How I Lost 15 Pounds in 6 Months on Joel Fuhrman's Eat to Live Program
Six months ago I decided to get serious about losing the weight I’d been gaining slowly but surely over the last decades. I know I’m not alone with this age-typical weight gain. Lack of exercise added to normal muscle loss combined with a penchant for comfort foods like bread and pasta set the stage for eventually graduating into women’s plus-sized clothing.
In July 2011, with my daughter’s encouragement, I began Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat To Live weight loss program. After July, I weighed myself only twice: once in mid-August to find I’d lost seven pounds, and then in January 2012 to find I’d lost a total of 15 pounds. I lost those 15 pounds while sitting on my butt and never feeling hungry.
Before I give you the skinny about my amazing experience, you should know that I’m not a medical professional nor am I attempting to sell you something you don’t need to buy. I offer you no medical or nutritional advice, only my experience. Although there is a link further down the page for Dr. Fuhrman’s book, and although the book is definitely a worth-while investment if you would like to lose weight and keep it off, you can get plenty of good information about the Eat To Live program for free on the Internet or through your local library. At the end of this article are links to websites that explain the program in detail and provide recipes that are Eat To Live friendly.
I Committed to a Way of Life, Not to a Diet - These are the Goals I Set for Myself
As you read through my experience, you will notice that I never call what I’m doing a weight-loss diet. That’s because it isn’t a diet, but a way of life. A weight-loss diet implies eliminating foods and calories for the purpose of knocking off pounds, but the Eat To Live program is something different. It is very much a matter of removing toxic substances from our bodies in order not only to lose weight but to make a return to health. In my case, following my modified version of this program has gotten rid of my intestinal bloating and has given more strength and pain relief to my knees and other joints. It’s also important to tell you that I did not follow this program religiously; if I had, I’d have lost a lot more weight than I did. But the modifications I made were ones that helped keep me motivated to continue to a better way of living.
This article is about the plan that worked and is working for me so that I can achieve these goals:
- Lose weight safely over time. I have lost 15 pounds, but have 30 more to go. If I step up the pace I set for myself in July 2011 with exercise, I should reach that goal by January 2013. Right now, I can visualize 15 pounds of fresh butter lost. I’m looking for that total of 45 one-pound boxes of butter to be gone off my body.
- Improve my digestive system. I am lucky that I’ve never suffered from constipation; however, bloating and gas have been with me more often than not in recent years. I want to put an end to that!
- Get into smaller-sized clothing. I have a closet full of classically tailored jackets and slacks in fine fabrics that are timeless. I want to get back into them.
What You Should Know about Eat To Live before Following this Program
Dr. Fuhrman designed this plan for people whose weight threatened their lives.
It is not a vegetarian or vegan diet. It is a “nutritarian” food plan, incorporating the entire spectrum of what humans are designed to eat, that is, after you get past the first six weeks of the program.
There’s plenty of controversy about Dr. Fuhrman and his program. If you like, you can start learning about that controversy by clicking on the link to his book (below) and reading the Amazon member reviews.
I Eliminated Wheat, Dairy, Processed Foods, and Most Animal Protein from My Diet
I’d been suspecting for a long time that wheat didn’t agree with me, that I’d become intolerant. So I got rid of it. And that included wheat-based foods like cakes, pies, and cookies. I already knew I was lactose intolerant, so dairy products should never have been in my refrigerator, but I always kept some cheese or sour cream for times when I just couldn’t resist the urge. I got rid of all of that, too. These were relatively easy foods to eliminate from my diet. More challenging were processed foods and animal protein.
Processed foods were more difficult to eliminate not because I’m a junk food or fatty, salty, sugary snack freak, but because so many of the otherwise healthy dishes I prepare rely at least in part on foods that are commercially available. I’m talking about jarred tomato sauce, prepared vegetable and meat stocks, canned corn and beans, frozen vegetables packaged with prepared flavorings, and yes, even seemingly healthy dry cereals like instant oatmeal and corn flakes. In the beginning of my modified Eat To Live plan, I read ingredient labels on commercially available foods until I could hardly see. I learned two important facts while I strained my eyes: a jar of tomato sauce has a lot more in it than tomatoes, including salt, sugar, and a list of chemical taste enhancers and preservatives; and, perhaps even more important, where did those tomatoes come from anyway, and were they genetically modified? Why would I want to put such things into my body? I have gradually made the transition, everywhere I could, to certified organic foods and have nearly eliminated all processed foods.
Eliminating animal protein from my food plan was the hardest thing to do and the place where I cheated and continue to cheat the most. I love chicken especially, and every two weeks or so I will roast a chicken and make sure every bit of it (except the skin and fat) is consumed by either me or the dog. Equally difficult to go without are lunch meats like ham, turkey, salami, and bologna. These were foods I was raised with. They hold a special place in my heart and in my taste buds. And let’s not even talk about roast beef, hamburgers, and stuffed veal pocket.
If you choose to follow the Eat To Live program, you may do very well following its recommendations to a “T”, and that would be the better approach to a rapid weight loss. However, if you can’t bring yourself to do that, as I couldn’t, at least not in the first six months, then pat yourself on the back anyway, because you will have made huge strides in breaking old food habits and creating new ones that are much better for you now and into the future.
A Salad a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
These Are the Foods I Eat Every Day
The foods I eat every day keep hunger away and also seem to stave off sugar and starch cravings. Although I’d love a slice of apple pie or a homemade oatmeal cookie, or even a few squares of chocolate and a bowl of potato chips, I don’t crave any of these foods and haven’t for the last four months. Most of the foods I eat every day can be consumed in unlimited amounts, with the exception of animal protein and the fats that come from seeds, nuts, and avocado. I eat, daily:
- Fresh vegetables including a lot of leafy green things like romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and Swiss chard; yellow vegetables like carrots and winter or summer squash, root vegetables like parsnips and rutabaga; and of course, lots of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage
- Fresh fruits like bananas, apples, oranges, grapefruits, pears, avocado, grapes (this list goes on and on, depending on what’s available at a reasonable price)
- “Old fashioned” oatmeal (rolled or steel cut oats, not the instant kind) or brown rice
- Nuts and seeds, particularly raw walnuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds
- Beans that I cook from scratch
- Vinegars of every variety, flavored with garlic, black or white ground pepper, and dried herbs, to dress a salad or ramp up a dish of steamed broccoli or cauliflower
- The occasional chicken or egg
My Grocery Bill Went Down, Not Up
We've heard that eating a diet based on fresh foods is too expensive. This is simply not true. You do have to pay attention to what’s in season and what’s on sale for the most reasonable prices. If you live in a temperate climate, as I do in Pennsylvania, then don’t be buying fresh plums and peaches in the winter when the cost is twice what it is in the summer. Instead, buy apples, grapes, citrus, and pears, fruits that have a long history of excellent distribution systems and competitive pricing. Use your head on this one.
Before I changed my diet, my weekly food bill (for one person) ran around 70 USD. Afterwards, it dropped to under 40 USD. Think about it: Almost any fruit or vegetable price per pound is going to be less than what you’d pay for beef, salmon, pork, or most any other animal product or processed food. Nuts and seeds are exceptions but, according to Eat To Live, you shouldn’t be eating more than one ounce of them per day. Six dollars worth of walnuts will last you more than two weeks. Try making a pound of beef go that far!
Attitudinal and Emotional Impacts of Following My Eat To Live Modified Plan
In the first few weeks, I was angry about not being able to butter a slice of fresh homemade bread any time I wanted or reach into the refrigerator for a helping of leftover Impossible Quiche. But over time I learned to replace these delicious comfort foods with a piece of fruit, a handful of cashews, or a small bowl of one of my favorite bean salads (yes, I did cheat with the kidney bean salad recipe and to this day continue to use the mayonnaise as dressing for it). As the weeks went by and the pounds started to come off, my anger and whining about losing these favorite foods disappeared. Something good was happening.
In November 2011, my living circumstances changed so that I could no longer smoke cigarettes in my home. This change resulted in a 75% cutback in my cigarette smoking. As most of you know, whether you smoke or not, weight gain is an almost guaranteed consequence of quitting or cutting back smoking. However, I continued to lose weight. I believe that’s because of the foods I was choosing to replace smoking. No bagels and cream cheese, no apple pie, no donuts, no fresh bread or sandwiches…only fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans. For all of you who are going to embark on a smoking cessation or reduction program, I strongly recommend accompanying your commitment with the Eat To Live program.
I think it would be very hard, for most people, to make this life change alone. I am blessed with an accountabilibuddy who is my daughter. I can tell her what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling. But even more important, she has signed on to engage with me about what is happening. She listens and she also offers her insights which are sometimes courageously critical. Fortunately for me, she has a sense of humor, too, and so we are not having the outcome that South Park’s poor Butters experienced on his first day at camp.
For as angry as I was in the beginning, I am that much elated now. I’ve gone down two clothing sizes, my knees don’t hurt when I navigate stairs, and I can sit attractively with one leg crossed over the other in a feminine fashion. What I’m saying is that my overall mood and disposition have stepped up to the positive, despite the sacrifices of old and comfortable habits.
You Can Do It!
They say it takes 21 days to break an old habit and 21 days to make a new one. This is so true. The first 21 days of my modified Eat To Live program were the most difficult. All I wanted to do during that time was to eat a ham sandwich or stuff myself with big, fat, fresh ears of sweet summer corn smothered in butter and liberally dusted with salt. I resisted these urges. It took 21 days for me to learn to shop for meal ingredients that didn’t include wheat, dairy, and processed foods and to adjust to the idea that my old food practices were things of the past. At the end of those 21 days, most old cravings had disappeared and I’d already lost seven pounds.
A Word about Holiday Foods
There are times when you dine with friends and family who do not follow your food plan. With the exception of foods I know cause me problems, like dairy and wheat, I will joyously eat, in moderation, anything that is put in front of me by someone I love. I refer to these foods made by others as “holiday” foods, which means I am “on holiday” from my food plan. I credit my mother and daughter with this acceptable deviation from the Eat To Live program. My mother loves to cook for me, but she cooks within her realm (the realm I grew up with but no longer follow the way she does). On a recent visit to her house, she was concerned that she wouldn’t be preparing the right foods for me. It was my daughter who said, barring dairy and wheat, just go on holiday for a day! Great advice.
Losing the Next 15 Pounds
I am energized and motivated by the first 15-pound weight loss. I really didn’t expect it to happen. Yes, I cut out the things that were troublesome to me, but cheated here and there, and still, the weight came off. I know I’m doing something very right.
It’s now coming into spring in the northeast of the USA, where I live. The weather will be nicer and I will be walking in the beautiful community in which I live. You must know by now that I have no desire for exercise, so walking is something I’ll have to take 21 days to adapt to.
I don’t think I’ll ever cut out the occasional animal protein or the Holiday Foods concept.
I’m looking forward to another 15-pound weight loss between now and July 2012. Then I’ll have to follow this plan for another six months after that to get to a weight that is ultimately good for me.
I can do this.