MEET EXECUTIVE CHEF DEL SROUFE
My weight problems started as a child. I remember being put on a diet of only 800 calories per day when I was only eight years old. I overate and my mother dealt with that by forcing me to do portion control. It didn't work; my weight problems carried over into adulthood.
A few years ago, I started my own business, a vegan bakery, and converted to vegan eating at that time. I had previously worked in a "health food" restaurant, which I later learned, was not so healthy after all. That is where my consumption of vegan junk food really began.
Believe it or not, I gained 100 pounds within one year, and the weight gain continued until I peaked out at 460 pounds! You might be wondering how an individual consuming a vegan diet could accomplish this. Here's how I did it.
Every day, I started my day with two fresh scones and coffee. Then, I proceeded to eat a cashew bar and muffin for lunch, or cake or whatever was handy - I was working very hard and rarely sat down to eat a full meal. I continued to munch on sugary foods and drink caffeine-filled beverages throughout the day and for "real meals" I would eat vegetarian foods prepared with lots of oil and fat. In the evenings to relax, I'd eat potato chips and drink beer. All vegan, but certainly not healthy!
In summer of 2005, I reached my wit's end. I was exhausted. My body ached, my knees ached. I fell and my injured ankle would not heal. I needed help!
I went to my good friend Dr. Pam Popper and told her I was ready to change my life! I immediately converted to a well-structured plant-based diet; instead of scones and coffee for breakfast I started having fruit smoothies and whole grain cereal. I replaced my constant snacking with meals comprised of beans, whole grains, potatoes and salads. And, the weight started coming off right away.
It was not easy - I craved some of the bad foods for a long time, and was very tempted to resume my old eating patterns, since they were familiar to me, particularly when I was stressed. Although I did cheat once in a while, the thing that kept me from reverting back was being accountable to Dr. Pam, and the desire to get this problem behind me once and for all!
I lost 50 pounds in the first six months, and hit a plateau, at which time Dr. Pam told me I had to start moving. I started walking, since that was the least painful thing I could do. The weight started dropping again.
At 75 pounds, I hit another plateau, and the advice was to step up the exercise. This is when I started working out with Dr. Pam and taking Wellness Forum Hot Yoga classes. And that is when the weight started dropping like crazy. People started telling me I looked different almost from day to day. I must confess that stepping up the exercise program was the most miserable thing I have ever done in my life. I used to hiss at Dr. Pam in the gym, and lay on my yoga mat praying for death. Fortunately this did not last long, and although I hated to admit it, I started to enjoy getting in shape. I actually missed working out when my schedule caused me to miss a day.
I still have another 50 pounds to lose, but it's getting easier and easier every day. I don't even have to think about things most days. I just eat the way I've formed the habit of eating, do the required exercise, and the weight comes off.
Here's the best part - I am working harder than I have ever worked in my life, and I am less tired as a result of doing it. My ankle is finally healing (I hated the calf raises for weeks, but they do work!). I am wearing clothes that I haven't worn for years. I feel great about myself. I may even run a marathon with Dr. Pam since I have all of this energy now.
So, let me emphasize a couple of things. First, conversion to a vegan diet does not, in and of itself, lead to health. You have to convert to a well-structured vegan diet. I have quit sabotaging myself - the wrong foods are like drugs for me and when I think about not eating healthfully, I remember my goals and I don't eat them. I am learning to make self-care a priority - no matter how busy I am, I make time to eat good food and to exercise. And I try to be around like-minded people who reinforce my good habits.
Feeling good feels good and I have no desire to return to the way I used to be.