The Daily Beet

27 Aug Adventures with Ami: My Story.

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I have always struggled with my weight. I was a chubby kid and adolescent.  Food was my comfort. Every year a few more pounds. I started low carbing back in 2004 when I weighed 210 pounds. I was a mess. Anxious, angry, scared and sick a lot.  I was on meds for migraines, asthma, allergies and acid reflux at age 26. Low carbing seemed to work, and it was really fast.  I was militant. 35g of carbs or less per day and 1300 calories or less per day got me from 210 to 129 over the course of a year.  I looked sick, had very little muscle and little energy.  But I was skinny…which is what I thought I wanted.  Somehow this was not the fit body I had envisioned.  I’ve learned a lot over the years.  Magic pills don’t work.  Low carbing wasn’t what got me to 129 pounds, calorie restriction did. The scale doesn’t tell the whole story.  I was remarkably unhealthy after being in ketosis for a couple of years low carbing.  My cholesterol was 242. I was also wildly misinformed about nutrition.  Attempting to maintain my weight was tough.  I gained back half the weight I had lost.

When I met my husband, he was a vegetarian.  He was an amazing cook so I tried being vegetarian.  We loved to eat! We ate a lot of dairy and high fat foods.  We fell in love and gained extra pounds in our love/food fueled bliss.  We even had vegan cupcakes at our wedding. Our clothes didn’t fit.  We had to do something.  Over two years ago, I bought Brendan Brazier’s book – Thrive.  I read it cover to cover and attempted a couple of recipes.  Then it sat collecting dust.  I wasn’t ready.  The following year, we tried Dr. Barnard’s 21 day Vegan Kickstart.  It worked, but we fell off the wagon in Chicago.  Foiled by Gino’s East Pizza! At my annual check up my Cholesterol scores were: 229 – TRI: 177 HDL: 52 LDL: 142

During that time I had purchased Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn’s book Prevent And Reverse Heart Disease.  I read it cover to cover, made a couple of recipes and then…well…same old story…Dr. Esselstyn sat on the bookshelf next to Brendan Brazier, shaking his head in disappointment.  Spring came last year and found us at our heaviest in years.  I bought The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay S. Nixon.  I remarked to my husband,Bill, that this..this I can do! I can eat this way and be happy!  I’m a sucker for cookbooks with photos! I bought The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn shortly there after.  I was building a compendium of information and recipes to sustain us. A few weeks later, Bill Clinton was going to be on CNN talking about his new found Vegan lifestyle and how it changed his life.  We watched rapt, in silence to find out he was doing what Dr. Esselstyn recommended.  “HEY! We have that book!” I was trying to figure out how to commit to being whole foods plant-based.  How do I give up my beloved plain yogurt? A few months later I stumbled upon Forks Over Knives on Netflix.  That’s it. Yes!!!

WE ARE DOING IT! December 27, 2011 we got down to business.  Several false starts, fear, excuses and laziness prevented us from getting started earlier.  As we had the tools all along. Sitting there collecting dust and waiting for us to get smart and get busy.

We jumped in, full on Firefighter mode, we got our behinds to the gym, found fitness that is fun for us, learned a lot about ingredients and what we are really capable of accomplishing.  I love being a recipe scientist! Constructing meals that we truly enjoy, that nurture us.  I attended the Farms2Forks Immersion Weekend in Austin, TX to learn even more about how we could thrive. I learned so much from the Farms2Forks team over the course of the weekend.  I came home rejuvenated and focused on making this change a permanent one and helping others to do so as well.

I have lost 43 pounds so far, so many inches, gained a bunch of muscle, but most of all, I gained the empowerment of knowing I can sustain this lifestyle. My cholesterol score after 6 months of E2: 139 – TRI: 91 HDL: 40 LDL: 81. Almost a 50% reduction! I take no meds and feel amazing! I LOVE being whole foods plant-based.  It has made a tremendous difference in my health, my energy level, my relationship with food.  I am focused now on continuing to improve my fitness level with strength training, running, swimming and yoga.  I’ve been certified in Plant-Based Nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Foundation/eCornell.  I am currently studying Fitness Nutrition at the National Academy of Sports Medicine so I can help other find whole foods plant-based success!

Before and After
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Ami Mackey for Engine 2
Ami Mackey

Ami Mackey is the Curator of Creative Content at Engine 2. She is also a food coach at Engine 2 and has been plant-strong since 2011. When she isn't attending to all things Engine 2, she is the Program Director at St Louis All City Boxing a nonprofit youth program. She has earned certificates from eCornell in Plant-Based Nutrition & Fitness Nutrition from NASM.

  • Melanie
    Posted at 09:46h, 27 August

    CONGRATS! I hope to be you in a year! We have waded into the pool of Plant Strong and don’t want to go back!

  • JenO
    Posted at 09:58h, 27 August

    What an amazing story! So proud of you and your family for sticking it out and reaching success! And thanks for sharing your credentials.. something I will investigate and hope to follow.

  • Cynthia
    Posted at 10:43h, 27 August


  • Christy Hartman
    Posted at 11:02h, 27 August

    Great story Ami, and congratulations on your journey! 
    Eerie fact – your start date is the exact same as mine!?! Weird!  

  • Greg Turner
    Posted at 14:36h, 27 August

    I guarantee you that you will be helped on your journey if you read “The Gabriel Method”. It does not contradict anything about eating a plant based diet. It does, however, have a lot to say about how one goes about adapting new healthy foods into one’s life.

  • Erin Kathleen O'Bryan
    Posted at 15:57h, 27 August

    I read this article and thought I want to be Ami. I am a vegetarian but not a very good one at that, need to give up all the processed stuff! Thanks for sharing.

  • abr5473
    Posted at 09:55h, 02 September

    I am impressed. My husband and I watched Forks Over Knives last night and I am truly interested in learning more about this plant based eating lifestyle. I understand that you are supposed to cut out all meat. Does this include fish as well? Thank you.

  • Jo Ellen Tippins
    Posted at 18:54h, 03 September

    Ami… what an amazing testimony of guts and grace! Love it.. thank you for sharing your story! It’s is such an encouragement! (((hugs)))

  • jem696@sbcglobal.net
    Posted at 05:47h, 04 September

    I have numerous books on my shelf
    collecting dust. I have read them and have gone to numerous events
    such as the emersion in Chicago. However, I ‘m still struggling with the
    mindset required to make it a lifestyle.

  • Bernard Hemensley
    Posted at 13:08h, 15 September
    • Bernard Hemensley
      Posted at 13:12h, 15 September

      It is good to hear such stories, Ami. i am consolidated in my own similar diet for quite a while now and have best health of my 64 years..BUT still find this encouraging and supportive.

  • Becky Cornwell
    Posted at 17:52h, 06 January

    So amazing!! This hits really close to home to me bc my “rock bottom” was being diagnosed with chronic hypertension…at 30!! With 3 small kids. Very inspiring 🙂

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