Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Guest Post by: Leah Winstead from "The Lovely Life of Leah"

Here is a special treat from Leah!!!!  You will laugh, cry and be inspired!  Enjoy and check out her blog at

Going Vegan, Losing Weight… my story
By: Leah Winstead

My story is a little different than most you will read on going vegan. There are all sorts of statistics out there on how much less body fat vegetarians have versus meat eaters and let’s be honest, has anyone ever seen an overweight vegan? It’s just not possible. So why did I go vegan? Because Alicia told me to.

Remember last fall when Britney Murphy died? I saw someone be a ‘fan’ of Alicia Silverstone (you know, from Clueless) just to show her some support on FaceBook, so I became a fan. But Alicia didn’t mention Brittney …she was promoting her new book and website “The Kind Diet/Life.” Being a vegan was of zero interest to me (I should add that I was brought up not really eating meat/dairy and let’s be honest… dairy and meat are good. As soon as I was able to make my own food decisions I ate what tasted good. And that was meat. End of story). Fast forward a couple months… And then it was Thanksgiving of last year. My sister Sarah attends college near where I live and came with me to my 3 yr old Gavin’s preschool Thanksgiving luncheon. As we were waiting in line to get our food she casually mentioned “so I’m a vegetarian now” and had her meal without the turkey. I was kind of shocked. I mean how could she abandon good foods like that? I personally don’t even like turkey, but of course I had it that day because I ‘felt like I had to.’ My sister going veggie opened my eyes that you can survive and not keel over of starvation from omitting the meat in meals.

I kept seeing links on my FaceBook news feed from Alicia Silverstone promoting her book “The Kind Diet/Life.” Meanwhile, my sister made it through the holidays w/ out eating meat and she was doing well… I don’t know where it got in my head that you MUST eat protein, specifically meat, at every meal to live. It’s just what you do, you know? This past New Year’s Eve I did a selfish thing. I took my 3-year old Gavin to daycare that morning and took some time for me. I went to The Fresh Market and purchased coffee cake as a special treat for myself; I went across the street to Books A Million and randomly saw Alicia Silverstone’s “The Kind Diet” and purchased it. I went home, ate my coffee cake and read the book. Then all of a sudden I started crying. Like, not getting misty eyed, but real, straight-up tears. Alicia went into detail about how bad dairy is for you and I thought "interesting, good to know". She went into detail about slaughterhouses and again, I thought Wow that sucks. But no real connection. Then she showed a picture of a bitty (aka baby chick, my favorite animal) and it all clicked. How could I have a favorite animal, but eat them?

But here’s the thing… chicken is good. Chick fil-a is really good. You know it’s true. Get some Polynesian sauce and… yeah. That’s not being a vegan. So I was kind of torn. I needed food to taste good.

Remember the title of Alicia’s Book “The Kind Diet”? It is a diet, so you lose weight if you follow what she says, right? She even had a recipe for weight-loss tea. I hate to admit it, but I’ll fall for any dieting scheme. I’ve done Weight Watchers, LA Weight Loss, Adkins, Cabbage Soup Diet… and I have no problem losing weight. It’s the keeping it off. So I had this book, I figured I’d follow Alicia’s plan and see what happened. I went on this crazy grocery shopping spree (Alicia’s diet plan is Vegan, but she also has this Macrobiotic thing she really focuses on). I lost maybe 1.5-2 lbs a week for a month… but I needed a tiny bit more structure and focus. I needed to be accountable to someone other than myself.

Meanwhile… at work we had the Biggest Loser competition that I volunteered to my office’s group of 10. I came up with weekly topics for our hour long meetings; you would have thought I was a Weight Watchers leader! As I searched the Internet for topics (it was a non-vegan office group, but I had big plans for them!) I learned more and more about not only being Vegan, but other things like Harvey Diamond’s “Fit For Life’s Fruit ‘till Noon” concept. I read and read and read not only online but ordered books from Amazon. I created what I consider to be the ‘perfect plan.’ I motivated my Biggest Loser group and they actually listened to me!

They were losing weight and out of the 20 or so groups taking part in the contest (I work for a large hospital system) we came in 4th overall in percentage weight loss. I came in 5th place out of the 250 or so people who were participating as an individual. I lost a total of 23 lbs and had more energy than I had in my life. Where was all this information when I was a new mom and dragging just to get through the day? And what I found was that there are actually good tasting foods out there that don’t have meat or dairy in them. I was shocked! You don’t have to eat gross lentils and tofu… but guess what… lentils are good and tofu is too! You just have to try this stuff. Order it at a restaurant, get a cook book. Don’t limit yourself because of the unknown.

So why not eat meat? I wish I could say that I think of the baby animals suffering and that is enough to make me not eat meat. It’s not. I like how it tastes more than I like the animals (sorry).So here’s the thing… eating meat is not good for you. I will not get all preachy and talk about how meat is hard for your body to digest, takes your energy, and makes you feel sluggish. If you give it up and then eat it again, maybe it will taste all ‘gamey’ to you… or maybe it will be delicious. But if you want an easy way not to lose weight, just omit the meat and see what happens.

Why not eat dairy? Again, I wish I could think of baby calf’s being taken from their moms, and that be enough, but there is a disconnect for me. Ice cream = good. But dairy is not good for you either. And if you like dairy, yes, sorry friends but you are a perv. What??? Yes. Think about human babies… they drink their own mother’s milk, fatten up and are weaned and then go on w/ their lives. You don’t see a 30 year old sucking from their mom’s boob do you? Eew no. So how is drinking from a cow’s boob different? And cow’s milk is to fatten up a huge farm animal. And what is in milk that makes you ‘crave’ it, like crave cheese and ice cream (yummm don’t’ think I don’t like these) it’s casein. It’s the devil. It is this little protein that makes babies crave milk so they will eat and thrive. That’s what you are craving. See? You are a perv.

So here is ‘The Plan.’ This works. Period. You will not be hungry, you will not have cravings, your body will have what it needs to have. You will feel better than you ever thought possible. Is it strict? Yes. Do I need to be this strict? Yes. In summary, don’t eat dairy, meat, eggs, fish, or sugar. Does that sound awful? Yes, but trust me it’s not. It’s easy, you will feel amazing and your grocery bill will be $20 a week or less. (Granted I have a family and they do not always follow this. I try to set a good example. I think everyone should be free to help or hurt their body. As long as they are educated and consciously can make their own choices)

Water – Drink 8 glasses a day. Hot tea (with no sweetener) totally counts.

Fruit – Eat nothing but fruit until noon every day. I will not go into details on this… Google it, research it, just know that due to your body’s circadian rhythms you are in the elimination stage from 4am – noon and in order to have your body use as little energy as possible to digest food, fruit (fresh, raw, uncooked)eat nothing but fruit until noon. Hungry? Not noon yet… have more fruit.

Raw Vegetables– Show of hands, who craves … carrots? Celery? Maybe you like them along with your chicken wings and ranch, but it is super rare for people to crave fresh, raw foods. These are the best things you can give your body. You know this. So for lunch have a salad. Like a huge, righteous, rock star of a salad. I love veggie burgers and will throw one of those Boca patties on there. I need to have more protein than that on my salad after eating nothing but fruit. I add legumes, like edemame (they sell it in the frozen section of wal-mart for $1.29 a bag. Don’t act like I’m telling you to buy something fancy or expensive). Use a GOOD FOR YOU salad dressing… or make your own! I can’t handle making my own salad dressing, however anything by Annie’s Naturals is delicious. What you don’t want in your dressing is: 1- High Fructose Corn Syrup. 2- Sugar. 3- Dairy anything. Yes, it is tough to find dressings w/ out sugar… but sugar makes your insulin spike and you crave more sugar… ever feel like you need dessert? It’s because your insulin is spiking. And throw cooked veggies on there too. And if you want, have a starch along with your lunch. I am too lazy to search out breads w/ out sugar/high fructose corn syrup… but they are out there. Or have a little red potato. Whatever.

Dinner – this is the tough one. I need protein again. This may be just me, but a bowl of pasta and some tomato sauce isn’t cutting it. I need something better. Fortunately this is a great time in the world to be a vegan. There are infinity meat substitutes out there and yes, you can buy them all at Wal-Mart for cheap, so don’t give me the excuse you can’t afford it. Same with dairy. Just make sure they don’t put the evil casein in it because sometimes sneaky soy cheese brands do that just to get you hooked.

Exercise – do something active every day for 30 minutes. Washing dishes, vacuuming, dancing, walking, jogging, taking the stairs… you get the idea. It all counts. You just have to do SOMETHING. But the good news is you will have crazy energy. Not necessarily from being vegan (I sometimes test myself and have peanut butter and cereal for breakfast… and I feel like I’m going to crash and burn by 10am).

Snacks – raw. Eat raw fruits, veggies (if it’s the afternoon/evening). Eat raw nuts (not too many. I can’t have them around b/c I am a binger and will eat the whole jar. Same with chips). Have some more protein, how about hummus? How about salsa? It’s all good.

Going out to eat/traveling – well guys, this part sucks. I wish I could say I’m ‘perfect’ but I’m not. I do partake in ice cream, bakery items, and even… sometimes… (meat). I wouldn’t order a rack of ribs, but if someone I’m eating with has ordered them and offers me a bite, yes I will indulge and I will enjoy it. Life’s too short to feel like you are punishing yourself. My goal is 80% if I can follow my healthy eating 80% of the time I know I’ll feel great. I continue to test myself sometimes and every time w/ out fail I feel tired, sick, and gain weight. A little bit of anything will not hurt you. But a habit of a little bit daily adds up fast. Just try out what I say, substitute fake chicken nuggets for your Chick fil-a and you will be set.

OH! One last thing… back to the being accountable. If you are trying to maintain your weight, don’t worry about it… but if you want to lose, say 2 lbs or so a week, use a tracking site like dailyplate.com, the calorie counter app on your phone, and you will be fine. You rarely will even come close to the calorie amount they say you should have but it’s okay. You will thank me when you have more energy and are looking hot.

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