Early in my childhood, without ever realizing it, I was a sugar and fat addict. I lived next door to a corner market, so having access to candy was never a problem. In junior high school, I even took a cigar box full of penny candies to school, selling them to double my money.
Except for excessive dental bills, I never experienced the health consequences of this addiction until I attended boarding school during my junior and senior year of high school. In those two years, my weight increased from 140 to 160 pounds. I blamed the cafeteria food, not my addiction to sweets.
During my 20s and 30s, as my weight continued to rise, I tried to control it with every fad diet that came along. Interestingly, they all worked—but only in the short term. I lost weight, got cocky, and gained it all back, plus more. Then I would then start the process all over again. Eventually, my weight reached 282 pounds.
In 2016, when I was 72 and visiting Ireland, a long walking tour brought me to my knees. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to quit traveling, and I had another trip planned in September. I was supposed to go to China!
That was the beginning of a new journey. My friend gave me the book The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss. I was confused. “No animals, no dairy, and no oil?” In all of my earlier attempts to lose weight, I had never once tried a diet like this one, but I was desperate. I did not want to continue taking pain medications, and I refused to begin getting knee injections. Although knee replacement surgery might have been a possible solution, I couldn’t even get a referral to an orthopedic surgeon until I had lost 70 pounds. It seemed impossible.
I devoured Dr. McDougall’s book. If it works, I thought to myself, I will give Dr. McDougall all of the credit.
I committed to eating as clean as possible. I knew that if I didn’t follow the program closely, I wouldn’t be able to testify that it was actually the program that worked. And it did work! In the next three years, I lost 130 pounds. My knee pain disappeared, and so did the need for a knee replacement. I eliminated gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), diverticulitis, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, insomnia, back pain, prediabetes, and constipation. I got off of all the drugs I’d been taking, including the levothyroxine and lithium I’d been on for over 30 years. Unexpectedly, my vision also improved to the point that I no longer needed to wear a corrective lens.
And yes—I was able to continue traveling extensively. I had found a path worth following for the rest of my life.
I also experienced spiritual healing. I not only overcame feelings of helplessness, but also learned to live without being addicted to toxic food. What a freeing experience! I know now that there’s no threat of ever gaining my weight back as long as I stick with the foods I’ve grown to enjoy so much: fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.
Exercise, meditation, and having someone to love is also important. But until I learned how to eat, my food addiction was always knocking on my door, ready to take over once again. As my taste buds changed, I realized that the whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet was delicious, and keeping my selections simple made cooking so easy. I learned to cook in batches so I wouldn’t have to create a new meal every day. Having plenty of nutritious food in the house helped, but it was also important—perhaps even more important—to remove the toxic food from my environment.
It did all it promised; I had found the course I would follow for the rest of my life. In three years, I lost 130 pounds.
I discovered that enjoying fruit, vegetables, grains, and legumes—like Daniel in the Book of Daniel— gave me the strength and power to resist what had no place in my body. Good nutrition does an amazing job of boosting one’s energy and restoring faith in one’s ability to make good choices. When we ingest animals, along with their diseases, antibiotics, hormones, fears, and agony, it is no wonder that we suffer. We are what we eat—nutritionally and spiritually.
After a year of following the advice in McDougall’s book, a friend advised me to form a Facebook group on Facebook as a way of spreading my truth, to reach out to others, and pay my good fortune forward. The fact that over 11,100 people have asked to join that group, Esther’s Nutritional Journey, demonstrates how great the obesity and health crises are, and the urgent need to combat them. Health care costs continue to rise. Meanwhile, the focus remains on disease maintenance, not reversal.
Last year, I wrote my first book, From Donuts to Potatoes: My 366 Day Journey On A Plant-Based Diet, in response to requests from members of my group. I want to offer inspiration to everyone. At any age, we can reverse disease and obtain health. Our bodies strive to achieve that health. We just need to get out of the way.
It’s never too late to change how we think about food and manifest a healthy body and mind. I’d recommend that readers learn to love themselves right where they are, eat what nature has provided for optimal health, and let weight loss be the side effect.
My husband Ben has also joined me in this healthful journey.
When my wife presented me with Dr. McDoughall’s plan, I told her, “Not another diet!”
Esther and I were both severely overweight and we enjoyed bad food together. For about 20 years, I owned donut shops, and you can guess what the results were. At one point, we both tried the Atkins Diet and lost weight, but the weight returned. Even worse, the high fat diet nearly killed Esther, giving her gallbladder disease and, twice, pancreatitis.
When Esther was beginning the WFPB diet, she watched and listened to many documentaries and podcasts. I overheard a lot of them, and a plant-based diet began to make sense to both of us. She was also dropping weight. After about six months, I said to her, “When all of the meat is gone out of the freezer, I won’t buy any more.” And after Easter that year, I didn’t buy any more dairy either. About that same time, I gave up oils.
Without even trying to “diet,” I lost 70 pounds within a year, dropping from 230 to 160 pounds. I have maintained that weight ever since. Now I’m 76 years old. I take no medications, and I feel great! I think this lifestyle is a win, win, win. It’s beneficial for health, good for the animals, and great for the environment.
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