Christine Day's Vegan Health Story: Finally discovering the secret to vegan weight loss...
As someone who first became vegan as a result of a health crisis, I take some flak from the vegan community because reducing animal cruelty was not my primary motivation for going vegan. Once I got control of my health through a whole food plant-based diet, I learned more about veganism and came to hold dear my position, along with every other vegan, on not eating animals and to do everything I can to reduce animal suffering and it's effect on our environment.
But the truth is, the message of compassion that veganism espouses applies to the self, which is what crystallized in my conversation with Christine Day, a 52-year-old vegan from Vestal, New York.
"Vegan" versus "whole food vegan"
Even if you don't eat any animal products, you could still be hurting your health with a high-fat, highly processed, junk-food vegan diet. If you're a vegan struggling with weight issues, this is most likely your problem.
In fact, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of "The China Study" and whole food plant-based diet researcher and advocate doesn't like the term associated with a "vegan" diet because of all the junk food that is actually vegan (not made with any animal products.) This includes all the alternative meats and cheeses, frozen prepared foods, vegan sweets such as oreos and bakery items, vegan snack foods such as ritz crackers and potato chips, vegan butter, oils and of course, french fries among many other highly-processed foods that are vegan.
Dr. Campbell's point is that high-fat, highly-processed vegan foods laden in chemical additives do not help prevent, control or reverse diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. If eaten every day for most meals, these vegan junk foods will result in weight gain along with other health problems associated with being overweight such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure and increased risk of disease. You will most certainly not feel as good as you could, and while it may be good for the animals, it will not be good for you.
My point, here on the Going Vegan For Health Blog, is that when eating for health, you want to strive for a whole food plant-based diet, or what I like to call a whole food vegan diet instead. That's whole plant foods without the added fat, chemicals and processing.
Several vegans I have interviewed for my "Vegan Health Stories" series here on this blog have made this abundantly clear and Christine's Story really brought it to light.
Christine went vegan for the planet and the animals...
Christine went vegan in July of 2013 after a virus had her bedridden for five days. During that time, she picked up Victoria Moran's "Main Street Vegan" and, after reading that book, she was convinced that many of her symptoms were due to her values not being in alignment with her actions. Once she went vegan, she assumed her health would automatically improve.
"Ironically, I ended up becoming a junk-food vegan and my health suffered. After an initial drop in my cholesterol, those numbers and my weight started to climb and I gained 40 pounds in five years," said Christine.
Struggling with depression and hypothyroidism, Christine's doctor never suggested any solutions so she searched for a new general practitioner and also went to see an endocrinologist for help.
"At this point, I felt hopeless and powerless to change anything," said Christine.
When Christine saw the endocrinologist, he told her he was happy that she was vegan and that he wished more of his patients would eliminate animal products from their diets.
"Because he said I was overweight for my height, he challenged me to lose 12 pounds in 12 weeks. But,because of my age, menopausal status and thyroid condition, he said it would be hard. He offered me weight loss drugs if I needed them but I was desperate to make this work without more drugs," said Christine.
Then, she remembered she had a copy of "The Starch Solution" by Dr. John
McDougall, and started following the whole food vegan diet it described.
The diet focuses on starches (whole grains including breads, pastas and cereals as well as all beans and starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes) paired with all the non-starchy, colorful vegetables and fruits you prefer. The diet strictly avoids all animal products, processed foods and oils. As long as you stick to that simple dictum, you can eat as much as you want to without counting calories, carbs or anything else.
"The weight started coming off and I was shocked and thrilled," said Christine. "I was convinced there was nothing I could do to lose it yet there were the numbers on the scale continuing to go down."
She said the Facebook support group called McDougall Friends. saved her life more than once when she was navigating her way through this new lifestyle.
"Following this diet also made me realize exactly how much oil and sugar I had in my old diet," said Christine. "I mean, I love pizza with Daiya cheese and Field Roast Sausage. I helped myself to vegan desserts and bagels with Tofutti cream cheese. Before this diet, I was eating a lot of processed foods: vegan cheese, burgers, pizza. Lots and lots of oil. Even olive oil is bad if you have too much!"
Then she thought:
"Was my diet helping the planet and the animals?
Of course! But I was forgetting one
very important thing in all of this: my own health!"
After Christine started "The Starch Solution," she was eating more whole grains, lots of potatoes and oatmeal every morning.
"I've changed my daily habits, too. Now instead of toasting a bagel for a snack, I'll put some frozen hash browns (which is just frozen shredded potatoes and nothing else) on the waffle iron for ten minutes and make a waffle potato. It's so good to eat this way!"