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The Daily Beet: Tips, Advice and Stories


My Life Isn't Perfect

When I started this way of eating I was in a desperate health crisis. My health had gotten so bad, that I was planning out how to end my life. That is how bad it was.

Often the subject of perfection comes up. People tell us all the time that what we suggest for people is “too hard” or “too strict” or “too much”. I get that. I think it is hard, it’s hard because we’re all hard wired to go after the highest calorically dense foods on the planet. It’s part of our DNA, how we lived for a very long time.

But do we expect perfection ?

This is a hard question to answer. Let me tell you about the people who come to us, and then we’ll get to the question.

Person A: We’ll call her Sally. Sally is 48 and has Type 2 diabetes, her cholesterol is 290 and her blood pressure is through the roof, she is 100 pounds overweight. She is really scared, and in a health crisis, she wants to save her life.

Person B: We’ll call her Jen. Jen is about 30 pounds overweight, she has slightly elevated cholesterol. She is pretty active, and her Doctor says that for the most part she is healthy. She wants to shed the 30 pounds and feel more energy.

Person C: We’ll call him Dan. Dan is at his ideal weight, he has perfect cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. He is also a pretty avid athlete and works out about 20 hours per week on average. He wants to improve his athletic performance.

Of course, we get a lot more situations than this, but those are the three main people we get who e-mail us. Most people are in between Sally and Jen. And we get A LOT who are in a serious health crisis, like I was.

This is the thing with trying to convey a health message. We owe it to you to tell you what is the most optimal plan, the plan that would be suitable for someone like Sally. For someone like Sally, the degree in which she follows the plan is a life or death situation, like it was for me. This does not mean in anyway that we judge Sally when she has a bad day, but it does mean that we will guide her and direct her so that she is a good place.

If you were in a car accident, and were at the hospital, you wouldn’t ask the Dr. to just try their best, see what happens, no worries if they are  not practicing the most optimal plan! You want them to be perfect, you don’t want them to make one mistake. And you wouldn’t want them to say “well, there is a way to do this perfectly, but we’re going to just aim for ok”.

This is where it all gets tricky. When people read our site, our books, or ask for help, we generally don’t know if we’re talking to Sally, Jen or Dan right away. So if someone says “is it ok if I have X every so often?”. That  might be ok for Dan, but it could be detrimental to Sally.

It’s not because we’re being mean, or strict or unreasonable, it really is because we feel it is a HUGE responsibility to get it right, and to give you the most accurate, up to date, researched information there is. You deserve that, each and every time.

The diet that we promote is a therapeutic diet, it is meant to help those who are seeking better health, many who really need a health intervention.  What you do is completely up to you, we completely respect that and honor your choice of what you eat, that is a personal decision. When you ask us questions about specifics, we’re always going to give you the answer that we have gone over with our team of experts, and that has been researched extensively.

So do we expect perfection?

Simply, no, we know that it is hard. Where we do practice perfection is in the advice we give, and that is because we truly care about each of you, and want you to be at your best health. For those of you suffering from a severe health problem, we know that it can seem daunting the thought of having to go all in, but we are here to help, anytime you need it.

I for one am so grateful that the experts here like Dr. Esselstyn, Jeff Novick, and Doug Lisle who have always been 100% honest with me, and have always told me exactly what needed to be done to get my health back. Has it been easy? Not all the time. Is it worth it? I’m here, alive, and happy, I would say that is worth striving for the most optimal/therapeutic diet.

About the author

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.

15 Responses to “Perfection.”

  1. Celina says:

    Great article! Thank you Natala! I must say, with a husband who is a “Dan,” that even a tiny bit of oil makes a huge difference in his athletic performance and recovery! I find the same for myself, even though I’m not so much an extreme athlete. Happy to be oil-free and plant-strong! It’s amazing the difference small details can make! Thank you for all you do!

    • Engine2Team says:

      That is great Celina! I tell people often that even if they are 100% healthy that SAD foods (like oil) are still detrimental to your health, it might just not “show up” like it does in people who are very sick.

      Oil is still 100% liquid fat, no matter what your health is.
      Thank you for sharing with us!

  2. Shelly says:

    This is exactly what I needed to read today, I’m like you. I need to be 110% I have Type 2 and heart disease and I’m obese. I can’t mess around. I’m tired of people being so judgmental, I posted on another blog the other day about this subject, only to have someone post right after me that eating this way is so restrictive and limiting, it made me feel really bad about myself. It’s hard somedays, but so is not being around for my girls. I had a heart attack at 44, I can’t just have a little bit of this or that, I can’t have nuts or high fat things, it’s a matter of living or not for me. What is more disturbing is the amount of people who tell me that I don’t need to do that, and I’m being too strict. It’s like they are projecting their own food addiction on me. Maybe it’s hard for them, or maybe it’s too strict, but why do they need to say that to me and get me down? Thank you for being a voice for those of us who actually come to this way of eating because of really severe health problems, it’s good to know at least ONE person in this movement gets it.

    • Leah says:

      I 100% agree with you that other people will project their own food addictions onto you. Very good insight! Follow your heart!

  3. Mary says:

    Thank you!!!!! You are SOO right. There should be a responsibility when talking about health! There are tons of people who just write recipes, say they are healthy, even talk about health, but they are not healthy for everyone. People in this industry SHOULD take responsibility for what they write about and they should know if they talk about health, at all, they should be held up to higher standards. Don’t talk about health and then have a recipe that is filled with fat, sugar and salt, even if it is all “NATURAL” I hate that even more. Just because it’s nuts, dates doesn’t mean it’s healthy, don’t pretend it is. There is a vegan dessert blog that I like, because she is honest, she says that there are no such things as “healthy desserts” they are treats, that’s it. If you want to have a treat, be ready to go work it off, and yes her desserts are oil free even! I hope more “health” people will read this and see that they have a greater responsibility.

  4. Jill says:

    I’m a Jen, but I’m almost a Sally, and this resonated with me a lot. I don’t want to become worse off, and that is the way I’m headed. There is not a lot of wiggle room for things like nuts or chocolate or coffee for me. Maybe there is for other people, but definitely not me. Like Shelly said below, I’m tired of being judged for having to be “perfect”. That’s what I need to do.

  5. Mike says:

    I’m a “Dan” but I still practice what your father teaches. Why? Because I am stronger than some cravings here and there, I don’t need the junk. No one does. People try to fool themselves into thinking that they need to eat bad food, but that’s just weak, no one needs it. This is a good reminder that there are people who really come at this from a hard place, those people should be supported.

  6. VeggieQueen says:

    I for one am glad you are honest and responsible! A few months ago on E2X you kindly told me to ditch the smoothies. I thought this was pretty unreasonable, until I did it. My blood sugars dropped finally and the weight started coming off. I know it’s not easy to tell people what they don’t want to hear, but I’m glad that you are kind enough to do that, even when people are grumpy and angry with you for doing it !

  7. Nicki says:

    I had something similar to “veggie queen”. I had e-mailed E2 asking to look at my food journal, and they suggested I give up smoothies as well. I emailed another plant-based person and they said they were fine and gave me the article they had written about how there was no problem with them, even for diabetics. I kept them, but my health was not getting better, and my blood sugar was getting worse. I went to my normal MD and told him that I was worried, he asked what I was eating, and I mentioned all of the things I was eating and then said I drank one or two green smoothies a day. He said “why would you do that?” I told him about all of the health benefits. He said that it would just raise my blood sugar, to drink them, and I needed to let go of them. I showed him the article and he said that the person did not have a solid medical background or reasoning, and that it was making me sick. I was really mad, and e-mailed the person and they just had a lot of excuses and still defended their position! I should have not been looking for the person who would tell me what I wanted to hear though, that was my mistake. You can’t go shopping around for the answer that you want, you should trust the people who might even say unpopular things.

  8. Jason says:

    This is why I trust you, Jeff Novick, Dr. McDougall you are not about fads or being popular, you are about the truth! Good for you.

  9. Tara :) says:

    <3 Engine 2 Diet. So much love.

  10. JM says:

    Reading thru the comments I’m just very curious as to why no smoothies? Can anyone explain this to me? I’m really trying hard (been 1 month plant-based) but the weight isn’t coming off like I thought it would. I’m more of a Jen but I’ve lost about 35 lbs in the last year so I’ve been much larger. I just don’t want to do anything to sabotage my new lifestyle & if the green smoothies I drink every morning aren’t helping, I want to correct that. I usually drink approx 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1 banana & a handful of spinach in my Vitamix. Any suggestions??

    • Debbie says:

      They are very calorie dense (easy to overconsume), can raise your blood sugar quickly and raise your triglycerides. The fiber is broken down in such a way that it does not act in the body as it’s meant to. That’s the short answer but as the article says, in recommending an “optimal” diet, smoothies are not a part of it. Some people will have no problem with them, but they shouldn’t be considered a super health food either. I think the suggestion would be to take the above and eat it in a bowl as oatmeal, perhaps with the spinach on the side. ;) Jeff Novick has talked about the idea of “more” being better, saying it is fallacious argument on a whole foods, plant-based diet. You are getting “enough” nutrients through what you chew. =)

    • dm says:

      To JM…I don’t mean to be rude or offensive but, I cant even see that as being a
      “green” smoothie! I mean…what in it is green?? The handful of spinach? So I would drop the milk and use spring water. I would not use the oatmeal and replace it for Kale. Banana ok but add some chia seeds and maybe some chlorella, but definatley more than a handful of spinach. I lost 30 lbs by doing this and I used to do the same thing, by using the almond milk…it tastes much better without it,,,,cleaner. Just a sugg.

  11. [...] doing well,” or “practice makes perfect,” come into your head? In today’s perfection obsessed society many women are finding that trying to keep up with their inner perfectionist is [...]

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    The Engine 2 blog will feature tips, plant-strong success stories, how to make plant-strong work, answer your questions and feature special guest experts. Our goal is to provide you with the tools to help you become and stay plant-strong. Please be sure to jump in the conversation by leaving comments on each post!
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