Downsizing — How a Plant-based Diet changed my Life
After a lifetime of struggle, Graham is now a healthy weight and has come off medications for high blood pressure and cholesterol.
A little more than 10 years ago, I weighed well in excess of 17 stone. In fact, closer to 18 stone if I’m completely honest, though at the time I recall being ashamed to admit this, even to myself. I was 46 years old, and for most of my adult life, I had waged my own personal war against weight gain. In fact, it started even earlier, back in childhood. I recall my mother taking me to see our family doctor when I was around 11 years old, as both she and my father were concerned about my size. That’s when I first became aware of the term ‘obese’, which is how the doctor described me at the time, and he suggested to me and my mother that all I needed to do was eat less.
‘for most of my adult life, I had waged my own personal war against weight gain.’
Sadly, that’s fairly typical of the kind of advice one tended to get back then. You weren’t told ‘how’ to eat, in other words what constituted a healthy diet, but simply to eat less. It’s hardly surprising in retrospect, since this has been a hotly debated issue for the best part of half a century and there are still differences of opinion…i.e. should you eat less fat, or fewer carbohydrates, or both? My parents were obviously concerned about me and wanted to do the right thing, but they didn’t really have the expertise to resolve my problem, as they simply didn’t know what was right. I tried my best and they tried their best. I starved myself and cut out meals. I watched as my brother piled his plate high and wished I could do the same without suffering the consequences, but this just resulted in making me feel more miserable and unhappy. In short, all the visit to the doctor accomplished was to increase my feelings of shame and make me even more self-conscious about my weight and how I looked, something which stayed with me throughout my teens, twenties, thirties and beyond. It certainly affected my confidence in a number of ways.
‘all the visit to the doctor accomplished was to increase my feelings of shame and make me even more self-conscious about my weight.’
Back in 2009, I was taking Lisinopril for high blood pressure and statins to reduce cholesterol. I had a demanding job working as a sales manager in a publishing company and was suffering regularly from anxiety and fatigue. I desperately wanted to lose weight, but as before, nothing I tried seemed to work. I had tried The Atkins Diet and various other fad diets with minimal success. Admittedly, I was able to lose some weight, but the diets were never sustainable and within a short time I was always back to where I started.
Then, in December 2009, something happened that would mark a huge change in my life. I met up with Annette, a friend from my University days who I met on a year abroad in Germany. I hadn’t seen her for more than 15 years and had contacted her again on a whim. One thing led to another, we started to see each other regularly, travelling backwards and forwards between Cumbria where she worked as a teacher, and York, where I was based. I learned from Annette the power of eating natural, predominantly plant-based whole foods and the huge influence this can have on our health and the importance of regular exercise. Annette and I would walk for miles. There was no element of persuasion or pressure, it just felt right. I ate the same foods that Annette chose for herself, foods that had worked to resolve her endometriosis. It was easy because I was intrigued and primed for change after the many years of struggle to find a solution. I began to see and feel the benefits almost immediately. I started to lose weight, gradually and consistently. By the time we got married in April 2011, I had lost almost 2 stone without ever feeling like I was really trying. This was exciting. I began to feel I had discovered the ‘holy grail’ of diets, the one that works and yet doesn’t seem like a diet. Instead, I was eating vibrant, tasty foods that were packed full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and more!
‘I began to see and feel the benefits almost immediately. I started to lose weight, gradually and consistently.’
Fast forward to 2013…. At a local Health & Healing event in the spring, Annette and I met a raw vegan chef and were persuaded to attend her Raw Plant-Based Food retreat in Wales that summer. By this time, we were both travelling full steam ahead with our healthy eating adventure, continually finding and trying new recipes and combinations and sharing our passion for natural wholesome food. But something about ‘raw’ food intrigued us, and we really wanted to indulge our curiosity. We spent three fascinating days on the retreat, sampling great food and were completely hooked. On returning home, we invested in a powerful blender, a dehydrator, and a library of books. Since then, we have continued to adapt our plant-based diet based on what we feel works best for us and on what we have learnt through a combination of our own experience and research.
‘I no longer take any medication, my blood pressure has normalised, my cholesterol is at a healthy level’
I have continued to lose weight steadily, and now weigh a little under 11 stone, something I would never have thought possible. As a result, I no longer take any medication, my blood pressure has normalised, my cholesterol is at a healthy level, and I have bundles of energy as well as more self esteem and confidence. It has also been the spark for a complete career change. Annette and I are both passionate about inspiring others to improve their health through eating a plant-based diet and are both currently immersed in a year long Mastering Raw Food Education program run by Drs Rick and Karin Dina, two leading US-based Raw Food and Plant-based Educators. I, or better said, we have both learned how plant-based whole foods can support our health and how our standard modern diets can be so often the cause of chronic lifestyle conditions that plague our population and put a strain on healthcare systems around the world.
There is a different way, and we are excited to be part of the plant-based community.