My vegan weight loss story is atypical because I wasn't trying to lose weight, but I take great joy in the inspirational success stories of other people who move to a vegan diet and lose a ton of weight.
If you're not happy with your body, making a permanent change is not only possible, but also just within your reach.
I didn't grow up dieting or counting calories. When I was a pre-teen, I decided to stop eating meat, mostly because my best friend's sister was a vegetarian and she told us a few things about what happened on farms. I stopped then and there, but I still ate eggs, dairy products, and some fish.
I don't remember feeling any different on this new pescatarian/lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, perhaps because I was so young. I maintained a steady weight through high school and college.
My vegan weight loss
Deciding to go vegan had nothing to do with losing weight and everything to do with realizing that eating dairy products was as bad as eating a cow. Within a few weeks, I started feeling my clothes getting bigger. Over the course of a few months I went down one pants size.
Not only did I look better, but I felt better too. Without dairy products in my diet, I felt lighter and happier. Going vegan was a complete detoxification for my entire body, and I was frustrated that I had spent so much time lugging around dairy products in my organs and cells.
My husband went vegan a year after me, and he also was a thin person who slimmed down when he fully cut out animal products.
He was a meat and dairy eater for a long time, well after we started dating. He had cereal with milk in the morning, a sandwich with cold cuts in it every day for lunch, yogurt for snacks, a chicken and pasta type of dinner, and he fully enjoyed eating ice cream for dessert. But he also was a guy who had painful stomachaches several times a week and spent a lot of time in the bathroom.
He quit eating animals and the stomachaches went away, he experienced his own vegan weight loss, and he never looked back.
Natala Constantine went vegan in August 2008 at age 31, and by May 2009 she had lost 70 pounds and six pants sizes. Doctors had told her she would be on insulin forever, but within a few weeks of eating vegan she was allowed to stop taking insulin and then she discontinued her diabetes medicine. Her life has changed forever, for the better.
Natala's story is typical- she started gaining weight around 11 years old and had trouble losing it. Her grandma died young from a lifelong battle with diabetes and Natala hoped she'd never get the disease. When she was 25, Natala learned she was diabetic and she spent several years dependent on insulin.
Every doctor she saw told her she would live her entire life on insulin and medicine. Some even told her they thought she had Type 1 diabetes because her insulin was so low. The only nutrition advice she got was to eat plenty of meat, no fruit, and less than 20% of her diet in carbohydrates.
She tried everything to help her diabetes, “When I found out I was diabetic, my life became about me having diabetes. It consumed me. It was so bad in the beginning that I couldn't leave the house without my husband. Almost every week my sugar would get so high that my husband had to tell me to unlock the front door of the house in case the paramedics had to get in. And in the meantime I tried everything; every pill, every diet, every workout and nothing would work. Doctor after doctor would just kind of accept that this was the way it was going to be for me and would put me on more and more medications.”
Five years after her diagnosis, Natala read a book recommended by a good friend of hers called, The 30 Day Diabetes Miracle. She says, “...I had reached a breaking point. I had been trying so hard with weight loss, I was on a very strict high protein, low carb, low fat diet, I was working out between 3-5 hours per day. And yet, my blood sugar was still unstable and my weight was still coming off at a snail's pace (maybe 1-2 pounds per month).”
Natala read about several studies that showed how a pure plant-based diet was the best diet for diabetics, and that people were able to stop taking insulin within a few days of eating that way. Since all the symptoms aligned with what Natala was feeling, she decided to give it a try, thinking that nothing could hurt at that point.
At first, it wasn't easy, “The first few weeks were hard. I felt like I was detoxing! I had mood swings, I sweat like crazy, I was tired, I would cry when I smelled cheese! It was then I realized how addicted I was to a lot of foods. It took me a couple of months before I stopped having cravings for any of the foods I was eating before. And now, I can say that the thought of the foods I was eating before makes me ill. I have absolutely no craving or desire for any of the animal products I was consuming before.”
A few weeks after going vegan she was off insulin (she had been taking almost 100 units daily) and her blood sugar numbers were the lowest they had been since she started insulin treatments. She felt more well rested and less depressed.
At that time, her doctor discouraged her from discontinuing her medicine and told her it was unlikely she'd be able to keep up with her strict new diet. As Natala says, “Even after I had gone vegan and was off insulin I had a doctor who told me that while it's proven that going plant-based does reverse diabetes, it's just 'not that practical' and I should go back on medicine just in case I slip up. I kept thinking that this is someone that does not know what it's like to inject something into their body several times a day, because if he were, he would have known that nothing is worth slipping up for.”
After battling obesity for many years, Natala admits that she used to be “a HUGE emotional eater,” and that she had a lot of problems with binging, but since going vegan, her “desire to emotional eat or binge has completely gone away.”
Her theory is that with all the hormones and chemicals in animal products, the chemistry in her brain was altered and caused the cravings and addictions. Since her vegan weight loss, "...all of my cravings for those things stopped. Now my cravings are for things like kale or banana, things I know my body needs! I feel good after every meal I eat now. I don't feel guilty, or stuffed! I just eat and enjoy food now, and know that what I'm putting in my body is good for it,” says Natala.
Natala also recognizes how she used to dismiss her ability to take control of her body and life, “I used to blame myself for not having enough will power, or not knowing better. I used to blame myself for things like fatigue or depression. I used to blame myself for the way I was. And now I see that years of eating animal products, and consuming a lot of stuff that my body did not know what to do with was the reason behind a lot of what I struggled with.”
People often tell Natala they can't imagine their lives without meat and how they would never stop eating it, and even that they'd rather die than stop eating animal products. After being a severe diabetic for five years, she finds it hard to believe that the complications of diabetes (including blindness, amputation, stroke, and nerve disorders) are a better option than just changing one's diet.
She says that “There is no food that is worth dying young, no food that is worth not feeling healthy. And now, I don't even think about the old foods I used to eat! I can't imagine that I ever enjoyed eating animal products. In the end, the entire process just was not that hard. For years and years and years I dreaded having to do anything like go vegan, and now on the other side... I wish I had done it much earlier.”
If you are thinking about trying a vegan weight loss plan, “[k]now that nothing that you are eating right now is worth the feeling that you will have when you are standing in front of a three way mirror in something you never thought you could put on. You are worth all the effort, and all of the change. I promise you, you will not regret it.”
Natala says that although the beginning was hard, it has been a pretty easy transition to her new diet and lifestyle, especially since she had such positive results. She researched and “started to understand the negative effects of the medication I was on. I found out that insulin is a growth hormone. The medication that I injected into my abdomen every day was indeed a growth hormone that slowed weight loss. So, losing weight, which would greatly improve my chances of reversing diabetes, was that much harder because of a medication that I was taking every day, a medication that my doctors all prescribed and promoted.”
Like many other people recovering from serious illnesses, Natala finds it hard to believe that more diabetics aren't told about this relatively simple way to reverse the disease, “We have the cure for type 2 diabetes, and yet it is completely ignored by most doctors, and we sink billions into diabetes research, yet the cure is there, and has been there for a very long time. How is it morally right for this continue? How can we continue to ignore this, and put the health of ourselves, and future generations at risk, simply because we want to continue to eat foods that hurt us?”
Natala's favorite books that inspired her vegan weight loss:
Melanie's vegan weight loss story follows a common chain of decisions to go from eating meat to eating "humane meat," to vegetarian to vegan.
After Melanie (from www.urbanforestphotography.com) went on bed rest for each of her two children, she gained 100 pounds and reached her heaviest weight of 272 pounds. She wore size 26 clothing and felt unhealthy and unhappy with herself.
She started to think about seriously changing her diet after watching a program on TV about factory farms, meat processing plants, and the meat industry process in general. She and her husband were “appalled,” and wanted to lessen their impact on animals, so they made the decision to switch to organic, farm-raised meats, eggs, and dairy products.
Melanie and her husband “... agreed that it did taste better but it was much more expensive and we could not afford on our food budget to eat like that everyday. So we tried to eat just chicken and turkey products since we thought that it would be healthier than beef or pork.”
Frustrated with high prices of farm-raised meats and with a developing distaste for meat in general, Melanie continue to educate herself about the meat industry and started feeling “utterly disgusted.” She shared her research with her husband and they made the decision to try going vegetarian.
“It worked out very well, but it wasn't long after that when we realized we were still contributing to the suffering of other animals by our continued use of dairy and eggs even in small amounts. We decided to go vegan and have continued to this day,” says Melanie. Melanie stopped eating meat in 2001 and became strictly vegan in 2004.
With renewed energy and a feeling of healthiness, Melanie decided to start exercising. While she didn't want to go to a gym, she did want results, so she bought a few heavy weights and used some free online exercise websites to learn how to lift properly. Her routine was to “walk briskly for 30 minutes and then come home and do 20 minutes of weight lifting.”
This is where her vegan weight loss kicked into high gear; within 18 months, she had lost 80 pounds and 7 dress sizes. She still walks every day and does yoga or meditation, and plans to lose another 20 pounds.
Melanie's hard work and vegan weight loss has paid huge dividends for her, “my doctor says I have the health of an 18-year old and I'm 33. My family is also vegan and my children's doctor has told me that I have some of the healthiest kids she has seen and encourages us to keep our diet.” She has also helped other people to become healthier by educating them on alternative meat products and vegan weight loss diets. Her advice is, “Anyone can do this, take it from someone who used to eat meat and potatoes and junk food everyday to eating a strict vegan lifestyle."
Please share your own vegan weight loss stories. You never know who is reading and whose life could be saved because of your story.