As a side effect of dropping 60 pounds in 4 1/2 months, I’m forever asked about what I’m eating, not eating, doing, not doing. My husband has lost more than twice the number of pounds and gets at least as many questions as well as peanut gallery commentary.
Totally understandable. Who wouldn’t be curious?
And I often say I love the opportunity to talk about what we’re doing without being one of those insufferable people who won’t shut up about their special diet.
Short answer: Whole plants, omitting fruit, nuts and seeds, not because they are bad but because they are more densely caloric than other plant foods and will be added back in once our target weights are achieved. We eat vegetables, legumes, whole grains and mushrooms. For seasoning: spices, herbs, vinegar, nutritional yeast, cocoa powder. Coffee, teas of any kind. (Hello fruity herbal teas! Love you!)
No animal products. No added salt, oil or sugar. No processed grains. Nothing artificial.
The hardest thing to get out of one’s diet is salt. If you think you don’t eat much because you don’t use a salt shaker at the table, you are wrong. It’s in everything packaged or prepared. Eating out is impossible. I gave away so much canned food and seasoning blends full of sodium. We buy no salt added canned tomatoes but otherwise nothing in a can works. Had to learn to cook from dried beans. Frozen veggies are a blessing and of course the produce section is safe even if Costco puts it right by the bakery. We do make a concession for Tabasco as the salt content is modest and you earn it with the heat.
What I do run into is the need to provide reference material for those who ask with the underlying hope of finding a plan they’ll be able to use.
When my answer starts with “Do you know who Penn Jillette is?” it can go a couple different ways, but usually ends with “I’ll send you links to some information.” Penn was the emotional heart of the change we’d first flirted with in 2013 after seeing a bunch of documentaries about plant based eating. I am going to provide a bunch of links at the bottom of this post for anyone who might be curious.
Back then, we didn’t take it extreme enough, mostly by still using salt and oil. The weight simply didn’t come off for me. While I can personally attest to what we’ve undertaken as not being easy – starting with a two week mono-diet of nothing but potatoes – it has allowed me to overcome the impossible catch-22 of insulin resistance where being overweight exacerbates trouble regulating blood sugar but the condition makes it nearly impossible to shed the weight.
I’ve done the research, heard what doctors and scientists have to say, but it took a man who went to clown college and taught himself fire eating from a pamphlet to convince me I was crazy enough to do it. The only major difference between our plan and Penn’s is he gave up caffeine years ago and I partake for everyone’s benefit.
Resources covering the why & how of whole plant based eating:
Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales by Penn Jillette – I recommend the audio book. Penn is a performer and hearing him in his own words about his journey is going to have an impact. Word of warning: NSFW or the easily offended. It’s not a diet book, but a first person chronicle of a guy who almost died due to uncontrollable blood pressure doing a crazy thing to live.
CalorieLab breakdown of Penn’s diet – I love Presto! but it isn’t meant to be a diet book for others to follow, so there’s not a list of do’s and don’t’s like we’ve come to expect. For those who don’t want to read the book, this will give you what you need to know. For those that do read the book, it’s a perfect crib sheet for implementing the plan.
Safe for work and still packs the emotional punch, this Big Think video is an ideal Cliffnotes version of what Presto! provides in a family friendly way:
Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss by Dr. Joel Fuhrman (alternatively, although I haven’t read it myself: Dr. Fuhrman’s book The End of Diabetes: The Eat to Live Plan to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes) – The science as well the diet we’ll eventually spend the rest of our lives on for both maintaining weight and good health.
Ray Cronise’s blog and Penn’s Sunday School episode: More an honorable mention than anything, “Cray Ray” is the former NASA scientist who once took Penn up in the vomit comet (and let him get naked in Zero G) and was the brains behind Penn’s weight loss. Cronise was, last I knew, still working on a deeply scientific book Our Broken Plate.
Forks Over Knives: I’ve linked to the documentary (it’s on Netflix, too), but check out the website. Lots of recipes and information.
Hungry for Change: Another great documentary (Netflix and Hulu) about the science behind a whole plant based diet.
My personal Pinterest board for recipes which either fit or can be modified to fit (currently pushing 700 items):