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Perhaps what I love most about our Herbies of the Week series is that it shows how different and unique everyone's journey is. We all end up at the same place — good health, from the same approach — eating whole, plant foods... but we all have such different starting points, different motivations, different ways of going about it.
For some of us, like Ami, our journey is long with many starts, stops and restarts. For others, the journey is short, overnight even. Some of us go "cold tofu" and make a total 180-change from SAD to plants, and some of us take small steps. Some of us ate fast food then switched; some of us were vegetarian or even vegan.
My point is, it doesn't matter how long or short it takes you to get here. Or how many pit stops happened along the way. Or even how many times you went down the wrong path and had to turn around and backtrack. What matters is you got here, or you're on your way.
I can't think a story better than Leah's that demonstrates this. She is a reminder that it's about progress, not perfection, and continuing on, as long as it takes, and whatever it takes, to reach your goal because YOU are worth it.
HH: You've had a long and winding journey to a plant-based diet and better health/weight loss. Tell us a little about that.
I started my weight loss journey 3 1/2 years ago. Over these last few years, my diet has changed. Initially, I cut out the red meat and switched to chicken, fish, etc. Cut my sugars, don't drink soda, got rid of added oils, etc. Increased my fruits and veggies and whole grains.
HH: What motivated you to make these dietary changes?
My initial motivation for losing the weight was to have overall better health. I had struggled with back pain since high school and as soon as I started to shed the weight the pain lessened until it was totally gone. To lose the weight, I knew I needed to change my diet and not just expect instant results like I used to. It was time for a complete lifestyle change.
HH: How'd you find your way to a plant-based diet?
My motivation to go completely plant-based at the end of 2012 was a culmination of reaching a plateau in my weight and not knowing how else to change it. I was introduced to plant-based eating by a group of friends on Facebook and how animal products can affect diet and athletic performance.
As an athlete, I was always trying to balance my diet with my calories burned and the performance I desired. After watching Forks Over Knives late last year, I knew that I needed to change my diet again.
HH: Did you gradually cut out animal products or jump right in? Was it challenging to make yet another dietary change?
After I educated myself on the perils of meat and dairy products, I made the change effective immediately! It was easy! The weekend of New Year's (2012-2013), I decided to completely go plant-based.
HH: You mentioned you were an athlete, and had always been concerned about your performance. Many people assume you can't be vegan or plant-based and be athletic, but I've found I perform and recover much better on a plant-based diet than I ever did before. What have you experienced?
I am able to recover better (I run, weightlift, box, etc.) and I don't have to worry about how my diet affects my workouts.
HH: Other than weight loss, health and improved athletic performance. Do you have any other motivations for following a plant-bases diet?
Now that I am better educated, another motivation is disease prevention.
I work in healthcare and I see the the results of a bad diet and how it can cause disease in us. I also am an animal lover! If I could own all the animals in the world and put them on a large ranch, I totally would :)
HH: Other than improved athleticism, have you experienced any other benefits?
I am now 75 pounds lighter. I was bordering a women's size 16/18. I am now a size 0/2. I have gained so much lean muscle and feel stronger.
I hadn't had any tests done in 4 years and don't remember those results, but here are a few of mine now: Cholesterol 127; Triglycerides 37; Blood pressure 92/60; HDL 58; LDL 58
I asked one of my MD friends how that was and she said: "I don't know what you are doing, but keep it up!"
HH: Anything else you'd like to add?
I have 2 of your cookbooks and they have been wonderful!
Thank you for doing what you do and providing the education I need to keep it up!
HH: Aww you're too sweet! Thank you for sharing your story with us, Leah!
UPDATE (6/25): In terms of maintaining my large weight loss, I don't feel restricted. I haven't counted calories since going plant-based and don't plan on starting again! My grocery bills are not nearly as expensive either. Eating plant-based is so second nature now, I couldn't imagine turning back. I'd also like to make a shout out to my first trainer, Chris V.! He showed me down the initial path of my fitness and without him and his motivation I don't think I could have started and kept with it. Oh and I stay active daily — my recovery period is much shorter and I have more stamina since going plant-based!