Happy Herbivore Blog

September 19, 2013

Herbie of the Week: Jeremy W. (& His Wife Michaela too!)

Back when I was working on the plant-based guys series (you can read Part 1 and Part 2), I met Jeremy who dropped a hint into our conversation that he (and his family) wanted to be Herbies of the Week

Actually, he said, specifically, "I would love the chance to be a Herbie of the Week! Not only have I lost over 70 pounds, but my wife is well below her pre-pregnancy weight even though she got injured during birth and was hardly able to walk for seven months before and was in a wheelchair for about two months. 

We've had a rough year and very stressful year with the birth of our first child, but I can't imagine going through all this carrying all that extra weight and the stress it would have put on my body and mind. I love to write and I would love the chance to tell our story for your blog." 

So, I'm super awesome at taking hints, you see. ;) All kidding aside, Jeremy and his wife's story is fantastic and I'm really glad he offered to share it with all of us! Without further ado....

                

To say my wife and I have had a tough year would be an understatement, but I can't imagine carrying the 79 pounds I used to carry while raising a newborn as my wife suffered and then recovered from a separated pelvis from childbirth. To top it off, I ended last year and started this year on crutches as my doctor discovered a stress fracture that I probably had since summer.


I knew that I was going to be overweight in the first pictures taken of me with my son, but I didn't want my son's first memories to also be of me overweight. 

That was my motivation last January when our first and only child was born. It took until May for me to finally do something and once I did, my motivation changed to the fact that I was feeling great and losing a ton of weight while doing something I know will give my wife and I the best chance to grow old and healthy together.


Last February, I found myself weighing as much as I ever knew myself to weigh: 277 pounds. My son had jaundice when he was born in January and his bilirubin was very high (high enough at one point that if it didn't go down after the next blood test, he would have needed a transfusion). He was released from the hospital after a couple of days, but we still had to go back every day for blood tests. We went in the morning to keep from missing too much work and most of the days we would get drive-thru breakfast sandwiches. We would often go out for dinner as well to "treat" ourselves after another stressful day. The convenience of fast food and its addicting taste sure felt good as we dealt with this added stress.

On top of this, my wife was in great pain whenever she tried to walk around a lot and our midwife was convinced she had separated her pelvis during our son's birth. We tried basic treatment options like a pelvic binder and she used a walker to get around. After six months of pain, an orthopedic doctor finally gave her an x-ray and found that the gap in her pelvis was far enough that she needed surgery. A month later she got a metal plate, some screws and a wheelchair, and that pain is completely gone. You can read my wife's full story here.

Last April, as my son was in his third month, I remember buying a pair of shorts. I was fed up with my body size and I just wanted something that fit comfortably. The shorts were the biggest waist size I ever bought and I truly felt like I was about to just give in and accept the fact that I was going to be a big person from then on. I don't even know why. I wasn't trying to lose weight. I just had no motivation to try anything with all that was going on. The stress of it stuck with me until the following month when I starting tracking and cutting calories.

The Weight Loss Begins

I started my weight-loss journey May 2012 by tracking and limiting my calories. I had the mindset that could still eat whatever I wanted, just less of it. Like any strict diet you stick to for a few weeks, I lost a lot of weight. 

About three weeks into this diet, my wife and I watched "Forks Over Knives" on Netflix and immediately adopted a plant-based diet that day. Since watching it, we haven't had any meat, dairy, or eggs and our salt, oil, white sugar, and processed food intake is severely limited. The warm and caring advice given in the movie by Drs. Esselstyn and Campbell convinced us that a plant-based diet is the best possible way to give our bodies the nutrition they need to get and stay healthy and avoid the diseases that end up killing many of us (heart disease, cancer, and diabetes). The science presented in the movie and the success stories featured were enough to convince us. The higher your consumption of animal protein from meat and dairy, the higher your chances of getting the diseases I listed above and many others. Tons of studies show this and people think that moderation is okay. My wife and I have decided to eliminate those foods instead.


                

*Photo was taken weeks after switching to a plant-based diet.

I realized that just counting and limiting calories wasn't really doing my body any good, especially if I was still putting bad stuff in me. A body doesn't really crave calories and macronutrients like protein, carbs, or fats. It really wants nutrients and the most nutrient-rich foods are plants and a well-balanced diet of plants can give you nearly all the nutrients you need. There's no need to watch carbs or proteins and there are only a few big sources of plant-based fats (nuts and avocados) and if you want to lose weight fast eating this way, limit or avoid those.

I have learned since I made this change that while looking at nearly every study and article released on diet and disease prevention, the often less talked about group, vegans, had the lowest chances of getting the diseases. The media doesn't want to scare off readers or viewers by telling them to give up their pizza or yogurt. Instead, they will focus on the study that says subbing 300 calories of red meat a day for 300 calories of oil will give you a lower chance of heart disease and viewers will think they should eat oil at every meal. Sure, olive oil may be healthier than a steak, but what the stories don't look at are the numbers on the people who don't eat any animal products or oil at all. That, alone has convinced me to totally cut out meat, dairy and added oil.

               

*July 2012: My first 28 lbs lost. 

                

*January 2013: 60 lbs lost

                               

*75lbs lost!!!

The weight loss has been amazing and even after the first few months of rapid loss, I'm still losing about a pound a week eating all I want as long as it's plant-based! Resources like Happy Herbivore are really helpful in giving me new ideas and showing me that almost any basic meal can be turned into a plant-based feast! It didn't take long to lose the cravings everyone imagines they would have if they go vegan. Pizza with gooey cheese was the hardest for both of us but now I find the sight of it disgusting and my wife is motivated by that fact that she doesn't get migraines anymore from dairy. That helps keep us away from ice cream too!

I have always done most of the cooking in the family. I love it and it can be a stress reliever for me, but I certainly find it challanging to feed all three of us, especially since my son needs more fats than we do. He gets flax seed in his oatmeal every morning and he gets half an avocado every day or so. The little guy has actually eaten a whole avocado in one sitting and then went on to eat what we were having! There are days when he eats more than I do! If you have time, please check out my blog, pressboxlunch, where I write about cooking and feeding myself while working in a fast-paced industry that keeps me very busy most of the year.

Ongoing Challenges & Injuries

My wife gets around fine again but is still recovering as she works to regain the muscle she lost from a year of limited use of her body. I am on both feet but my doctor wants me to restrict any strenuous activity on my bad foot as we try and figure out why I have pain in a different spot now. It's frustrating because I ran a half marathon about five years ago and really want to run another one. We are also outdoor lovers and hope to do a lot of hiking and camping this summer and bring our son along.

Our injuries have kept us from doing the things we want to do together for the past 14 months (not to mention the nine months my wife was pregnant...), but I know the lifestyle change we made to go plant-based will keep us healthy and strong and we're doing the right things for our bodies.

We both jumped into this as relatively healthy individuals so we weren't trying to lower cholesterol or blood pressure or get off medications. I know now, though, that if I didn't do anything, the weight could have kept going up and we could both be on our way to the chronic diseases that so many people start to get as they grow older. Diet can cause those problems, and diet can fix them.

I went plant-based to lose weight. My wife Michaela wants to avoid the diabetes that killed her father and uncle. We both did it to use our diet to get and stay as healthy as possible.


                

*April 2013

Our numbers and facts:

  • My cholesterol was 133 at last check. My wife hasn't had a test since giving birth and pregnancy can skew the numbers. She was below 150 the last time she remembers.
  • I weigh 198 (down 79 pounds) and I now actually weigh less than what my driver's license says I weigh!
  • My body fat went from 39 percent in September of 2011 to 24 percent when I checked it a couple months ago. The body fat scale showed that most of my weight loss has been pure fat, so I know I'm doing something right!
  • My wife is below her pre-pregnancy weight and actually hopes regrowing her muscles will help her gain some weight back.
  • I went from a size 44 pants to a 36 and an x-large shirt to a large!
  • I can feel bones and muscles on my body I forgot I had and we can get our arms around each other a lot further when we hug now.
  • I do sit-ups, push-ups on my knees, and other leg and arm exercises that keep me off my bad foot and I can feel changes to my core as I do these. My hope is that by the time we're both fully recovered, we'll be well on our way to getting in the best shape of our lives and our son will be right there with us!


*Family photo, July 2013

UPDATE (09/12/13): My wife and I had our annual employee wellness checkup last week and our numbers came back amazing once again! Her total cholesterol didn't even register because the machine didn't go below 100 and mine was exactly 100. Her trigs were way down for the first time since getting pregnant (55) and as low as she can ever remember. My LDL was 57 and hers was so low it didn't register! The testers couldn't believe that we got to all this with basically diet alone.

My biggest news was that my body fat went down a lot! My weight only dropped two pounds but my percentage went from 26 in January to 20.6 today. My waist circumference went from 42 to 38 inches in that same amount of time! My total fat mass is 60 pounds less than it was two years ago! That's a lot of fat cells taken off my body! I'm at the point now where I just want those numbers to keep getting better. I'm okay with only losing a few pounds every six months or so since people keep telling me I'm looking great. My body fat percentage probably hasn't been this good since grade school!

My wife is still getting stronger, as it's been a year since her surgery. She's starting to run a little more each week and she does yoga twice a week. I started new therapy that treats not just my foot, but the root of the mechanical problem so that once the pain finally goes away, it should stay away for good. I've basically had bad mechanics since I broke my ankle 15 years ago so I don't expect to get better overnight. I do a routine of exercises on my foot and legs and I'm starting to test my strength at running again as well but we both don't want to overdo it. We each ran half marathons at different points earlier in our lives and hope to run one together soon.


*Jeremy & Michaela's adorable son enjoying some corn this summer.

Amazing story! AMAZING RESULTS! Wishing you both so many happy, healthy years together!

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