The Daily Beet

20 Dec Moving the Line of Extreme.

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When I first decided to make some slight changes to the way I ate, people told me not to get “extreme”. This was before I went plant-strong. I had watched the movie “Super Size Me” and decided I shouldn’t eat fast food anymore.

Reasonable, I thought.

Mind you I was morbidly obese at the time as well and I had T2 diabetes and my blood sugar would hover around 300-400 regularly. Yet people warned that I shouldn’t “go overboard” and I should be wary of extreme measures.

Giving up fast food, should not be seen as extreme, but yet, to many it was. And it baffled me then, because lets be honest, isn’t eating fried, dead processed animal parts extreme?

Enter plant-strong. Boy did people think I was nuts. Again, I’ll remind you I was morbidly obese, a severely out of control type 2 diabetic facing partial amputation of my lower leg. How much more extreme could you get?

But people warned me not to be too “extreme”. If I tried to eliminate all of that food I’d surely go nuts, I’d develop more problems obsessing, it’s ok to have some bacon every so often, or a burger, don’t limit, moderation is key.

Again, to me, it was much more extreme that I was in my early 30’s facing amputation, how much more extreme could I possibly get.

Clearly moderation hadn’t worked for me in the past, because I was morbidly obese, well over 400 pounds, I had been on every “diet” and tried everything I could, and I always did the moderation thing – guess what? It didn’t work.

As I moved through plant-strong, it was very evident that I needed to be very diligent about my food choice. I’ll preface this by saying, not everyone is the same. Some people can have a tbs of nut butter and leave it at that.

I can’t.

I have a tbs and the next thing I know the jar is gone. This is not an exaggeration, this has happened SEVERAL times in my past. If I eat out and “indulge” that is all I think about, for DAYS. I can’t leave it at that meal, I can’t have it as a treat, I wish that were the case, but it is not me, and I don’t think it will ever be.

Yet people tell me all the time that I’m ‘extreme’ that I’m setting myself up for some kind of disorder, one in which I have to be perfect.

I’m not perfect. I’m sensible, and I’m smart about my own needs and addictions.

For me it’s like being an alcoholic. Many would say that cutting out alcohol 100% is extreme, but it is it extreme for the alcoholic?

Of course not, it is sensible and smart for someone who battles addiction.

The issue (in my opinion) is in our society. In many communities around the globe how Americans eat would seem horrifying and extreme. The issue is that in our modern American society we are presented with so many unhealthy options that we have done a reversal of what is sensible and sane.

Rather than it being sensible and sane to consume whole vegetables, grains, fruits and beans, it is seen as extreme. And it is thought to be attempting to achieve some level of perfection that no one can attain.

But look at many other parts of the world. Do you think that people in rural China would view an abundance of vegetables, whole grains, fruit and beans as being an extreme way to eat? There are billions of people who would celebrate and rejoice over those options.

Yet here in the United States, our over abundance of a multitude of food that is hurting us has made that seem like the norm, and healthy, plant-based eating as being extreme.

How I eat is simply sensible. I don’t go crazy over it. I don’t obsess over it. It’s just the way I eat. I never have to read labels, I eat until I’m comfortably full, I enjoy food a lot, I do not feel deprived.

That was not always the case of course. When I first started I did see it as extreme. No oil?? No processed food? No cheese?

As I’ve danced through this plant-strong journey those things seem like distance memories. Food is just food. It’s enjoyable, but I don’t worry about it like I used to. I’ve kept things so simple where I don’t have to worry about it.

For me, to indulge in unhealthy, disease promoting foods is not an option. That is not because I’m being extreme, or because I feel as though I need to achieve some nutritional nirvana. It is simply because I want to be free from the addictions that once held me back and made me become so ill that I wanted to end my life.

When people tell you that you are being extreme, think about all of the foods that are truly extreme, the ones that damage our hearts, that cause more insulin resistance, that destroy endothelial cells, that cause spikes in blood pressure, think about the foods that lead to preventable diseases or the foods that cause some (like myself) to spiral into previous addictions. Think about what over-consuming certain foods can do. Isn’t that more extreme? That we would risk life-debilitating illness over food?

Move the line of what extreme is. Plant-strong is not extreme, it is simply sensible.

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Natala Constantine
  • Marcia

    STANDING OVATION!!!!!!!!!! YES!!

  • Janna

    I got completely bashed the other day on another site beause of this issue. I am like you and bravo for being brave and honest about your story. I’m a post heart attack patient, I went to see Dr. Esselstyn for his day seminar a while back, I’ve been eating his prescribed diet for a while and it literally saved my life. But even my plant-based friends and some of the websites I used to look up to will tell me all the time that I’m extreme. Just because they can’t imagine it doesn’t mean it is extreme!

  • Michelle

    Or worse yet being told that you will get an eating disorder! I’m a psychologist and the new word to use as a threat is orthorexia. It is a real disease, and one that is serious and should be treated as such. It is NOT a definition of when someone is eating a healthy diet and will not eat food that will harm them. The result with people who have orthorexia is that they become very ill because of either lack of nutrition or in some cases they end up self medicating through nutrition with all kinds of supplements and powders because they become afraid that they will not get enough of something. The word is often used against plant-based eaters, however I keep seeing it in the plant-based communities. Those throwing around the word have no idea what the disease really is, and will inevitably hurt people with their misinformed opinions.

    This is a great post, I’ll be sharing it!

  • 3DFiends

    I can sooooo relate, I can’t have one potato chip, it has to be the bag. Bravo for telling your story, I still have a ways to go, but being plant strong has changed my life. :)

  • Jennifer

    This is so good I wish more people understood this. I did mission work in Haiti and when I came home I was absolutely sick over the things that we talk about in the US and how much we talk and obsess over food, when others are starving to death. Food should be simple, maybe so much of the world would not be starving if people in the US decided to live simply rather than wanting the latest “super food” or wanting to eat junk food just because they can.

  • http://www.potatostrong.com/ Will Kriski

    Perfect…moderation of fatty doesn’t work for us addicts. Now I’m addicted to fat free mashed potatoes and gravy :)

  • Beth

    Me too–my husband fusses at me that he needs to ration out foods. If i know its in the house–it’s all consuming–until I eat it–the whole bag, the whole container, all of the freshly baked whatever. I only do this with the food he brings in the house, which is more processed and has more brain altering chemicals. If I cook it based on WPF–I’m in control. I totally understand and appreciate your candor. Thank you.

  • Michelle

    Could have written this myself! There is a writer/blogger/athlete I used to follow. She’s always posting photos of the junk food she’s eating, like vegan donuts, and cupcakes and then saying how people can have those things if they want. She doesn’t understand that she’s an athlete and maybe doesn’t have an addiction like so many of us. I had to stop following her because her posts were even a trap for me in justifying eating food I can’t stop eating!

  • Jeff

    Amen, sister. As a recovering alcoholic and a recovering binge eater, moderation — FOR ME — is not even possible with some things. Junk food is one of those things. Either I’m “extreme” or I’m caught in a cycle of binge/fast/binge/fast. Sweets are completely out. Fried stuff is completely out. Plants are completely in. I’ve lost 20% of my body weight because of plants. I wanted extreme results, so I took extreme action. The rest of the country can have their hamburgers, pizza, and ice cream. I’d like to continue hiking into my 70s instead.

  • mikecrosby

    It’s motivating when we’re around others who realize a WFPB diet is the way to go. But unfortunately, I’m never around those people (or very rarely).

    I live in Orange County CA and 50 miles in Loma Linda, Dr Hans Diehl has his CHIP program. I called and asked if there was something like an alumni group that got together in OC. Nope.

    Would it not be nice if those who attend these seminars such as Dr McDougall, Fuhrman, et al. be able to continue their motivation and knowledge with others in a supportive environment?

    • Leah

      Start a meetup!!! Monthly potluck?

    • Chef Aj

      Come to our Healthy Taste of LA events!

  • FoodAdict

    I left a vegan potluck once in tears because everyone was on my case about not indulging. They all said that it’s ok to have this or that in moderation, but like you I have an addiction. I felt like an alcoholic being pressured to drink! I see it a lot on twitter or instagram, people bragging about all the bad food they can eat, and for me it’s like people bragging about all the alcohol they can get away with drinking. I don’t think they mean to, but it hurts a lot.

  • ritab2012

    Bravo – well said.

  • Jean Hayes

    Simply sensible, excellent! That is exactly what I thought when I first watched Forks over Knives! This way of eating makes so much sense and is so logical that I felt I had no choice but to dive in. Thanks Natala!

  • JoAnn Downey

    Natala, you are such an inspiration AND inspirational writer! And I loved your take on ‘moderation’. We know that the phrase ‘everything in moderation’ is a cop out – justification for indulging when the better way would be abstinence (as for an alcoholic). Moderation can kill. I think ‘extreme’ is having your chest cut open for a quadruple bypass, NOT eating the only diet known to reverse heart disease.

  • Kelly

    I really wish you’d write a book. I saw you speak at plant-stock and wished someone had recorded it, every person in this country needs to hear your story.

  • Laura

    Brilliant post! Thanks.

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