In 2015, I was among the almost 40% of American adults that are obese, and me, morbidly so. Little kids would hug my leg and call me Santa Claus. I was on several blood pressure (BP) medications, cholesterol control, antacids and used a sleep apnea machine.

After almost 2 weeks in hospital due to a septic infection, I had plenty of time to think about how I wanted to live after I got better. It wasn’t as a big guy on a bunch of medication anymore…

Diet and exercise is a start

I started with diet and exercise to lose weight. It can work, I lost 150 lbs doing just that. I used the “Lose It” app along with a Fitbit. Every day I faithfully recorded exercise and everything I ate to make sure I was in a calorie deficit and losing weight. But after my initial success a year into dieting, I started questioning if I wanted to diet like this forever. Also while I had greatly reduced medications due to the weight loss, I was still on BP and cholesterol pills.

A change with good results

In Oct 2016, I was able to attend a 10-day immersion program focused on eating a whole-food plant-based diet. At the end of the program—in just 10 days of eating differently—not only did I start losing more weight, my BP and blood work results showed I could stop the rest of my Medications.

The hack

A whole-food plant-based diet that works two-fold.

First, calorie density is the term used to describe food mass versus calorie content. In various articles, there are diagrams depicting how full your stomach gets when eating whole-food plant-based (WFPB) items like vegetables, potatoes, rice, beans, fruits, whole wheat pasta, and bread, versus processed food and snacks, oil, sugar, cheese, and meat.

For example, see Forks Over Knives article, “The Calorie Density Approach to Nutrition and Lifelong Weight Management.”  Check out the Calorie Density Scale illustration toward the end.

Picture a liter bottle of soda as your stomach. The WFPB foods fill up the bottle, and you feel full without excessive calories. For the same amount of calories, meat, cheese, and processed foods only fill the bottle up a third and keep you wanting more. Even worse, you pack on excess calories if you do eat until you fill the bottle – and the want to feel full is a natural response from your body!

So by eating minimally-processed plant-based food, you lose weight or maintain weight without calorie counting.

Secondly, if you eat mostly meat and cheeses, and oils, then you are at risk of having issues with cholesterol and various inflammatory problems. There is also a lot of evidence of problems with industrialized meat and milk production such as the overuse of antibiotics. A whole-food plant-based diet also looks to minimize sodium intake; a big contributor to BP issues.  For example, see The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health article, “Plant-Based Diets: A Physicians Guide.”

It’s working for me

Over a year and a half eating this way, I lost 30 more pounds – and I’m not focused on restraint and rigorous dieting. I’m feeling more in harmony with my body by eating when I’m hungry and making sure I’m full. I am also still off on blood pressure and cholesterol medications with my Doctor’s blessing. Throw in some moderate exercise and I can do this long term.

It could work for you

There are lots of free helpful recipes, resources, and tips on the internet to help you start. Just do a search on WFPB diet. You can do it without an expensive program or a fad approach with a celebrity spokesperson. Don’t want to jump in all the way? Start by adding 1000 calories of plant-based food to your diet to begin to feel full and more satisfied.  It worked for me, it could work for you. I’d be happy to correspond.

Views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Mike Solon.