Friday, May 8, 2015

Meet Shayda, an Ultimate Weight Loss Success Story

When it comes to losing weight, staying healthy or maintaining a healthy weight, I've always been someone that found my greatest inspiration in community. That's a pretty easy thing to find when your "diet" of choice is a national weight loss chain. That's a lot harder to find when what you are striving for goes against an entire way of living for almost an entire country of over 350 million people.

Welcome to the United States in 2015. Where "food" is everywhere, at all times, for any reason. Where 99 percent of it isn't healthy for anyone.

What's a person like me to do?

Thank God for Facebook.

Seriously, I thank God for Facebook. And the Internet. We live in a very special time, and yes it has it's gray clouds, but it's also got its silver linings.

Facebook is where I met Shayda. If I still lived in Los Angeles, I have no doubt that we'd be friends in real life. But these days, I'll have to settle for virtual friendship, and ours is just beginning.

We meet most days in a small but extremely busy coffee shop called "Chef AJ and John Pierre's Ultimate Weight Loss." It's very private, and you need to be a member of the club to get in. But that's where all of my daily inspiration and connection is coming from. The other members of the group aren't serving coffee as a stimulant, they're serving love, support, commitment, inspiration and occasionally a recipe. 

But not too many recipes, and that's a good thing. Someday, I'll talk about that.

For now, I just want you to meet Shayda. You can meet her there, in the club. She's truly inspirational!

Here's her story, in her own words:

Back in 1997, a very prominent doctor, who specialized in internal medicine, weight management and metabolism disorder, told me the following,“It would take herculean efforts for you to ever lose weight and to maintain that weight loss.”

Well, needless to say, that did a number on me mentally, physically and emotionally.

Since my late 20’s I have tried diet that was out there. Always losing the weight, but always gaining it back and then some. It wasn't until my late forties that I hit my highest weight which was 240 pounds. I started feeling really bad about myself. My cholesterol at its highest was over 400 and my triglycerides well over 700. 

Needless to say, I was prediabetic and I was on medication for cholesterol, triglycerides, diabetes, etc. They had also said that I had metabolic disorder, insulin resistance and syndrome x to name a few. I knew I couldn't continue on this path. When I turned 50, I had back surgery, and the doctor told me that I needed to get the weight off if I wanted my back to be healthy. But I could not go back to eating and drinking the crap anymore. I just couldn't do it. I had been vegan for approximately 8 years prior to that, but I was the classic junk food vegan. After all, French fries are vegan, right?

They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear! And that was so true for me. I remember visiting my mom one day, and when I arrived at her home, she was listening to a guy named Dr. Fuhrman, who had a special on PBS. As I sat typing on my computer, I asked my mom, who is this guy? And she responded saying, "Listen to him, I think you might like him."

After listening to him, I started liking what he was saying, and started looking him up on my computer. I found that he was having a retreat in Utah for 7 days and I asked my mom if she would be interested in going. She said maybe. So the following day I called them up and they said they were completely sold out. I asked if they could put me on a waiting list. Two days later, I got a phone call from them. They said they had some rooms open up and asked if I was still interested in going. I said yes, and signed up myself and my mom. That was June of 2011. 

We met some wonderful people and really enjoyed our trip. I knew I had stumbled on something great. As we were headed back to the airport, my mother asked the person sitting next to her if they knew of other events like this one. She said that since I lived in LA there was an event called Healthy Lifestyle Expo in Woodland Hills. Well that was great, since I worked in Woodland Hills. So, I signed us up for that event as well. 

During that weekend, as I was sitting by the pool during one of our breaks, I met a guy who asked me if I knew of Chef AJ. I said, "No, who is she?" 

He said,  "Find me tomorrow and I will introduce you to her."  So the next day, I found him, but Chef AJ was not there, as she was doing another event that day. He got my name and number and said that he would forward it to her.

Well, I had no patience to wait for him, so I started Googling her and found her website. I emailed her and her husband introducing myself and wanting to find out if she taught any classes that I could attend or events for that matter. I truly was on a mission here. There was no stopping me. Honestly, I didn’t think I would hear from AJ or her husband. But guess what?? They responded!!! I was so thrilled!! Then they told me that she was teaching a class at Whole Foods in the OC, which was close to my mom’s house. So I signed up again. When I met her, I knew in my heart I had found the person who was going to change my life. I loved her energy and her food tasted out of this world. 

At this event, her husband Charles was selling tickets for Healthy Taste of LA, so I bought the tickets for us to go. It was at that event that I met John Pierre. He was absolutely amazing. It was also at that time, that I tore the tendon in my ankle, and after visiting 5 doctors they all told me that I needed surgery. Ugh, another surgery!! After John Pierre's lecture, I went to speak with him, and he told me that he could help me. You see, since I was a kid, I loved to exercise. For years I couldn't exercise because of my back, and now because of my foot. And when I get depressed, well, food was my best friend, especially sweets.

At the event, AJ said that she was going to have a 30 day Unprocessed challenge starting on Jan 12, 2012. But before taking that class, I had to take her one day class at her house. Well, sign me up! At the same time, I hired John Pierre to help me as well. My life was about to be changed by these two amazing people. Twice a week John Pierre came to my apartment. I never thought that sitting in a chair I could get such a workout. OMG!! There was no more excuses, we not only worked out, but he also worked on my head. He never talked to me about how much weight to lose, he kept talking about getting healthy. The other thing that he did, was to throw my scale behind my couch where I could not get to it. He always says that only a fish needs scales! I was addicted to it, and like most people I let the scale determine my mood, which was stupid.

January 12, 2012 was the day my life changed forever. What an amazing group of people I was with and AJ had built this safe environment for all of us. After the first meeting, AJ passed out some healthy dessert that she had made. As the tray came around, I remember as it came in my hand, I looked up and locked eyes with John Pierre. He said absolutely nothing, but I focused on his eyes and I did not touch the dessert and just kept passing it along. I think to this day, that set the tone of me getting healthy. Being abstinent from dessert, even though it was healthy, was the best thing I did. He also told me that if I continue eating this way, I would not need the surgery on my ankle.

When I had signed up for the 30 day challenge, my friends and I had decided that at the end of it, we would go out and celebrate. Well, I'm happy to report that we never went out. At the end of the challenge, I had lost 18 pounds and I was on cloud nine. I told my friends I'm not going out and I'm planning on continuing on eating this way. I loved what I ate!!! For years I was told I could not eat bananas, rice, potatoes, beans, mangoes, etc. And there was no restriction. What?? Eat 'till I'm satisfied?? I would be crazy to give this up.

And the best part, my weight was moving downward. I had never felt better. I was very determined, and wanted to succeed so badly! I wanted to be healthy more than anything else. I did everything Chef AJ and John Pierre told me to do. I worked the program the way they said to do it, not my version of what the program should be.

For one year, I totally immersed myself in this program. I took every class that Chef AJ taught. I stuck to her like white on rice. I truly believe that you need to immerse yourself completely and always take continuing classes. I also went to the Mc Dougall 10 day program toward the end of the year. When I went there, Dr. McDougall took me off all my meds. He even taught me how to handle my own doctor.

Four months after leaving Dr. Mc Dougall, mom and I went to visit our doctor. We both have the same doctor, and I had taken my mom off her meds as well. When he came in, he was very happy, he said he was very pleased by my numbers, and that the higher dosed meds were helping me. He was also pleased that my weight had come down. Well, I was about to throw him a curve ball. I said, "Doc, I have something to tell you….I stopped taking my meds four months ago."

He was shocked!! I said, "Let’s sit and talk."

He was okay. I explained to him that the meds he gives me really help to make my numbers better looking. But if I eat whole foods, unprocessed foods, it can create miracles. He asked what I was eating. My mom said, "Potatoes!!"

I thought his neck was going to snap. "You can’t have potatoes."

"Why," I asked?

He said, "You're pre-diabetic."

So I asked, "How’s my A1C? My CRP? My glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides?"

He said everything was down. My glucose was perfect! He could not believe it. He sat back in his chair and wanted to hear more. So I began to explain everything to him. I explained that I’m eating a whole food plant based diet, salt, oil and sugar free. He was intrigued. I told him that the potato is not the problem, but what people put on it: the butter, sour cream, bacon, etc. He said that was true.

I brought him all the books: The China Study by T. Collin Campbell, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. Mc Dougall, Dr. Goldhammer, Chef AJ and John Pierre’s books. He was truly amazed by what he was hearing. He said, "Okay, I want to see you in again in 4 months."

Four months later, my numbers continued to come down and he was loving the results.

It’s now been 3 ½ years since I started my journey with Chef AJ and John Pierre. I never had the surgery on my ankle, as everything healed. I am completely off all of my meds, I have lost 100 pounds and have never felt better in my life. My weight continues to come down.

My doctor and his family are now eating a whole foods plant based diet, SOS free, and he is teaching this to his heart patients as well. Dr. Esselstyn has become his hero. Every time we get together we talk about recipes and he wants to know what else have I learned. I truly believe we must educate our own doctors. Every chance I get I pass these great books to doctors, nurses, friends, etc. Whoever I can get my hands on.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Chef AJ and John Pierre for saving my life. I couldn’t have done it without them. Three and a half years later, I still take her classes, I still immerse myself in this program, and I hang around like minded people. It’s the first time in my life that I have not gained my weight back and it’s still coming down.

Btw, I hold myself accountable to the two of them. Thank you Chef AJ and John Pierre for saving my life. I really love you guys!


And thank you Shayda! Thank you for sharing your story and for being such an active member of Ultimate Weight Loss. You're commitment is palpable and contagious. I look forward to getting to know you as we are in this thing together for the rest of our lives, because we both know that for us, there is no other way!

If you are interested in learning more about Ultimate Weight Loss and the salt, oil and sugar free Whole Foods Plant Based way of eating, we've got room for you in our small but lovely little corner of Facebook. Ask me for details.

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