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For those of you who follow Engine 2, you may already be familiar with our Herbie of the Week: Ami. A coach for Engine 2 Extra, Ami, a former low-carber turned dairy-loving vegetarian, finally found health with a plant-based diet. Her cholesterol is in check, she lost over 40 lbs. and her hubby has lost over 70 lbs. too!
HH: You initially found your way to a vegetarian diet thanks to your husband. Can you tell us a little more about that?
When I met my husband in 2009, he had been a vegetarian for 5 years. He was also an amazing cook, so I tried being vegetarian. We even had a vegetarian wedding reception complete with vegan cupcakes at our wedding.
HH: What was your health and diet like before you met your husband?
Prior to meeting my husband, I was a low-carber trying desperately to maintain an 87-pound weight loss for the past three years. Attempting to maintain my weight was really tough. I gained back half the weight I had lost before we even met. I had weighed 210 pounds back in 2004. Weight had always been an issue for me. My cholesterol was 242.
HH: Speaking about being misinformed — I find a lot of people assume a vegetarian diet is automatically healthy, but that's not always the case. We've had a number of Herbies of the Week who were vegetarian, or vegan, but were still overweight, sick, etc. because they were not eating whole foods or plant-based... they weren't keeping the "veg" in vegan or vegetarian, as I say. What kind of vegetarian diet did you eat?
We loved to eat! We ate a lot of dairy and high-fat foods.
HH: Eventually, you switched to a whole foods, plant-based diet — nixing the dairy and high fat foods. What spawned your dietary change?
Our busy lives, stress, career changes for both of us, and everyday life began to take a toll on our health. Our clothes didn’t fit. We had to do something. I bought Brendan Brazier’s book – Thrive. I read it cover to cover and attempted a couple of recipes. Then it sat collecting dust. I wasn’t ready.
The following year, we tried Dr. Barnard’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. It worked, but we fell off the wagon in Chicago. Foiled by Gino’s East Pizza!
At my annual check up my Cholesterol scores were: 229 – TRI: 177, HDL: 52, LDL: 142
During that time, I had purchased Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn’s book, Prevent And Reverse Heart Disease. I read it cover to cover, made a couple of recipes and then…well…same old story… Dr. Esselstyn sat on the bookshelf next to Brendan Brazier, shaking his head in disappointment.
Spring came last year, and found us at our heaviest in years. That's when I bought The Happy Herbivore Cookbook. I remarked to my husband, Bill, that this…this I can do! I can eat this way and be happy! I’m a sucker for cookbooks with photos!
Everything looked amazing and it was just the push I needed. I bought The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn shortly there after. I was building a compendium of information and recipes to sustain us. I was trying to figure out how to commit to being whole foods, plant-based. How do I give up my beloved plain yogurt? A few months later, I stumbled upon Forks Over Knives on Netflix. That’s it. Yes!!!
WE ARE DOING IT! December 27, 2011, we got down to business. Several false starts, excuses, and laziness prevented us from getting started earlier. As we had the tools all along. Sitting there collecting dust and waiting for us to get smart and get busy.
HH: Did you gradually cut out the dairy, etc. or did you jump straight in?
We jumped in, cold turkey, we got our behinds to the gym, found fitness that is fun for us, learned a lot about ingredients and what we are really capable of accomplishing. I love being a recipe scientist! Constructing meals that we truly enjoy, that nurture us. I attended the Farms2Forks Immersion Weekend in Austin, TX to learn even more about how we could thrive. I learned so much from the Farms2Forks team over the course of the weekend. I came home rejuvenated and focused on making this change a permanent one and helping others to do so as well as a plant-based food coach.
HH: So for you, this hasn't just been about your personal weight-loss and health, it has also changed your career and life! Amazing!! But we have to ask — tell us about the weight loss and other benefits you've experienced!
I have lost 45 pounds, so many inches, gained a bunch of muscle, but most of all, I gained the empowerment of knowing I can sustain this lifestyle. My cholesterol score after 6 months of plant-based living: 139 – TRI: 91, HDL: 40, LDL: 81. Almost a 50% reduction! I take no meds and feel amazing!
I LOVE being whole foods plant-based. It has made a tremendous difference in my health, my energy level, my relationship with food. My husband's too! He's lost 73 pounds as well.
HH: With your weight in check and feeling so good, what are your goals and focuses now?
I am focused now on continuing to improve my fitness level with strength training, running, swimming, and yoga. My whole life has improved since making this change. I’ve been certified in Plant-Based Nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Foundation/eCornell. I have also become a Fitness Nutrition Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. I am part of the Engine 2 Extra team, helping others on a daily basis with their plant-based journey.