This interview series is a source for inspiration, motivation and practical “how to” tips for overcoming common challenges while receiving the many benefits that come with a health-promoting power plate of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. This evidence-based nutrition includes such benefits as new found energy, sustainable weight loss, improved complexion as well as preventing and reversing heart disease, diabetes and even some forms of cancer, in addition, to other chronic degenerative diseases.
Meet Sarah, a 36 year old wife and mother to 2 wonderful children. Sarah switched to a plant based diet in January of 2015. What was her incentive? Family members with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, rheumatoid arthritis, various cancer, and cardiovascular disease. While still in her 20s, Sarah suffered from a laundry list of challenges: depression, low iron, terrible PMS and periods, as well as experiencing a constant struggle with her weight, and overall low energy with pain and stiffness in her fingers.
1. Being motivated to make changes to my diet .. . I’ve spent my entire life trying to lose weight! I tried many different diets to lose weight in the past. After the birth of my second child, I was desperate to get rid of the lingering baby weight. I watched Forks Over Knives and Vegucated on Netflix in the spring of 2014 which really got me thinking and opened my eyes. So I stopped eating meat from cows and pigs and instead switching to more chicken and fish. A few more months go by and then one night I said to my husband “I won’t eat cows or pigs anymore but I’m still eating chicken and fish…what’s the difference?” His response was “nothing” He probably was hopes I’d start eating “normal” again. I realized it was time to re-evaluate my choices again. So I started cutting back on what meat I was still eating. In October 2014, it was confirmed by our naturopath that our daughter had digestive issues with all dairy and eggs as well as a sensitivity/reaction to all meats. So it was time to get serious and make the final changes. Somehow I stumbled across the Happy Herbivore website and signed up for her meal plans, then bought several of her cookbooks. I dove in head first to research as much as I could about veganism and plant based eating. I soon began learning from Drs John McDougall, T. Colin Campbell, Michael Greger, Caldwell Esselstyn and continued eating the Happy Herbivore Meal Mentor meal plans. While everything was plant-based, I was not whole food or low fat in the beginning. It was a lot to change. I had so much more to learn and adapt to make it more whole..
2. Getting the support of my family . . . I did not have the support of my husband or the rest of my family. I did not have any friends who ate plant- based either. It was a lonely and stressful time. My 4 year old son just wanted hotdogs and chicken nuggets and fish sticks again and again. Luckily my daughter was only 18 months, so she happily ate whatever I put in front of her. I received a lot of criticism and little understanding. I spent a lot of my free time looking online for videos, articles, recipes, etc.
3. Overcoming my craving for fat, salt, sugar, fast food etc. . . I used to be a cheese addict. Everything needed extra cheese! When we got the diagnosis for my daughter, I quit dairy for around 3 months. At a 2014 New Year’s Eve Party I tried a little square of cheese and found it was the most disgusting thing I could ever remember eating. It was salty, greasy and tasted nothing like I remembered. Other than that, I haven’t really missed any animal foods. I do have a difficult time with sweets though. While plant- based, I can still overindulge on cupcakes or cookies, so I know that I need to either avoid or limit them (Like Chef AJ does!). I try to keep my sweets to fruit.
4. Keeping myself on track is easiest when . . .Staying on track is easiest when I keep it simple and to family faves. My children are quite plain in their tastes so we prefer to keep things to the basics for the majority of our meals and go ‘crazy’ when we have company or on a weekend. Plus I find I don’t overeat as often when the flavours are more mild and subtle. I don’t get the same “I can’t stop eating this feeling” when the food is less exciting and arousing to the senses. But don’t mistake that for dull and boring. There are plenty of spices and condiments that make things tasty.
5. When eating out . . . We rarely eat out anymore, mostly just when we travel to see family. On rare occasions like this we may make an exception on the salt or oil content but always keep it plant-based. For example, that is possible with Subway, Extreme Pita and Wendy’s. When my husband and I would go out, I would usually stick to a salad or scan on the sides menu. This year, I became more outspoken and actually contacted the restaurant in advance. They were happy to make me a special dish and it was amazing. We went to that same restaurant for our anniversary and it was wonderful to share a low fat WFPB meal together that we didn’t have to cook! I will definitely take this approach when dining out in the future. And I encourage everyone to do this as well. When you create the demand – supply will follow.
6. Recognizing my greatest accomplishment so far. . . My greatest accomplishment has been improving the health of my entire family. I have come to realize how strong and determined I am (to make this lifestyle change alone, with 2 young kids, and a husband that did not agree with me for the first 2 years. My efforts helped both my husband to switch his diet and find health and weight loss as well as help my mom get off her 10+ year high blood pressure meds and see her arthritis pain disappear. It is rewarding to share the WPB lifestyle with others and hear their success stories!
7. Other benefits of eating whole plant-based for me include . . . I never expected that my period and PMS would improve, that my low iron would no longer be a problem, and those breakouts that I thought were normal would stop happening, that I could go below 150 lbs without starving myself, that my children would stop being sick every single month.
8. Continuing to work on . . . I continue to work on my cravings for sweets and baked goods. They are a weight killer for me and so I know I need to be diligent. I also need to find more constructive ways to deal with my stress as food or cigarettes/alcohol used to be the ‘fix’.
9. Sharing my favourite recipe with you. . . Here are 2 of my fave dishes – rice, canned brown beans (or make your own), pre shredded coleslaw veggies, and salsa with a little taco sauce. Sometimes we’ll roll this up into a burrito with some of Happy Herbivore’s queso sauce.
Cowboy salsa verde over potatoes. Diced tomatoes, black beans, salsa verde, corn, and chili powder with a squeeze of lime juice. Delicious!
Some of my before and after pics
Bottom left – Wedding Day 2006
Top left – March 2014
Right – Jan 2018
Wish to share the story of your ongoing journey? Sarah wanted to help others and let them know change for the better is truly possible – contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love for others to benefit from your story!!!
Download Your Free Copy
Download your FREE copy of Dr. Esselstyn's lecture on Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease.