounds. My doctor was impressed but cautioned my about eating a strictly raw food diet. I let him know that it was only a temporary part of my plan. At any rate, with 20 pounds gone and the improved test results, I was highly motivated to continue on! Over the next month I lost another 20 pounds. From the beginning I took weekly photos and kept a chart of my weight and body measurements. Over the past 12 months, my progress has slowed but I am still headed in the right direction. My dietary guidelines have evolved and taken me in a direction that I never actually thought I would go. I currently eat a high raw [70-85%] plant based, vegan diet.
Today, I have lost a total of 72 pounds! I still have 31 pounds to go and my goal [flexible] is to have it gone by Christmas of this year. A month ago I went for my annual physical and I absolutely aced it! All of my blood work came back better than ever! My triglycerides and cholesterol where perfect! Nowhere close to being too high. My good cholesterol was up; my blood sugar was absolutely perfect, along with my blood protein and calcium levels. My ANA [indication of Lupus] went from 400 to just 40! One of the biggest surprises for me was that my kidneys are functioning not just okay but according to my doctor, they are functioning better than ever! I am 40% healthier than most people of my demographic.
The ONE THING that did not come back well was my B12 count. Some may be tempted to blame this on my vegan diet but in all fairness I have to point out that my B12 count has been low for at least 12 years. It is true to say that it’s at its lowest point ever though  and my doctor describes it as being ‘dangerously low’. With that in mind, he immediately started me off with a B12 shot during my exam and I followed it up with a second shot a few days ago.
As a vegan, I have a couple of options to ensure I receive adequate B12. The very best option is daily sub-lingual supplements. The next option is to receive monthly shots. I have NEVER been good at taking pills of any kind. It’s the reason I have such a large family ;). Realistically I know that my best efforts at taking B12 supplements would fizzle out after just a few weeks and I would find myself still deficient. That leaves either returning to a limited vegetarian diet or taking monthly shots. I vote for the shots. Over the next several months I will continue to take the shots and have my blood re-evaluated to check my progress. I am truly hoping that the shots will be enough to take care of this issue as I really do not want to return to any sort of animal products. If you have been keeping up with my blog you know that in February I became a vegan and later it became an ethical issue for me. I won’t sacrifice my health to it but I will try every method available before I return to any animal products.
That said, I can’t adequately express how happy I am! I literally feel like a new person. Despite my low B12 I have more energy than ever and I haven’t dealt with any real depression since I began this journey! I am in better shape than I was at 20 years old and spiritually I feel far more in tune with myself, my world, and my God.
I really want to encourage everyone out there who is struggling with obesity, depression, or any of the health issues that so many of us face. I know how hopeless it seems. I know that you [never] see any real life success stories. I know what it’s like to come from a family where everyone struggles with the destiny of obesity and illness. I know what it’s like to look in a mirror and not recognize the person staring back at you. I know how confusing all the information is about what’s actually good nutrition. I know all the ‘reasons’ we have for not being [able] to take control of our health.
I also know that it’s all a lie. You CAN be healthy! You CAN be thin! You CAN see yourself in the mirror again! You CAN beat depression! You CAN heal your body! It takes more than just wanting it though. For me it came to a breaking point. The status quo could not go on. Something had to give. You are the only one who can walk this road and it begins with one step. There are so many people willing to encourage you and guide you but ultimately, you must find YOUR path. Walking someone else’s road will not bring you to your destination. Please note that I am not saying you have to work out some grand plan up front. You don’t. You just need to take one single step. You will learn along the way which step to take next. Because you are unique, you will need to find a unique path that is just right for you. My path works for me but you may have different health needs than I do. In other words, there is no one right way to do this because we are each individuals with different needs. I cannot stress this enough. It’s the reason fad diets (with rare exception) don’t work! There are certainly general guidelines to start but only you can determine the parameters you are able to live with physically, socially, and emotionally. I choose to keep my doctor in the loop because the test results and his knowledge of my medical history let me know if I’m headed in the right direction.
One more thing I need to bring up. Throughout this journey I have not begun any sort of exercise regimen. It’s something I have known I should do but I haven’t prioritized until just last week. I finally went to a gym and had a session with a personal trainer to teach me where to begin. He showed me a number of simple stretches and strength training exercises that require no equipment and will get me started for several months before I move on to anything more rigorous. About two months ago I started belly dancing via video classes from the internet (free) with a friend in my home. There is a group that performs locally in our area and we have joined them for practice sessions a few times. The interaction with other women is wonderful and my self-image is better than ever! This gives me a light cardio workout that I truly enjoy and I plan to begin jumping rope 3x per week as part of my new exercise program. The key to any sort of lifestyle change is finding what you can live with. I have never been really big on exercising so this is the start of phase two in taking control of my health. I have always loved dancing though so when my friend invited me to start practicing with her, it was a natural fit for me. The workout routines will be tougher to talk myself into. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m only bringing this up to say that if the idea of diet and “exercise” is too overwhelming to you right now…. Skip the exercise! You can still greatly improve your health by diet alone! Eventually, you will want to exercise. You will have enough energy that you will NEED to exercise. But that will come. It doesn’t have to all happen in a day.
You may not understand how it’s possible for me to say this but I can tell you that I truly care about you. I’m connected to you. Even though I may not know you, you are so very special to me. I wish you the all the vitality, joy, peace, and good health that my God has planned for your life! I would LOVE to hear your story! You are welcome to reply to this post or email me privately at TheBajan@live.com
Many blessings…. Michelle