"Conquering my weight issues after 40 years"
how I dreaded sitting for this "before" picture, a family photo
taken in January 2007. It wasn't just the weight issue, but the
overall path my life was taking. Each morning, after a bad
night's sleep, I would drag myself out of bed to survey what was
hurting that day. My list of problems seemed endless. I would
often wonder to myself, "Why do I feel so old when I am only in
When I look back over my life now, I find the answers to this
question in many different places and times. While growing up in
the suburbs of New York City, the relationship between health
and diet was never explored. I was raised on the typical
American diet of meat and potatoes, and processed foods like
Wonder Bread, instant potatoes and rice, and cold cuts. I was
overweight, constipated and was developing arthritis even before
I reached adulthood.
As a teenager I started down the road of yo-yo dieting. I
would experiment with every new fad that came along:
high-protein, low-carb, food combining, low-fat, no sugar, no
meat, etc. Throughout my twenties and thirties, I continued the
struggle to keep my weight down, but nothing ever seemed to
stick. It's exhausting to even think about the endless
frustration I encountered during those days.
In my forties, however, things took a turn for the worse, not
only with my weight but with my overall health. My problems grew
like a fast-rolling snowball, and eventually everything began to
hurt. I had sharp pains in my toes and arthritis in my knees; my
hips ached while I lay in bed; I developed indigestion and
gallbladder issues; I had headaches, hot flashes and mood
swings; and to top it all off, I was diagnosed with
costochondritis (a condition that causes chest pain due to
inflammation of the cartilage and bones in the chest wall). My
health issues—and my body—just kept getting bigger and bigger.
I had always been convinced that food was the key to
unlocking my problems, but since I had never found a way of
eating that made me feel better over a long period, I turned to
several doctors. But they didn't equate my issues with the
quality of my diet; their answer was always to eat less to lose
the weight. They would not discuss diet and I would not discuss
medications (I knew that taking a bunch of pills for the rest of
my life was not the answer). At this point I felt like a
physical wreck, and emotionally I was scared, distraught and
unhappy. So I began searching for a solution on my own.
Finding my own way
My search first led me to try acupuncture and herbs, but they
worked only to a varying degree of success. I came to understand
later that without changing the primary cause of my problems—my
diet—their help would be limited. I first heard about Dr.
McDougall in a book written by John Robbins. I later read The
China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Dr. McDougall's name was
mentioned again. From here I went online and discovered the
McDougall website—oh happy days! This discovery literally
changed my life. Dr. McDougall didn't have a diet to lose weight
but instead offered better health through eating a diet of
plant-based, low-fat whole foods. As I read through the website,
I remember thinking, "I like potatoes, rice, pasta, vegetables
and fruit—I can do this!"
The first things I gave up were meat and alcohol; these were
easiest for me. Then I let go of the dairy, which was a little
harder, and then the added oil. My body started to respond to my
dietary changes immediately. Nagging problems began slipping
away and gradually I was able to do more and more. Finally, my
good health was starting to return. I was now having whole days
that were pain-free. With each change came greater health,
happiness and energy.
I kept my meals fairly simple: starches, fruits and veggies.
I had to add breakfast to my daily routine, which was a big
adjustment for me. I started with smoothies every morning then
gradually added whole foods. Lunches and dinners were easier; I
basically ate the same dishes I used to but just without the
meat, diary and added oil.
After so many years, my digestive system finally began to
function correctly. I also started sleeping peacefully through
the night, and my headaches and hot flashes disappeared. I
stopped having gallbladder attacks, and my costochondritis even
The hardest part of changing my diet was being different. So
much of life is centered around food. While I am the only one I
know that eats this type of diet (aside from the people I have
met on the McDougall Costa Rica adventures and on the McDougall
discussion board), I was fortunate to have the support of my
family and friends.
Since my significant other, Kevin, is so supportive, I am
able to keep foods I don't want to be tempted by out of the
house. Kevin eats what I eat when we are at home. But if he does
buy something that I don't eat, he is kind enough to keep it out
of my sight. Family and friends go out of their way to prepare
dishes I can eat when I visit. Everyone is amazed by the results
and is very happy for me.
Eating out has been curtailed, but I have developed a
relationship with some of the restaurants that I like. I no
longer look at the menu, but instead just order what I want. In
some cases it has become as easy as saying, "Please tell the
chef Donna is here and would like him/her to make her
something." I have yet to be disappointed with what they have
come up with. The biggest help has been not to let myself get
hungry if I am away from home. If I know I'm going somewhere
where the choices will be limited, I make sure to eat before I
I also started to exercise at the same time I changed my
diet, so each day brings more joy as I literally hop out of bed
refreshed, excited and well-rested. When I'm at home I play
tennis and take three-mile walks on the beach. Last February I
was zipping through the tree-top canopies of Costa Rica , and
last month I was hiking along the Oregon Coast. Next up: hiking
and rafting through the Grand Canyon.
I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Changing
my diet and lifestyle was not something I did overnight, but it
does get easier as you go along—and it is so worth it. After
decades of struggling, I can't believe how trim I am and how
good I feel. I am turning 50 in October and am actually looking
forward to my next decade.
The McDougall Program has been a blessing to me. I have lost
77 pounds and look forward to each new day. It is not about
buying expensive foods, taking pills, measuring portions, or
eating prepared foods—it's about being healthy and happy.
Amelia Island, Florida
Dr. McDougall's Comments
Donna's life changing experience is not unique—the same
happens for everyone who makes similar dietary exchanges. So,
why doesn't everyone eat this way? Why have the scientific
truths of a plant-food-based diet struggled to reach the
public's attention? Why do we continue to hear about the
benefits of low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss, and the
absolute necessity of meat for protein and dairy for calcium?
Why are there so many commercials on TV advertising prescription
Businesses that currently dominate the marketplace have
figured out that if they keep the public confused, then
consumers will not change their buying habits, and they can keep
selling us their poisons. And there is no one to stop them.
Governments should be protecting the public, but they are
steadfast pro-business. The few lone voices in the wilderness
are drowned out by billions of dollars spent on advertising and
public relations, and the industry-sponsored "scientific"
research that supports the status quo. I see no immediate change
in sight, short of a revolution.
All revolutions start with a few people who learn the truth
and are willing to speak up. Donna knows the truth—that's why
she has shared her story—and so should you: know the truth and
share it with others. Tell your friends, family, doctors,
lawyers, and politicians. Don't be shy.
Tell them that the run-away best-selling drugs currently
popular for treating chronic diseases, such as obesity, type-2
diabetes, atherosclerosis, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis (to
name a few common problems) are practically useless, highly
toxic, and unaffordable. Tell them that nearly every person over
the age of 30 living in western countries is sick, and the
reason is that they are eating the wrong foods—meat, dairy, and
other assorted garbage. No longer can these two basic truths be
Today, less than .0001% of the world's people know the truth
about diet. I mean really know the truth: from time spent living
on a plant-food-based diet and reaping the benefits.
Fortunately, the numbers are growing. What if 1% of people
become informed? Or 15% begin eating healthy and living
drug-free? We—you and I working together in growing numbers—will
save the world.
It is not enough to just save yourself and your family (which
I encourage you all to do). Billions of people are suffering
needlessly and the planet is in serious trouble, as a direct
result of for-profit lies perpetuated about proper human
nutrition by vested commercial interests . Those of us who know
better and who are able to take action, have the responsibility
to take action. Act now.