I did not start this eating plan as a weight loss program. I'm not a big fan of diets; and I haven't spent a lot of time trying a lot of different diets. My OB/GYN did tell me that I needed to eat a low carb diet when he found out that my hormones are not in balance. I tried it, and hated it. This is the story of my discovering a real path to health that includes God's healthiest foods that he has provided for mankind to enjoy.

My original intention was to focus on nutrient-dense foods. Having many family members who have suffered or who have died from cancer and heart disease, I saw first-hand the pain that these illnesses can cause. I know that genetically I am predisposed to these issues. My OB/GYN also warned me, "You cannot quit exercising, you can never give up eating healthy foods if you want to avoid these problems." The weight loss has been a very nice side-benefit. I try not to focus on weight loss, and if I do, it usually backfires (I start eating like a horse!).

I have been asked many times, so I offer my weight loss story here.

Throughout my life I have been able to maintain a "healthy" weight through eating a fairly standard diet (a tad healthier because of my health conscience Mom). But I felt heavy. So I exercised a TON, and all of the time. I mean I was an exercise fanatic. I love food so I felt that I was constantly battling and fighting against my body. Eat food (pretty high in fat) and then try very hard to work it off again through exercise. I think a lot of people feel that way -- like they are working against their bodies, instead of working with their bodies.

Picture from December 2004. Newly married, no children yet. I weighed about 140 pounds.

I have never been considered overweight except for right after having my babies. The weight came off within a year, but each time I had a baby I seemed to be stuck with an additional 5-7 pounds that I couldn't get rid of.

Prior to starting a whole foods, vegan diet, I was trying to lose pregnancy weight from baby #3. It took me 2 months to lose 10 lbs by working out vigorously 4-6 times a week at New Mexico Sports and Wellness; an expensive local gym with some of the area’s best teachers.

December 2010. I had just had my third baby 3 months previous, I am 5'6" and in this picture I weighed about 164 pounds.

I continued to exercise even more vigorously for three more months, without my weight budging a single pound. Frustrated, and tired, I just about gave up and declared that I would never get my pre-pregnancy body back again. Although I had been able to use exercise to lose the baby weight in the past, this time it just wasn't cutting it.

After those three months of vigorous and intense exercise, I weighed in at 153 lbs. and continued exercising vigorously 4-5 times a week. My gym membership cost me $120 a month plus childcare. Terrified that if I quit exercising that I would gain a lot of weight back, I dedicated my whole self to working out so hard that I would come home exhausted. I felt beholden to the gym – as if they owned me. I love exercise, but because of my weight struggles it was turning into a negative situation.

153 pounds didn't look so bad on me; but in order to maintain it I had to work out 4-6 times a week VERY vigorously, and I often tried to live on home-made protein+fruit shakes until late afternoon. I tried cutting dessert and sugar, and it didn't get me anywhere.

One night my husband discovered the documentary, “Forks Over Knives.” We watched it together, decided it was sound science, and decided to try it out. I have since read many other great books from renowned doctors such as, "The China Study," by T. Colin Campbell, and "Eat to Live," by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. My favorite is Dr. John McDougall. (See my recommended book list).

The first week of trying out whole foods was tough. I remember having some decent veggie dinners, but we also remember being very hungry. Often. I didn't eat enough starch. I wouldn’t eat bread, cereal, or pasta because of my misguided low-carb mind-set, and we eliminated all dairy, eggs, meat, sugar, and refined items from our fridge and pantry. Let’s just say we ate an incredible amount of veggies, beans, quinoa, green smoothies, and more veggies.

The weight seemed to melt off. 4 lbs the first week, and then 4 lbs the second week, I thought it was all a fluke and that it couldn’t possibly continue. I kept exercising, and in the first month I lost 12 pounds. At the end of the second month those 12 pounds turned into 15 pounds.

At which point, with confidence, I quit my gym membership. Saving $120 a month, plus pain and hassle of gym attendance, I lightly exercised at home, and continued to lose weight.

I am happiest when I stick to green leafy salads, unrefined starches, green and yellow vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains (not flour) and green smoothies; a well-rounded whole foods vegan diet.

I love the power of whole foods!

As of now, I weigh in at 130 pounds; a total of about 23 pounds lost in since starting whole foods in September 2011. I went from size 10 to a size 2 or 4 in skirts, and from size large to size extra small/small blouse size depending on the store and type of shirt.

September 2012

For a while I taught classes and trained at a local gym twice a week, until the gym shut down. I now do housework, light exercise (walking/some running and weight lifting), and enjoy my life so much. I am not constantly paranoid that what I am eating is going to make me fat. I eat and prepare foods with confidence. I love that feeling. For the first time in many years, my new year’s resolution for 2012 did NOT include any goals for weight loss. It freed my mind to focus on other things.

I have learned that being vegan is not enough. I have to be a whole foods vegan. This means eliminating refined flours, processed foods, and minimize sugar and oils. I thrive on unrefined starches (beans of all varieties, oats, rice, quinoa, grains, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn, squashes of all varieties, and occasionally the whole grain pastas and breads), eat large amounts of green leafy vegetables, green and yellow vegetables, mushrooms, herbs, fruits, nuts, and seeds.

When I focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods, the cravings for refined foods disappears. Not only does healthy eating mean that I eliminate animal foods and processed foods from my diet, it also means that I focus on incorporating the healthiest, most nutrient-dense foods available, and consume a large variety of them.

My favorite part is that this is not a starvation diet. Often, the times I lost the most weight is when I ate the most. One particular meal I remember that helped me to lose weight was a 3 bean and vegetable chili spread over baked red potatoes. When I ate that I would stuff myself to the brim, and weigh less the next day!

I believe in eating dessert. I love oil free cookies, non-dairy ice cream, and other yummy stuff! Sugar is not the cause of weight loss problems, thank you, Dr. McDougall!

So I hope you explore! Try it out. Enjoy a new healthier you with a happier body! Get some plant-based cookbooks and find your favorite recipes. You’ll experience struggles, and there will be recipes that turn out badly. Don’t give up. We all have varying tastes so some foods that one person loves, you may not like. You will also find the recipes that you love; have an adventure in your kitchen, and try new foods you have never tried before.

[9/12/2012 UPDATE: I continue to experience fantastic benefits from eating whole foods. Although I am not losing any more weight (which is good!) my body shape continues to change. With a little weight lifting, my muscle mass is always increasing, and my body fat continues to decrease. My skin continues to improve, especially after removing oils from my diet. When I focus on eating leafy greens, my hair grows long and shiny, whereas previously it always broke off if it got longer than my shoulders. I cannot say it enough; I love the power of whole foods.]

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Ashlee, I love your story! I am also a big fan if Dr. McDougall. I love the whole food, plant-based way of life. The food is wonderful, and nothing beats feeling healthy and energetic! I’ve discovered hundreds of people are enjoying this way of eating, including many Mormons. I’m gathering their stories at the Discovering the Word of Wisdom website ( I invite those who are interested to share their story! (