Herbie of the Week: Deborah R! (She lost 40 pounds, eliminated her chronic fatigue, and is off her lupus medication!)
She has reversed her symptoms from lupus and influenced healthier eating in her family.
Read Deborah's story...
Hi, my name is Deborah, and my journey to becoming plant-based started in January of 2012. I am a wife and mom of two girls and I primarily have been a stay at home mom since my oldest was born in 2007. In December 2011 I was exhausted all the time. At first I thought it was because of the holidays and was super busy. I wasn’t feeling myself; I started getting very fatigued at various times of the day and I started to worry because it seemed to others as if I was just being lazy. I am not a lazy person. As a stay at home mom, there is always something to do.
My husband started noticing it more in January 2012 and he refused to believe that I could be as tired as I claimed to be. He was rightfully upset that his wife was sleeping most of the day, while there he was working his rear off at work. He did not understand and neither did I. So, I sucked it up and tried my best to just get stuff done because I thought maybe he was right and I am just crazy thinking I am really that tired. By February, my face broke out into a really bad rash. My face was itchy, scaly, and red in the T zone areas. It was like I had dry scalp on parts of my face. I tried lotions, cortisone, Neosporin and nothing helped. I decided to go see my Dermatologist because it was getting out of control.
My dermatologist was concerned because she felt something else was going on with me. She kept asking how I had been feeling, if I was in any pain. I thought it odd but I told her that I felt fine but that I had been feeling very tired since December. She told me that she has some concerns and would like to get some blood work done just to be sure I was okay. I agreed because I trust her opinion as she has helped me and my husband for several years. She did give me a prescription lotion for my face and we planned on scheduling an appointment to check on how my skin was doing. A week later, she personally called me up and told me that she was concerned about my blood work. I went to see her the next day and we talked. She recommended a Rheumatologist that she knew personally and trusted with her own family. She felt that I needed to get more specific blood work done to be certain but she thinks that what I had going on with my face was auto immune and it was a sign that I needed to get seen right away so that I can get some relief and answers. After I left her office I made an appointment with the Rheumatologist she recommended.
My Rheumatologist visit was good, we got to know each other and why I was sent to her, discussed my previous blood work from my dermatologist, and she also asked me how I was feeling, if I was in any pain and took a good look at my face rash that I still had but was significantly better. She then decided what specific blood work needed to be done so that she could help me. When my blood work came back we discussed it. I was unsure how to feel at the moment. Until she told me, according to your labs, you have an autoimmune disorder, Lupus to be exact. My body was basically attacking itself, which in turn was causing me to feel so exhausted. My body was out of whack. At that moment, I cried. Not because she told me I had an autoimmune disease that was scary in itself, but because I finally had an answer to why I was so terribly exhausted all the time. I told her that it was a huge relief to know what was causing my body to feel so weak and tired. I told her how much I was struggling to suck it up because my husband couldn’t understand that I could be so tired from being a stay at home mom and napping a lot recently. I finally could feel like I wasn’t crazy, that I wasn’t just being lazy or that I wasn’t lying about my extreme exhaustion.
Then I came to the realization about having Lupus. That thought scared me. I was told by my doctor that lupus in males tend to have worse symptoms but since my issues were mainly exhaustion and rashes that my lupus is mild. She prescribed Plaquenil for my lupus and I would need to see an Ophthalmologist every 6 months to check on my vision while taking it. I asked if there was a possibility that I would ever be able to get off Plaquenil in the future and she basically said most patients take it for the rest of their lives but can be taken off it in 3 years but it’s rare.
During our discussion about lupus, all I could think about was my family. My husband and my 2 girls who were only 4 and 5 yrs old and it brought tears to my eyes because I did not want to become a burden to them. My eyes welled up with tears again thinking about how my life with lupus was going to affect them. My rheumatologist saw my face and told me that if I wanted a chance at a good healthy life, I would need to go plant-based. I had never heard of plant-based before so I was curious. She told me I needed to change the way I eat, autoimmune disorders stem from our dietary consumption. She told me to watch the documentary Forks over Knives on Netflix and that if I wanted to live a better life for myself and my family I should follow their guidelines. I told her that I would watch it and go from there. I did not know what I was getting myself into, but I was willing to give it a try in order to give my family what they deserve, a healthy mom and wife.
I watched the documentary Forks over Knives when I got home, and I was convinced that this was what I needed to do. I didn’t know exactly how to start. All I knew was that I had to start somewhere and I knew after watching the documentary that I needed to avoid these main things: meat, dairy, eggs and oil. I decided that day to become plant-based. I knew I wasn’t going to be perfect at it at first but I had to at least give it my best. My husband was very unsure about what I was getting myself into at first but was willing to watch the documentary with me when he got home and he told me that he would be super supportive of it, but he was not going to change what he ate. I was okay with that because I did not expect him to turn his life around because of my illness. Remember, I did not want to be a burden on my family.
I started off just eating simple things that I knew where plant-based such as, chalupas or tostadas and rice, peanut butter sandwiches and veggies. I felt very alone starting out on this journey. I started to struggle with not knowing what I was doing when I went grocery shopping, what items were plant-based and where to find simple items with no oil. I started to look for more answers online on the Forks over Knives website.
The Engine 2 and Forks Over Knives website lead me to happyherbivore.com. I was so excited to learn there was a cookbook for sale and when I found Lindsay’s cookbook Everyday Happy Herbivore I was so excited and happy. Do you know what else happened? My husband started to see what I was eating and wanted some! Yes, my omnivore husband thought my meals looked and smelled amazing! So, I shared my meals. He had his usual food but kept trying what I was eating more and more. I felt like I must being doing something right. I started to feel less and less tired as the weeks passed. I started to lose weight with just the diet change. I started to feel more like myself and my husband took notice. He decided that he wanted to eat like me most of the time and only eat meat if and when we are not home. I still do not discourage his way of eating; I want it to be all his doing if he wanted to change his diet.
After a year of being plant-based, I stopped buying meat and dairy products for the family. My husband and I felt such great results from eating plant-based that we decided that our kids should try to follow along because with what we know now, we wanted to give them the best opportunity to live a healthier life than we did growing up. They were very hesitant at first and still now 3 years later I still struggle with one picky eater but they understand why we eat this way after many discussions about why meat, dairy, and eggs are not good for our bodies. They are not perfect though, we allow them to choose what they want to eat when we are out and at school. I did not want them to feel forced to eat plant-based, especially since my husband also eats whatever he wants when we are not home. I tell them all the time that life is about choices so make good ones.
I lost a good 40 lbs. my first year of becoming plant-based, and I have kept the weight off. People always tell me that I look amazing and they think I am younger than I actually am; I am 40! I don’t feel 40, I feel like I’m still 25 which is an awesome feeling! I also started cooking for my dad and step-mom a year ago, I joke with them and tell them I am like a vegan meals on wheels because I cook it and deliver it to them. My husband thanks me all the time for cooking this way. He has seen and felt a significant difference in both of us.
I became a Meal Mentor subscriber last year around April 2015. I convinced my husband to get the annual plan because I started struggling to figure out what to make for dinner. I kept feeling like I was making the same meals every week and I needed more variety. Meal Mentor has changed my life! It has allowed me to pick and choose, create a grocery list, prep like a boss and get everything cooked in just hours. I have more time now to complete all my other tasks, and it’s amazing! The only downside to it at my house is that my dear husband thinks that my cooking day is a vegan buffet day! He will try and eat and taste everything if I don’t stop him.
Now for the most exciting news, As of January 5, 2016, I am officially off my Lupus Medication!! YAY! I have been in remission for about a year and my new Rheumatologist (I had to switch because of my insurance) has just been incredibly amazed by my ability to heal myself with my diet. It still amazes me that still today, 3 years later, being plant-based is still bringing me joy and a deeper appreciation for all things vegan. I am proud to be plant-based, it saved me from Lupus. I am now living my best life. If there is anyone that needs food inspiration, I am on Twitter @plantstrongdeb and on Instagram @Deborah.ramos. I enjoy sharing photos of the plant-based meals I make, most of them being from the Meal Mentor plans, plus making new Herbie friends is also awesome! I am very grateful for the support Lindsay gives to us on her website, Facebook page, Annual Members page, and other social media outlets like YouTube videos and podcasts! I wish I had all these things available when I first started out but so happy to have them now when you just need that little extra advice, motivation and friendship!
Thank you so much Deborah for sharing your plant-based journey with us!
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