Margie’s problems had begun as a teen, when she fell from
a horse, broke her tailbone, and gained weight rapidly while bedridden. Through the years, diet, and exercise never got lasting results; her weight crept steadily up and her back
was often sore. Eventually, other issues began — IBS, cluster migraines, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and more.
Prescribed meds that worsened weight gain and fatigue, she lived on heat-and-eat Costco meals. By her 60s, she wore a size 26, struggled to get around and gave up hope of ever being slim or pain-free. But now she had a new goal: Improve just enough
to stop taking a few pricey pills. Looking for options, Margie
found herself chatting with the fit 71-year-old instructor of a local senior workout class. “Building strength helps with independence and energy,” Linda told her.
“But to lose weight, it’s about what you eat.” Linda said she’d won her own battle with obesity using a plant-based diet. She recommended The Starch Solution ($15.29, Amazon) by John McDougall, MD. Margie’s gut reaction: I can’t give up burgers and ice cream. Yet she ordered the book.
Cracking it open, the gist of every chapter seemed to be that natural plant foods cure, well, everything. In most cases, you’ll be able to get off and stay off prescription medication, she read. Scientific studies were cited. And Dr. McDougall promised taste
buds change and people come to prefer his way of eating. Margie furrowed her brow. “Is it even possible this is all real and I just never heard about it before?” she asked Jim. There was one way to find out.
Life-changing groceries Margie stocked up on Starch Solution’s
seven staples: veggies, fruit, beans, peas, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Dr. McDougall recommended that 70 percent of meals come from wholesome starch, and that oil — which can have undesirable effects — be avoided. The first morning, Margie traded her usual sugary cereal for oatmeal with seeds and berries.
This actually tastes pretty good, she thought. For lunch, she made roasted potatoes and veggies. Dinner was seasoned brown rice, black beans, and broccoli. After years of starvation
diets, she hesitated to eat cup after cup — but the book said
it was crucial to eat until full.
“I worry this will backfire,” Margie said to Jim. But she stuck to the rules, even snacking on leftover potatoes anytime she felt tempted by old habits. A week passed in a blur of nonstop carbs, and Margie stepped on the scale. She was down 10 pounds.
After a month of plant-based meals, Margie was having a ball. She loved trying new recipes and whipping up “big batch” meals
to freeze so she’d always have easy options on hand. As promised, she came to enjoy foods she once avoided, like chickpeas and dates. “I think clean eating actually makes food taste better,” she said to Jim, who went plant-based too.
Margie was giddy as she ate her fill of home-baked bread, a food she once considered her downfall. Even grocery shopping was more fun; her new staples were so inexpensive, her bill was cut in half.
Margie settled into a pattern of losing half a pound a day; her tiredness, tummy trouble, and achiness faded. One afternoon
at a nearby park, she saw her grandson slip on the jungle gym and sprinted to his rescue. Did I just run? she giggled. I haven’t
moved that fast in years. The scale kept dropping… 35, 55, 85 pounds gone.
After eight months, Margie plateaued and thought
she’d gone as far as she could. Then a plant-based chef suggested eating more greens. She did — and blasted off 20 more pounds. At age 67, Margie needed a new size-6 wardrobe. Her walker was history; her doctor took her off 13 prescriptions. “A lot of people my age are getting sicker and sicker, but I’m getting
healthier and healthier,” marvels Margie, who has been maintaining for two years. “Everything used to hurt. Everything used to be hard. Now I just wake up every day feeling amazing!”
To follow Margie’s lead, stock up on plant foods — veggies, fruit, beans, peas, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and even maple syrup. (Things to avoid: sugar, oil, anything heavily processed, animal
products.) Keep meals simple like the examples, right, or get as creative as you like. There’s no need to worry about portions; just listen to your body and eat until you feel full. As always, get your
doctor’s okay to try any new diet.
Breakfast: Blitz 1 cup oats, 2 bananas and 1⁄2 cup nut milk for batter; cook pancake-style on hot griddle; add maple syrup.
Lunch: Toss cooked whole-wheat pasta with guacamole, corn,
tomato, any other veggies desired and a spritz of lime.
Dinner: Enjoy a bean burger (like Plant-Strong by Engine 2
brand) with hummus, veggies and a whole-grain bun.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.