Weekly Photo Challenge: FORWARD – A Journey Well Worth Taken

This week’s photo challenge is FORWARD. As I’ve struggled to figure out what this means (more specifically to me), I came up with how MY life is moving forward. The biggest forward event for me has been the loss of a whole ME! I struggled with being overweight most of my adult life and recently (two years this month) lost around 175 lbs. So, I decided to repost this entry about my journey to a healthier me in this week’s challenge. Sorry it is more words than photos, but then again, I’m a writer too.

As many of you that know me, you know that I drastically changed my lifestyle about two years ago; and for my efforts I lost around 160 pounds or basically a whole person! (Bowing for applause and accolades now) I did this with a number of lifestyle changes, the biggest one being the way we ate. I say we, because my husband Clint joined me on this change that affected both of us. We began by getting rid of all processed foods and foods with any typed of sugar or high fructose corn syrup. We switched to a very high protein, lots of fruits and vegtables and no white anything diet. No white meant potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or anything else made with starch, this also included all manner of starchy vegetables. We also joined the YMCA the same day of our first visit with Dr. Lana Nelson and a nutritionist at Journey Clinic*. Although both of us had tried all kinds of diets and workout plans; we began this endeavor with a sort of passion that could be associated with a “last chance” or else attitude.

I had reached an all time high of 315 lbs at this point

After I had lost over 70 lbs; I underwent some pretty major surgery. I was grossly overweight as you can see from the beginning photo, and I had been on every type of physician and drastic diet out there. If you can think of it, I have done it, including a 20 day fast with nothing but water. The problem was not losing the weight, it was keeping it off. Every time I lost weight, I gained back double. My metabolism was shot, I had developed a heart condition after the Phen/Phen diet (corrected only with surgery) and  had the energy level of a snail. I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, in fact, I talked Clint out of it. But for me, with my history, I knew I needed the extra help that came with weight loss surgery.

this was a little over half way through my journey.

It hasn’t been easy, my digestive system is not the same, and I have issues with keeping Vitamin D in my body now even though I’m a fan of  sunshine,  I also have to have regular Vitamin B12 shots and take other suppliments. Also, I started having more trouble with dairy then I had in the past. I always had an aversion to ice cream and yogurt, but now milk was giving me major problems. And, seeing how the main portion of my high protein diet (I was required to get 85 grams a day) came  in the form of a whey based protein supplement, I was not meeting my daily requirements for post surgery eating. Plus, I was also having issues with any kind of meat. But overall it has been worth it. I lost a total of 150 pounds after the surgery, and I also lost my asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic headaches, insomnia, sleep apnea and a host of other things although I did gain Rheumatoid Arthritis  – I’m not sure if the surgery brought on early onset, but I will trade one problem for multiple ones. Clint drastically lowered the amount of insulin that he had to take daily because of Type I Diabetes. Overall, we were healthier, stronger, had more energy and got to buy new clothes!

This was taken February 2012; since this photo I’ve lost another 10-12 pounds, some of it since I yet again changed my diet.

This was taken Christmas 2012. Me with baby Chloe.

This was taken Christmas 2012. Me with baby Chloe.

Due to my problems with dairy and meat, my wonderful doctor, Lana Nelson, asked me if I would be a part of a Beta test group for plant based eating., I said yes. Little did I know how it would drastically change the way I was eating or how I looked at the food industry.  I was already having problems with dairy foods, and I didn’t really care for meat that much anyway, so I said sure. I first became interested in the whole food diet after watching our son-n-law, Christian, shed 95 pounds in six months. His was a bit drastic even for a vegan. But his research and choices intrigued me – Clint was a harder sell. Even so, recently, six weeks ago to be exact, Clint and I undertook yet another lifestyle change to further enhance our health. We are now eating plant-based foods only; for the rest of the world, we are crazy hippie vegans! Actually, I have no qualms about eating beasts of the four legged variety (notice I said legged – I never ate anything with a fin, flipper or exoskeleton in the first place. In other words, anything that swims in a body of water filled with their own bodily functions!)

Clint didn’t need too much persuasion to be a part of the test group as well, because he wanted to lose a bit more weight and everything is easier when a family does it together. So we went to our first class and found ourselves amazed and appalled at what we learned. The research is compelling to say the least, and it is not just one way-out-there doctor in California providing the data, but dozens if not hundreds of doctors (all respected in their fields) that have discovered the truth about what we (mostly Western Civilizations) eat. Between the classes and a number of videos** that we watched, we found out that we have been lied to by the food industry and more importantly with the backing of our own government, all for the sake of a buck or more likely billions of bucks.

To say I was angry was an understatement. To discover that the foods that have been deemed necessary for “healthy” living are actually at the root of some of our more deadly diseases. I’m not talking fast-food, as anyone with an ounce of sense knows that the high-fat menus at eating establishments can cause obesity and other health problems. I’m talking about the food pyramid that is taught to every grade school child through adults learning about nutrition. The lies are backed by our own US food and drug administrations – could it be it is because meat and dairy lobbyist not only sit on these boards, but pay large sums to government programs?

I don’t want to get into a political debate here, but here are just a few things that really stuck out from what I’ve learned in the last six weeks. Number one, you don’t need meat to get protein. In fact, Americans eat way too much protein – by about 18%. It has been proven that we only need about 2.5 % daily requirement of protein, and fruits, veggies, grains and legumes have more than enough to live on. In fact, legumes and broccoli have boo coos more protein per 100 calories than three ounces of the leanest cut of steak without the fat or cholesterol. Oh yeah, another thing, the only way to get cholesterol is by consuming animal based food. Our body makes what we need and anything added contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. The next question people ask me is where do you get your calcium? Uh, plants. Again, plants have plenty of calcium and our body, if properly maintained makes what it needs. Dairy’s a tricky subject, because honestly I love milk and especially cheese. But it has been proven that countries that consume dairy products have higher incidents of osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, heart disease and cancer. The calcium in dairy products actually leach calcium out of our bones causing them to become brittle and prone to disease. The definition of milk is a liquid produced by the memory glands to nourish the young. Most humans stop producing the enzyme needed to break down milk by the age of three. That is the reason so many people are lactose intolerant – we weren’t meant to consume it after a certain age. Now, like I said, I love cheese, as do most people. There is a reason for that. Dairy contains something called casein-morphine, a natural sedative that calms and soothes crying babies. Is it natural, yes. Is it still a drug, most definitely, and it is addictive. The reason we become addicted to cheese is because it takes 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese. Also, meat and dairy foods are chalked full of antibiotics, hormones and genetically enhancing drugs.

My “famous” homemade salsa. I make it fresh and by the gallon. we eat it on veggies, with whole grain chips, and as a salad dressing.

Another misnomer that I had was to eat a whole foods diet was expensive. This is not true. Yes, organic vegetables are higher and some of the special grains can be costly, but the fact is you don’t eat nearly as much food because your body is more satisfied. What I have found is that we are spending less money on whole food items and most everything can be purchased at Crest or Walmart. We have visited Whole Foods, but have found better prices at Sunflower Market. And, although we can still eat out if we are careful, we eat at home more often now.

This selection of food cost under $60 and some items will last longer than one week. Disclaimer. I bought the Agave Nectar before I found out is was processed just like High Fructose Corn syrup. Although it is plant based, it was processed with heat and chemicals stripping it of all nutrition. The best natural sweetener is a pure Maple Syrup.

The best way to make sure you are getting organic vegetables is to grow your own. But that is not practical for everyone. The second best way is to become an “localvore,” meaning to shop at your local farmers market or nearby truck farm. In any case, be sure to ask questions about how it was planted, what pesticides or fertilizers were used. I recently discovered an organic farm called Sunrise Acres*** not a couple miles from my home. I went last week, but all they had left were peppers, okra and tomatoes. They will have squash in about three weeks and will be planting fall crops. I also bought my own herb plants for a herb garden.

These beautiful peppers were purchased at a local truck farm. The small yellow ones are called Yum, Yums and they are! The jalapeños are called Fool You because although they taste like jalapeños, they have no heat – perfect for me!

I created this herb tower by repurposing some garage sale finds and a piece of rebar. Can hardly wait to harvest!

This diet is taking some getting used to, unlike my first diet, I am eating bread, it has to be whole grain, but it is bread. I still feel guilty. Also, whole grain pasta and rice is back on the menu, as are potatoes. Because of my reduced stomach pouch, I have to be careful with these and remember to take small bites and eat slowly. Not something that I always accomplish. But I can say that for the first time in my life, I am eating and liking beans and veggies. My tastes have changed – they are enhanced somehow. I even ate mushrooms for the first time on my veggie pizza; my daddy would be so proud. But the biggest change is that I have tons more energy. I’m not experiencing some of the changes in my health that others because I was already off junk, processed and fast foods. But I have noticed that my hair is no longer oily. I have also developed a love of cooking and am even making my own whole wheat artisan bread (look for my next post the Art of Bread Making).  I also have several recipes posted on this blog under Yummy for Your Tummy.

I’m not sure if Clint will stay with a totally plant-based diet, he really misses steak, so he will be more of a flexiterian. But I probably will keep at it and look forward to the next round of classes called Living. If you are interested in learning more, visit http://www.journeyN2.com to listen to some of the lectures and get meal plans and recipes, you can also check out the videos mentioned below. These classes will be offered to the public in the future.

* Journey Clinic,   Dr. Lana Nelson, DO, 405-735-2049, Moore, OK , http://www.journeyN2.com                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 ** Knives Over Forks and To Your Health                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       ***Sunrise Acres, 405-392-2680, Blanchard, OK

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lifeofaministermom
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 18:14:27

    I’m so glad you directed me to this article after I shared my weight-loss goals in “The Ring Around My Neck”. It’s wonderful to see the healthy transformation that you and your husband underwent, and the continued dedication is encouraging. I especially appreciated the reminder you gave about taking one’s time, and making healthy lifestyle changes a gradual process. I’ve never dieted but I know too many people who have taken some extreme measures and crashed and burned. It’s important to recognize what works best for you and stay committed.

    Since starting my new workout plan and being much more conscientious about certain foods, I’ve lost a little over 11 pounds and recently fit into a pair of my pre-preggo pants for the first time! I want to be healthy for the long-haul, for my family, myself, and for all the kingdom work God’s called me to do!

    You’re beautiful Darla, from the inside out! 🙂



  2. Darla Welchel
    Oct 19, 2012 @ 03:56:50

    Congrats Patricia on loosing those 11 pounds. My only regret is that I didn’t make eating healthy a priority while I was younger. I would have been better and happier mom and wife – and I wouldn’t have so much loose skin to deal with. 😦
    Thank you so much for your very sweet words; I think you are pretty amazing as well! Just remember, that any eating/lifestyle commitment can be derailed at any time. Family and church gatherings, vacations, depression or stress can get you off track. IT”S OKAY! Just try to get back too it asap. I’ve been off for a while, craving bad food. And although I haven’t gained any weight. I feel yucky and my stomach is giving me fits.
    Good luck and happy and healthy eating.


  3. Darla Welchel
    Oct 19, 2012 @ 03:57:48

    Oh I almost forgot, some of my recipes are in Yummy for Your Tummy!


  4. Darla Welchel
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 15:03:00

    Reblogged this on Through The Lens and commented:

    For my photo challenge: Forward


  5. diannegray
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 21:24:35

    This is fabulous, Darla. I was astounded by some of the information you’ve learned through this journey. “…calcium in dairy products actually leach calcium out of our bones causing them to become brittle and prone to disease” – wow, now that’s something the dairy industry has been keeping under their hat for a long time!

    I found that I had to give up all durum wheat products (which is unfortunate because durum wheat is used for just about every pasta and bread in Australia) because I have an intolerance to it. It bloats me and makes me sneeze! But once I stopped eating anything with durum wheat I lost a kilo a month for about 12 months!

    Kudos to you for making such a commitment to your health and sticking to it. Well done 🙂


    • Darla Welchel
      Feb 23, 2013 @ 22:39:41

      I forgot to congratulate you on losing a “kilo?” a month! I’m not sure what a kilo converts to pounds, but I’m going to look it up when I click off of here! 🙂
      Americans! We are the only ones NOT using the metric system.


  6. Darla Welchel
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 22:37:50

    I know, right? But although, I no longer drink milk or eat ice cream (more to do with lactose issues), I still eat cheese. I just can’t give it totally up!
    I also can’t eat a lot of wheat products; I don’t sneeze, but it makes my stomach bloat. I can’t eat any rice or pasta and try to stay away from bread.
    Now, if I could develop an allergy to sugar, I would be set!
    Thanks Dianne for the kind comments. 🙂


  7. Island Traveler
    Feb 24, 2013 @ 12:16:11

    I needed to read this today. I am trying to loose weight by exercising and changing my diet but I kept loosing on the diet part. After work tend to binge and though I know it’s not good, I kept doing it. I need to share this post with my wife so we both can plan a healthier living. Thank you.


  8. tchistorygal
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 23:06:11

    Good job Darla. You have done well! WOW!!!


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