It was a particularly sunny summer day when my doctor told me that, at age 30 — even though I had been a vegan for many years at that point — I was on my way to heart disease. I sat on his table and hung my head in defeat.
This doctor wasn’t the first one to tell me to lose weight. Twelve years earlier, during my first visit to a gynecologist, while my feet sat in stirrups and my legs splayed apart, my doctor decided it was the perfect moment to tell me that I was “too heavy for a girl my height” (as if I didn’t know). I nonchalantly agreed, all the while wondering how far the vending machine was from this room.
I had struggled with weight my whole life — as a chubby, bullied kid, an awkward teenager clad in heavy eyeliner, and as an adult who crusaded for animal rights by day and ate entire soy-cheese pizzas by night. Here's how I finally took control and established a healthy lifestyle that works for me:
1. I realized the issue was my bad relationship with food.
I was beginning to realize that it wasn’t my weight that was the issue: it was my senseless devotion to the wrong kind of love. The kind of love I had thought I found in the comfort that came from falling asleep with a full belly, the pleasure of frosting or fried foods in my mouth. Love that left me feeling empty whenever I wasn’t full, left me craving more. I had accepted that my life would always be dictated by food and fat, like a bad lover who told me no one else would ever love me the way she did.
2. I committed to a major change.
I was sick of being sick and sick of the struggle. I started learning about the simple power of combining regular juice fasts with a diet rich in unprocessed, plant-based whole foods, and I began to digest that maybe my lifelong fight with food could come to an end. I needed a real lifestyle change, not just a gym membership and some low-calorie frozen meals.
3. I used juices to jump-start my weight loss.
On September 1, 2010, I started my first juice fast. I consumed five vegetable juices a day (with just a hint of fruit juice added for sweetness and palatability). Ten days later, I was down 11 pounds and feeling surprisingly strong. It wasn’t as bad as I’d originally thought! I had been afraid of what I anticipated would feel like scarcity, but I found I wasn’t hungry very often because there was always the promise another juice coming in a couple hours.
I basked in the freedom of not obsessing about, or even thinking much about food and food prep — which I did in batches to simplify the time-consuming process of loading up and cleaning the juicer — and I settled into the newfound simplicity of juicing as if it were a long-awaited meditation. And rather than think of my juicing as a “diet,” I reframed that first fast as a way to take a break from the hectic pace of my life and settle into a temporary new rhythm. I read a book about healthy living. I checked in with my body. I drank juice.
4. I combined a monthly juice fast with a whole-foods diet.
I decided to finally, as an adult, heed my mother’s advice to eat my veggies. And so, as my juice fast came to a close and I focused on how to change my eating habits before my next juice fast (which I was already mentally plotting).
I replaced junk foods with whole, plant-based foods instead: vegetables (cooked and raw), fruits, some whole grains, lots of beans, some tofu, and a small amount of high-quality fats, like seeds and nuts. I found so many resources out there for eating this way and I stopped leaning solely on the fake cheeses and meat replacements that had helped me transition into my vegan lifestyle.
The following month, I did another juice fast — three days this time. The month after that, I did another 10-day-er. For three years, this regime of juice-fasting (10 days one month, three days the following, then 10, then three …) and eating a whole-foods-based diet in between became my new normal.
5. I started exercising.
My dress size shrunk fast and I was starting to see weight loss as a secondary benefit to discovering my optimal health. I just felt better. For the first time in my life, my health was what was most important, and weight loss was a natural reaction to that. Within one year, I was down 75 pounds. The second year, nearly 25 pounds more fell off of me as though they had never intended to be there in the first place. I took up running. I took up tap-dancing. I felt free.
6. I fed my soul.
These days, I look back at my love affair with food and I recognize what so many of us see when we reflect on old flings. My reasons for entering into that relationship were complicated and based on an emotional void that I tried to fill with the wrong kind of satiety. When I finally created the space in my days and on my plate to feed myself what I actually needed, I took that misdirected, angst-ridden compulsion for eating and I turned it into something productive. The only insatiable desire I have these days is for authenticity. My first step in that journey was dusting off the juicer.
- What Losing 100 Pounds Taught Me About How We Treat Overweight People
- I've Been On 116 Diets. Here Are 3 Choices That Always Derailed My Weight Loss
Jasmin Singer is the Executive Director of the non-profit, Our Hen House, a multimedia hub of opportunities for anyone who wants to change the world for animals. With her partner, animal rights law attorney Mariann Sullivan, Jasmin produces a weekly podcast and an online magazine. In 2013, the Our Hen House podcast was named an “Official Honoree” by the Webby Awards, and in 2011, Our Hen House was named the “Indie Media Powerhouse” by VegNews Magazine. Jasmin is a contributor to the anthology Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and the Sexual Politics of Meat (Lantern, 2013). She has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, HuffPo Live, and can be seen in the documentaries Vegucated and The Ghosts in Our Machine. She lives in New York City with Mariann and their perfect pit bull, Rose.
Photo Credit: Jessica Mahady