How the Plant-Based Diet is Saving My Life

“Enjoy the journey because life is too short to skip it…” This has been my life’s mission for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been on the heavier side of the average person. In college, when I was at my skinniest as an adult, I was still 150 pounds and only 5 foot 3 inches tall. By the time I graduated college, met the love of my life and got married I tipped the scales at 200 pounds. So, in a sense, my issues with food began a long time ago, but my journey to rectify those unhealthy thoughts and habits started nearly four years ago when I met some people at Whole Foods Market who ate a Plant-Based diet. I had no idea what it meant or why someone would be so extreme in their views, but it did strike a cord in my heart to “explore the unknown.”

Wedding Day
Jillian and Tevin on their wedding day

I started with watching some very disturbing documentaries on Netflix about the meat industry during my honeymoon. My husband would never have guessed that his steak-loving wife would be so heartbroken by the newly acquired knowledge of where our food was coming from and at what price. I literally sobbed every time I thought about what I had seen. But after some time and forced repression of those images, I decided vegan was too extreme, I’m going to be a vegetarian. I mean, I can’t give up milk and cookies, bagels and cream cheese, and my all-time favorite… Mac n’ Cheese. Meanwhile, I have 200 pounds, struggling with infertility and very uncomfortable in my skin.

The Start of My Transformation

After almost 12 months of trying to get pregnant, I was left with seeing the doctor to discuss other options. My blood pressure was high, my cholesterol was high and I was only 26 years old. My doctor made a subtle hint that if I could eliminate whatever was making my blood pressure so high, I would most likely get pregnant. So, I quit my job. That’s right… we wanted a baby more than a second income. The day I resigned I was pursued by Whole Foods Market for an opportunity to work as a marketer for them. I was very set on resting though, so they agreed to give me the six-week break between jobs and then I started my new position.

During that six weeks, I focused on my food, resting, and really trying to simplify my life and make healthier choices. I started watching documentaries about food, sugar, western diseases and read The China Study and Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition and I was sold on the Plant-Based way of eating. About six weeks after I started working for Whole Foods Market I started getting crazy sick, like 5 and 6 times a day… and you know what it was? That’s right… a parasite! Just kidding… lol It was a baby! I was finally pregnant with a baby boy! We were absolutely thrilled. The little changes in my diet, the 80/20 split between plant-based and animal and the rest and relaxation was all my body needed to heal and start functioning properly.

My morning sickness was out of control. I couldn’t keep anything down except bland foods like bagels, potato chips and on occasion mashed potatoes and mac n’ cheese. If I even thought about eating a piece of fruit or veggies of any kind I’d hurl to no end. It was the craziest thing. My doctor eventually told me that I needed to eat whatever stays down so I started giving into my cravings. I really wanted a Big Mac from McDonald’s and all the Mac n’ Cheese. I gained 45 pounds in my pregnancy with my son. That’s right… I was 245 pounds the day I delivered him. I was so swollen and uncomfortable. My body just ached all over and I was beyond ready to get him out.

Pregnant Again?

After I had Josiah (my son) I just ate whatever I wanted without any desire to focus on my health. I was overwhelmed by having to go back to school and leave him that I turned to food for comfort. 8 months after we had Josiah I was about 220 pounds, still looked 6 months pregnant and found out I was pregnant again with our little girl, Penelope! They are 16 months apart to the day. I was determined to do better this second time around. I didn’t have half the morning sickness that I did with Josiah and it was empowering to make better food choices. I found out in my second trimester that I had gestational diabetes (which I did not have with Josiah) and this experience was absolutely life-changing. I was on top of my food. So much so that I started losing weight, and by the end of the pregnancy I had only gained a net weight of 10 pounds.

When I had Penelope, about three weeks postpartum, I weighed 215 which was less than my pre-pregnancy weight but still 15 pounds more than my pre-pregnancy weight with Josiah. I’ve been asked since having her in June of 2017 if I was pregnant again (multiple times) because my weight is in my stomach. It’s so embarrassing. That coupled with the fear of becoming a diabetic and having a heart attack really has had a major impact on my life.

Jillian, her son Josiah and her newborn daughter Penelope

My 100% Whole Food, Plant-Based Goal

2018 is my year. I turn 30 this year, I’m a mom of two beautiful babies and a wife to the most exceptional husband. I want to see my family grow, I want to hug my grandbabies and even my great grandbabies. But I will never see 40 if I don’t get my life right and build a healthier relationship with food. In October 2017 I really got serious about this transition. I started my Instagram account called @PlantBasedLovingMomma and I’m taking pictures of my food and sharing my secrets to success as I embark on this journey.

I spent October – December of 2017 crowding out my bad food with good food and dove in head first on December 30th to being 100% Whole Food, Plant-Based (WFPB). When I started this journey, I weighed in at 220.6 pounds and did all of my measurements. I’ve committed to staying off the scale, and refrain from remeasuring until I’ve completed 90 days of being 100% plant-based and I can’t wait to see how my body changes. (And yes, I am taking photos every day)!

In the meantime, my commitment to changing my relationship with food is impacting my families choices as well and I want to share some information about my transition to this healthy lifestyle to hopefully inspire you to join me on this journey. In my next guest blog post, I will be sharing a beginner’s guide on how to start the Whole Food Plant-Based Diet.

Plant Based Diet Saving Life

Jillian Phifer

Follow Jillian on Instagram at @plantbasedlovingmomma and for meal ideas follow the hashtag #plantbasedlovingmomma

Stay tuned for Jillian’s Beginner’s Guide to the Whole Food Plant-Based Diet.

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