“No, no, no!” screamed Patty Markby, kicking her bathroom scale. Her husband, Al, rushed in. “I can’t lose even one pound,” she said, her eyes welling with tears. Al put a hand on her shoulder. Life had changed so much for Patty since she met him eight years ago; after decades of her seesawing between starvation diets and binges, Al’s unwavering support gave her the strength to try a healthier diet. She’d slowly gone from 540 pounds to 340 pounds. And it had been thrilling — until her progress abruptly stopped. She tried eating less, painful walking workouts…yet months ticked by with no change. “I messed with my metabolism for too long. Now it’s just broken,” she said. Patty still struggled to get around, couldn’t fit in a restaurant booth and had to sleep in a recliner. “I don’t want this to be as far as I go,” she whispered to Al. “I want a long, healthy life with you.” But how would she get her body to cooperate?
As fate would have it, Patty had an appointment scheduled with her cardiologist to check her pacemaker. “Your blood work shows high C-reactive protein,” said the doctor. “It means there’s inflammation inside you that increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, and a lot of other problems.” Patty felt a prickle of fear. The doctor continued: “An anti-inflammation diet should help.”
Later that day, Patty began checking out resources the doctor recommended. She was shocked to learn that many of her low-cal and low-carb staples — like cottage cheese, canned soup and deli turkey — could irritate her GI tract and trigger the release of compounds that cause inflammation in blood vessels, organs, even the brain. The same compounds could also interfere with hormones, making weight impossible to lose. That could explain all my problems, she thought.
What’s an anti-inflammation diet?
The doctor had suggested replacing foods known to cause inflammation with foods shown to soothe and heal. “Basically, I’ll eat veggies, fruit, protein and healthy fat for the next month — no processed food, sugar, grains, beans or dairy,” Patty told friends at TOPS, a low-cost weight-loss support group she’d been attending throughout her journey. After a month or so, she added, she could experiment with eliminated foods one at a time and reincorporate any that didn’t cause symptoms of inflammation like GI discomfort, a stuffy nose or fatigue. “Instead of concentrating on the scale, I’ll concentrate on my health and see what happens.”
Soon she began to focus on certain foods over others. “I tried it and also started listening to my body. I found it didn’t like grains or dairy,” she recalls. What made her feel best? Kale, blueberries, walnuts, herbs, olive oil, dark chocolate, and other foods rich in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Patty dug in and lost 183 pounds — for a total of 383 pounds gone — without limiting portions!
Following guidelines in a book called The Whole 30, Patty stocked her kitchen with colorful produce, nuts, seeds, cocoa, coffee, olive oil, eggs, seafood and grass-fed meat. “Delicious,” said Al, tucking into a dinner of beef tenderloin with broccoli and herb sauce.
After years fixated on calories and carbs, Patty was no longer being asked to track anything. She just ate anti-inflammation foods until she felt comfortably full. It’s so liberating! she realized. Feeling rejuvenated, she finally stepped on the dreaded scale that hadn’t budged in years. She had lost 20 pounds in 30 days! Patty was also bursting with energy, her brain fog gone. Four weeks later, after a follow-up blood test, her cardiologist marveled: “Your inflammatory markers have dropped from a 4 to a 0.1!”
When Patty finally experimented with eliminated foods, dairy and grains left her exhausted. Maybe they were my main problem all along, she thought, testing yummy substitutes like zucchini noodles and cashew-cream sauce. And she was happy to find she could enjoy dark chocolate and red wine without issue. Health bonuses piled up — vanishing joint pain, stronger immunity, deeper sleep — and she added gentle workouts.
After six months, Patty was down 96 pounds. And she never looked back: “I just stayed focused on doing what’s healthy for my body, and the pounds kept coming off.” At age 66, Patty hit her goal weight — 157 pounds — and had surgery to remove loose skin. She’s now a personal chef and health coach based out of the California home she shares with Al. Her advice for other dieters? “Listen to your body. Find a way of eating that gives you energy,” she urges. “Once I focused on feeling good instead of weight loss, I had the most success with both. I’m the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been!”
Why do anti-inflammatory foods work?
Using the popular Whole 30 diet, Patty Markby removed common inflammatory foods like grains and dairy. And experts say another factor may deserve even more credit for her remarkable results.
Patty intuitively focused her meals on foods rich in phytonutrients called sirtuins — things like coffee with cinnamon and cocoa, and salmon over salads with sirtuin-rich kale, arugula, walnuts, berries, and olive-oil vinaigrette. What makes the phytonutrient special? Breakthrough research shows it activates SIRT, a gene that quickly soothes health-dampening inflammation and more.
It turns out, activating the SIRT gene has a unique ability to reignite metabolism. In fact, British scientists say loading up on sirtuin-rich foods can triple fat loss. As drug companies scramble to turn sirtuins into a diet pill, there’s no need to wait. “Simply eating more sirtuins melts fat and helps you thrive,” says A-List Diet author Fred Pescatore, MD, who has seen the phytonutrient help folks begin losing up to 16 pounds a week!
What does a day on an anti-inflammation diet look like?
To eat like Patty, skip foods linked to inflammation (highly processed food, sugar, grains, beans and dairy) and load up on anti-inflammation options (especially phytonutrientrich arugula, berries, celery, chia, chilies, citrus, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, olive oil, garlic, green tea, kale, parsley, nuts, seeds, onion, oregano, red wine, and turmeric). Enjoy three meals a day, eating enough so you won’t need snacks. Always get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.
BREAKFAST: Blitz one cup kale, half a cup frozen berries, half a cup frozen avocado, three-quarters cup nut milk, one teaspoon matcha powder, and sweetener to taste; top with nuts.
LUNCH: Serve salmon over salad with arugula, red onion, olive oil, vinegar, and seasoning to taste; optional glass of iced green tea with lemon.
DINNER: Enjoy lean beef with roasted cauliflower or potatoes; for sauce, blitz one cup parsley, one-third cup olive oil, three cloves garlic, and salt in a blender.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.