The Daily Beet

18 Apr “Today, the thought of adding greasy fatty cheese to my beautiful plate of vegetables is nearly nauseating.”

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We are having a great time in Hawaii!

We asked people last week to tell us what the hardest part of becoming plant-strong was and how they got past it, we wanted to share Janet’s story with you today.

My Plant-Life Journey

“It was about two years ago when I was at work teaching a new class of technical support agents when I began to feel dizzy. The dizziness was followed by blurred vision and a numbness in my arm. I called out to the trainer in the next room and asked that he take over the remainder of my class while I attempted to reach my husband. What followed was a rapid series of tests, all of which would uncover one physical ailment after the other.

The battery of tests revealed that I was basically falling apart; sarcoidosis in my lungs, a blocked carotid artery, dangerously high cholesterol, nerve and disc compression in my back and neck and it was likely that the dizziness and numbness revealed that I had suffered a minor TIA (transient ischemic attack), or stroke.

Fast forward to this past December, we had just crossed three months of ‘playing’ with a vegetarian diet so that I could lose weight followed by the completion of the 21-Day Vegan Quickstart with PCRM (Physician Council for Responsible Medicine) just to see what a vegan diet was like. At the end of the 21 days I was feeling good and wanted to see if the changes in my diet had helped with my conditions. The results were amazing. My cholesterol numbers had improved by almost 50% and the blockage in my carotid artery was gone. Additionally, I had lost 15 pounds and was feeling incredible. Good enough to address the issues with my failing back.

Even with these great results, we didn’t jump right in to a Plant-based diet. In fact, our entire journey has been cautious. You see, my husband was raised on a 40,000 acre cattle ranch in Montana and I was raised in a typical suburban home with a diet like most modern Americans. Additionally, my husband, Larry, is a Type 1 diabetic and we both believed that he could only eat a high-protein (meaning animal protein), low carbohydrate diet. So we were a bit scared and suspicious that this new way of eating would not work for us.

We had watched several documentaries that began to open our eyes including; Food Inc, Food Matters and finally Forks Over Knives. It was FOK that really got our attention. Yet, the fear of jumping in was preventing us from fully engaging. At this point, we had successfully cut out all soda, all meat and most cheese but making the final leap and fully embracing a Plant-Based, No Processed Foods, No Oil and No Cheese diet was met with fear on both of our parts. What if Larry’s blood sugar levels go through the roof? What if they plummet? What will our friends and family think? What if we find that we miss our ‘old’ way of eating and we fail?

Our final documentary was Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue. I immediately downloaded the e-book and read it the next day. I announced to Larry that I was going to start the 28 day plan the following Monday. To my surprise, he agreed to join in with me.

As with most fears, none of them were realized. In fact, we have been amazed at how quickly we have adapted to the new way of eating. Larry’s A1C (average blood sugar levels) have actually improved by 30%. He wakes up most mornings with normal levels. Something he hasn’t ever experienced before. It is nothing short of miraculous in our minds.

The hardest transition for us was to give up cheese and oil. I had always considered myself a proper ‘foodie’ and ALL good cooks include Olive Oil as part of their recipes, don’t they? And cheese? Isn’t that a staple of the diet? We transitioned slowly. With the oil, we started by limiting dishes to small amounts of oil in baking and no added oil in stove top dishes. Eventually, we were able to incorporate some of the tips provided by Engine 2 and other plant loving sites and said our final farewell to oil.

Saying goodbye to cheese was the hardest thing for me. It was not unusual for me to snack on morsels all day long and add it to every dish (if it wasn’t the main dish). So, the process of letting go was very slow. When I learned about casomorphines, that was it for me. I had just stopped taking about five medications in an effort to live a drug-free life and cheese was my final drug of choice that had to go.

Today, the thought of adding greasy fatty cheese to my beautiful plate of vegetables is nearly nauseating. I’m thankful for that. I’m also thankful for the Engine 2 diet and the tools that help us succeed every day. We are still in the early days of our new life but the future is so bright. We truly believe that our lives have been extended and the quality of our lives has improved ten-fold.

My advice to anyone considering a plant-based diet is to be good to yourself. Allow yourself to have and ask questions. There are plenty of resources out there and people committed to your success. Do your research and then take the plunge. There will be times in the early days when you question your decision but if you hang in there, play with menu choices and experiment with new foods, you will love your choice – and so will your heart.

Here’s to living Plant Strong!”

-Janet

What did you have a hard time giving up?

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Engine 2 Team
Engine 2 Team

The Engine 2 Team is dedicated to helping you become plant-strong! Each of us are on the plant-strong journey right along side of you!

  • http://www.plantbasedadventures.com Ami Mackey

    Cheers Janet! I am so happy for you both! Cheese was tough for us too. We did the PCRM 28 day in January ’11. We were doing great until we took a trip to Chicago and had deep dish pizza 3 days in a row. I know. But it was Chicago and I never had it before. Cheese was our kryptonite. We fell off the vegan wagon for the rest of the year, going back to our fatty vegetarian ways. This time around I invested in a bunch of spices. When we started Engine 2 on Dec. 27, 2012, I was armed with a pantry full of interesting flavors to add spice to our dishes in the same way I used to add cheese. It’s been a great flavorful adventure thus far! Keep up the good work!

    • http://www.thereluctantonion.blogspot.com Jan Wood

      Thanks Ami! “Cheese was your kryptonite” – perfect description! So glad to have been released from its’ hold. Congratulations to you as well!

      Jan

  • Sydney

    I’m a Type 1 diabetic and have been plant-strong for 7 months now. I’m taking about half the insulin I was taking when I was eating the Standard American Diet and have achieved the lowest A1C I have seen in years. I would never have believed that I could eat this much carbohydrate and see such an improvement in my blood sugars! Most other diabetics I know (Type 1 and 2) are totally focused on low-carb diets. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • http://www.thereluctantonion.blogspot.com Jan Wood

      Sydney – It’s so good to hear from another Type 1 Diabetic. I know my husband feels alone at times. Your post encourages us too!

      Jan

      • Sydney

        My wife is a Type 2 diabetic and has also been plant-strong for 7 months. We both experienced an increase in our blood sugars for about 3 weeks after we went plant-strong. I actually needed twice the insulin I was taking previously. Then, after 3 weeks, our blood sugars improved, and my insulin requirements dropped as I mentioned previously. I continue to be amazed at the health-related benefits we are both experiencing.

        • http://www.thereluctantonion.blogspot.com Jan Wood

          That’s interesting – I think Larry experienced a bit of a spike too. He had to adjust his insulin up. Now, he’s adjusted it way down. Not only is he taking less but he’s saving us money! LOL

      • Margaret

        Jan,

        Thank you for your story. I am a Type II diabetic and have struggled since I was 21 to maintain a healthy blood sugar. Mornings were my enemy!

        I am 95% vegan. I do on occasion eat fish and eggs from our friends farm, however, giving up cheese, milk and other dairy products I too have had great success. While we are not losing weight quickly, it is slowly coming off. The biggest change has been my sugars. My “normal” reading use to be 150-175. My new normal is 108-125. I run on the high side if I’ve had a carb the night before.

        We’ve only been in this since January, and actually started this life change after seeing Vegucated. My change was because of the animals but my staying power will be the results and my health.

        We still enjoy our weekend with beer or wine but our meals have been transformed and I am loving it! Nothing like a portabella burger on the grill to remind us how wonderful nature is…

        Margaret

  • Joan Zeis

    I recently picked up the Engine 2 Diet DVD at our local library, I watched it and then invited my husband to watch it with me. He has Type II diabetes, high blood pressure and is overweight and is 71 yrs old. I thought that my meals were fairly healthy, but after watching the dvd, I realized that was not the case, Using olive oil, butter, dairy, chicken, turkey and some beef have been a major staple in our meals. We both love cheese and realize that this is not a great thing. Like Janet this will be our last unhealthy food to get rid of, as we have often said we would give up meat before we gave up cheese! We are on our way to changing the way we eat one receipe at a time and I’m on my way to the library to get the book to immerse myself in feeding my family healthy plant-based food sans processed food, oil and cheese.

    • http://www.thereluctantonion.blogspot.com Jan Wood

      Good luck to you and your husband Joan. You will find that it gets easier and easier as you wean yourself off of the cheese. It is incredibly addictive and as with all addictive sources, it takes time. You will find the book to be a great resource for you!

  • http://www.lanimuelrath.com Lani Muelrath, Plant-strong healthy living

    Hi Janet! What an inspiration is your story! And did we meet during the 21-Day Kickstart? I coach for the PCRM programs and thought perhaps our paths crossed there.

    Cheese – I know! You’re not alone. For me it was dairy, the last thing to go being cream in my coffee.

    Love your advice about getting an education and then taking the plunge.

    Lani

    • http://www.thereluctantonion.blogspot.com Jan Wood

      Hi Lani!

      It’s possible we met during the Kickstart, as I was quite prolific with my questions. LOL. Susan had asked to share my story so it’s possible that’s why I sound familiar, as well. I love your articles and have found so much help in your words. So, here’s my chance to personally thank you! -Jan

  • http://www.thereluctantonion.blogspot.com Jan Wood

    Hi Lani!

    It’s possible we met during the Kickstart, as I was quite prolific with my questions. LOL. Susan had asked to share my story so it’s possible that’s why I sound familiar, as well. I love your articles and have found so much help in your words. So, here’s my chance to personally thank you! -Jan

  • http://wellmangroup.blogspot.com Heather

    The hardest part for me has been giving up soda! I know it sounds crazy, but I gave up everything else with ease. I thought cheese would be hard, but I don’t even miss it. I thought eggs would be hard and all of that stuff, but nope, I’m good. But my diet Dr. Pepper still calls for me. It was a drug for me. I drank it to calm my anxiety to help me through the day. It was like coffee to me. (I don’t drink coffee).
    Giving it up has made me have to deal with emotions when I am not always totally prepared. In fact, I have found myself crying a few times, but I am slowly making it through.
    I would be lying if I said I never broke down. About once a week, I just break down and have a soda, mostly when I’m at my mom’s because she has it in the house. But I’m working on it. I realize I can’t be perfect all the time. And I actually feel proud of myself that I can “fall off the wagon” so to speak without giving up. In the “old” days I would have just thrown in the towel, but I know what I am doing is so important that I just don’t.
    You can read about my journey at my blog: wellmangroup.blogspot.com

  • Carolyn L

    I agree about dairy, although cheese wasn’t my big issue, frozen yogurt was. With all the new “do it yourself” frozen yogurt places popping up I was in heaven. I think this was partially due to the sugar and partially due to the dairy. Now it’s all gone, I don’t miss it at all. Heck, even when I go to a family outing with my boyfriend I don’t give into the oily and cheesy foods they have. I usually eat before I go and bring a little snack of baby carrots, grapes or celery.

    I do wish my boyfriend would follow this way of eating, but I think it would take a major health crisis to make him see the light. Oh well. One day at a time!

  • http://www.vestellasvale.blogspot.com DiaSong

    Thank you for sharing your story!
    My daughter’s family & I have been Gluten Free since ’09, & since she’s allergic to whey & egg yolks, mostly free of those as well. I got serious about dairy free last fall, & have lived at a vegetarian resort for several years, & am generally happy eating plant strong. We watched Forks Over Knives & Engine 2 at the end of April, just before a trip to the resort (where ‘special diet’ includes Gluten, egg & dairy free) so that was a great start to the month long challenge!
    I have dropped ~ 5 pounds, & am now back to my ‘young adult’ weight! I lost ~ 15-20# going Gluten free, & didn’t eat much meat, but some, & sugar!
    In some ways, ‘plant strong’ makes it easier to avoid hidden gluten – I played harp for an open house at a Dental office today – what great trays of veggies & fruit; crackers (avoid) & cheese (ditto) … no need for the sauces :)
    I’d say oil is my ‘jury is out’ item – as I use coconut milk kefir (make my own) & the research on medium chain fats & mental health.
    And it’s great to be on this journey with my daughter & her family – 7 & 12 year old girls, & an 11 month old baby boy (plant strong & mama’s milk :)

  • Joe Philip

    After almost 2 weeks on the plan, what I seems to be missing the most are sweets. I have always been a sort of a sugar junkie. I have been really trying to avoid it, so i sneek a little 100% no sugar added juice. I am sure I am screwing things up, but it is better then a bag of M&M Almonds every week.

    I have been amazed at my energy level, no more wishing for a nap at 2 in the afternoon. It is the first time in a very long time. I think we will be sticking with this for more then 28 days.