Welcome to this episode of Living Meatless Tales. Be inspired as you are taken on an adventure of transformation and understanding as each one of our guests share their experience of making the switch to a plant-based lifestyle and inspiring others to do the same.
This week our featured guest is Brittanie Monique.
Brittanie is a medical student in Switzerland and passionate about health and nutrition.
Please join Brittanie on her personal journey to Living MeatLESS…
I first became interested in nutrition when I studied abroad in Germany when I was 15 years old. I had never worried about what I ate before, because I had always been naturally slim, although I was never very thin either. But in Germany, with bratwurst, knödel and fried foods galore, I gained 20 pounds in no time. And although I wasn’t overweight (my BMI being at just 24 kg/m2), I did not feel good in my body. For the first time, I felt heavy, my clothes weren’t fitting me anymore, I could feel the chafing between my thighs and I would feel a twinge of horror when I would see myself in the mirror in the morning. On the outside, I looked like the average high school student, but on the inside, I was unhappy with my physique and it weighed (pun intended) on my mind constantly.
I decided to take action.
I bought an e-book on how to lose weight and that’s where I first learned about nutrition, such as what macronutrients were, what a calorie actually was, what foods to eat and how much. It was definitely mind-opening and I was motivated to follow it to the letter. Who wouldn’t, if you wanted to lose weight and feel and look better?
I did the best I could with what I knew at the time.
I started with a ketogenic, low-carb paleo diet that encouraged eating sausages and cottage cheese and incriminated rice and potatoes as the agents for my weight gain. I didn’t notice any changes, but still prowled on, eating the meat and cheese, cutting out starches and controlling portion sizes because I was determined to lose weight. The program also included a fitness routine, and I remember dreading having to run uphill sprints because I could feel my fat around my waist and things jiggling and itching. It was awful! However, I continued to follow those principles throughout the end of my stay in Germany as well as when I returned back home to my parents. I had to make sure that I didn’t eat too much, still restricting my calories and I had to tell my mom to serve me as little rice as possible at the dinner table. I would always look forward to the “cheat” days that was included in the program but I seemed to “cheat” everyday by eating Bounty’s and “too much” white rice.
After a while, I actually did lose weight and reached my lowest weight at the time, 118-119 pounds, but I think it was more because my mom insisted that I eat less of the foods that the paleo diet promoted and that I restricted my caloric intake, rather than the diet itself. Looking back now, I don’t know how I could have myself through so much trouble and pain to achieve this. But when you’re desperate you try anything to get what you want. It was definitely not the best way to lose weight!
Once I had achieved that weight I got the fitness bug… I wanted more. I wanted to look even better. I craved to feel fit and to be energized. But I didn’t look it and I didn’t know how to get it. Meanwhile, my mom had discovered the vegan diet through Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s book, The China Study. She did not push her diet on the rest of the family but there was some tension sometimes when I told her that I needed to eat cottage cheese for my diet, or when my Dad bought cheese into the house. I was still convinced that the paleo diet was better than the vegan one…LOL. Kudos to my Mom for being patient with us while cooking delicious plant-based meals (though I would still try to follow my diet)! So, I have to acknowledge and thank my Mom for showing me about the vegan diet for the first time.
Fast forward to my freshman year in college in Rochester, NY. I was thin again (after careful portion control) and although I could see some muscles, (I’ve always had large biceps), I didn’t have that much energy. I remember going to play indoor soccer with my freshman hall-mates and feeling winded and out of breath within a few minutes. I was definitely out of shape despite my thinness. Wanting to do something about that, I joined the rowing team, but became the coxswain, due to my small size (5’4”), so I didn’t have to work out like the rowers. Within a few months, with all the different foods available in the US and on campus, I gained the dreaded “freshman 15″ and more (almost 25 pounds!) and got stuck right back up to 135-ish pounds.
By that point I didn’t want to see the scale anymore so I didn’t know exactly how much I weighed. I just know that I got increasingly obsessed with losing weight again. However; somehow the summer of my freshman year I came across The Food Revolution by John Robbins in the stacks of my school library. I devoured the book, and was incensed by the agricultural industry’s activities, how much money was flowing through the industry and how it was supported by lobbyists and politicians alike. As I continued reading, it became more and more clear to me that the vegan lifestyle was the only choice I had left to counter these power-hungry organizations. It was as if I could not “undo” the information I had learned and I could not go back to my ignorance.
So, from one day to the next I stopped all animal product consumption. As soon as I did that, the question now was, what on earth was I going to eat? I think every new vegan, one truly convinced that this lifestyle choice is “the one”, asks that same question. I started researching online and quickly found Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neal Barnard and others. And although I knew what I was supposed to do I found it very difficult to implement their knowledge into something practical. The biggest problems I faced were the prepaid meal plans that I had to buy from the school (they were mandatory), and although they did offer vegan meals at the cafeterias none of the meals were actually healthy due to their use of oil and lack of whole grains and vegetables.
Another problem was eating out. I loved tasting different vegan foods and I did not want to be the friend who would request menu changes when ordering food. So, during the following years in undergrad I remained the same weight. I was vegan, sure, but my physique did not budge. Nada. Not one pound more, not one pound less. I did go to the gym, sometimes, but I always came out hungry and dejected. I’d also fool myself into thinking that if I did exercise, then I would be allowed to eat a vegan cookie (or more), but then I would stuff myself until I was disgusted with myself. That continued on and off during my undergraduate years.
When I moved with my parents in Switzerland after graduation, I ensured that there was minimal to NO OIL in our food at home. I was lucky that I didn’t need to do much convincing for my mom to eliminate oils from our diet. She was really ecstatic that I was willing to follow the vegan diet with her, and the rest of the family followed suit. We ate clean and ate starches galore with lots of vegetables and fruits. That summer, within three to four months, I lost over 20 pounds easily and weighed 117 pounds, with foods alone. No exercise, no special fitness regimen, nothing. I was astounded at how easy it was to lose weight by eating the right foods and not eating out!
However, the last eight to 10 pounds took me over a year to lose. I was happy with my weight for a while but I constantly had the nagging feeling that I could look better if I lost those last few pounds. So, I decided to hit the high gear and go all out. I eliminated nuts, seeds, avocados and other higher-fat plant foods out of my diet and within three months, I had finally reached my 108 pound goal-weight, a weight that I hadn’t seen since sixth grade. I couldn’t believe it! And what was even more amazing was that for the first time I was actually eager to work out. As a medical student still am I don’t have too much time to dedicate to a gruelling exercise plan so I decided to use my bike to commute to and from school. It wasn’t easy at first, especially because I live in a mountainous area, but little by little, in addition to my clean diet, I was able to go up the steep hills without having to push my bike. That was definitely an accomplishment in my books!
Now, I eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, I have as few as three to six meals a day and I have been able to maintain my weight for over two years now without restricting myself a bit. I enjoy food, guilt-free, and I don’t have to control my portion sizes. I simply let my hunger drive dictate what I eat.
I also love the energy that I have now! During the school year I bike as much as I can. I enjoy the feeling of being on my bike (without having to use fossil fuels to commute back and forth) and I get disappointed when the weather is not on my side! I can honestly say that this lifestyle is the easiest “diet” I have ever followed, and I haven’t looked back since.
After struggled for so long with my weight I now want to help people transition to this lifestyle and obtain the health that they deserve as effortlessly as possible. I am soon launching my first weight-loss meal plan and I am excited to share it with you !
Thank you for reading my story.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/brit541
Thank you for sharing your story with us Brittanie. So many women are struggling to lose weight and starving themselves or working out until they just can’t any more to make it happen and even then they often don’t see results.
I found the same thing… that once I made the switch to a vegan lifestyle it was such easier to keep weight off and recover from my high intensity workouts.
I hope that your story, and others who share with us on Living Meatless Tales, will be inspired to make the switch to this compassionate and healthy lifestyle.
If you want to share your story of going vegan with the world please email us at email@example.com.
To read more stories like this please visit our blog page at www.LivingMeatless.com/blog.
Until next time…
Rachel Joy Olsen, BSc., MBA
Author, Health & Wellness Coach