The following article was written by a winner of Chef Del’s Diet Daze Wellness and Weight-Loss Essay Contest.
I am not new to the whole food, plant-based (WFPB) lifestyle. In fact, I have tried to stick to it several times over the last 10+ years, but the longest I was able to successfully keep with it was 6 months. Why? In a nutshell, I had no support.
Some people can flip a switch and dive right into a WFPB diet, and even though I wanted to be one of those people, I could not do it by myself. My doctor supported my idea to try WFPB—after all, I was overweight and had high blood pressure. I was also well on my way to being diabetic. WFPB sounded great in theory and had the potential to resolve my health and weight issues, but that’s where the conversation ended. I was told to give it a try and off I went—on my own. So, I read a couple of books, watched several documentaries, and tried recipes, but I had no real plan or guidance on how to succeed. I would last a few weeks or a month, but then I would go out with friends or bake holiday cookies and fall completely off plan. At one point, I had lost 50 pounds and felt amazing! But each time I fell off plan, I gained back more weight than I had lost and felt horrible again.
Fast forward to June 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. It truly felt like a kick in the gut. Like many others during the pandemic, I had started eating more, moving less, and was mentally stressed. It was a perfect storm building up in my body. I was at a low point in my life and needed to make changes. The first change I knew would help was eating WFPB again, and this time making it last! This would not cure my cancer, but it sure would make me feel better. Excess weight was my enemy—and it was not making my situation any better.
My cancer treatment center supported my desire to return to the WFPB way of eating and referred me to one of their nutritionists. She too agreed WFPB could help me feel better, and once again, that was where that conversation ended. Off I went again, on my own. I read some more books, rewatched some documentaries, and started making changes with meals I was eating, but the same challenges were still there. I struggled with not having a good support network around me. It’s really challenging to do this when the rest of my household is not willing to eat this way (at least not yet!). So, I buckled down and sought out more resources on my own.
I have learned a lot about WFPB living over the last 3 months. In March and April 2021, I was lucky enough to participate in a WFPB Nutrition Study in Rochester, New York, with Drs. Tom and Erin Campbell, which was specifically for metastatic breast cancer patients. The education and support provided were invaluable, and exactly what I needed. I dropped 30 pounds, lowered my blood pressure, and much of my body pain was well under control. I felt so much better in only 2 months! But when the study ended, I wondered, “Where do I go for support now?” At that point, I was 100% committed to embracing the WFPB lifestyle and wanted to keep going. After doing more research, I found some solid resources online and groups to follow through social media. One of the groups I found was Chef Del’s Diet Daze – Weight Loss Education.
The most important thing I’ve learned is that it is so empowering to feel some control over my health! I can’t control the cancer in my body, but I can control the food that I eat.
Of course, I knew who Chef Del was from Forks Over Knives and The China Study cookbooks, and I was happy to see that he and this group were affiliated with the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, a reputable online resource for WFPB nutrition research. Luckily for me, Chef Del’s Facebook group was kicking off a WFPB 21-day Wellness and Weight-Loss Challenge. It was perfect timing! My original goal was to lose 3 to 5 pounds during the 21 days. I soon met some lovely people in the group who were also on a journey to improve their health through a WFPB lifestyle. Some were new to it, while others were not, so it was a nice mix of novices and experts. Having daily messages and thought-provoking questions related to our weight-loss challenges was important because it served as a reminder for me to stay on track and make good choices in my diet and lifestyle. Sharing tips and recipes or discussing our trials and tribulations together in a nonjudgmental, safe environment was wonderful. We had the opportunity to share on Facebook, as well as through Zoom calls.
Without this group or being able to participate in the challenge, I may have lost my momentum and faced more struggles in staying on plan. I’m happy to report that I met my original goal and lost 5 pounds during the 21 days. (That makes a total of 40 pounds in the last 3 months!) I need the support and I’m not afraid to admit that. I can’t do this alone. I hope to continue with the group and stay in contact with members so we can still share our journey together. I feel better than I have in years, which I can say, without doubt, is because of the WFPB lifestyle. I’m meeting amazing people who share my new passion for cooking and learning about healthy food. The most important thing I’ve learned is that it is so empowering to feel some control over my health! I can’t control the cancer in my body, but I can control the food that I eat.
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