Fed up with the nocturnal feeding frenzies that I finally linked to my jiggling fat and racing heartbeat when I jogged, I chucked every package of cheese, milk jug, butter container and cabinet full of processed foods — in one day. But that drastic change took years to come.
My unhealthy health habits
At that time, it was difficult for people to believe that I was a vegetarian. I had stopped eating meat in my 20’s without fully embracing the healthy benefits of being a vegetarian. In my mind, cutting meat out of my diet was a trade-off. It meant that I could eat anything else that I wanted. So I ate all the breads, muffins, pasta, and cheese dishes I could swallow – and allowed 30 extra pounds of fat and meat to balloon my weight up from a clothes size 14 to a size 16-18. But I didn’t connect that weight gain with my diet.
Getting into an exercise routine
I joined Lynn Brick’s gym and went three times a week in the mornings after working my 12-hour shifts at the hospital. Upon joining, my initial health assessment gave me a surprise rating: my actual age was 46 years old; my health age was eight years older – 54. I was shocked enough to keep going to the gym and working out for one hour, but not shocked enough to evaluate all of my health habits. My exercise efforts were only mediocre – I walked on the treadmill, and if I used the weight machines 10 repetitions was enough for me. My diet remained the same. Sometimes beside the crumbs, I’d find plastic wrappers from cheese slices on the counter in the mornings; and one night at work, over a two-hour period I gobbled a whole 14-inch cheese pizza.
My diet has to change
All those years that those 30 pounds had gradually crept onto my 5-foot, 8-inch frame, I never looked at my vegetarian diet as a problem – until I tried to jog on the treadmill. I had already been going to the gym for the past two months, three times a week. I didn’t think I should have been that winded. Since I was already exercising, I turned my attention to what foods I was eating.
Thankfully, even though I hadn’t changed my diet yet, I had been reading more about vegetarian and vegan nutrition. When I started evaluating my diet, I saw that I had too much fat and processed food in my diet – fatty, sugary foods that were still clinging to my body even though I was exercising. Devilled eggs made with mayonnaise, deep-fried French fries, and all kinds of cheese and cheese-based sauces are all vegetarian-based foods. However, neither of those foods or any foods like them qualify as good for a healthy diet. I didn’t ease out of eating those foods. I stopped on a dime – gave away what I could, threw away the rest and filled my refrigerator and cabinets with healthy options. I bought a Magic Bullet to help fill me up with veggie-fruit smoothies; learned to make home-made bean burgers and hummus and keep fruit and veggies on hand for late night snacking. Now when I get up in the mornings, the tell-tale evidence of my nocturnal snacking is juice from the orange I sliced – a much healthier option than chips.