A chronic dieter has revealed how she stopped yo-yo dieting and got over her fear of carbs by following a whole food, plant-based diet.
41-year-old Jill Welch, from Austin in Texas, was originally inspired to go plant-based around eight years ago after a colleague invited her to a private screening of health documentary Forks Over Knives.
According to Welch, whose weight had been yo-yoing by around 20lb over the last few years, watching the film flicked a switch in her head, and she instantly wanted to try a whole-food, plant-based diet. But she revealed that her first attempt at transitioning her diet 'failed miserably'.
"When I went plant-based, I was really confused about how to eat because I was so used to having this meat-based entree, which for me was never beef or pork, but poultry or fish," she told Plant Based News.
"Seafood was always my favorite. And so, I was so used to having this animal-based protein as an entree and then some vegetable sides. So when I went plant-based, I didn't know how to structure my meals anymore.
"And I ended up gaining weight, because I started eating things that I didn't eat before, a lot of filler food-type stuff. And so, I didn't want to be the person who went plant-based and gained weight. I did not bring poultry back into the mix, but I did bring seafood back into the mix for about the next two years and eggs, never dairy because I just can't process dairy."
After following this pescatarian-style diet for a few years, Welch was inspired to give plant-based another go after watching environmental documentary Cowspiracy, saying that the health and environmental impacts of eating animal products became 'too big to ignore'.
But she faced the same challenges as before: what should she eat?
"When I removed that animal protein entree from the mix, it was just like, what do I put there," she said. "And for some reason, it didn't click for me that it's okay just to eat vegetables. That didn't resonate. I was like, where is the entree? And so, structuring my meals was the biggest challenge."
It wasn't until Welch started working with a vegan coach* that she became comfortable with eating foods like whole-food grains, pasta, and rice. She said: "I am now eating things that I previously had labeled as bad foods.
"I never would have eaten rice. I hadn't had rice in years. I hadn't had bread in years. I hadn't had pasta in years. And now, I can eat those things and know that as long as I'm doing the, staying on my exercise plan and staying within my numbers, I can eat whatever I want."
Among the foods she now enjoys are rice bowls, pasta dishes, and lentils, as well as fruit - particularly mangoes. She has some foods she limits a little. "I love, love, love, avocados," says Welch. "I love them. I don't think there is anything wrong with avocados and I do believe in their health benefits, but they are really high in fat.
"Nut butters are really a slippery slope for me because I can make a meal out of a spoon and a tub of nut butter. Things that I watch out for now when I'm pre-planning my meals and making sure that I'm hitting the numbers that I want to meet are vegan sauces that are made from tahini, or made from peanut butter. Again, nothing wrong with those foods, I tend to over-consume when I'm exposed to things like that."
Before the end of her 90-day plan, Welch had dropped 22lb and was already experiencing a slew of health benefits. She said: "I'm 41 and I am running faster now than I have in almost 20 years. The last time I ran as fast as I could run now I was a competitive athlete.
"I feel stronger. When I go out for a run or a bike ride, or I go to the gym and I'm on one of the cardio machines, I get this burst of energy and it surprises me sometimes where I think I could keep doing this for hours, where I'm not getting tired, I'm not getting winded."
In addition, Welch said she has felt some mental health benefits from the change too: "I have a history of struggling in and out of depression and none of that has come up for me. I'm not saying I'm without anxiety, or without doubt...but the deep, dark feelings are not there.
"I just feel really happy and healthy and fit and strong. Definitely stronger and in better health than I was in my 20s by far."
Welch has advice for people who are interested in going plant-based, but who have fears around eating carbs. She says she can empathize, as she felt the same, but looking at her results now, her diet worked.
"I'm not a dietician, a nutritionist. I'm not a doctor. I can't explain anything from those perspectives. But, I can explain it from the perspective of, 'I tried something new and it worked for me, so maybe if everything you've tried isn't working, maybe you try something new too'."
*Jill Welch worked with vegan fitness coach Ben Raue and followed his dietary plan.