This morning, I reached a huge milestone in my journey to good health. I am officially 140 lbs. lighter than when I started.
From my in-depth research, which included Google and little else, I discovered that this means I’ve lost the equivalent of a Nikki Minaj. I’ve lost an Angelina Jolie holding an Oscar and wearing 1.5 lbs. of bling. I’ve lost a Beyonce carrying one of Angelina’s adopted babies. So, yeah, I guess it’s a lot of weight.
In addition to the fantastic encouragement I’ve received from you four faithful readers, one of whom is my mother, I’m getting the inevitable question, “How?” How on earth did I lose 140 lbs. where I couldn’t before? How is it that I’ve followed the most restrictive way of eating I’ve ever attempted and succeeded after I failed at low-carb, fat-rich diets?
I’ve been thinking about it a lot, because a trite answer is useless to anyone who might want to accomplish the same thing. I take it seriously, and truly want to help anyone achieve what I have.
As for the eating plan itself, I outline it here, and you can also read more about it at Dr. Esselstyn’s website as well as the less restrictive Engine 2 Diet, created by Rip Esselstyn. Dr. Esselstyn’s plan has been proven to halt and reverse heart disease, prevent diabetes and cancer and generally improve the health of everyone who commits to it. I truly believe it has saved my life.
But I’ll also say that the diet was only a small part of it. Eating the way that I do has made me healthier than I’ve been in a long time, but the “diet” itself is really just a guideline, a road map, pointing me in a direction. The rest is what I want to really share with you, because it’s honestly the “how I did it” part.
When I was faced with the truth of my heart disease, everything changed for me. I had been eating well, had lost 40 lbs. and had been maintaining that weight for awhile, but it wasn’t enough. I was back in the hospital, getting two more stents, and facing a future of even more stents or, eventually, bypass surgery.
When I decided to follow Dr. Esselstyn’s eating plan, I told myself, out loud, “No matter what anyone else does, no matter where they eat, no matter what they put in front of me, no matter the social situation or event, no matter if I have to skip a meal, no matter what…I will only eat plant-based, whole foods. Period. For the rest of my life.”
Eating this way became my life from that moment on. It was never a “try it and see” kind of experience for me. This was a complete rearrangement of my belief system about health and food and life. It was a paradigm shift. It was clear. It was concise. It wasn’t vague at all. It was a very specific goal that I set my mind upon wholeheartedly.
This resolve and belief is at the core of any kind of lasting life change. If you don’t have a good, fundamental, specific reason for making a change in your life, you won’t stick with it because nothing is really at stake. I found my reason for doing this and to succeed, you’ll have to do the same.
People underestimate the power of emotion when pursuing a goal, but research says it’s not only important, it’s essential. Dan and Chip Heath’s book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, paints a picture of emotion as a huge elephant, being steered by “the rider” of your rational mind or your resolve.
Following Dr. Esselstyn’s health plan is intensely emotional for me. My quality of life, my time with my wife and children, my goals and aspirations — living past 60 years old! — are all wrapped up in this life change.
Emotions can trip you up, they can lead you into dark places of despondency, where you’re questioning whether or not you’re doing the right thing. When pursuing a goal like this, you have to seize your emotions, finding the feeling behind the change. What will it feel like to be healthy? What will it feel like to come off your meds? How will it feel to be able to play with your children, move easier and help around the house?
Latch onto these emotions and use them to drive you in your quest for your goal.
Adventure is really just another word for “journey,” which is the word I use to remind myself that nothing comes quick and easy. This is a lifestyle. This is one step in front of the other. This is a path on which I sometimes trip and fall, have to get up and then sometimes fall again.
My battle with soda was a rough patch in my journey, but one I eventually travailed. Some of the foods I was eating contained oil or animal products without my knowledge, and I had to adjust to rid them from my diet. In those slip-ups, I didn’t quit. I’m on an adventure, and those types of changes and adjustments are par for the course.
When you’re on a journey, you keep moving. You keep following the path and sometimes, you get to look back and say, “Wow, look how far I’ve come.” But you keep walking.
I’ve talked about this several times before, but I’ll say it again. Preparation is the key to eating to live. I am constantly thinking about my next meal, the next family get-together, the next office party. The old adage, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is absolutely true.
I make sure I have lunch and snacks for work. If I don’t, I’m basically giving myself an open door to possible failure. There aren’t any vegan fast food places I know of, and even the healthier restaurant chains don’t offer choices for strict vegans who don’t eat oils of any kind.
I’ve gotten amazing support from my wife in this (all of this!), and she helps me to make sure I have food for each day. I won’t go to bed until I’m sure I have breakfast, lunch and dinner (if necessary) away from home.
The Secret Sauce
If you didn’t notice, I took a bit of artistic liberty, stretching a bit in the process, to create an acrostic that I hope you’ll remember: REAP. In the Bible, Galatians 6:7 says, “for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”
You want to know the “secret sauce” to losing this kind of weight? It’s the same secret sauce that drives any and all success stories, and it took me 40 years (and a movie about an overweight panda who practices Kung Fu) to figure it out.
There is no secret sauce. You will only reap from something in equal measure what you’ve put into it. Mastery, success, results and excellence only come from persistence, determination and work.
So what will you do today to get started?