To back up a bit Dawn had been seeking medical help for her constant battle with GERD but never a fan of medications she was keen to try something other than what her doctor had prescribed. There was a plan to scope her esophagus and she had routine blood work done which revealed high cholesterol. Her doctor had also encouraged her to lose some weight as she was about 40 pounds too heavy. Within a week of switching to a nearly 100% plant based diet (she still occasionally treats herself to milk chocolate) her symptoms had completely reversed and she was able to comfortably sleep through the night. (Note: I was also able to rid myself of medication and alleviate chronic acid reflux when I adopted a plant based diet 5 years ago) She reported having more energy and her weight loss has been steady without any effort to diet.
An avid spin class person at her local gym, Dawn found that after her diet switch she no longer had joint pain, particularly in her knees. Her skin improved as well as her hair and nails. She bought herself a new car, and was excited to tell me that she felt at 53 that she had a new lease on life. Her favourite cookbook? Eat to Live which promotes not only a plant based diet but one devoid of sugar and processed oils.
I recommended Dawn to start a B12 supplement, and to try Dr Fuhrman's other books including The End of Dieting. I could tell she was excited at the idea of not having to diet again. The notion of overeating broccoli seemed absurd to both of us, it's a great relief to know your days of calorie restriction have come to an end. One of the most common complaints of new vegans is a lack of energy or perceived nutrient deficiency. In truth vegans are no more likely to be iron, B12 or protein deficient than meat eaters. What plagues someone new to a whole foods plant based diet is that their food has low calories but high nutrient density. We tend to lose our appetite before we've eaten sufficient calories, in particular those of us that are athletic. The answer? Eat more, usually meaning including healthy snacks and ensuring you have good sources of fats (nuts, seeds, avocado) and protein (beans, lentils, etc.)
Dawn has two older children living with her that are not vegan, but she tells me that they happily eat her food. There is no option after all and they can indulge in meat when away from home with friends. In fact her cooking skills have improved as she reports a new interest in cooking since the dietary switch. Her husband has wanted to be vegetarian for a long time and it was him that originally encouraged the change. While he does still use cream in his coffee and eats cheese they've begun their journey into plant based eating without worrying about perfection. That is the key to success, ignoring the need to adhere to a dogmatic approach. Forgive your missteps and work on your (as Sid would say) "Most of the Time."
Dawn recently had her 83 year old mother-in-law stay with them for a week. She was initially apprehensive about being fed only salads but left having enjoyed all the food (not one salad was served) and for the first time she can remember not gaining a single pound on holiday. Dawn has noticed that some of her friends have become awkward about inviting her for meals, but others are enthusiastic and interested in her new diet. Food, being such a social centrepiece in our lives, can create tension when one person makes a drastic change in a social circle. It has a way of reflecting back on the friends and family that haven't changed causing conflict and tension. We don't really like to examine our behaviours and even when encountered with an non-preachy vegan, their presence has a way of making us self reflect. If you've made the transition yourself the best advice I can give you is to never preach, go out of your way to ensure people know you aren't judging them. While friends and family may distance themselves from you at first, after a time your health and vibrancy will bring many of them back asking you for guidance. We create a lot more change with love and acceptance than anger and judgment.
As for Dawn, I'm eager to hear from her again in 90 days for an update, I hope you'll follow along.
Note: Nothing you read here on this site (or hopefully any site on the internet) should be taken as a substitute for medical advice. Always work with your doctor, dietician etc when considering any changes particularly if you have a medical condition. With that in mind if you're struggling with diet, poor health or weight loss let me ask you this....what have you got to lose? What if you tried 3 weeks on a plant based diet? What if it worked?