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The Daily Beet: Tips, Advice and Stories

The Long Haul

I-am-worth-it (1)

When I started this plant-strong journey I was a mess. Seriously, a mess. I was somewhere around 450 pounds, who knows really, the doctors scale didn’t even go up that high. I was wearing a very stretched out 8X. My T2 diabetes was so out of control, I thought I might as well end my life, because I was that miserable. I could hardly walk a few feet without being in pain, the neuropathy in my legs was so bad that I was getting infections, I was tired all the time, in other words? A mess.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I had been on every diet known to man. Atkins to the Zone, ask me, I’ve been there and tried that. I’ve been on a diet since the age of 10. When I was 13 Richard Simmons sent me a photo of himself, chained to a fork, my dream was to be in a “Sweatin’ to the Oldies Video”.

I’d always get excited when I started a new diet. I’d start planning. I’d lose X amount in one year. By the end of the year, I’d be wearing clothes from The Gap! By the end of the year I’d fit into the normal size gym uniforms! By the end of the year I’d be able to wear Z-Cavaricci! By the end of the year I’d be able to roller blade!  By the end of the year I’d get invited to prom by the cute guy in my Social Studies class and wear a dress from JC Penny’s Junior section! By the end of the year I’d run a 10K in my cute little running shorts! By the end of the year I’d fit into a gorgeous wedding gown! By the end of the year I’d be able to have a baby, by the end of the year I’d be able to buy a little black dress… By the end of the year…

You get the point. The “end of the year” just didn’t happen, ever. Instead, I’d go on these diets. I’d go up and down, I’d lose, I’d gain. I’d hate myself.

I was told over and over to just “eat less, move more”. As if I had never once in my life heard that before. I wanted to say back to the doctors “WOW! Thank you! I had never thought of that! I just need to eat less! Perfect!”

It wasn’t until recently that I understood the issues around food, calorie density, genetics and well, a really corrupt health industry. I fell for all of the gimmicks. And over and over it seemed like thin people were telling me how easy it was to lose weight, because obviously, they were thin. The thing is, I tried. I tried as hard as I could. Went to doctors, dietitians, hypnotists, therapists, psychologists, spiritual healers, guru’s. I went to OA, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutri System, TOPS. You name it, I did it. Each time with vigor. Each time with a resolve that THIS would be my year. That I would definitely figure it out, there was no stopping me!

And then I’d fail. And I would hate myself. And society told me that I was a failure, that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I’d find out later, that there is nothing wrong with me, and there is nothing wrong with you either. Some of us are born with higher fat stores than others. When introduced to higher calorically dense foods, those of us with higher fats stores will gain more weight, opposed to someone with lower fat stores who might gain some weight, but they will not become overweight or obese.

* incidentally on that note., people with low fat stores who are not overweight but still eat poorly, are the people who come to us saying they thought they were healthy and then went and found out their cholesterol was 250. Or worse, they thought they were healthy, were running a 10K and had a heart attack. Just because you have low fat stores, eat junk, and do not gain weight does not mean the food you put into your body is not harming your endothelial lining. In other words? Skinny does not equal healthy.

Enter, plant-strong. When I decided to go plant-strong, it was to save my life. Sure, I wanted to lose weight, but that had become secondary, to be honest. Saving my life was much more important. I was not going to make it much longer, living the way I was, with my T2 diabetes as out of control as it was. So I did it. As you know, if you have read my story before, the plant-strong thing, worked for my T2 diabetes. And my cholesterol, blood pressure, neuropathy, nerve damage, arthritis and hormone issues. And wouldn’t you know, I started to lose weight.

This is not a story about miraculous  weight loss. I didn’t get to my goal weight in a year. I’m not even at my goal weight almost 4 years later. I’ve lost about 1 pound per week for almost 4 years straight. Over 200 pounds now, which more than anything has helped me with things like getting control of my T2 diabetes, and the massive health problems I had when I started.

I may not be at my ideal weight. But I don’t care. I’m losing my modest, 1 pound a week still. I am on no medications, I get out and workout everyday, I can jog, I can fit into clothes at Target, I can get on an airplane and buckle a seatbelt. I am alive, and I am proud of the progress I’ve made and the changes that I’ve implemented in my life.

This is a long haul journey for me. This is something that I have committed to 100%, for the rest of my life. Because in all of this, I have realized the most important thing, I’m worth it, and it is not about losing weight or being skinny, this is a journey about health, and becoming the healthiest person I can be.

If you are in this for the long haul, like myself, never lose sight that you are worth it as well. It is not about getting to a certain weight in a year, it’s about deciding how you are going to live for the rest of your years.

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.

27 Responses to “The Long Haul”

  1. Stacy says:

    Amazing story, amazing person. Thanks for sharing your story and for the reminder about patience. I too have found that focusing on health instead of weight loss makes all the difference.

  2. Jean Hayes says:

    Thank you for all you do Natala and for sharing your long haul story with us!

  3. marsha says:

    So happy for you!! You have become a role model for many, many people! You are living proof that people can get control of their health in every way, and make maintaining control a lifestyle that will work for them the rest of their lives! Cheers to YOU!!

  4. Natala~You are an amazing woman and an inspiration to me, as well as many others! Thank you so much for sharing your life story with us. I am too on the long haul and many times I have fallen, but I keep getting back up and and determined this is a life long journey.

    Keep up the great work!! You ARE worth it! :)

  5. Laurie says:

    Way to go, Natala! You are so right . . . this is a lifestyle that has to be for the long haul. You have discovered the “secret” to true health! I love everything about being plant strong! Thanks for sharing your inspiring journey with us!

  6. Darcy says:

    THANK YOU Natala for another blog entry that was meant for me! Tomorrow is my first veganniversary :-) is tomorrow and I have never felt better! Off all meds and life is so good! I’ve lost 50 lbs (I have to stop myself from putting “only” in front of that 50) and have 40-50 to go. I do believe my journey is about health and quality of life first, weight loss second and sometimes it’s hard to maintain this perspective. Thanks for sharing your story!!

  7. Thank you! I always need reminders that this is for the kind haul. I’d really prefer a miraculous journey, but it’s not in the cards.

  8. MrsChill222 says:

    Love this! Thank you for sharing your story. You are worth it, I am worth it, we are worth it and together we are plant strong!!

  9. Joanie says:

    I have a question, and I don’t mean to be rude, but you are working for Rip, and you are clearly a talented woman, with a powerful message, why don’t you speak at any of the events? Why is it so male-centric? It seems to me that Engine 2 is about the people who just look the best. I would personally go to an event that you were speaking at, it would show a lot on Rip’s part, instead of making this about being thin.

    • Jen says:

      It’s not about being thin. That comes as a bipriduct of this way of living. If that what you’re getting out of this you need to re examine why you want to eat this way.

  10. Kristin says:

    You are amazing Natala. So proud of your accomplishments and your journey. Looking forward to the next update!

  11. Kim Hawkins says:

    I am so thankful for you! Your story is almost mine (except I had gastric bypass surgery that stopped my diabetes in its tracks. But heart disease? Not so much.) Thank you for sharing.

  12. Plntstrngchoice says:

    You are a shining star!

  13. happysoul91 says:

    This is a great blog and thank you for sharing it with us.

  14. Ales says:

    I have a question, you wrote: “some of us are born with higher fat stores than others”, can you please give some reference to this, since I couldn’t found any?

  15. Kathy G says:

    Awesome, as always, Natala! You are truly an inspiration.

  16. Val says:

    Natala, I truly love your spirit! You are an amazing writer and an inspiration to all who cross your path.

  17. Ruth says:

    How do you describe the shift in mental perspective that has made the weight loss possible? I would like to be able to explain it to others, but words fail me. I have dropped 100 lbs myself and have about 20 to go. I need to stay strong. It’s the maintainance that concerns me most…and yet my head is in a great place. This WILL be the last time I have to lose masses of weight. I will NEVER be over 200 again!

    • Engine2Team says:

      You know, I don’t worry about maintaining, because I will never not be plant-strong. As far as how to describe the mental shift? When people ask me about my success so far, I tell them about the great changes in health, the weight is always the last thing I bring up.

  18. Sharon says:

    This is my Amazing daughter… Be INSPIRED, she has me, thank you to all who wrote such wonderful things. And she is BEAUTIFUL in every way possible !

  19. Natala, thank you for sharing your story – I look forward to someday seeing one of your presentations, at which time I will also hope to have you sign my copy of your latest book! Keep at it.

  20. Priya says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I myself am starting the plant based lifestyle, for health reasons and also to further improve my eating habits. You said your journey wasn’t about losing the weight but about saving your life. So I am wondering were there times when you found it hard to stay on this path and how were you able to handle, if at all, times where it was hard to stick to this way of eating?

    Thanks in advance!

  21. Kay says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Natala. You are so inspiring!! I can identify with everything you wrote. been there too. You are an inspiration to us all!

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