Updated May 6, 2013
I came to the McDougall Program after having tried and quit several of the more popular diets in American culture. But I don’t think I ever lasted more than two days on any of them because they always left me hungry, headachy, and tired. I would become frustrated with the need to count calories or fat grams, and bored with the lack of variety in food choices.
I was 48 years old and somewhere around 130 pounds. This may not sound like much weight, but consider that I am only 5’1″ tall and very small-boned. My jeans were size 8, relaxed fit, with side elastic insets that were stretched to the limit. My feet were covered with an oozing rash that was beginning to crawl up the backs of my legs. The itching was maddening. There was so much pain in my knees that I had to take stairs one at a time, sitting and rising from chairs and bed were extremely difficult. I stopped exercising and had even given up my much cherished long walks. Doing tai chi and chi kung was definitely out of the question. I was subject to three-day migraines, which I knew were due to a dairy allergy (protein in cow’s milk) and to food colors. My gums would bleed a little when I brushed my teeth. I was exhausted every day because I couldn’t sleep at night. Then, as if I needed any more problems, it was time for menopause, and I experienced the wonderful joy of hot flashes.
One day, I was sitting in the public library, just passing time while my daughter was in her Girl Scout meeting. I loved to read through cookbooks and copy down recipes. That day, I found a new book on the shelf; it was Dr. and Mrs. McDougall’s “The Quick and Easy Cookbook.” My first thought was that “ultra-low fat” made it too fanatical to be worth trying, but I was impressed with the recipes. I bought the book the next time I went to the bookstore, along with his “12 Days to Dynamic Health.” I really liked the idea of a starch-centered diet, but doubted that I had the willpower to try another “diet.”
Finally, however, after reading and re-reading the books several times, I decided to take the plunge…but only for a little while. I would do the McDougall Program for Lent. I figured, no fat and no animal products would be a sacrifice for Lent, but after six weeks of that, I would go back to my normal diet at Easter. So on Ash Wednesday (March 8) of Lent 2000, I started McDougalling: 100%, no cheating, no looking back.
The first two weeks were difficult. I had some difficulty with the massive increase in fiber. But I stuck with it and learned to stay downwind of everyone.
At the end of two weeks, I noticed that the pain in my knees had vanished completely. I had no new outbreaks of those festering pustules on my feet and legs.
At the end of three weeks, I had lost a couple of pounds. From there on, I just got better and better. My energy soared. What impressed me was that it was not a calorie-starved frantic energy, but I felt focussed and able to do what I needed to do. I could sleep at night, as well. I began walking again, longer and longer walks. No headaches, no hot flashes. Maybe there was something to Dr. McDougall’s “fanaticism” after all!
By the time Lent ended, I had lost a few more pounds. I had been getting colds every few weeks, but these seemed to disappear along with my other complaints. I decided that maybe Dr. McD knew what he was talking about, and decided to stay on the Program after Easter.
By August, 2000, I reached my initial goal weight of 100 pounds. Still no return of my previous complaints! I kept on the Program and eventually my weight dropped to 95 pounds. Too light, so I added in some occasional higher-fat plant foods.
I am writing this in June of 2002. My weight has stabilized at about 98 pounds, my jeans are now size 4, no elastic, classic fit. None of my original problems ever returned. Menopause was a breeze. In addition, my gums stopped bleeding, and my hair seems thicker: unanticipated bonuses of the program. At my first Cancer Walk, I did 15 miles. Last year, I walked 20. I can do tai chi and chi kung again with no pain, and have added some yoga into the mix as well.
What I like about the McDougall Program, aside from the health miracles I have seen take place in my body, is that it is so easy. I don’t have to count calories, fat, or protein. I don’t weigh, measure, or limit my portions. I don’t have to buy any special foods. I never, ever go hungry. I can enjoy a wide variety of wholesome foods in satisfying amounts whenever, wherever I am. The McDougall Program is a program I can stay with for life, and I intend to do just that.
I’m always amazed, but never surprised when people tell me stories of their aches, pains, rashes, and bumps disappearing when they change to a healthy diet. Confronted with a choice of living in good health with control over their weight most people are willing to change bad habits. Unfortunately, it takes some time to realize “this does apply to me.”In Jan’s case, she was willing to give the program a 6 week commitment and she learned just how effective a diet change can be and how easy and enjoyable it is to eat well and exercise.
I encourage all of you to do the same. 10-days – the time we run our live-in program in Santa Rosa – is usually enough to see the benefits and realize you can do this for a lifetime. I’m throwing down the gauntlet – commit to a 10 day or 6 week trial. My bet is you will be like Jan and never look back except to wonder why everyone doesn’t take advantage of this simple, cost free approach to excellent health and life-long weight control.