Happy Herbivore Blog

June 20, 2013

Herbie of the Week: Mary

Meet our Herbie of the Week, Mary! Back in January, Mary emailed me with her amazing story. After experimenting with vegetarianism 28 years ago, Mary had gone back to the standard American diet. She was experiencing digestive problems and fought frequent food cravings. Mary recently celebrated her one-year anniversary of being powered by plants! In that year, Mary has lost 14 pounds, no longer needs medication for digestive issues, and has found simple joy in food and fun activities. No more guilt! She sent an update following this milestone in her plant-based journey, and today we are sharing Mary's story in her own words.


"I am 59 years young and a little more than a year ago on June 1, 2012, I became plant strong. I had experimented with vegetarianism when I was 31 years old, after reading Diet for a Small Planet. The ethics in that book really appealed to me and felt right. But I made it just 6 months and then went back to the normal American diet. 

A year ago, however, things were different. I just was not very happy with how I was eating or how I was feeling. I was vaguely aware of the cruelty involved in the meat and dairy industries and keenly aware of the environmental impact. I was about 10-15 pounds heavier than I wanted to be and had digestive health problems such as GERD and chronic constipation, which required regular medication. I also had frequent cravings for things like candy, chips, butter, bacon, and rich sauces and spent a lot of time thinking about food and baking treats. This had been an intermittent pattern since I was a teenager and there was often some component of guilt with my eating. 

A window of opportunity abruptly opened when I watched Forks Over Knives (FOK) on May 31, 2012, and that was it. Right then and there, I looked at my husband and said I wanted to do this. I immediately quit eating all animal products. At the same time, I started eating lots more veggies, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, using recipes from the FOK book

It took a week or so to adjust to the change in tastes, and I lost 7 pounds in the first month. And much to my amazement, all of my digestive problems went away within less than a week. I went off those medications and haven’t had any more heartburn or constipation since.  

During that entire summer, I enjoyed trying a lot of new recipes and I also started delving into the written work and websites of all of the FOK contributors, including the Happy Herbivore cookbooks and website. The next pivot point for me came with reading John and Mary McDougalls’ book, The Starch Solution, and bingo, more pieces fell into place. I realized that I hadn’t really gotten the 'no oils' and 'whole starches are good' parts of the equation. In September, I quit using all extracted oils, began limiting my use of peanut butter and coconut milk and similar high-fat plant foods, and I started planning my meals around the starchy plant foods. 

Thinking of my eating pattern as starch-based simplified everything enormously for me. Instead of thinking ‘no meat or dairy,’ I starting thinking ‘fill half your plate with whole starches, fill in the other half with veggies/fruit and you’re there.’ Another 7 pounds came off by December for a total weight loss of about 14 pounds.  I have maintained my new normal weight easily and I don’t think about food a lot or have cravings any more. The last time I weighed this little was when I was 16 years old! 


I no longer feel compelled to go to the gym to compensate for a poor diet. I now engage in fun activities such as yoga, walking, biking, kayaking, home chores and gardening. These are more enjoyable now because I feel better, my body moves more easily and my clothes fit better. I feel so at home in my body, like this is the body I am supposed to have and that this is how I am supposed to eat. The conflict is over.  

I cannot over emphasize how life-changing this has been for me. Eating is now a simple joy, free of guilt or obsession and without worry about calories or portions. I 'eat to live,' not 'live to eat.' I truly prefer simple real un-animal food. Yes, once in a while I 'cheat' — meaning that I eat a few jelly beans, have a bite of a graduation cake or a few Cheetos at a social event.  And I might even eat one 'some more' by the campfire this summer. The difference is that I consciously choose to do it, it isn’t very often, there’s no guilt, and I go back to the program. 

I believe the change in my relationship with food paved the way for me to open up to other experiences, as well. I began a daily meditation practice last fall, and am living more fully in each moment and consciously living life. I smile more, I like other people more, and I think I like myself more, too! I spend less money on food now and that is extending into me being aware of my 'stuff' and a desire to downsize the material side of my life.  

I do hope that sharing my story will encourage others to try eating this way. In the very least it will be a life adventure. It can’t hurt you and you may even find that it works for you. Remember, this started for me when I was 31 years old. Timing is everything — it took me another 28 years to be ready to really do it.  I am so thankful that it all came together like it did. Best of health to all the HH readers and thanks, Lindsay, for your great books and putting yourself out there!"

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Mary! Congrats!

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