How I lost 40 pounds and became a Cheating Vegan

The Backstory, in a nutshell:

Girl develops taste for processed food and sweets, consumes through high school and college. She decides to become a doctor, and starts medical school, where little, if any, actual nutrition is taught. Girl loses weight before her wedding to a handsome classmate-now-doctor. She regains the weight, earns her M.D., and during the 30-hour days of residency, survives on late night hospital cafeteria food: pizza and ice cream. According to BMI charts, Doctor-Girl is now officially obese, but too busy running codes and the ICU to think about what she eats, and scarfs more processed stuff between admissions. Fast forward a couple years, and Doctor-Girl and Doctor-Husband find they have a baby on the way! Despite thoughts by some that she has lost her mind, Doctor-Girl quits her 80-hour-a-week job to volunteer weekly in a free clinic and becomes a SAHM the other six days a week. Adorable baby is born, Doctor-Girl becomes Doctor-Mama and actual baby weight is gone within 6 weeks, but…she is still obese. She loses some but regains it all during a second pregnancy, and then is back at square one:

Ninety pounds overweight. 

The First Ten Pounds

I posted about this before, but in a nutshell, I started to run 5 weeks after my boy was born. (I gave myself medical clearance. Yes, I get to do that. Don’t try it at home.) We lived a block from the beach on Isle of Palms, SC that winter. I started with Couch to 5K, which I’d used before, and trained for the Cooper River Bridge Run. By the time we moved away from Charleston last summer, I’d lost ten solid pounds. Only eighty left.

The Next Fifteen Pounds

We arrived at our new town deep in the Carolinas on the hottest day in June. One of those humid, hundred-plus-degree days you see puddles down the road that are really mirages. We rented a house in a small neighborhood off a busy road, so running consisted of repeating a small loop, and the summer was sweltering.

So I joined a gym. Now, if you’ve never been obese you may not realize how hard it is to walk into a gym full of fit, athletic people and sign up. It’s not easy. And this wasn’t just any gym. It was run by retired Marines, and you signed up for anything from one-on-one personal training to small groups to bootcamp-style classes. This was “lifestyle fitness”, which apparently meant things like flipping tires and lifting massive nautical ropes and basically doing strength training fast enough it was cardio training too. My husband was studying for boards all summer so he was able to join with me, and we shared a trainer. This felt like an investment but it was well worth it. If you have the chance—go for it. I also met with a nutritionist for more ideas. By the end of the calendar year in 2011, I had lost another 15 pounds, bringing me to 25 total. Which left me with 65 to go.

Going  Whole-Food Vegan and 15 More Pounds gone

While losing the first 25 pounds, I’d been eating what I considered a fairly healthy diet. Smaller portions, lean meat and dairy, some salads, avoiding fried stuff and sweets. I’d cut out a lot of processed foods. But in December, I ran across the book “Eat to Live”, by Joel Fuhrman, MD. He promotes a whole-foods vegan or almost-vegan diet.

Now, I’m just going to be honest with ya’ll. I’d previously thought of vegans as tree hugging liberals who think they can save the planet. They were judgemental picky eaters, the ones who people didn’t know what to feed at parties and such. But after reading Fuhrman’s book, which I’ll review in greater detail later (and I don’t necessarily agree with all of it), I began to research plant-based nutrition, and uncovered more evidence of the health benefits. So much, in fact, that I committed to 6 weeks of full-fledged whole-food vegan eating. And no “vegan junk food” either. No vegan cookies or vegan “cheese” or any weird processed vegan substances (for lack of another word) that are processed to have the shape and color and maybe texture of meat and such, but are usually a bunch of soy and chemicals smooched together. I also used very little to no oil, including olive oil, as it’s high-calorie and low-nutrient. This left veggies, greens, fruits, veggies, some whole grains, beans, some nuts, seeds, avocados, greens and veggies. Yup.

Y’all, I’m not going to lie. It was tough stuff. The first week was the worst. I had headaches. Maybe withdrawal, whatever. In case you missed it, I live deep in the Carolinas and we’ve got bar-b-que on every corner, with fried chicken on the blocks in between. We’ve got pies and church potlucks. You get the picture. Moderation had always been my ruin, so somehow, committing 100% made it work easier. I didn’t sneak bites of my kid’s plate.  By the end of 6 weeks, I had lost 15 more pounds. I’d hit the forty pound mark, y’all! Only 50 more to go.

The Plateau

Throughout the spring and summer, I kept weight off, despite fluxes in my healthy eating choices and the magnetic pull toward the processed foodlike products of my past. I kind of graduated at the gym into the hardcore bootcamp style classes, which were an hour long (a whole other story in themselves), and won their Client of the Month award. This was back in April.

Well, here it is September and I’ve stalled. I’m running/jogging more now that the weather’s nice, with two 10Ks on the calendar. While I still haven’t gained any weight back, my eating has been terrible lately. Mostly because it’s been a crazy few months of renovating and moving into our new house, and getting the kitchen set up and such—we ate out far too much and I splurged. A lot.

A Cheating Vegan Goes Social

Well, time to get serious again. The goal: plant-based whole foods 80-90% of the time, and cheat a little bit the other 10-20%. This will increase the long-term success of my plan. I can attend social occasions without good vegan options, so I don’t make others uncomfortable when they offer me hospitality. So I guess that makes me a Cheating Vegan. To keep me motivated, and share my knowledge, I’m taking this whole thing to social media. Blogging it, tweeting it.  After all, I’ve got 50 pounds to go, and even more health to gain!

{ 4 comments… add one }

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  • Mohammed June 12, 2014, 11:48 AM

    I hardly comment, however after browsing a bunch of responses here How I lost 40 pounds and became a
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  • Adam Meyer May 11, 2015, 8:54 AM

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  • Guest Posting today at Living Well Spending Less August 20, 2013, 11:06 AM

    […] out my Magic Soup recipe-less recipe, as well as my thoughts on the book Eat to Live and on being a Cheating Vegan. Very soon I'll be plotting my Post-Partum Freezer Meal Diet to help me shed any extra weight […]

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