Herbie of the Week: Sheri (She Lowered Her Cholesterol & Is No Longer In Pain!)

Meet our Herbie of the Week: Sheri!

After being a vegetarian for 20 years, Sheri decided it was finally time to do something about her health and went plant-based.

At first she didn't have a strong support system, so she tried her best to eat as little processed food as possible and do the best she can.

Progress not perfection, right?

A couple years later, Sheri finally found the support she needed with a non-profit organization and has been plant proud ever since -- and she's seen some amazing results too!

Not only has she lost weight, she's also lowered her cholesterol and is no longer in pain!

Here's Sheri's story in her own words!

My plant-based journey has taken various paths throughout my life. I can definitely say that I am a great example of “progress, not perfection”. I became a vegetarian in sixth grade but I can honestly say I did not follow a consistently healthy path until I became a strong plant-based eater in 2011. I tell people you can certainly be an unhealthy vegetarian if you are constantly consuming BK veggie burgers, cheese pizza, and Twinkies, etc – likewise, you can also be an unhealthy vegan by ingesting lots of sugar, foods high in fat, and loads of processed foods.

I was active in high school but started to gain weight in my senior year with a sports related knee injury. During college I continued to gain weight, all the while remaining “vegetarian”. After graduation, I found myself working full time, volunteering many hours a week and generally eating horribly. At my highest weight, I was at 230 lbs. Shortly after college graduation, my life involved little more than working and sleeping. I don’t remember feeling healthy or good about myself. I stayed busy with work but otherwise I would nap constantly – it felt like I had no energy. I had ongoing knee inflammation and at this point in my life, I ate a lot of processed (albeit vegetarian) foods.

I decided it was time to do something when I noticed stretch marks on my stomach, although I’ve never been pregnant. I started Weight Watchers and lost 30 lbs in a few months. During that time I gained some self-confidence and found determination to get myself in a better place. I began reading books about plant-based eating, with The China Study by Dr. Campbell and Breaking the Food Seduction by Dr. Neal Barnard catching my attention.

I made a strong effort to transition to become more plant-based, but lacked a strong support system. I found myself starting a new relationship, new job, new home and a lot of stress. I was not eating as well as I should have been and found myself gaining weight again. I ate unprocessed a majority of the time, but I was not eating a full rainbow of nutrition – pasta & bread nights happened more than they needed to. I feel like most of the weight loss to this point had been from diet since I was not consistently working out. The next few years were a slow sort of yo-yo effect – making decent strides here and there and having lapses in times of stress like anyone else.

In 2011, I found a strong support system in a local non-profit called Live Healthy Appalachia. Through this program I was able to participate in the Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP). I completed the CHIP program and saw my cholesterol drop 60 points in just a few months by removing dairy and eating less processed. (I learned that my cholesterol was over 200 at the start of the program. I cannot imagine what it would have been in 2003.) I would later become employed by Live Healthy Appalachia as a CHIP Coordinator, bringing health information to rural Appalachia. I met amazing people and continue with many friendships today. It is the CHIP family that has helped me on my plant proud journey and offer an extremely amazing support system. It is an incredible feeling to have helped people on their own journey and to see them succeed. I have since relocated to Columbus, Ohio and continue eating plant-based and being more active.

My mother sometimes does not recognize me when we meet in a public place. She says she has to adjust to the weight I have lost and kept off. She has made her own efforts to go plant proud - even with just some small changes in her eating habits, she has seen noticeable improvements in her blood work, energy, and weight loss.

From 2009 to the present, I have found myself weighing 140-150 lbs. I feel the best at 140 lbs but I have come to reflect that it is not really the number that I desire, it is feeling comfortable in my body, in my clothes and with myself. I feel like my weight will always be a source of struggle but I have a strong support system and know how to find and utilize resources like Happy Herbivore and Engine 2. Keeping Lindsay’s motto in mind – “It’s about progress, not perfection” - in my daily routine keeps me going. I no longer eat to feel better - I eat to live, not live to eat. I work out or take a walk to feel better, instead of reaching out for candy or cookies. Don’t get me wrong, sugar will always be my weakness, but I have learned to use it in moderation. You can make an enjoyable plant-based cookie that will not make you spend one hour on the treadmill.

I have seen so many benefits from becoming plant-based that I of course want to share it with other people. However, I do caution people to take it slow when introducing people to your lifestyle change. Unfortunately, eating plant-based and becoming active on a consistent daily basis can be considered almost “extreme” in a society where modern medicine would rather prescribe pills.

To the people who are doing this alone but are still living with and helping feed family members who are set on “not giving up cheese or meat” - try to make meals that are primarily legumes, vegetables, fruits and whole grains, while making meat a condiment. Learning more about spices and the variety of seasonings can increase your versatility in the kitchen. Regarding your own workouts and your family – work to find ways to include everyone. Find ways you can get outside together as a family; take walks and hikes. If going shopping, something even as simple as parking in the furthest spot from the store will ensure you and your family are getting some extra steps in your day. If you are single, try to find a workout buddy to help make yourself accountable.

Today, you can find me in the gym 5 days a week doing 45 minutes of cardio and 15 minutes of weights. That is not something I would have said a decade ago. I am proud that I can run 3 miles and be comfortable enough to go on a walk later that night. My increased endurance and weight loss have been great benefits on my plant proud journey, but waking up every morning without pain or feeling fuzzy are the greatest benefits I could ask for in this life.

Thanks Sheri for sharing your story with us!