Recently, a reader got in touch with me. Sheila had a liver transplant about 10 years ago and has done quite well since.
Lately, though, she wrote, she has gained quite a bit of weight. Her doctor has told her to eliminate all but a trace of added fat from her diet and lose weight as quickly as she can without compromising nutrition.
She was further instructed to eat mostly plant-based foods, avoid artificial additives and cut down on sugar.
Sheila is also having digestive problems that her physician believes reducing fat, especially dairy fats, will correct. Sheila was not seeking medical advice from me, and I am not qualified to provide it, but she hoped I might find some online resources for her.
I quote from her email, with permission: “Although, ultimately I may have to eat only for nourishment and give up on enjoying food altogether, I hope I won’t have to. Eating has been a big part of my life, and I love to cook, but I just cannot imagine how to make palatable meals with these harsh restrictions.”
Sheila is in a unique position. Unlike many of us, who may want to lose a few pounds or improve our health, she understands that her life or, at least her longevity, may depend on how well she follows her doctor’s advice.
The closest regimen to Sheila’s needs was the “Protective Diet,” an online community led by Julie Marie Christenson. Advocates eat only plant foods and avoid sugar, added oils and nuts.
I read through the site (protectivediet.com) and it appeared that many of those submitting recipes and asking questions were people who, like Sheila, had conditions being treated with diet. Others had a genetic history that made them candidates for heart disease, cancer or diabetes.
I found that the visual, print and video resources are well organized. Some of the recipes are free (but require registration) and others, such as the weekly video cooking lesson, require payment.
I also found that Christenson was conscientious about answering queries from readers. She has an extensive background in nutrition, and has developed recipes for traditional dishes such as lasagna, meatloaf and stews without any animal products or added oils.
I am not sure why the nuts are eliminated, but I suspect it’s mainly because of their caloric load. I do know that Sheila was encouraged by her doctors to avoid nuts, so perhaps others in her situation must eliminate them, too.
I checked back with Sheila after a couple of weeks and she found the site helpful. In fact, she has turned her considerable skill in the kitchen to creating plant-based dishes that are attractive and flavorful.
But the most helpful aspect of the site turns out to be the online community support for people trying hard to improve their health with lifestyle changes. Especially helpful to Sheila is advice on how to deal with the constant questioning and criticism of her diet choices. Support has come both from Christenson and other members.
If you are trying to follow a difficult regimen and would find this support helpful, I recommend you give the “Protective Diet” site a try. Studies have shown that people who get health-related support from their peers with similar problems do better than those who struggle on their own.
Theresa Curry blogs for Lily Lemontree.