I started my journey three years ago in January, 2018. Leading up to that time, I was attending college and ate food that was fast and easily accessible. Not only did I have terrible eating habits, but I put additional stress on my body by pulling lots of all-nighters studying for classes. My efforts would be rewarded with all you can eat sushi dates with fellow classmates, further adding to my unhealthy lifestyle and poor eating choices. I live in Las Vegas, so weekends would consist of drinking alcohol and partying at nightclubs – resulting in my subtle weight gain of 56 pounds.
Once I came to a realization of my weight gain, I decided that change was a necessity. I attempted a lot of different diets where I would lose some weight, only to later put back on the weight I had lost PLUS more whenever I would go back to eating normal. The diets I followed at the time were high in protein and fats and low in carbs. Despite my best efforts, I never felt satisfied and was unable to make a long term switch and lifestyle change. I was 26-years-old and diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and constantly struggled with kidney stones (I had 5 different cases of kidney stones in a span of 2 years).
In January, 2018, I was taking a return flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas and sat next to a doctor who was a kidney specialist. I mentioned my struggle with kidney stones and he recommended I research a whole food plant based diet. Before getting off the plane, he even gave me a sticky note that said “whole food plant based” and told me to Google it if I was ever bored. My initial thought was to ignore his advice as I had no interest in eating a vegan diet or anything that resembled one… but, little did I know, he planted a seed that would forever change my life!
Clearly, I understood that whatever I was doing up until this point was not working. My fear of getting another painful kidney stone was enough for me to Google “whole food plant based” and give it a real shot. I decided that if I was going to try this lifestyle, I wanted to educate myself. So that weekend, I went to purchase a whole food plant based oil free cookbook, and I was lucky enough to also come across The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall. When I first read The Starch Solution, I was a bit overwhelmed! I began questioning my perception and view of healthy eating as I had always heard that carbs were bad for you. Unknowingly, I turned to vegan junk food as it resembled options I had been familiar with while helping me feel like I was taking steps in the “right direction” towards a whole food plant based diet… or so I thought.
Unfortunately, that didn’t go so well for me and in June of 2018 I began having issues with my gallbladder. Long story short, I had a terrible gallbladder attack after a night out with my friends. With a stomach full of chips, salsa and a margarita, I ended up in the Emergency Room with severe burning back pain. The doctor said I had gallstones and scheduled surgery! I went into surgery only to wake up to the nurse telling me that they could not locate my gallbladder and were unable to remove anything during the surgery. I was shocked and upset as to how they had seen gallstones in an ultrasound but were unable to find the gallbladder itself during surgery. I have scars to remind me of the failed surgery.
Confused and frustrated, I took matters into my own hands and personally began to research my symptoms in attempts to figure out the underlying cause. All the pains I experienced were described as gallbladder attacks online. I remembered that in The Starch Solution, Dr. McDougall had mentioned how to care for your gallbladder. I went back, re-read the book, in its entirety, and followed it religiously. I cut out all oils and all foods with higher fats from my diet (avocados, nuts and seeds) and experienced what felt like a miracle during that time of my life – my gallbladder attacks and pains had stopped! In the meantime, for 4 consecutive months, I went from doctor to doctor and eventually discovered that I indeed had a gallbladder. However, my gallbladder was underdeveloped (the size of a 3-year-old’s) and it was embedded inside my liver. At that point, due to the uniqueness of my case, no one was willing to perform the surgery to remove my gallbladder. Even though I had managed to control my pain thanks to the advice provided by Dr. McDougall in The Starch Solution, I wanted my gallbladder removed as my family has also suffered from gallbladder complications. I lost my mom to gallbladder cancer and my grandmother almost died from having her gallbladder rupture inside her. I ended up emailing my unique circumstance to multiple experts and ended up getting it removed by a liver transplant surgeon out at UCLA.
Fast forward to 2021: For three years now, I have not had a single kidney stone, I no longer have high blood pressure, I no longer have high cholesterol and my blood work is constantly what my doctor calls “above average.” On top of all that, I have lost 61 pounds! My weight loss journey consisted of me eliminating all added fats when I was struggling with my gallbladder; then, after my surgery, I began to eat the normal starch solution diet by including whole grains and a little bit of nut butters or avocados (I like to think of fats as condiments – they add some texture and flavor to food, but should not be overused). When I hit a plateau during my weight loss, I temporarily cut out higher calorie-dense foods such as whole grains flours and added fats. Now that I am at my target weight, I have reincorporated whole grains and fats back into my meals. I am now effortlessly maintaining my weight by continually following the principles laid out in The Starch Solution! This lifestyle has forever changed me and I will forever be grateful to Dr. McDougall for all his work and research and to Mary McDougall for all her delicious recipes!
I feel so strongly and passionately about this lifestyle that I even started a YouTube channel called “manukenzie” where I share all starch solution friendly recipes and make mention of The Starch Solution as the book that changed my life. It is my hope that with my channel and content I am able to not only share my passion, but also change peoples’ lives by showing that there is another way out there to live your life. I hope I can encourage other people to follow The Starch Solution and Dr. McDougall’s way of eating, bringing them all the benefits that this beautiful and liberating way of eating has brought me.
My before picture is from three years ago when I was at my heaviest, 176 pounds. My after picture is me today at 115 pounds! Also, as you can see, there’s my scar from my gallbladder surgery. I also attached a picture of myself with my favorite book in the entire world, The Starch Solution!!!
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