Who: Pamela Tourigny
City: Ottawa, Ont.
By The Numbers: Heaviest weight was 150 at age 25; now 120 at age 35; total weight loss of 30 pounds
The Weight Gain: I was scrawny as a kid, and mocked for it. In my early teens, I put on weight on purpose to make people stop teasing me, but then dropped it quite dramatically on an unhealthy calorie reduction diet. I realize that 150 lbs on my height (5'7") is a very healthy weight for many people, but on my tiny frame, it was causing problems.
The weight gain started in earnest during university. I was dormant and spent most of my time seated. I was poor, so I was eating a very junky diet. Then I had a work-from-home job for two years after graduating, which is when I gained most of the additional pounds.
Final Straw: I began working in a new job, and within my team of four, there was a multi-time Ironman and multi-time marathoner who had began running only at age 50. I was much younger than them, yet in the worst health. I was 25 years old, sluggish, struggling to stay awake, and experiencing frequent muscle spasms.
Also, my cousin who was like a sister to me passed away in 2006 of breast cancer at the age of 31. It made me realize how fragile and precious our health actually is.
It was around this time that I decided to become vegan after a few years of eating a very dairy intensive diet. To ease my transition I decided to let myself eat whatever I wanted, as long it was vegan. One day I did a calculation and realized that I had eaten 1,400 calories worth of dessert in one evening. I was out of control.
I realized at the ripe age of 25, my habits were not serving me well, and that I should feel a lot better than I was feeling. In fact, I don’t think the objective should ever be losing weight. The objective should be to develop good habits that result in a stronger, happier and healthier you. If weight loss results, so be it. It was one of the side effects for me, along with about a million other physical and mental benefits that accompany good health and fitness habits.
The Plan of Attack: I didn’t join an international weight loss program, or even a local one. I didn’t join a gym even. I didn’t start eating foods that are known to “blast fat,” or eliminate gluten. I didn’t start dropping my paycheque on superfoods, and I didn’t participate in a single detox or cleanse.
It was changing my diet and exercise habits, and keeping them changed. I overhauled my life, with the goal of setting a positive example of a healthy and happy vegan.
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The Exercise Factor: I started exercising — modestly at first, on an elliptical trainer in my basement, followed by starting to run, which I have done consistently now for eight years. I had no fitness level whatsoever, and within six months of beginning to run, I ran my first half marathon in 1 h 53.
A couple years later I added in ultimate Frisbee, and snowshoeing in the winter. I walk my dogs every day. Occasional yoga and strength training are also part of my routine (although the latter should be a more regular part, admittedly).
I lost about ten pounds using the elliptical, but once I began running regularly, the weight melted off. In fact, for a while I dropped below 110 pounds, which is too low. I lost the weight when I was 27 years old, and have kept it off successfully for eight years.
The Food Element: Becoming vegan was not an overnight process, and I tried lots of different variations, ultimately settling on a diet that is whole foods-centred, but with the occasional treat, fake meat, or fried food thrown in for good measure.
I eat a mountain of fruits and vegetables every single day, with starches (like sweet potatoes, rice, quinoa, and yes, some bread/pasta) and lean vegan proteins. I allow myself unlimited fruits and veggies, but keep an eye on the portions for the others. I rarely drink alcohol, but it’s not off-limits. Nothing is really, aside from animal bodies and ingredients.
I basically re-taught myself how to eat – I scrapped all of my previous eating habits and introduced new things one by one.
The Current Day-to-Day: I have a desk job but I try to get up and move around hourly. I usually walk the dogs in the morning, and exercise in the afternoon/evening. I have solid habits, so the weight maintains itself.
I am proud that I have gone from being a lethargic, unfit, canned-food eating individual to someone who many people now look up to as a good example of healthy living; many aren’t even aware of my weight loss because I don’t speak of it often.
Don't fixate on numbers; focus on developing good habits that benefit your overall health. That includes getting enough sleep, and taking care of your mental health. If you’re healthy, you will be beautiful. Also, understand there is no silver bullet. Certain diets may help you to lose weight, but most of them won’t help you to be healthy.
Nothing I am doing is anything that can’t be done by an average person. I was not raised playing sports and being athletic. And my diet was a lot of frozen entrees and Kraft dinner. I work full time, volunteer, and have two side businesses that I am growing. You don’t need to become an elite athlete or eat a perfect micronutrient-quantified diet. Just move and adequately fuel your body.
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