My Raw Food Diet Weight Loss Story
My Raw Food Diet Weight Loss Story: Raw Vegan Diet Before & After
They say, “Let your struggle become your story.” So here’s my raw food diet weight loss story. It’s a whopper, get ready!
I’m Natalie Norman. I’m not a young girl anymore. I’m not flawless. I’m sometimes shy. You’ll never find me dancing around in a bikini on YouTube. It’s taken me years to come out of my shell. After two complicated pregnancies I lost half my body weight, regained my love of life, and achieved robust health by going raw vegan and eating delicious whole-food plant-based meals. This is my raw food diet weight loss story. It’s uncomfortable to tell it, but if I can offer hope and support to just ONE person out there, then it’s worth it.
Pregnancy & Weight Gain: Unhealthy and Toxic
I’m a mom who gained a massive amount of weight with each difficult pregnancy. After my boys were born, I felt like I was sitting at the bottom of a deep dark well, no idea how to climb out, wondering if I would ever feel happy again. I was a stranger in an overweight body that was betraying me. I felt old even though I was young. My skin was a mess. My emotions were bleak. I was a prisoner.
But how did I get there in the first place? How did I wind up gaining all that weight? Here’s where my mistakes become your warning and lesson of what NOT to do on a vegan diet.
Failed Vegan: A Recipe for Disaster
Years prior to becoming pregnant, I had gone vegan at age 14 but made every mistake possible.
My vegan diet was riddled with processed and cooked foods lacking in the nutrients my body so badly needed. This left me with an appetite that was difficult to satisfy, because while I was filling my stomach physically, I was not filling myself from a nutritional standpoint. I was stuffed but starving, as are so many people worldwide.
When this happens, you eat until you are physically stuffed then keep feeling hungry as soon as the food starts to digest, so you eat more. And you hate yourself for it. You start to think something is physically wrong with you and begin entertaining the idea that perhaps you need a gastric bypass or some other radically invasive surgery to literally damage your stomach in order to finally feel full. What’s missing in that equation is that while we are stretching out our stomachs with the physical presence of food, we are not filling it with the correct type of nutritious material in order to finally send a message to the brain that we are fully satisfied.
Perhaps the greatest miracle of a raw food diet is that you finally feel full, and rather effortlessly. The peace that brings about in your body and mind is a huge relief.
The Illusion of “Will Power”
Fact is, we all have an off-switch for our appetite; we’re just not finding it when we eat improperly. Then we are sold on the illusion of “will power,” one of my least favorite expressions. We believe that somehow if we only had enough of this magical will power, we would stop ourselves from overeating. And then when we predictably fail, we beat ourselves up emotionally and view ourselves as weak or unworthy human beings. Our subsequent feelings of guilt often lead us to even more overeating. It’s a tough cycle of self-abuse.
The will power illusion creates a negative mental and physical cycle where we try to avoid overeating, then slip and binge.
This cycle is perpetuated by a massive unhealthy food and drink industry, and the vegan processed food industry is part of that.
We live in an era when vegan foods are growing like wildfire, but the uncomfortable truth is that many of these processed foods will lead to obesity and overall poor health in the long-term. So even if processed vegan foods are slightly better choices and certainly more ethical ones, they are far from ideal in terms of supporting long-term health and fitness. If you don’t believe me now, you will when you are done reading my story.
Just Because It’s Vegan, Doesn’t Mean It’s Healthy
I’d always thought being vegan meant eating fake meats and cheeses and every other vegan food gimmick on a regular basis. And boy, I ate them all! Veggie baloney, veggie dogs, veggie burgers, veggie chicken nuggets, vegan spreads and dressings, vegan ice creams made with refined oils and sugars, vegan pastries and breads, oh, dear. My face is puffing up just writing all that.
I thought as long as it’s vegan, it must be somewhat healthy. I never ate enough whole raw plants, the centerpieces of a truly healthy vegan diet.
Dairy Addiction: “But I Love Cheese!”
Sometimes I returned to eating dairy because I felt addicted to it, like going without it required that mythical “will power.” I believed that I loved cheese, as most people do. In reality, I was not only starving myself due to a lack of fresh raw plants in my diet, but I was also hooked on casomorphins, a substance in dairy that is as addictive as opiates! Yikes! If you’re having a hard time giving up dairy, you’re probably reacting in the same way, so don’t beat yourself up. And don’t worry, there are delicious raw vegan cheeses like these that can help you break the dairy habit.
Eating Out for Entertainment: Food Was the Destination
In addition to my dairy problem, I was also addicted to refined sugar and coffee and would drink mochas regularly. Plus I loved cooked restaurant foods like Chinese, Indian & Mexican cuisine. Eating out or stopping for coffee was a form of recreational pleasure, a destination, an important event. And while I was always reasonably athletic, at 5’11” I hovered around a size 12-14. I just figured that was how I was built. (Isn’t it interesting, the beliefs we form about ourselves?) I believed that eating out was something important to me. I believed that a life without restaurant food would be boring, too. I placed far too great an importance on the act of dining out.
Getting Away With It All, For A While
Despite my dietary challenges, I still looked pretty great with my tall frame, but I could have lost a few pounds. I just never quite figured out how to go fully plant-based and make it work for me. I wasn’t thriving as I should. But I was young and sort of getting away with it. Youth can sometimes trick us like that, but there comes a time when our lifestyles WILL catch up to us.
In this photo below, you can see a significant difference between me before getting pregnant, and me today. I wasn’t obese, but I was just….bigger. (Do you love the little purple scarf around my neck, btw? Admit it, you do.)
Little did I know, my greatest impending obstacle, massive weight gain from pregnancy, would ultimately lead me in the right direction and help me find the healthiest diet available for me. The greater the challenge, the bigger the life lesson! But oh, it’s painful going through some of those lessons, isn’t it…
Pregnancy Disaster: Health Crisis and Massive Weight Gain
When I became pregnant, that painful yet illuminating and life-changing obstacle became abundantly evident.
My health really changed for the worse when I was pregnant. Nothing ever satisfied my hunger. I would literally cry because I was insatiably hungry all the time. I also developed a dangerous condition called preeclampsia, causing extreme swelling and high blood pressure. To add even more misery, I became anemic, too! Fun times.
I was so swollen that I could no longer wear shoes. Weakened and lethargic, I spent much of my time in bed or on a couch, no longer able to partake in a physically active lifestyle. I began to lose myself.
I couldn’t recognize my own face anymore. One day I walked into an appointment with my OB and the nurses didn’t recognize me because my face had become so distorted. I was lost inside myself. Have you ever felt that way?
Here’s a photo of me getting sworn in to the bar. I was crying and had my hand on my baby boy in my belly, so proud of our future together and so excited to meet him. I bought that huge suit in the plus-size department and just picked the largest one I could find.
Hitting Rock Bottom: Depressed and Lost Inside an Unrecognizable Body
After my second son was born, all the excess weight and toxic bloat I gained while pregnant wouldn’t budge. Oh, I bought into the tale everyone told me that breastfeeding will make you lose oodles of weight effortlessly! It’s funny to think about that in hindsight, but it wasn’t funny at the time. It was panic-inducing and very discouraging. Why did other women drop so much weight from breastfeeding, yet I was completely stuck? What was wrong with me? Why was I cursed?
I breastfed for years and all it did was make me feel famished day and night. Maybe some women lose weight from breastfeeding, but I didn’t.
Intuitively I knew I needed to do something drastic to flush out all the toxicity I had accumulated, but I didn’t know what. And when you’re breastfeeding it’s not the ideal time to adopt any sort of radical dietary change. So I ate my trail mix, and rocked my nursing baby to sleep (when he decided to sleep), and lamented.
While I was thrilled to have a healthy baby and have the beautiful opportunity to nurture him with my own body, I was very unhappy with my own health. Was my present condition going to become my future? If so, I wasn’t sure I wanted a future. That’s dark, but true.
Where Could I Turn? I Felt Helpless and Defective.
I thought something must be inherently wrong with me, but really it was just that the foods I was eating were both toxic and nutritionally deficient. So as I ate to try to feel satisfied, I couldn’t release the fat and toxins and I struggled to feel full. As discussed above, like so many people struggling with excess weight I contemplated things like gastric bypass surgery because I was starting to feel so hopeless and desperate. Why didn’t my appetite have an “off” switch? Was I defective? Why was this pregnancy weight sticking to me?
Substantially overweight with my youngest baby in tow, I was unrecognizable to myself. Depression took hold of me.
But somewhere deep inside me, the light of my little spirit still flickered. Somehow I still had a small shred of hope or a belief that life was not supposed to be this way. I was not placed on Earth to suffer, to live miserably in an unhealthy body.
I wanted my power back. I wanted ME back. And I wanted to become stronger and fitter than ever before. I just didn’t know how. But then I discovered the plant-based lifestyle that would change me for the better, and for life.