This picture of Steve and me came up on my Facebook memories from 2 years ago. It struck me, seeing it in full color, the difference between what we looked like then and what we look like now.
I remember thinking at this point that we were both doing good, or at least better. I had been walking almost daily and had already lost 20 pounds. We had dropped red meat and rich desserts and we ate out only once a week. But we’d hit a standstill on our weight and my husband’s blood work, which meant he was still required to take cholesterol and blood pressure medications daily, and he was considered a diabetic and teetered on the line of needing medication for it. According to the revered food pyramid and the almighty voices of medical reason, we were playing by the rules. Eating what they recommended, getting plenty of exercise. And yet, we felt terrible and couldn’t find healthy no matter how much we exercised. Or how much white meat chicken and eggs we ate.
I went back through my FitBit app this morning and looked up how much I was walking during that time. I was averaging 90,000 steps a week. That’s over 40 miles a week. So, I wasn’t just sitting around being lazy and I wasn’t eating fast food and garbage. And yet I felt awful. This made me realize, after a literal lifetime of fighting this battle, that I may be looking at the whole thing all wrong. That maybe all I’d been taught about food was wrong.
I started a food journal. And I started researching food. Food intolerances, allergies, the food industry itself. And finally, what the healthiest people on the planet eat. Those who rarely see heart disease, strokes or cancers. And more specifically, what they don’t eat.
I was not looking for some overnight sensation with a quick answer. It became a journey with the only destination being health and wellness. Not a number on a scale or an size in clothing. Not a get-thin-quick fad diet or a new form of exercise with a promise or my money back. It was a search to find the healthiest version of ourselves. And the hope that we could beat the genetic odds which were pretty terrifying in both my family or my husband’s.
We’ve both lost 40 pounds since this photos was take two years ago. But now, I average 35,000 steps a week and they are leisurely strolls with the dog and kids. I do gentle yoga on occasion, once every week or two. Exercise has become about honoring my body, not beating it up because it isn’t what I want it to be.
And our blood work? My husband is no longer considered diabetic. We both have stellar blood pressure and our cholesterol is so low that it’s less than what is optimal or average for a 10 year old child. It’s so good that neither of our doctors sees numbers that good come across their desks. And best of all, we feel amazing. No more aches and pains and arthritis and stomach issues and fatigue and allergies and crazy mood swings. No more prescriptions with side effects. And best of all, we feel better than we ever have. Which is amazing since we are turning 44 and 49 years old this summer.
Our diets are simple foods now, yet never boring. We always have way more food dishes we want to try than meals to eat them. But they are made up of simple whole food plants. Fruits, vegetables, rice, beans, lentils. We relearned how to cook and love our food more than ever. We never have the feeling of being overfill or unsatisfied. I literally wouldn’t go back to eating the standard American diet no matter how much you paid me.
What we don’t eat is packaged foods, processed sugar, eggs, meat, dairy, or any kind of processed oils.
It sounds extreme me to most people. But Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, one of the most informative and inspiring doctors I’ve found in this journey, says, “Some people think plant-based diet, whole foods diet is extreme. Half a million people a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme.”
This quote really hits home to me, since my mother had this exact procedure done after a massive heart attack when she was 54 years old. And the first symptom of heart problems is often a heart attack, which results in death half the time. Compared to all of that, eating plants seems simple. Not extreme.
I woke up to that old picture today and felt thankful. For what we’ve learned, for how we’ve grown and changed, and for how we have changed our lives. It could’ve so easily gone the direction of clinging to the standard American diet. I’m so thankful it didn’t.