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How a Plant-Based Diet Changed My Life

By: , SparkPeople Health & Fitness Writer

What you choose to eat and how you choose to live is a big part of what makes you, you. What works for one person may not work for another—and that's okay, because we are all striving to be the best versions of ourselves. To live authentically means to alter your diet and activities to better fit your lifestyle, whether you choose to be a vegetarian, cut back on dairy or simply give up after-dinner snacking. No matter your decisions, we're here to support you every step of the way as we all work together toward being deliciously different and authentically ourselves.

As we explore what it means to be Deliciously Different, Deliciously You, we spoke with SparkPeople member and health coach Martha Glantz about her journey to take control of her life through weight loss, exercise and adopting a plant-based diet.

About Martha

Martha has been active in the SparkPeople community since 2013. In 2011, after struggling with her weight her whole adult life, she began her weight loss journey by recording her progress and using a pedometer to walk 10,000 steps a day. In 2013, she decided to switch to a primarily plant-based diet, including fish or grass-fed beef on occasion. In addition to her daily walking, she also started doing cardio workouts and lifting weights at the gym. Now, she is proudly down 86 pounds and feeling great.

In June 2014, Martha enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and earned her certificate as a health coach. While she became a coach primarily to help herself, she has also worked with others. The program reinforced for her that one size does not fit all, and has helped her embrace a "different strokes for different folks" approach to healthy living.

How have plant-based foods helped you maintain your weight?
In addition to feeling better when eating a predominantly plant-based diet, I ended up losing the last 35 pounds and have kept it off. I think the emphasis on plants makes me much more aware of what I'm eating because of their benefits. With a plant-based diet I can eat a lot, feel full and satisfied and take in relatively few calories, which helps with weight maintenance.

How do you incorporate plant-based foods into your diet?
For my meals, I include a vegetable and/or fruit. For instance, breakfast contains a whole grain, a fat, a protein and a fruit. Lunch is high in veggies with a big salad or a stir fry—I'll cut up all sorts of veggies and have at it, adding in hot sauce and some protein, like an egg, tofu or cheese. I rarely have a non-vegetarian lunch. My beverage at lunch is usually water, seltzer or occasionally low-fat milk. Dinner at home usually includes a soup or stew with lots of different vegetables and a protein, often accompanied by a salad. I have tried dairy free yogurt as well.There are so many dairy-free options available right now, and I am looking forward to exploring them all.

Snacks are often carrots and hummus, fruit and nuts, fruit and a piece of cheese or celery with peanut butter. I tend to have two snacks a day and keep them each around 150 calories.

What foods are your weaknesses? How do you deal with any cravings you may have for sweets or junk food?
It's not food that is a weakness as much as wine! When I was losing weight, I didn't have wine during the week and was very moderate during the weekend. Now, I do have wine most nights and generally keep it to two glasses, because when I have more I want sweets. Otherwise, I may have a cookie or some low-fat ice cream, rarely going overboard. Junk food doesn't appeal to me, with the exception of potato chips, which I just don't keep in the house.

I do love French fries and have had them throughout losing and maintaining weight when I go out. Not all the time, but once a week or so. Rarely do I have more than a third to a half of the order. I've found that if I have something like this that I love, I won't overdo it. Same with pizza—I love it, and have it every once in a while (I order it with less cheese and no meat—all veggies).

Describe your turning point to a plant-based diet.
When I started on my journey, I weighed about 226 pounds. At age 61, I knew I had to do something and it had to stick. To that end, I decided to not go on a diet, but to choose to [make wiser food choices] most of the time. A year later, I took a class at the local hospital on eating better and decided to make some more changes, gradually moving to a more plant-based diet.

I realized that I had to lose more weight to get to the normal BMI range and that exercise had to become a non-negotiable part of my life. I ended up losing about 35 more pounds and added daily exercise. Now, about 60 to 75 percent of my meals are vegetarian most weeks.

How do you maintain your diet?
I think since I made so many of the changes over time, it has become second nature to choose the wiser food options. When I go out to eat (which is much less than it used to be), my eye seems to naturally go to the vegetarian option. When I'm thinking of what to make for dinner, I have many vegetarian cookbooks to choose from. If we are going to have meat or poultry, I look for grass-fed, no antibiotics. At our weekend place, we can go to the farms. In the summer a friend and I split a share at a CSA and that challenges me to find new recipes for all the vegetables I get. It's fun and we get great food too!

I knew when I retired that I would have to be careful to not go out so much, and I tend to have lunch at home most days of the week. If I do go out, there are a few places in town that have delicious vegetarian food.

I like to challenge myself with working out. I recently started with a personal trainer and just took my first spin classes. SparkPeople gives me great ideas on how to change up my exercise routine to keep it fresh and challenging.

How do you incorporate your favorite activities into your lifestyle?
As a retired person, it is easy to find time to exercise. I start by walking around the house and getting warmed up. I take our dog out for a morning walk that can be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. I try to get to the gym most weekday mornings for cardio and alternate days of barre, yoga or stretching. I wear a Garmin VivoSmart HR+ band, which encourages me to get up and walk for at least five minutes every hour.

I also make time to move whenever possible: I park far from store entrances or walk around town before doing my errands. People recognize me and say, "Oh you're the one who walks all the time!" I know it is good for me and it is something I enjoy. Our dog loves to walk, so she gets several walks every day. On the weekends (we have a lake house where we spend most weekends), I take long walks to get both exercise and the enjoyment of being outside.

How has becoming a health coach allowed you to not only live healthfully yourself, but to inspire others to live their best lives as well?
When I retired in June 2014, I wanted something to challenge my mind and keep me focused on living a healthy life. A few months later, I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and earned my certificate as a health coach. I took the IIN health coaching course for self-knowledge, but also because so many people would ask, "What did you do and can you help me?"

I joined SparkPeople in 2013 as one more way to ensure I stayed at my goal weight. I love this place! There is great support and I learn something every day. I am part of the National Weight Control Registry, as I believe it is critical that we learn from what has worked for those of us who have lost weight and kept it off. I love letting other Spark members know that it can be done! Blogging on my SparkPage and receiving positive reinforcement is really great—if I can help others, that helps me.

I've kept my weight off, which is something else that seems to inspire others. When friends see me after several months, I think they are surprised that I look the same. Since most people gain their weight back and I haven't—that in and of itself is something different.

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