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The Daily Beet: Tips, Advice and Stories

During.

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I remember the moment that I realized I was overweight. I mean, as a kid, you know you are overweight, but for me there was a specific moment. I was 11 years old, I was in school, and a boy in my grade called me “fatty” as he passed me in the hall., and kicked me. It wasn’t a surprise to me that this boy saw me as overweight, what was a surprise was that he decided to say something, and that he decided that I deserved to be hurt because of it. This began what would be many years of being made fun of and bullied because of my weight.

Now, admittedly I was not a normal kid and my way to combat it all was to rise above it all,  no matter what, and to (in some cases) be friends with the person who was bullying me.

It all becomes tiresome though. Nearly 25 years later, I still battle bullies. Comments are made, sometimes blatant and to my face. Recently I was in a store and a woman came up to me and asked pointedly “Do you know that you don’t have to be fat?”

I looked at her, not knowing really what to say. I mean, I’ve been approached by strangers offering everything from diet advice to pills. It’s always strange. I stood there and finally said “you don’t have to be a bully, but yet here we are.”

She was not very happy and said “excuse me?”

“A bully. People who think they know something about a complete stranger, and feel the need to put that person down, just because they can. This all  goes back a while, more than you could ever want to understand. You think you know something about me, when you know nothing about me. You don’t know if I have a medical problem, or if I might have weighed 450 pounds at one point in my life and you are looking at 200 pounds of weight loss. You don’t know if I work harder than you could ever imagine every single day. You don’t know the hours and hours I’ve spent crying over stupid and hurtful comments. And you don’t know if I just am ok with being fat. It goes back a while, you are not the first, nor will you be the last, and I hope that someday you understand in even the smallest way that you and your opinion mean absolutely nothing to me. I will leave, you will leave and I will be no better for this discussion, but I hope that one day YOU will be better for it.”

You have to know about me, I rarely say anything back to people who make comments. But on this day, I did. I don’t know what it was, I don’t know why it just came out.

She looked at me, in silence. I told her “It’s best that we leave it at that, because you have already taken too much of my time.” and I walked away.

Another woman came up behind me and said to me “You don’t know me, I only caught the end of what you just said to that woman, and I’d like to hug you, because I have wanted to say the same thing to so many people.”

You also should know about me, I’m not really the person who hugs strangers. But there we were, in a grocery store, hugging.

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I wish I did not live in a world that I can say that I just expect people to be mean.  People who have made disparaging comments about my weight, people who should not take any real-estate in my mind, but sadly (and unfortunately) they do. 25 years later, and still I have that fear of what a person might say or do, just because they do not like that I’m overweight.

I’ve said it before, but it stands to be repeated. Life as an overweight person can be difficult. I’m not saying that to invoke sympathy at all, I’m saying that because it is a reality that many have a hard time grasping. There are a lot of things that go into being overweight and then losing weight.

The journey from here to there is one that we often don’t talk about. There are before and after photos, but rarely a depiction of “during”. I feel as though my “during” is this life long part of me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be “there” or if my life will always be in the “during”. No matter, I’m thankful for the journey. I’m thankful for how much I’ve grown as a person, I’m thankful that for the first time in my life, after years of not saying something, I did. I’m thankful for the position I am that has allowed me to be in the “during”.

During is a wonderful place to be. I know that it is tough. I know that it can be difficult because we are constantly reminded in someway that we are not “there”. But what is there? What does the end of the journey look like? I am starting to suspect that we’re always in the “during”. Maybe that is the entire point.

And it’s not for any reasons of self loathing that I desire to lose weight. This is a complete turn around for me. For years, and years my desire to lose weight was only based on hating myself. I wanted to be thin because I didn’t want to be fat. Now, I want to be healthy. I don’t know if that means “thin”. It just means healthy. I want to wake up and feel good, I want to feel alive. I want to not be in any pain that is caused by being overweight, I want to keep T2 diabetes far, far away. I want to keep complications from things like T2 diabetes even further away.

But for once, my desire to become healthy has nothing to do with this sense of self loathing or even impatience. It has a lot more to do with that I have this incredible feeling to want to experience the most out of life for the longest time that I can. For years I was so depressed, stuck in this endless spiral. As I’ve become healthier, I’ve had a glimpse of the future, a glimpse of the way in which I want to experience my life. This was a more recent realization on my part, that I wanted to do this, I wanted to work so hard because I wanted to live.

Perhaps I’m sharing too much, but there have been times in my life where the thought of living was not all that appealing to me. There were years that I wished that the illness that I had would just end things for me. It wasn’t until I got those beginning glimpses of what it felt, or rather what it could feel like that things started to drastically change in my life.

And so for me the goal continues to be to become healthy. The goal is to experience and love life in the “during”. And for me that is finding this beautifully orchestrated way of living that includes choosing foods that compliment how I now feel about myself. In my prior years, I ate the way I felt. The foods that I decided to eat said a lot about what I wanted out of my life. I didn’t choose food that added to my health and wellness, I chose foods that took from that.

That is not a part of me anymore. I choose foods that add to my life, that give, not take, because I have this overwhelming desire to LIVE life to its fullest. It took me a very long to get to that point. It took me a while to not resent the way that I eat. When I started I was angry that I “had” to eat this way. Now the tides have changed drastically. Now I am beyond thankful that there is this fairly simple way of eating that gives me more hope, more years, more life than I thought possible. The difference now? I want that.

You might be in the during for a while. Be content in that forward direction. Be joyfully overwhelmed of the abundance of food that gives rather than takes.

No matter how many years of hurtful words, no matter the struggles before, decide that your life is worth living to the fullest, each and every day, and decide on fueling your body in a way that adds to your life, rather than takes away.

About the author

NatalaE2
Natala is the director of communications for Engine 2 Diet, she is also one of our coaches on our support site, Engine 2 Extra. A few years ago, Natala was at the end of her rope. She was on almost 15 medications daily, had out of control Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, issues with nerve damage, and was morbidly obese. She was just over 30 years old. She decided to take her life back by becoming plant-strong. She has lost over 200 pounds, got off of all of her medications and now has great health numbers. Natala plays the violin and studied music therapy. She became passionate about plant-strong nutrition, received her Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University, a certificate in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and is currently pursuing a degree in nutritional sciences. Natala is also a featured speaker at our Engine 2 Retreats she talks about the reality of our nations obesity epidemic as well as providing practical steps to becoming a healthier person.
  • Judith

    I recently asked someone who you are because I saw you on the line up for the events next year. I won’t name drop, but this person is very high up in the plant-based movement and he responded “she might be the most important person in this entire movement, go listen to her and what she has to say”. I started reading your old blogs, and I am very aware now why that is so. You are a beautiful, eloquent woman, I’m glad you said something to the woman in the store, I hope that woman thinks the next time before she says something hurtful to anyone. God bless you Natala.

  • Lisa

    I would have punched that lady, but I’m glad you said something. You are my she-ro!!!! I just love you and I love that you open up, I’m also overweight and I also live in constant fear of being bullied or made fun of. Thank you for talking about this.

  • Heather L

    Every thing about this post is perfect. Now I need to see you in person, just have to figure out which retreat to go to!

  • Debby in TX

    BRAVO. STANDING OVATION. I love what you had to say about making this about health. OF course what you said to the woman in the store, just brilliant. Love you Natala!

  • Gina

    It is funny to me in the world you are in, you are the only one who has actually gone through what all of the speakers/authors/cookbook creators are telling people to do. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everyone else, but they don’t understand what it’s like to be obese or to suffer from a disease. You are actually going through this all with us, you have no idea how much that means to at least me. Please, please, please write a book and soon. We need you. I wish I could afford a retreat, but I hope that you start touring with Rip, I’d love to meet you (and Rip!)

  • VeganMichelle

    God bless you. And God help that woman in the store, I hope that she learned a lesson. This post comes at a perfect time for me, I’ve lost 45 pounds but I have 50 to go, and I feel stuck and impatient. Got to focus on what matters most. Keep it up Natala, we’re all routing for you.

  • Cheryl S.

    You are amazing and beautiful. Thank you for sharing these courageous and intimate thoughts. I don’t know about that woman in the store but I can say I am better for having read this (even though I already never made or would make such comments!).

  • Cynthia

    As a thin person, who has always been thin, thank you for writing this post (and others) I admit that I look down at overweight people, and I need to stop and really consider what they are going through, I’m ashamed to say that I often don’t think that way. You are a beautfiul lady, I wish you all the best in the world.

  • Lori

    You hit home with every post I see from you. You are an inspiration for so many of us. Someone who has been and is where we are in our journey. We can relate to you like we can’t to many of the other plant based leaders. Thanks for your wonderful posts.

  • James

    I think I speak for everyone when I say PLEASE write a book!

  • Leah

    Thank you for the very positive message. I really appreciate your beautiful words about seeing foods that heal us, make us well, and allow us to thrive and be joyful. This is so important. I also like your commentary about how we view those foods and how our views of foods can become more healthy over time. :)

  • Elaine O’Connell

    I always enjoy reading your blogs and you almost always teach me something. I love that you responded to that woman. I have never had anyone actually say anything but I have gotten “the look” particularly when I go into a running store or other fitness store. I want to tell them, “yes I am a runner and I may be slow but I am serious about it”.

  • Genny

    While I’m about 60 pounds overweight, my husband is obese. When I’m with him, I experience that bullying quite often. The other week we were crossing the street in a suburban area to a park with our 4 year old. A man in a sports car starts honking and yells out, “It wouldn’t take you so long if you weren’t so fat.” We weren’t really going that slow considering we had a little one between us– at any rate, this wrenched my heart even though my husband didn’t seem to mind too much. I wish he would get on board with a new eating plan but I’m not sure how much more I can talk to him about it, I just need him to figure it out for himself. In the meantime, your statement about resenting eating this way evolving into really enjoying eating this way has really struck a chord with me. Just yesterday I had a horrible lunch with fried fish and greasy onion rings. I felt awful afterwards and realized that whatever enjoyment I thought eating that way would bring me, it didn’t. Today is a new day and I’m still here, so it’s a new chance to enjoy life.

    • Leah

      Each day is a new chance to have an absolutely amazing day!

      • Genny

        Thanks Leah!

  • Sharon

    You were wrong, Natala. We are all better for that discussion you had. Thank you.

  • Sammy

    You don’t need a book, you need your own talk show, Oprah would be smart to call you.

  • Mary

    What a beautiful post and an amazing woman you are! I love your honesty with the bully in the store and with us. I don’t care what your weight is. You are B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L!

  • Susie

    When are you speaking? I want to come meet you and hug you, even if you don’t like hugs from strangers LOL!! !

  • Karen

    Wow, this is amazing. I actually knew you back when you were at RBC and I can’t believe that picture is you! You are beautiful, you always were. My friend shared your blog on her facebook page, and I thought, there can’t be that many Natala’s, sure enough! Natala you’ve always held yourself with such poise and dignity, I know those were dark times in your life when you were much heavier and so sick, but look where that got you. What an amazing blessing from God you are. I would love to catch up again, I’ll shoot you an e-mail! Love you sister!!!

  • Marsha

    I was comment to say the same thing as Karen! I remember you from your violin playing, I hope you and your husband are enjoying life wherever you are now. What a beautiful person you, you always have been. That woman in the store doesn’t know how many people you have helped, not just now in what you are doing which sounds fasinating but when I knew you, you were so loving and caring, you are just a person everyone should know! Gods love. Marsha

  • Sarah

    NATALA! I Can’t believe it’s you! You look AMAZING!!! And you are still writing, good for you. Would love to catch up. Are you doing any events in NOVA? I’d love to come!

  • Steven

    You need a book, a talk show, a conference, all of it. And Natala, you are gorgeous, absolutely and positively stunning. Doesn’t matter if it’s “during” there are people who are gorgeous at any size, you are one of them. Now that you are in Austin, I’d love to have lunch with you sometime soon.

  • FatChick

    Thank you, that’s all I can say. As someone who is almost 500 pounds, you have given me more hope than you can ever know. Thank you.

  • Sherisse Hartley

    “I am starting to suspect that we’re always in the “during”. Maybe that is the entire point.” YES YES YES!

    And as always, thank you so much for sharing!

  • Justin

    Amazing story. Glad to see another musician pursuing nutritional truth!

  • Alexis Bonavitacola

    PLEASE write more. “People who should not take any real estate in my mind” literally took my breath away the way an author writes a phrase and you think to yourself that person nailed it, knew how to describe something or someone where the words hit you smack in the face and where you never want to stop reading. Powerful – beyond words. Thank you.

  • Kirsten

    Such a beautiful, inspiring post Natala! Thank you for sharing your ‘during’ with us and the desire to live life to it’s fullest and eating foods that give, not take away from life. I hope in that sometime in my ‘during’ I’m lucky enough to meet you…and give you a HUGE hug!

  • Madison

    Natala, You probably don’t remember me because I think I was still in high school when you were at RBC. I’m in my late 20′s now, and you were an inspiration to me then, and you are now. I can’t believe that picture is you, your “during” certainly looks wonderful on you. I hope that you continue to inspire and lift people up. It’s nice to “see” you after all of these years! Blessings! Madison

  • Diana

    Another Reston person here, just chiming in to say how lovely it was to read about you today, please come back and visit us, I remember you playing your violin with your husband so beautifully, you alwasys made me cry, I still remember “I Can Only Imagine!” chills! I hope you are still playing, and blessing others. You look amazing, would never recognize you if I saw you in person! Your article was very eye opening as well, I will definitely be reading more about the diet you are on.

  • Patty

    This is just amazing, I will be signing up to hear you speak, hopefully in Chicago after I get some cash together! I agree with everyone below, please write more!

  • Dan M

    Just gonna say, Rip is a very lucky man to have you on his team. I have a feeling you are going to be very famous. You responded to that woman so beautifully. Bravo. And it’s so true about being in the during, we’re all in it, always.

  • Craig

    Thank you for your words. Continue to coach, write and inspire. I wish more people could understand what we who are on this road are trying to do with our lives.

  • Gina

    You’ve always been an amazing, talented, beautiful woman. It is so nice to see that you keep inspiring people. I would love to hear you talk, any events in Northern Virginia? While I know that you have become healthier, your weight loss is astonishing! I remember when you were very sick. May God continue to bless you!

  • Jill, Madison, WI

    I just printed this out: “No matter how many years of hurtful words, no matter the struggles before, decide that your life is worth living to the fullest”. This truth is what I needed today. Thank you Natala for being so candid in your journey.

  • Sheri A

    Natala…. Sooo proud of your response to the extremely rude woman in the store! You are soo amazing! Your posts nearly always bring tears to my eyes yet inspire me beyond measure! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your journey with us!!! I have been faltering in my food choices lately…. Getting motivated again to stay plant strong and continue on! Love you Natala!!!!!!! xoxoxoxo

  • DownwardDog

    I’ve never heard of Engine 2, but I’m intrigued. I was sent here by OWN. What I will say is that I adore this post, and I love that you stood up to that woman, but more your words about life overall. Truly, remarkable. Thank you.

  • Mercedes

    Brilliant! BRAVO!!!!

  • Janice

    Saw it on OWN, I was afraid it would be another “miracle” weight loss story, not to take away from your important story, but this was so much more than that. Blessings abound.

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  • Alicia

    We need to stand up to more bullies!!! I am forever in “during” it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.

  • Gina F

    You have that rare ability to distill the pain and take it to a place of renewal and hope. Thank you hardly describes it, but Thank You so very much. I look forward to each post.

  • Stacy

    Thank you for this post, I really needed to hear this today! Sometimes it is easy to feel discouraged that the “during” is taking too long and to forget how far I have come already. You are always an inspiration to me. Thank you for all your hard work, it matters more than you know!

  • HorseLover

    Lovely. TX!

  • risa

    Thank you for being you. I enjoy your story. I can truly understand, people can be mean.

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