I am an obesity survivor. I spent the first 30 years of my life either bingeing or dieting; each of those states was sufficiently unpleasant that I'd revert to the other out of desperation. I was not uneducated about food and nutrition. I had, after all, been trying to "fix" myself since childhood. It's just that a lot of the information I got, like much of what's available now, was myth-based -- i.e., the late, great "four food groups" -- or commercially motivated: all those classroom posters from the Dairy Council, all those TV ads about the white bread that would build strong bodies in an ever-increasing number of ways.
I grew up and became a health writer, interviewing the experts for magazine articles, under the
assumption that getting their knowledge firsthand would seep in and change everything. It didn't.
The turnaround came the day I realized that, as for any addict, the drug- - in this case, food, and manufactured products pretending to be food -- had me. I knew there was no escaping, that my situation was beyond the reach of my nutritionist and the library of diet and self-help books I'd collected. With nowhere else to turn, I had a chat with God and said, basically: "I'm done. No more diets, no more games. It's okay with me if I never get thin, but please -- please -- make me free."
A series of remarkable events followed. I joined a gym -- only this time with no "goal weight." Then I met a group of people who'd recovered from eating for a fix and who knew how to do that, a day at a time. And although I'd been vegetarian for awhile -- I cared about animals and didn't want them killed for my sake -- I was able to become, imperfectly but committedly, vegan. No animal products, mostly whole foods. I immediately felt that freedom I'd prayed for: a lightness, a relief, a sense of being able, with great love and no guilt at all, to look a cow or pig or chicken in the eye.
I was also astounded by how well I could eat when I built my menus around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and a few nuts and seeds. I could finally eat enough. Those little half-cup-of-this, three-ounces-of-that proscriptions didn't apply anymore. I could eat really big salads and regular-sized portions of veggie-burgers and veggie-chili and veggie-tofu-stir-fries over brown rice. The promise of a thousand infomercials, "Eat all you want and lose weight," had finally been fulfilled, and I didn't even have to make three easy payments.
I'm not perfect, but what's wonderful about eating a plant-based diet is, I don't have to be. French fries have crossed these lips -- white flour, too. It's just that, these days, those are the last foods I want, and when I eat them on the rare occasions that nothing is else available, it's no big deal. What has happened over the years is that feeling good has become its own addiction. I like it. I want to feel even better. I drink fresh juices (my favorite is celery, kale, apple, and lemon) and make a morning power-smoothie (almond milk, banana, berries, blackstrap molasses, ground flaxseed, and a nutrient-booster called Vega created by vegan triathlete Brendan Brazer) every day.
"Make your plate look like a Christmas tree," I tell people, "mostly green with splashes of other bright colors." As I see it, a green salad is an open invitation to carrots, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and the sprouts that grow in jars on my kitchen counter. I add some "oomph factor" with steamed broccoli, asparagus, yellow Finn potatoes or bright orange yams; garbanzos or red beans or black ones; sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, artichoke hearts or black olives or slender slivers of plant-based cheese. (Yes, these days there's even cheese that bypassed the cow. Life has become very generous.)
I've found in this way of life a series of adventures. I raised my daughter, Adair, as a vegan. (Yes, she still is one, and she's fine, and she's even trained as a stunt performer.) I've traveled all over -- Iceland, Tibet, Switzerland where the rivers practically run milk chocolate -- and have nowhere on earth been denied three plant-based meals a day. I've been through life and loss and 40 and 50 and my weight stays steady, some 60 pounds less than it once was. Every year when I put away my winter clothes and get out my summer clothes, they fit. And I haven't been on a diet since the Reagan administration.
Victoria Moran is the author of Main Street Vegan.
For more by Victoria Moran, click here.
For more personal health stories, click here.
Follow Victoria Moran on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Victoria_Moran