What if someone told you that the fastest way for you to lose weight is to eat more and never count a calorie?
What if you were told that in order to cure diabetes you should eat more, not less, fruit?
What if you found out that you can live a medication free life even at the age of 73 and run a marathon at 63?
What if you learned that you are your best doctor?
Wouldn’t that be a miracle?
Today’s success story is nothing short of a miracle.
A few months ago I shared an article on Vegalicious and a reader left a comment, sharing her story of reclaiming hear health and weight loss by transitioning to a whole foods plant based diet. Her story was so inspiring that I convinced her to share it with you.
Her story is a proof that with a little bit of work and determination even seemingly impossible health obstacles can be overcome. Hers also is a story of teamwork with her husband and her kids–they came together to lose over 100 lbs of extra weight, lower high cholesterol and high blood pressure, cure diabetes, cure hormonal issues, and improve their health on many more levels–all in less than a year!
Today I want you to meet Tereza Crump.
Tereza is from Brazil. She moved to the U.S. 15 years ago. She’s a full time Mom and wife, who also homeschools her four beautiful children, 6 to 13 years old. She is a super smart woman with an International Business degree, who speaks 3 languages fluently, and who also enjoys gardening, nutrition and holistic health, home education and mixed media arts.
Last year, after Tereza and her husband were diagnosed with several health issues, they decided to take their health into their own hands, because doing it any other way seemed like a slow death sentence.
This is their success story.
How They Lost Over 100 lbs, Cured Diabetes and Lowered High Blood Pressure & Cholesterol
Elena: Tereza, welcome! Let me tell you that I was inspired by your story when I first heard from you. The moment I read it I decided that I will hound you down so that you can tell it to Vegalicious readers. I was so happy when we connected and you agreed to let us peek into your life and learn from it. Thank you!
Let’s start with some questions. Tell me, what made you consider a dietary change?
Tereza: My husband had pre-diabetes and high blood pressure due to a kidney stone. We were both overweight and sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was also dealing with hormonal issues. I couldn’t sleep, and in order to keep my energy up during the day I would indulge in coffee, sugar and chocolate. I think having 4 children in 7 years took a toll on my body due to my poor nutrition choices. I believe I was on a verge of having adrenal fatigue.
Elena: What pushed you over the edge and made you consider a vegan diet specifically, and how did you hear about a vegan diet?
Tereza: In the summer of 2014 my husband found a 12 mm kidney stone that was lodged in his ureter* just at the exit of one of his kidneys. He tried to pass it on his own, but by mid-fall it became clear he needed intervention. So he had lithotripsy done on the stone, and although it was fractured, he still had to endure months of pain, discomfort and high blood pressure pills and all of the side effects that came with them.
By March 2015, I began researching on the internet what caused kidney stones and that is when I found Dr. McDougall’s website. I read all the reports, articles and success stories and instantly began to flashback to my own life story. From my late teens all the way into my mid-20s, I had been a vegetarian and didn’t have any health issues, until I moved to the USA and began consuming the SAD (standard American diet) diet. Although we still ate fruits and vegetables, meals heavy in dairy and meat were our norm.
Slowly, for the past 15 years, we have been implementing a healthier diet: dropping the processed breakfast items, cookies, sweet tea, store bought sauces, eating less deli meats, and sandwiches, etc.
A few years back we tried the Wheat Free and the Paleo diets. We would always lose 10 pounds and stall. And then proceed to feel toxic. I truly believe that the Paleo diet was what caused my husband’s bout with kidney stones. He was eating animal protein 3 times a day and that was causing him to be toxic. I remember his sweat smelled like pure ammonia.
Elena: That does not sound like fun at all. And you are right, a diet rich in animal foods, like a Paleo diet, will induce a lot of health issues. Unfortunately, an average consumer who’s been sold the Paleo lie, will not immediately realize what caused her health issues until, often times, it is too late.
So, now you are researching. There are many diets out there, besides Paleo. Why did you decide to transition to a vegan diet specifically and how long did it take for you to implement the changes?
Tereza: After spending time on Dr. McDougall’s website and reading all the success stories of people losing weight eating a diet loaded with carbohydrates without counting calories or observing portions, it was a no-brainer for me. As I said, I had been a vegetarian so I loved my carbohydrates, but as majority of people in modern society I believed they were evil. I decided to try. I love to eat and always struggled with eating small portions or having to account for every bite.
I talked to my husband, but he didn’t believe me that a whole food plant-based diet would help him. He didn’t think meat was all that bad. So I decided to do it on my own. I cooked whole food plant-based meals for my family and added the animal protein on the side for them. I had huge satisfying meals and just passed on the meat and dairy. After 4 weeks, I had lost 10 pounds. I was sleeping better; I was no longer angry and cranky. I think that alone won my husband over and he decided to join in.
Elena: What about the kids? Were they supportive? Who was the hardest person to convince?
Tereza: We talked to the kids and as a family decided to adopt a whole food plant-based lifestyle. My husband made it clear that he was not going to become a vegan. He didn’t think eating meat was wrong or a bad health choice…yet. So we agreed that we would eat a meal with animal protein once a week, the rest of the time we would be as whole plant-based as possible. My oldest daughter wasn’t very happy about giving up her meat. My son wasn’t happy about giving up ham and cheese sandwiches. Also store bought salad dressings were an issue for a while.
We spent time educating the kids on the health issues and how good wholesome nutrition was key for a reversal to good health. They were very supportive and decided to give the diet a try too.
Elena: So, it sounds like you won them over. Did the kids ever tell you what they thought about the changes you made?
Tereza: Because I never fed my kids packaged or processed foods, eating whole foods like fruits and vegetables, rice and beans was never a problem. It was just the adjustment of not having meat and cheese every day that we had to deal with.
One of the things I did was transition the kids slowly. We cut the meat right away, just eating it once a week for a meal. I would consult everyone and find out what they wanted for that meal and I would cook it from scratch. So sometimes, I made a roast; other times we cooked hamburgers on the grill; chicken wings, etc. So they didn’t feel deprived. They knew their meat was coming…once a week.
We also consumed all the frozen cheese we had, but instead of using it every day I used it once or twice a week. I think it took a couple of months to finish that off. We used to eat cheese every day!
My husband was the only one who drank milk, so we didn’t have a problem with that.
I also began making lots of yummy vegan foods right away. We already ate a lot of veggies, fruits and whole grains, but I incorporated vegan brownies, vegan granola, smoothies, dried fruits, you know all the treats kids love but in a healthy way. I even made vegan “meat” out gluten, aka seitan, used chickpeas and beans in burgers, cauliflower for chicken wings, etc., but I did that more as entertainment and for fun. We don’t eat those as everyday foods. We have never even tasted processed fake meat or cheese at all.
Elena: So, now you’re all plant based. I am sure there were things changing besides your taste buds adjusting to vegan foods. What kind of changes did you see in your health and how soon?
Tereza: I lost 40 pounds in four months. They were the easiest and quickest pounds I’ve ever lost! I had lots of energy, so I began exercising. We began walking a mile a few times a week, soon we were running 5ks.
My husband also lost 40 pounds and was able to drop his blood pressure meds within four weeks. His blood pressure and sugar labs are now normal. All the side effects he had due to blood pressure are gone. He feels like a 25-year-old guy! 🙂
I am down 60 pounds now. My period used to be heavy and PMS was really bad. Within a couple of months that was gone. My periods are light and most times I am not even aware of them. I exercise through them and have no problems with sugar cravings.
Another change was that I got rid of my coffee and chocolate addiction. I no longer eat pounds of chocolate bars a week. I still eat chocolate but in homemade treats like banana chocolate ice cream, bean brownies, even chocolate mousse made with aquafaba**. The huge difference is I can pass it up if I want, and I can stop after a bowl. I no longer have the crazy cravings for chocolate or the inability to stop when I am full. I used to eat buckets of ice cream at a time. I no longer drink coffee or need it at all for energy.
Elena: That’s fantastic! I love hearing success stories like yours—better health, kicking bad habits, losing weight and looking and feeling younger, which, both of you certainly do.
Tereza: Yes. It’s been a year since we became WFPB and together my husband and I lost 100 pounds. I weigh the same as when I married him but my measurements are smaller and I am stronger and feel healthier now.
As a family we haven’t been sick at all in over a year. One of my children would have colds, stuffy nose and cough every winter. Not this past winter. My husband works in the medical field and is exposed to all sorts of diseases. They no longer bother him at all. It’s almost like they bounce off him. He will feel tired or maybe a bit congested, but the next day he’s fine. It’s like his immune system kicks on and fights the attack and he doesn’t come down with the full blown sickness at all.
Elena: With all of your health benefits and weight loss, has any of your extended family begun to pay attention? Have any of them “converted”?
Tereza: My parents visit us every year around summer time and stay for a couple of months. This past year, when they arrived, both my husband and I were 40 pounds lighter each. I shared with my parents my new-found knowledge on nutrition and they both jumped in with both feet.
My Mom had been an ovo-lacto vegetarian since my late teens and always struggled with high cholesterol. She took meds for a while but they did nothing for her. So she quit them. She’s also a marathoner. When she returned to Brazil, she had lost about 18 pounds (in 60 days) and her running time and stamina had improved. She will turn 63 this year. She did some blood tests and found out her total cholesterol dropped 60 points, and her triglycerides dropped 70 points.
My Dad had diabetes and took 2 medications but still couldn’t get his sugar under control. In 2 months he lost weight. He can now wear his military uniform that he hasn’t put on in 50 years! He’s off all meds and his blood sugar is steadily coming down. He had blood tests done and all his markers are perfect except his sugar. His A1c is at 8 but used to be at 10 while taking 2 medications. Although my Dad enjoys this lifestyle, he has a hard time staying low fat. He often binges on peanuts. But I believe the more he does the right thing the better he will be and he will reverse his diabetes. He’s really excited about having lost all this weight so easily and he can now eat all he wants without being hungry and without gaining weight. He’s planning on testing his A1c again in a few months and we are hopeful that it will be 6 or lower. He’s 73 years old.
Elena: That’s beyond amazing. This kind of stories make me want to break out in a dance with a song. I am certain that after reading your stories thousands more will be inspired to take the same path to reclaiming their health.
So, for their sake, can you give me an example of your daily food intake?
Tereza: I usually have a smoothie in the morning with fruits, greens, chia and flaxseeds. Sometimes I make it thick enough so we can serve it in a bowl and we put homemade granola on top. Or oatmeal topped with fruit.
For lunch, I try to keep it simple: leftovers or peanut butter banana sandwiches on whole wheat bread. If we have leftovers, it’s usually rice and beans and vegetables.
For dinner, I serve rice and beans, with salad and veggies. Sometimes pasta with my own bean-veggie ragu, or green pesto sauce. I also serve polenta, lentil stew, tacos, lasagna, Arab food, Russian food, etc. Brazil is a melting pot of cultures; I grew up eating foods from all over the world, so I am not afraid of trying new cuisines or recipes. Lately we have been eating lots of Indian food.
I don’t measure or count calories. So I just eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. I also listen to my body. There are times when I eat more fruits, other times just rice and veggies, then we move on to beans, which we have almost every day in tacos, enchiladas, over rice, with guacamole. Last summer we ate banana ice cream in many flavors almost every day. I buy bananas by the box. As of now, we have been eating more potatoes.
Elena: You have four kids. A lot of the times the biggest complaint I hear from parents about improving their diet or going plant based is convincing their kids to eat better. How do you involve your family, especially the kids, in healthy eating? And how do you make it fun?
Tereza: I always cooked food from scratch. My kids grew up enjoying homemade meals. Because we homeschool, they are not tempted by a lot of junk food. When we do go places where it’s available, I either bring some special treats along or I let them have a taste, or convince them to wait until we get.
My husband, like most Americans, loves to eat out, so to keep him eating healthy and at home, I always cook delicious food.
I knew I had to keep it up to keep the kids interested in the Vegan cuisine. We tried lots of recipes. I use my Vitamix every day. I make my own pesto sauce, salad dressings, mayo. Make lots of treats too. I get the kids helping me by watching videos on YouTube then trying the recipes. I always get requests.
On my daughter’s birthday in January she wanted to do a conventional cake with store bought icing. I convinced her to join me and bake a vegan cake the week before with coconut milk icing, homemade caramel, chocolate and all the trimmings. I told her if she didn’t like the cake, I would let her bake the conventional cake instead the following week. The vegan cake was a huge success, so the following week we had it again for her birthday. She definitely does not miss the greasy store bought icing anymore.
Elena: Oh, my! Now I want a piece! I definitely need a recipe, because Sprout’s birthday is in less than two weeks and she already ordered a special birthday cake, which means I will be practicing in the kitchen for the next week, so I can impress not only her, but the non-vegan guests as well.
Tereza, thank you so much for your time and your story. Before I let you go, can you share a piece of advice would you would give someone considering a plant-based diet?
Tereza: Certainly. I will share four.
- Make it work for you. You want this to be sustainable for life. Do you like fast food and eat lots of junk food? Then start with vegan junk food like fake meats. Eat sandwiches and wraps loaded with veggies and beans. But do try and add new items like fruit and vegetables. You like French fries? Eat potatoes: baked ones, mashed potatoes, broiled, seasoned with spices, just salt, with ketchup, etc.
- Find the plant foods you like and indulge in them. For me to overcome my store bought ice cream addiction, I ate banana ice cream almost every day last summer. When I craved sweets, I ate fruits, then dried fruits and, if I was still not satisfied, I made a cake from scratch and ate that too. When you give yourself permission to enjoy what you like in a healthy way, it’s easier to stick to the diet and it becomes a lifestyle. I watched a documentary in which the person being interviewed said: “You can have cookies, ice cream and cake every day if you like. As long as you make them yourself from scratch.” That’s exactly what I do. Now who has time to bake from scratch every day? I don’t. So I keep those treats for the weekend and make them with whole plant ingredients and from scratch. I rarely gain weight from them and they satiate that desire for something sweet or different.
- Get educated. Watch YouTube videos on talks about whole food plant-based lifestyle. Watch videos on what other vegans eat and their recipes. I watched documentaries like Unsupersize me, Forks over Knives, Cowspiracy, Fed Up and more. I read books on the subject. Read blogs like yours. Check out other people success stories.
- Don’t give up. If you need to, transition slowly. I would tell people get rid of dairy first. Dairy is in everything and it’s super inflammatory. Get rid of dairy and you will feel so much better. That alone will motivate you to keep going and get rid of other food items like meat and processed boxed items.
And just to let others know, I have not arrived. I don’t think we ever will. It’s really about making better choices and improving constantly. What this journey has given me and my family is hope. Hope that we don’t have to accept feeling sick and tired. Hope that we can live without prescription drugs. Hope that we can do what we couldn’t do before: like playing with the kids, running a marathon, passing on chocolate, sleeping better, etc. For the first time in my life I have hope that I can no longer be overweight. I think I still have about 40-60 pounds to lose. The lowest I have ever been is 150 pounds when I was 15 years old. But today is less and less about the weight and more about feeling good and healthy.
Elena: Tereza, thank you! I look forward to hearing more about your progress as you keep going with your new diet and lifestyle. .
*the duct by which urine passes from the kidney to the bladder or cloaca.
**Aquafaba is the name for the viscous water in which legume seeds such as chickpeas have been cooked. Due to its ability to mimic functional properties of egg whites, aquafaba may be used as a direct replacement for egg whites in foods.
Do you have questions or comments for Tereza or a similar success health story to share? Leave a comment under the post. Let’s talk about it!
Ready to Create Your Health Success Story?
If you are like Tereza, tired of being sick and overweight, letting life pass you by, hiding away from being seen, and you are ready to create your own health transformation and weight loss story, get in touch with me, so we can get you started right away.