First Atkins, then Vegan (for now anyway)

At Whole Foods across the nation many people have been participating in the Engine 2 Diet 28 day Challenge for the month of February, including me.  It has been a smoother transition than I thought considering I went from Atkins to Vegan in less than 24 hours.  The fact was I wasn’t losing weight or feeling naturally well on Atkins.  I was eating organic and grass fed meats most of the time, occasionally dining out or with friends, had lots of veggies, which I love.  Yet, I was walking around bloated and feeling sluggish and was still recovering from a thyroid crash which was making my energy levels even worse.  When I found the sign at WF advertising free classes for a plant based diet I immediately signed up.  If you haven’t heard of the Engine 2 diet, here is the book at Amazon:



The concept is that you will lose weight and reduce your cholesterol by excluding meats, dairy, oils and sugar.  This obviously rules out anything processed with artificial ingredients as well as anything that is not made from plants.  The reduction of oils in particular is interesting to me.  I participated, like many of you, in the low fat diet fad of the early 1990’s.  I let myself eat only a max of 20g of fat daily, which isn’t much when you calculate that out.  The founder of the E2 diet, Rip Esselstyn, goes even further, encouraging readers and participants to limit meals to 2.5 g of fat!  This means not cooking with oil, adding a lot of salad dressing, drizzling oil over veggies over meats, like fish.   Fat tastes good, without a doubt.  My friend, James Rouse, recently video blogged about oils, drjamesneedanoilchange.m4v

The hardest part about this diet and most plant based diets is that you have to prepare more foods.  I found myself in the mornings eating rice, chia seed pudding with almond milk, green smoothies in my Vitamix and anything else I can do fast and bring in the car.  Lunches can be difficult depending on the day, but if I am prepared with glass jars of items like salads, hummus, veggies, wraps then I feel less guilty about a salad bar somewhere in a hurry (although these are sometimes necessary in my schedule).  As far as dinner, we like to head out the door a lot and Phoenix is a great place for Vegan or Vegetarian restaurants.  Phoenix has its set of problems with high heat and smog, but there are a lot of people into fitness and healthy lifestyles.  I never feel like I am alone in my quest for better and cleaner foods.

I am interested, in just 20 days on this diet in becoming a life-long Vegan.  I love vegetables, something I didn’t really have much in my youth.  I also had many digestive issues as a kid.  I remember being in pain many times after eating.   This continued throughout my twenties when a friend took me to a naturopath and she was helping me with my problems with digestion.  I was on a very low fat diet, had reduced sugar by a high amount, drank a lot of orange juice, skim milk and I kept having severe pains.  One time I vomited and it looked like feces.  A friend was with me and it scared him but I decided not to go to the doctor.   I was exercising a lot back then and felt I could conquer anything.  Over the years I didn’t exercise as much and went through one marriage and divorce and then met my second husband.  Soon after I decided to marry him I was diagnosed with hypothyroid disease and was told I would be on my medicine for that the rest of my life. When I got pregnant the midwives told me I had gestational diabetes so I went on a low glycemic diet.  I never had to have pills or insulin and was very proud of myself for exercising and eating right.  After I gave birth to my daughter I went through some high stress years.  It packed on the pounds and another diagnosis of pre-diabetes, obesity, and my cholesterol was trending upwards.  I always ate healthy since birthing my daughter but something was not right.

Speaking to a close friend I decided to try the Atkins diet and did this for 3 months.  In that time I gained 13 pounds and felt even worse than ever.  It’s not my friend’s fault it didn’t work and in fact, he has lost a lot of weight, using a personal trainer and has a very supportive partner who loves him.  Don’t doubt that this combination in itself is part of his success.  As Joshua Rosenthal says in IIN training, ‘when persons come home and they don’t have someone to greet them and love them, they often turn to food.  Food and sex are related.  Persons who have both love and sex are often not as overweight.’  Joshua and others I began to follow;  Andrea Beaman, the Raw Food World, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Joe Mercola, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, The China Study have all led me to where I am now which is to stay plant based, use limited fats, and become Vegan.   I am joining the ranks with those below, and many others.


There are many benefits and absolutely no dangers or draw-backs to the Vegan diet.  I was reading some of the dangers of the Atkins Diet though, from a group of Physicians.  I also believe, personally and from experience, that the Atkins Diet would be hard to maintain.  I was so bored with not being able to eat no carbs.  I don’t really love pasta all that much but I love rice, beans and chickpeas, all types of fruits and the occasional breads.  I also felt that chronic constipation couldn’t be healthy.  The headaches were a nuisance.  My energy level was completely depleted.    TheNational Library of Medicine has outlined diets and chronic disease and concludes by saying a diet with whole grains, at least 5 servings (I would recommend 8-10) of fruits and vegetables will help to reduce these diseases:

Diet and breast cancer: Although a high-fat diet has been studied as a cause of breast cancer, no clear evidence has been found. A high-fat diet may promote breast cancer by causing the body to release more of certain hormones.

Det and prostate cancer: Because prostate cancer appears to be more common with a Western lifestyle, diet has been closely studied as a risk. However, results have not led to a clear answer:

  • Fats. Some studies have linked prostate cancer to a high-fat diet, especially including red meat and high-fat dairy products.
  • Vegetables and fruits. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and legumes appears to protect againstprostate cancer. This may be because these foods are low in fat. No one vegetable or fruit has been proven to decrease the risk. Lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, has been investigated, but the evidence that it protects against prostate cancer has not been proven.
  • Vitamins and minerals. Major studies have found that vitamin and mineral supplements (vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin D, and selenium) do not prevent prostate cancer.
  • Calcium. A high intake of calcium has been linked to an increased risk for prostate cancer in some studies.

Diet and colon or rectal cancer:

  • A diet high in red and processed meats increases the risk for colorectal cancer. Diets high in fruits and vegetables appear to reduce the risk.
  • Several major studies have found that eating a lot of high-fiber foods protects against colorectal cancer, but other studies show little benefit.
  • It is also not clear whether a lack of certain vitamins, such as folic acid (a type of B vitamin), could increase the risk for colorectal cancer. Recent studies have shown that taking folic acid supplements does not lower the risk of getting colorectal cancer, and that supplements appear to increase the risk for polyps.

Diet and stomach or esophageal cancer: Countries in which people eat a lot of salt-cured, smoked, and nitrite-cured foods have a high rate of cancer of the stomach and esophagus. Examples of such foods include bacon, ham, hot dogs, and salt-cured fish.
Some friends and I had recently discussed a group’s reaction to me posting a picture of fish in a Vegan group on Facebook.  Many of the long term Vegans got very defensive and began questioning my motives for putting that picture on there (it was merely a visual to add to my question about why not to eat fish), as well as if I was a real person or a troll, which according to Wikipedia is someone who posts inflammatory,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[2]   I was, simply, trying to get more information on fish, in particular, as they were not red meat, seemed more “healthy” and something I felt that I didn’t really want to give up.  After an un-successful attempt at trying to get my question answered I not only had to leave that group but began to see why it is hard for persons to understand Vegans.  I suppose, just like any human group of people, this group of Vegans cannot be held up to a high standard for behavior, especially through a social networking platform.  Yet, as I had learned in my schooling, through a Holistic eye, I wanted Veganism to somehow be equated with a certain level of spirituality, after all, they are animal lovers?!  But, alas, I found an outlet for my frustration when I read this Happy Herbivore and I can move on through the Path to Vegan without feeling so paranoid if someone finds out I am not an activist, (although I am not ruling that out as an option for the future, especially when I watch things like the Garbage Pacific Patch).


As for now, I am happy to be cleaning up the diet and the way I feel.  It takes a lot of commitment just to do the diet and I am adding exercise in slowly which I find even more difficult to commit to.  In past years I was hiking mountains, running, rollerblading, walking the dog, participated in team sports.  I like being active.  Most people that know me have seen me not be able to sit still for long.  Sedentary jobs have been difficult for me and writing, which I love, has sometimes caused more time sitting than I would like.  But, as I would teach you I will say to myself, which is, to have patience. As you can see, my health issues started a long time ago, and with many of my clients it is the same story.  A job was lost, a relationship ended, an illness was diagnosed.  A great man, Steve Jobs, said:


When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. 

Cynthia Djengue, BA, MSW CHC

Holistic Coach

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