Audrey’s story part 3: Transitioning to a plant-based diet - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Audrey’s story part 3: Transitioning to a plant-based diet

(This is the third story in a three-part series on Audrey’s story. Please read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Audrey Cofer lost 130 pounds by eating “in moderation,” and she kept the weight off by developing a fitness program that worked for her. She was very happy with her weight loss and her new muscles, but she had joint pains and needed energy supplements to get started in the mornings. When she heard about the health benefits of a plant based diet it seemed like the logical next step, but she had her doubts. Like most “fitness people” she wanted to be sure she would get enough protein, because protein to her meant meat.

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Audrey’s transformation: It was hard to find “before” pictures of Audrey without her baby because she avoided pictures and usually wore black to hide her body. She is not hiding now!

She Googled plant protein sources and was surprised to learn that vegetables had protein. Some vegetables such as broccoli have as much or more protein than meat if you compare protein per calorie. In the process of learning about plant protein she learned about environmental and humane reasons for not eating animal products. These ideas resonated with her and she decided to jump in. It was a “major adjustment” for a confirmed meat-eater, but when she saw the results she was glad she made the effort. In less than 2 months she no longer had joint pains, and her knees and lower back did not hurt anymore.  She did not feel heavy or bloated after meals and she had much more energy than she ever had before.

When she told her family and her friends at the gym that she was going to stop eating meat they laughed, and then they had lots of questions, mostly about protein. Instead of being intimidated (Audrey is never intimidated), she took the opportunity to share her new knowledge. These are some of her tips for successful weight loss and transitioning to a plant-based diet. You won’t go from fat to fabulous in one step, but you have to get started. Make one positive change, when that gets easy, make another.

  • Plan to eat six small meals a day and always have some healthy food ready so you’re never reaching for unhealthy snacks.
  • If possible, have the largest meal in the morning and smaller meals during the day. Dinner was Audrey’s smallest meal, and she would have “protein” and vegetables. She still has protein and vegetables but now she eats more vegetables and her protein comes without artery-clogging cholesterol.
  • Plan one “cheat” meal a week when you can have whatever foods you’re craving. This will prevent you from feeling deprived and going back to your old unhealthy ways.
  • Eat only when you are hungry, but learn the difference between hunger and thirst. Sometimes when you feel hungry, you may really be thirsty.
  • Be sure to drink enough water during the day, at least 8 -10 cups. If you don’t like plain water, make your own refreshing zero calorie flavored-water drinks, see example below.
  • If you are an emotional eater, your “hunger pangs” may not be real hunger. Get used to not eating every time you feel like it. The more you do this, the easier it gets.
  • Learn to substitute whole foods for processed ones, choose fruit instead of candy or baked goods; whole fruit instead of juices; whole grains instead of white bread; and brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Avoid fried or greasy foods even if they are from plants.
  • Avoid all artificial sweeteners and diet sodas; make your own healthy zero-calorie drinks such as Audrey’s cucumber and lemon flavored water below.
  • When you’re eating out, box up half of the food BEFORE you eat. Most restaurant portions are way too large for one person at one meal.
  • Eat with your non-dominant hand, this will slow you down and you may eat less.
  • Chew your food well, this also slows you down and improves your digestion.
  • It takes a while for taste buds to adjust to healthier foods, but stay with the healthier foods because your taste buds WLL adjust. In about 3 – 6 weeks the old unhealthy foods will seem unpleasant when you taste them again.
  • Audrey has been on her journey now for eight years, and she is learning and improving every day.

Audrey’s words: Self-preservation is your responsibility; the only one who has to live with your unhappiness and pain, is you. You have it in you, as we all do, to change whatever it is that you don’t like about yourself. The only thing to do now is to begin the journey.”

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Audrey’s Easy Mushroom and Vegetable Dishes

Stir “fry” chopped mushrooms and your favorite vegetables in water and a little soy sauce with your favorite seasonings.  Serve over brown rice, quinoa or other whole grains. If you are wondering about the protein, calorie for calorie mushrooms have more protein than chicken. 100 calories of white mushrooms (385 g) stir “fried” in water has 14 g of protein. 100 calories of stewed chicken (0.455 g) has 11 grams of protein.  Mushrooms have cancer fighting properties.  Chicken/animal protein promotes cancer cell growth. (Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference)

Audrey’s Refreshing Water

Water is a natural appetite suppressant. If you have trouble drinking plain water, flavor it with fruits and vegetables. Lemons and cucumbers in water make a delicious refreshing zero calorie drink that you can enjoy whenever you would drink plain water or diet soda.

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Birthday Celebration “cheat” Treat – Vegan Carrot Cake from Southern Sweets in Atlanta.

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About the author

Dr. Jennifer Rooke

Dr. Jennifer Rooke is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine. She recently joined the faculty at Morehouse to start a lifestyle medicine clinic. Lifestyle Medicine is the use of interventions such as evidenced-based nutrition, physical activity and stress management to treat disease. Dr. Rooke has practiced medicine for over 27 years and is board certified in both Occupational Medicine and Public Health/Preventive Medicine. Dr. Rooke is a fellow of both the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and the American College of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Rooke serves as adjunct faculty in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at Emory University. Contact the author or visit her website Contact the author.

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