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.
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