Tammy knew her diet was killing her. At only 57, she had type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and was morbidly obese. This is her story of how she regained health and control over her life with a healthy plant-based vegan diet.
Our plant-based starter kits are a great way to begin this new healthy lifestyle because they include a book, a set of DVD lectures from Dr. Neal Barnard, and a folder full of helpful literature from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
By: Tammy Montgomery
What made me change the way I ate? Simple–the way I felt! I hadn’t felt good for a long time. I was overweight, tired, achy, uncomfortable, and hurt a lot. I was unhappy with the way I felt! I was tired of feeling that way and wanted to be able to move easily and freely, get healthy, be active, and get my weight to a healthy BMI. I definitely was addicted to unhealthy food.
I decided that I was worth it and wanted to get myself healthy and to a place where I was comfortable and felt good. I had to acknowledge my addiction and take action to change it. I decided it was time to focus on self-care and that meant a lot of change and some new eating and exercise habits.
It is ok to focus on ourselves and take the time to make sure we are giving ourselves good nutrition, plenty of healthy movement, good rest, time to ourselves, and time doing things we enjoy. Agnes Wainman says, “Self-care is something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.” There is a difference between self-care and self-indulgence. I’m still working on identifying self-indulgence in areas of my life.
Being morbidly obese
My starting weight was 290.5 pounds on March 15, 2022. I’m 5 foot 4 and was considered morbidly obese which means I was so overweight that it was basically killing me. That’s what the “morbid” part really means.
I wasn’t always overweight. I was pretty thin throughout my life until my late 30s or early 40s. I’ve pretty much always eaten the standard American diet. I was nutrition deficient and addicted to food. Over the years, I tried weight watchers, counted calories, Adkins, Nutrisystem, and even moderation. I lost weight several times only to go back to my previous eating habits and gain it all back, plus more as time went on.
I was less and less active during this time. Our entertainment often involved food and meeting people at restaurants for a meal. A lot revolves around food–vacations, holidays, birthdays, and celebrations of all sorts.
I didn’t have much energy and was tired a lot. I enjoy traveling with family and friends and we do travel often. We weren’t as active during these trips the heavier we found ourselves though. It was a chore walking very far. Being in the heat was harder on me being that heavy too. I was constantly hot and felt like I couldn’t cool off and was always sweating.
Traveling by plane, I had gotten to the point I needed a seat belt extender. It takes a lot of effort to move your body when you’re overweight. Everything was sore and it was hard to get comfortable.
My failing health
I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2016 & 2018 and had surgery and 6 months of chemotherapy both times. Chemo took a toll on me. I developed neuropathy in my hands and feet. They were painful and numb in places and felt like pins and needles a lot.
I developed type 2 diabetes during this time, had sleep apnea, found out I had nonalcoholic cirrhosis, high blood pressure, bowel issues due to having only 14 inches of colon left from the surgeries, pain in my abdominal area due to adhesions, shortness of breath, and I sweated a lot.
So yes, I was tired of the way I felt at 57 years old. I didn’t like the direction my health was going and there was so much more I wanted to do. I love to travel and experience new places. After not knowing whether or not I was going to survive two cancer diagnoses, I knew I needed a big change. I wanted to get out and enjoy life more.
A few years earlier, I ran across a plant-based diet and found Esther Loveridge and started following her page on Facebook. She followed the McDougall Maximum Weight Loss Program and lost 130 pounds in her 70s. I thought, if she do it at her age, surely I could too. That’s about as far as I got then.
Fast forward to 2022, I googled a plant-based diet and found the Starch Solution by Dr. McDougall. I read through his website where he gives all the information needed for free. I ordered and read his book and a few others, joined a Starch Solution McDougall group on Facebook, watched several documentaries like Forks Over Knives, What the Health, and Game Changers, and searched out other plant-based pages to educate myself.
The food that was killing us
I learned processed meat is a group 1 carcinogen. Eating animal products leads to heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Animal protein turns on cancer cells. Cholesterol is found in meat and dairy.
There are so many PCBs, mercury, saturated fat, and cholesterol in fish. Salmon and fish are mercury sponges. Pesticides and herbicides bioaccumulate and are found in the flesh of fish. Antibiotics are in farmed fish – no better.
Dairy leads to several cancers (especially those related to hormones) and autoimmune diseases. Most people are lactose intolerant. Cows milk is the most allergenic food. We eat these animal products, and we get these diseases, and I have. Plant foods have all the nutrients you need and they do not promote disease. Eating a plant-based diet can reverse disease. The standard American diet is addictive and designed to be that way so you’ll keep going back for more of these products.
Making healthy changes
After learning all I could, I decided to do an intervention in my kitchen! I cleared out my refrigerator and cabinets of everything that was non-compliant with eating plant-based. I decided that day that this was the answer and I had to get out all the food that was literally poisoning me.
I gave away food and threw a lot out. By the time my husband came home from work, there was not much left in the house. We had a lot of processed junk. I explained to him the basics of the starch solution and told him what diseases it was known to reverse and he said he would do it too! Wait what!? I figured he would continue to buy his meat, cheese, and crackers and I would buy what I planned to eat. To my surprise, he said he’d do it with me and eat what I did. I’m thinking, ok vegetable hater, we will see how long you last.
I went out and bought an air fryer and an Instant Pot right away. I knew I needed to equip myself with everything I could to make this way of eating easier. I shopped for everything I could find that needed to be replaced and stocked our fridge and cabinets with all things whole food plant-based.
We eat a lot of potatoes of all kinds, lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, beans & legumes. We limit bread, pasta, nuts & seeds, avocados, and tofu since we are in weight loss mode. We cut out all animal products – meat, dairy, eggs, and processed foods – including all oil.
I have a new lease on life. I realized we each have the power over our health when we choose whole food plant-based eating habits and provide our body with the proper nutrition. We can become healthier and be free of disease without medications. Food is medicine!
Our cravings for meat, dairy, and processed food have gone away. We don’t have it in the house and we rarely dine out. We hope that in the near future, more opportunities will arise for us to dine out in restaurants that are WFPB where food is not covered in butter and oil.
Our kitchen is stocked with healthy plant food, and we always have quick meals ready. We keep meals pretty simple. I eat oatmeal with fruit most mornings, lunch and dinner is some kind of soup, potatoes, veggies with hummus, fruit, rice, beans, or cooked vegetables, and salad with a homemade dressing. We’ve had apple crisps, banana nut muffins, and nice cream as far as dessert. On occasion, we have vegetable pizzas and pasta.
Our weight loss totals
Since March 15, 2022, we both are still going strong and plan on eating this way for the rest of our lives. My husband also had serious health issues and he was willing to try anything if it meant he could keep his disease in remission. Which he has!
I’ve lost 142.5 pounds so far and weigh 148 pounds as of March 2023 and my husband has lost 123 pounds. We’re 265.5 pounds lighter and so much healthier! We’ve both lost a lot and have gained so much of our life back.
Getting daily exercise
I walk daily and my husband does cycling. We hike together on the weekends, go kayaking, play basketball, practice yoga, and have tried a few other exercise classes. We’re healthier and more active than we’ve been in a long time. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know we’re doing the best we can for our health. We have a fresh new outlook on life and that’s what matters.
Living the healthy vegan way
We don’t miss one thing about the way we previously ate and, like most success stories, I wish we would have made this change much sooner. I believe we’ve added years to our lives now and we’re excited to continue on this journey and look forward to seeing where it takes us. It’s allowed us to already meet some amazing new friends and it’s fun to see and try new things.
I’m so thankful to Dr. McDougall and all the people who make it their life mission to teach about plant-based eating and its many benefits to us all, the animals, and our planet. We do have control of our health through a plant-based lifestyle.
I’m no longer diabetic, no longer have sleep apnea, my liver enzymes improved, my blood pressure is normal, my neuropathy has improved, and I’m in a lot less pain. I was off insulin the first week of changing to eating plant-based.
My husband’s inflammation markers went from 80 to 1. He hasn’t suffered from the debilitating symptoms of vasculitis since he started. He’s hoping he will be able to discontinue the injections he’s had to take to keep it in remission soon.
Besides the weight loss and health benefits, probably one of the biggest highlights for me is being able to hike a mountain in the Great Smokey Mountains last fall. It was a truly monumental achievement. I went from being sedentary a lot of the time to hiking up mountains! All through plants!
The future is looking good
I hope we inspire others to make the change. Your health and outlook on life will be so much better for it. You do not have to live with disease and you’re not destined to be sick & tired. Although plant-based doctors will tell you it is not a cure-all, if you choose to make the change, you’ll be healthier for sure. We keep it simple and consistently stick to easy meals and the exercise we enjoy and are confident we will be able to sustain.
Vegan weight loss success stories
- Bob & Fran’s Whole Food Plant-Based Diet for Aging and Health
- From Medication to Marathons
- Esther Loveridge Health Recovery Story
- WFPB Sucess Stories Page
Plant-Based Beginner Guides
- WFPB Diet Beginner Guide
- Tips for Losing Weight from Dr. Neal Barnard, MD
- How to Start a Plant-Based Diet
- Plant-Based Grocery List
- 10 Super Easy Plant-Based Meals in Under 15-Minutes
Want more amazing encouragement? Check out these other Whole Food Plant-Based Diet (WFPB) Success Stories.
For those of you new to the whole food plant-based lifestyle, we’ve created a FREE 7-Day Plant-Based Menu Planner to help you get started!