The Daily Beet

04 Jun The Light Is Always On

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All my life I’ve generally been the fattest person in the room. It’s something I’ve just gotten used to over the years, though I’ve always felt like a big loser for being the fattest person in the room. Like it or not, being overweight (for me) has been painful all of my life, from the physical discomfort to the health issues to not fitting into clothes and being made fun of and bullied. It has gotten a lot better for me (thanks to the help of Psychologist, (and author of “The Pleasure Trap”) Doug Lisle, but it is still hard sometimes. If you’ve been overweight, or you are overweight you might have felt like I have many times, I just want to do one of two things:

1. HIDE. That way no one else would notice you are overweight.

2. Tell everyone that you are trying, that you work really hard, that you have lost weight, that you are eating right, you are working out, you are doing every thing that you possibly can.

(or maybe for you it has not been the same experience)

Currently, I’m pretty sure that I’m at least 100 pounds heavier than everyone on our team. My boss (the greatest boss in the world) just happens to be a competitive triathlete, has broken a ton of swimming records, works out with Lance Armstrong, and works out a few hours every morning. It’s taken me a while to feel comfortable around the rest of my team. Don’t get me wrong, being on the Engine 2 Team is about the best gig you could ask for, and each of our very small team is a phenomenal person. Rip is as real as they get, and I’m not just saying that, I wouldn’t be doing my job if he wasn’t a genuinely awesome (and nice) guy. Yet still, I can’t say I didn’t feel awkward for a long time around my very fit, very healthy looking team.

A few months ago I was going through a rough patch. It happens, I’ve been on this journey long enough now that rough patches are just part of my life. They aren’t even patches anymore, they are more like just part of the journey. When you start from such a high weight (well over 400 lbs) the journey is going to be long, difficult and at times heart wrenching. There are days in which I wish I could rub a lamp, a genie would pop out and grant me just one wish – just be at my ideal weight. After all, haven’t I worked hard enough for it? Haven’t I done everything I need to do to finally be at my ideal weight? Nope. Apparently, the journey is a lot longer than I ever anticipated. And the funny thing? I haven’t even been at it that long. I’m approaching my third (ish)  year of doing this plan-strong thing, and I’m down over 200 pounds, I’m off of all of the 15 medications I was on, (everything from cholesterol, T2 diabetes meds, insulin and high BP to neuropathy and hormonal stuff). I feel a lot better, but why is that not good enough? Why, despite all of the work I HAVE done, do I feel like a failure at times?

So back to the reason I started this post.. A few months ago I was feeling like a complete failure. My weight wasn’t budging, I wanted to make my team proud, my family proud, people online proud. I wanted this entire thing to be over, and it seemed that no matter how hard I tried, the scale would not budge. I told Rip that I was feeling like a failure, that I was so tired of the journey. I thought for a moment – how on earth can Rip know what it’s like to be me? He’s Rip for goodness sake, the picture of health, he’s never had to worry about his ideal weight. I was having a big old pity party for myself.

So Rip calls me up and he tells me to listen to him, he had something to say, and he says, in a loud, assuring voice:

“Failed. There are plenty of others willing to call you a failure. A fool. A loser. A hopeless souse. Don’t you ever say it of yourself. You send out the wrong signal, that is what people pick up. Don’t you understand? You care about something, you fight for it. You hit a wall, you push through it. There’s something you need to know about failure, Natala. You can never let it defeat you.” (from the movie “Tintin, but with my name added in)

Rip has this way about him, like you know that he is telling you the truth, that he really does believe in you, probably more than you believe in yourself. That is where I was that evening, I had lost hope, I felt like the biggest failure.

We hung up, and I sat there for a few moments, really thinking about what he had told me. I stopped feeling so sorry for myself. I realized that everyone, no matter what their size or their health condition has gone through junk in their life, we’ve all felt like failures (even Rip). My weight has been this ongoing struggle since I was a kid, rather than wallow in the failure I thought I had become, I decided to quit feeling sorry for myself, and decide to just press on, not give up, not call myself a failure ever again.

I decided in that moment that I needed to keep fighting. That no matter how impossible it seems to have this goal of getting to an ideal weight, which means that in the end I will have lost about 300 lbs, I need to keep fighting.

I’m in the last 100 pounds of my weight loss. It feels as though I have just started, like the first 200+ pounds didn’t count somehow (though, I know how insane that might sound). 100 more pounds. There is a lot of fighting ahead, a lot more obstacles, a lot more to learn. I don’t know what my life will looks like in the next 100 pounds, but I will say something – I am glad for my team, I’m glad for Rip, but mostly I’m glad for all of you. This online Engine 2 community has exploded in the past year. The support, the kindness that I see online is truly remarkable. It is like we are on one team, one big team of support and a lot of plant-strong encouragement. I know that it is not always easy. I know that sometimes the piece of chocolate in the pantry wins. I know that not every day means getting up an hour early to get in a workout.

No matter where you are in the journey, what I want you to remember is that you are not a failure. No matter what you think you did to get to the point you are at right now, it does not matter one little bit. It doesn’t matter if the goal takes a few months, or a few years, you now know what you are fighting for. I’m here to tell you what Rip told me – if you believe in something FIGHT FOR IT. In this case, YOU. Believe in YOU.

Rip likes to end his talks with “Remember, the Engine 2 light is ALWAYS on”. So I want this post to be a reminder that we’re here for you, cheering you on, ready to help when we can. We’re working hard to come up with ways to help and be there for each and everyone of you even more. We’re a very small team, but we care a lot, and we believe in you, we’re all very passionate about helping as much as we can.

And, as someone who is traveling along the journey with many of you, I am glad we can walk this road together, no matter how hard, how impossible and how tired we might get. Let’s all pull together and remind one another why we’re doing this, and more importantly that we CAN do this.

If you need the reminder – maybe copy and paste this quote, as a reminder that you cannot let failures (big or small) defeat you, push through, you will be glad you did.

“Failed. There are plenty of others willing to call you a failure. A fool. A loser. A hopeless souse. Don’t you ever say it of yourself. You send out the wrong signal, that is what people pick up. Don’t you understand? You care about something, you fight for it. You hit a wall, you push through it. There’s something you need to know about failure. You can never let it defeat you.”


Natala Constantine is certified in plant-based nutrition through Cornell University. She has a passion for helping people become plant-strong, because of her own journey of health. She has been working with the Engine 2 Diet Team since August of 2011 as their online director. She also plays a mean violin.

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Natala Constantine
  • Annie
    Posted at 11:06h, 04 June

    Of all the people I am excited to meet at the Farms 2 Forks weekend, I’m MOST excited to meet Natala, I LOVE LOVE LOVE YOU. I wish we were friends in real life.

  • Cheryl
    Posted at 11:08h, 04 June

    Same here Annie!
    Can’t wait for NY to meet her, along with the Esselstyines of course!

    Natala, you really are an inspiration, and I’m glad Rip is such a great boss and motivator, it is nice to know he is the real deal, not just another weight loss author.

    Natala, were you in Kathy Freston’s books? And your husband? I loved your stories, I think she’s talked about you on TV a few times?

  • Barbara Barteau
    Posted at 11:16h, 04 June

    Thank You Natala for this beautiful post. I needed to hear this message today.

  • Sharon Herbitter
    Posted at 11:17h, 04 June

    Natala, can you imagine how important it is to have someone like you on the Engine 2 team? Most diet/exercise/health groups are staffed by people who look like they’ve never been more than five pounds overweight in their lives. As someone who began this journey needing to lose a hundred pounds, it’s very encouraging to know there is someone out there who gets it — and who may get it better than I do! You are so valuable — you provide a level of comfort and reality to this place and your journey — while it’s yours and yours alone — is important to the rest of us, too. I’m grateful that there are “real” people at E2 and you’re one of the “realest.”

  • Tara
    Posted at 11:19h, 04 June

    Wow, E2 just proved that they really “get it” and they understand, I agree with Sharon, it is a huge deal that you are on the team Natala. I hate going to conferences when all the speakers look like models, it is so good that you are here, I needed this today. Made my decision easier about the program I’m choosing.

  • Linda
    Posted at 11:22h, 04 June

    I got to hear you speak about a year ago, and it changed my life, I just wanted to say thank you, and I’m glad you are on this team, Rip is great and all ;0 but knowing you are here really makes a huge difference. Can’t wait to see you again this summer at the Farms tour!

  • Ami Mackey
    Posted at 11:23h, 04 June

    I <3 you Natala! Great post!!!!

  • Lani Muelrath, Plant-strong healthy living
    Posted at 11:24h, 04 June


    Thanks for this transparent, very personal, and encouraging message.

    You say:

    “Failed. There are plenty of others willing to call you a failure. A fool. A loser. A hopeless souse. Don’t you ever say it of yourself. You send out the wrong signal, that is what people pick up. Don’t you understand? You care about something, you fight for it. You hit a wall, you push through it. There’s something you need to know about failure, Natala. You can never let it defeat you.”

    It seems that success often brings detractors, challenging our confidence. Yet when you know you are being true to yourself and have acted from integrity, that’s what matters because that is all you have control over. When you are true, and others criticize, remember it is more about them than it is about you, as tough as that can be.

    Thank you for having the courage to tell your story, sharing the discouraging times as well as the success. No matter how many times or in how many ways you tell it, it has made a difference in many many lives.


  • Raven Hannah
    Posted at 11:28h, 04 June

    Thanks Natala. I needed to ‘hear’ this today, so the message was right on time. I am still struggling to lose the weight I gained after a horrible car accident. Exercise is still very difficult due to my injuries, however I am pretty diligent about my eating habits and have been plant-strong for many years now, bouncing between vegetarian and vegan with the final switch to strictly vegan several years ago. Yet still, my weight will not budge and I have been at this same plateau for far too long (over a year now) and it is quite discouraging. I’m not sure what to do to break the plateau at this point and I know this is NOT my ideal weight. I’ve still got at least 30 or 40 pounds to go. Sigh. It’s hard to keep going . . . especially when there is no support system for me.

  • Patti
    Posted at 11:30h, 04 June

    I needed this today, I am also glad there is a “real” person on the Engine 2 staff, I know that everyone is great, but having someone that really gets it and has gone through so much hardship is wonderful. Do you have a travel schedule? I’d like to hear you speak as well.

  • Marianne
    Posted at 11:52h, 04 June

    Great great post Natala!! This is something we ALL need to hear. We face challenges and walls every day in many ways. YOU are a true inspiration. How better can someone motivate but by their own experience. For those who think the journey may be too long – you are proof in action that great health waits for us in a plant strong lifestyle. (((HUGS)))

  • Helen McGrath
    Posted at 12:13h, 04 June

    Natala, I read every word of your post and it is inspiring. You really do understand what this journey is like! The word of inspiration that motivates me is nourishment. Is what I’m going to eat going to nourish my body? I’m fortunate to have the support of my family. My family watched the video “Calorie Density, How to Eat More, Weigh Less and Live Longer” with Jeff Novick. It explained to me why I was at a standstill in my weight loss. Nine days ago I decided to modify my Plant Strong diet. For 3 days I ate only fruits and vegetables, the next 3 days I added some grains, and the next 3 days I added beans. And I got the energy to begin walking. I lost 4 pounds in the 9 days and that was so encouraging because I had been stuck for so long. It was important to me to stay Plant Strong. I met Rip when he was in Tampa, and he is inspiring. Thanks to you and the E2 team and my son-in-law Curtis and daughter Peggy, I am dedicated to keep going. And, reading about the journey of others is so helpful too. Helen

  • Jenny
    Posted at 12:21h, 04 June

    Natala, congratulations on the SUCCESS that is your life. Because you are still pushing through the obstacles every day, your entire life story IS a SUCCESS story. Be proud and keep pushing! And thank you for being so real with all of us in your pursuit to encourage us. I know I appreciate ALL your work on our behalf, as do MANY others. 🙂 –Jenny “Never, never, never, NEVER give up.”

  • Lee Schwartz
    Posted at 12:22h, 04 June

    Wow. By the time I had wiped the tears from my eyes for the inspiring post, and come to leave my thanks, I see I am in amazing company. I too, find trainers, doctors, even weight loss coaches to be unapproachable because I feel there was no way they could ever have lived through what I go through every day. My husband and I live on the fringes of Engine2, and have yet to dive in with both feet, but I have heard nothing but positive things from all of you. My only wish is that I could be as lucky as you are and have coaches and a support team close to me. But thank you, thank you, for this post. And please, from one struggling woman to another, please post more often!

  • Tricia
    Posted at 12:35h, 04 June

    Like others have said, I love Engine 2, Rip, Ann and Dr. Esselstyn, but I really love that they had the idea to have you on this team, having someone who gets it is probably the biggest key to the success of Engine 2, I know you say you are lucky, but do they know how lucky they are? Not many people would be as brave as you to do something like this. Congratulations, and I hope to see you soon.

  • TD
    Posted at 12:40h, 04 June

    Beautiful sharing. I am marveling that the Universe brought me your sharing today. I woke up at 4 am today and was praying for a solution to my struggles with sugar. I had a heart attack 3 years ago, and have lost 100 pounds, but I have another 100 to go, like you. I’ve spoken to you via email about a month ago. You helped me. But I was back in the clutches of sugar again. It’s like a drug for me. An addiction. I’ve tried the fasting, but it hasn’t worked. So today I was taking a couple dozen strawberry plants to my car dealership to my friends there. The owner was there – he is a friend. We were talking and I told him I felt like I couldn’t stop eating sugar. He said to me, “It’s a choice.” I said it didn’t feel like it. I told him I was scared that I couldn’t stop and that it was ruining my health. He said, “Get in your car with me!” So I did. Once we were in the car, he said look in this mirror – look yourself in the eye!” He said now, in a minute I’m going to get out of the car. After I get out, if you want to stop eating sugar, you look yourself in the eye and tell yourself in no uncertain terms, that you are done with sugar. period. And you mean it. And you stick with it. You will suffer. It will be uncomfortable. But you keep your word.” And then he got out of the car….
    It was awesome. My prayers have been answered twice today. Once by my friend who owns the car dealership, and once by you. Thank you. And may your continued journey be blessed, Natala.

  • Laura
    Posted at 12:42h, 04 June

    Today was the first day I ever heard about this book, someone linked to your post from Facebook. I just bought the book, if this team was smart enough to put you on their staff, they have to be the right choice for me. I don’t have as much weight to lose, but I do have high cholesterol and prediabetes. This really made my day and encouraged me, I hope that you continue to have success and that you keep fighting, you are an inspration.

    • Sharon Herbitter
      Posted at 12:54h, 04 June

      Laura, you are in for a life-changing experience! (And I mean that in a GOOD way!!! 🙂

  • Doug
    Posted at 13:15h, 04 June

    You need a book and you and Rip need a show, you guys make a great pair. Can’t wait to meet you!

  • Cynthia
    Posted at 14:16h, 04 June

    Honest reflection and very moving. Thank you!
    Plant Strong!!

  • VeganChick
    Posted at 14:51h, 04 June

    This is so refreshing, I generally do not like ‘health vegans’ because they just push losing weight and making it sound like the rest of us are losers, some not all I mean. I’m a chubby vegan, been vegan since birth and I’m trying to get healthy. Thanks for this Natala, you resonate with me, where the others really don’t. I just signed up for the NY retreat, looking forward to hearing you in person.

  • Joane
    Posted at 14:53h, 04 June

    This makes me feel so much better about doing a 28 day challenge, I only have seen Rip in Forks Over Knives, and I didn’t know if he was a nice guy or why he even cares about overweight people. But this makes me feel a lot better about him and about Engine 2, having someone real on the team that is going through what your readers are going through is priceless, good on them for making that choice.

  • Di
    Posted at 14:55h, 04 June

    Wow. I needed this! I am almost 500 pounds, 5’6 and just getting ready to go plant strong. I am completely overwhelmed by the length of the journey and have felt unwelcome at some of the plant-strong events I have attended (Veg-Fest and the like) as I just do not look like everyone (or anyone else). I do feel like a failure and I feel judged as one. I am trying to turn that around. Thanks Natala. Good luck as you continue your journey.

    • Georgia
      Posted at 15:12h, 04 June

      You can do it Di! Natala is great and wonderful about answering e-mails and questions. I agree, I feel like an outcast at any vegan event, and I hadn’t wanted to sign up for an Engine 2 event because of the same thing, didn’t want to be the biggest person, and I really don’t like when really thin people tell me how to lose weight, it annoys the crap out of me.
      Good luck to you.

  • Mike
    Posted at 15:56h, 04 June

    Are you married? 😉

    • Cheryl
      Posted at 16:02h, 04 June

      Yes she is! And her husband lost 100 pounds!

  • wfmfoodie
    Posted at 17:37h, 04 June

    I had the pleasure of going to Engine 2’s last immersion and I got to meet natala and rip and the rest of the team. Natala and Rip are definitely the real deal. I loved everyone who they have on the team, they are really great, and even if all of them may not “get” what it is like to be overweight, I thought they were really trying to understand and make changes to how they do things so they can help people. If you ever get to hear Natala’s story it’s a tear jerker, I cried the entire way through, it really changed my life for the better.
    Natala, if you read this, I hope you know NO ONE could ever think of you as a failure, you are amazing and everyone loves you. I watched the entire week as you ran around, never took a breath, never sat down, were talking to people who needed help, I was really amazed by how much you do and who you are as a person. Thank you for being an inspiration. – J

  • Sharon
    Posted at 17:57h, 04 June

    Thanks for a great post – such an encouragement! I have a fair amount of weight to lose myself. When my weight loss slowed a week or so ago, I was thinking that I just wish it would melt off like Frosty when it hit 80. But, alas, that’s not how it works. It’ll be slow going, and there will be plateaus but, you’re right – we can’t give up! Thanks again.

  • Mary Arnquist
    Posted at 19:52h, 04 June

    Great post! Thank you for sharing.

  • Jen
    Posted at 21:17h, 04 June

    This really makes all the difference in the world to me, I just know Rip from the book, but knowing that he’s genuine and that he has you on his team is priceless. Thanks for this post, needed it today.

  • Lori
    Posted at 00:19h, 05 June

    When is your book coming out?????

  • wendy@healthygirlskitchen
    Posted at 07:26h, 05 June

    Natala-I love everything that you write that comes from your heart! But unlike some of the other commenters, I do want to hear from Rip. Why? Because I stuggle with making the best decisions when it comes to food EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE. And I would really like to hear directly from Rip (or in an interview that you do with him) about whether or not he struggles with making the best food decisions. Like what does he say to himself when he is at a party and he sees food that he knows he would like to eat but shouldn’t. How does he stop himself?

    Maybe it doesn’t matter if he slips up because he works out for two hours a day. Is that even true? Rip is a lean, calorie burning machine and that is AMAZING, but most of us don’t have the ability to do that or the space in our lives for that time commitment, so every bite matters a lot more to us.

    Anyway, keep up the incredible personal stories Natala. But I’d love to hear more personal stories from Rip too.

    • Engine 2 Team
      Posted at 10:45h, 05 June

      Something that has helped me a TON is talking to Doug Lisle – he does private consultations and has seriously saved me in so many ways. Especially understanding the issue that you are having with passing up stuff at parties and other temptations. That was my biggest issue.
      I know Rip doesn’t struggle in that area – I think mostly because he’s been doing this for a very long time – like his parents. It would be like Ann Esselstyn being tempted by a slab of bacon fried twinkies or something – just never going to happen 😉
      Rip does have to eat a TON because he works out more than 2 hours a day – but it’s a ton of plant-strong food 🙂 The only thing I’ve seen him ‘cheat’ on is when Jane or someone else makes something with chocolate (no oil and all of that) but he can definitely put back the plant-strong chocolate desserts if they are out and about – and then he’ll go swim a few hours with Lance Armstrong 😉

      • wendy@healthygirlskitchen
        Posted at 16:51h, 05 June

        Thanks Natala. The Esselstyns really are superheros. I, on the other hand, am a mere human, and maybe I need to accept that! 🙂

    • TD
      Posted at 10:15h, 06 June

      I have found the information in the book, “The End of Overeating” by David Kessler very helpful. He tells what to do to be successful – like food plans, etc. But seriously – have you looked yourself in the eye in a mirror and made a committment not to eat anything off the plan? Read my post above and try it. Don’t do it fi you’re not willing to mean it. But if you mean it and do it – you will not have as much trouble. You will have times when you suffer, but you can make the choice to suffer and not eat something bad for you.

  • Outfit31
    Posted at 08:17h, 05 June

    My pastor always says, “failure is an event, not a person.” Wise words for us all to remember! Congratulations on all your progress. as you work to fulfill your goal!

  • April
    Posted at 11:14h, 05 June

    Natalia, Thank you so much. I absolutely LOVE you. Like someone else posted, I wish we were friends in real life. Your experiences do speak to me. I so glad you are part of the team.

  • Chris
    Posted at 16:08h, 05 June

    It’s nice to see real people who aren’t triathletes who are doing this diet. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Rip and I love hearing from him as well, but hearing from someone else with a different perspective is priceless. I know Rip has his own struggles, like you mentioned we all do, but I doubt that he worries about picking bad food at a party, just like I don’t worry about smoking, just doesn’t cross my mind!

  • Anne
    Posted at 22:53h, 05 June

    FORKS OVER KNIVES MOVIE I watched it last night .. wow .. really amazing.. how truth rings out like a firecrcker went off in a chapel. Tonite i watched E2 what an inspiration Rip is ,so clear, calm an diliberate at the truth of food dealings, via labels/value ,an end results health. We all fight the comfort foodie monster.. but today i really saw he is not real ….i choose, good, great ,or a not so healthy life. BUT YOU girl PUT the TRUTH /WAR in words an a great applause for wow 200 ..POUNDS LOSE… you are an amazing victorious WARRIOR . CONTINUE TO HEALTHY YOU .anne

  • Jill E
    Posted at 14:54h, 08 June

    I read your post several days ago and it has really stuck with me, I am on day 4 of the firefighter challenge with 150 or so pounds to lose. I respect that you had the courage to post your struggle in a public forum and applaud your fighting spirit. Keep up the good work Natala and I look forward to one day seeing a picture of you in your fat pants holding the waist out to the side to display your victory and tenacity to the world!

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