Last year, Katie Adzima’s Thanksgiving was filled with what so many of us love about the day: friends, family, football, and food.
Lots of food.
That day, before dinner, Katie noshed on chips, dips, and appetizers. When her aunt announced dinner was served, Katie giggled with glee as she ran through three full rooms of food – each room more delicious than the last. She loaded up with two full plates of dinner and then prepared to call it a day.
And then came the pies.
With a weakness for desserts, Katie dug in to eight pieces of pie. That one’s worth repeating: eight pieces of pie. In spite of her stomach ache, when her family rolled out a full Italian meal at 11 p.m., Katie loaded up again.
“I think I blacked out,” says Katie, “or that’s what I tell myself, because the next thing I know, I’m eating pasta.”
Katie literally ate herself sick that day.
While overeating on Thanksgiving isn’t exactly uncommon, what Katie did about it is. “The very next day, I made a decision that I needed to make some changes. It was the most unhealthy day of my life and it was not acceptable to put my body through this, now or ever again.”
That experience, which she describes as “a last supper,” resulted in her stepping back to evaluate her lifestyle. The very next day, she began a detox consisting of plant foods.
“I thought I should just eat completely raw and unprocessed and I don’t need anything from a box. And that was my only plan, so I went to the grocery store when I got home and stocked up on fruits and veggies.”
What started out as a one-week detox quickly turned into a lifestyle. Within three days of her detox, she felt positive effects which spurred a decision to go vegan. The sudden change in her lifestyle was without hesitation:
“I am an extremist. If there is gray area, I feel unsuccessful. I feel like there is room for me to fail. That probably isn’t healthy but I am sure it’s common with many people.”
Katie immersed herself in knowledge about a plant-based diet, and identified resources and support to help her make the change. Her roommate worked at Whole Foods and was able to connect her with books, cookbooks, and products.
She found the popular book Skinny Bitch to be both funny and resourceful, and stumbled upon No Meat Athlete in her search for vegan resources. As a result, she started incorporating smoothies into her daily routine. “Every. Single. Morning,” she says.
Before the change
Although Katie’s Thanksgiving was – to put it mildly — indulgent, her daily routine before that wasn’t so reckless. Compared to the atrocious habits that are unfortunately the norm for most Americans, Katie’s lifestyle back then doesn’t look so bad.
She was active through weightlifting, group fitness classes, cheerleader coaching, her job as a physical education teacher, and another part-time job as a nanny.
Katie didn’t always have the energy she needed to keep this up, and blames her diet, which, although high in fat and processed foods, looks pretty typical.
Breakfast: Eggs, toast, bacon or sausage and “definitely lots of cheese on whatever type of scramble, omelet, or sandwich I had.”
Lunch: A hoagie (sub for anyone not from Pennsylvania) with tons of mayo, oil, vinegar, turkey, extra cheese, chips and soda.
Dinner: Salad with grilled chicken, cheese, ranch dressing, egg, the works. Or sometimes pizza or chicken nuggets with lots of french fries.
Snacks: Ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, and string cheese. Sometimes fruits and vegetables sporadically.
“I had very low energy and I had noticed I had been putting on weight even though I wasn’t doing anything differently than I had in college. When I hit age 25, I felt like my metabolism fell off the face of the earth, and I realized I had to change what I was putting in my body. But I hadn’t quite decided when or how.”
Just one year later
Thanksgiving was the catalyst that Katie needed to get into action, to stop worrying about “when” and “how,” and just make the change happen.
One year later, her diet is drastically different.
Breakfast: A smoothie (frozen fruit, flax seed oil, almond milk, kale or spinach, “super seed’ from whole foods, sometimes chia seeds, and a banana).
Lunch: A sweet potato, almonds, and fruit.
Dinner: Soup and steamed broccoli, or beans and rice and veggies.
Snacks: Almonds, fruits, and all-natural peanut butter on rice cakes.
Even better, the change in her diet allowed Katie to see her body in a different light. Once a weightlifter who swore she’d never be able to run for more than a mile, Katie decided she wanted to train for a 5K.
Her all-or-nothing approach applied to her training, too, and after her 5K, Katie decided to run a 10-mile race. So last April, just five months after her that fateful Thanksgiving, Katie completed the famous 10-mile Broad Street Run in Philadelphia.
Katie’s advice to beginning runners: “Never increase more than one mile a week; that helped keep me injury free. Foam rolling is a lifesaver. And for those like me that are saying ‘I could never be a runner,’ I suggest good music, a running partner, great shoes and socks and proper fuelalways.
What made Katie successful?
Lots of people experience guilt after overeating on holidays. But so few people ever succeed at making change happen. So what made Katie’s story different?
- She made a definite decision. Rather than saying “I really should do something about the way I eat,” Katie firmly decided that the old way was no longer acceptable — that it was over.
- Katie took immediate, massive action. Instead of letting herself eat leftover turkey sandwiches and mashed potatoes for the next few days, which would have given her time to forget about how badly she felt after Thanksgiving, she went right to the grocery store and bought raw fruits and vegetables for the next week.
- Katie did some research and planning so that the change could last, but only after she got some momentum with initial changes. Too often, our “planning” stage lasts forever and we never actually start.
- She found new goals, like running the 10-miler, to keep her focused and to enjoy the benefits of eating a diet that allowed her to do more with her body.
How Katie changed more than just herself
As it turns out, Katie’s changes rubbed off on her students, as she got more involved in the physical activity they did in her class:
I’m so much more active than I was before! I do warm ups with the kids and challenge them in push-ups or sit-ups. One day, close to my 10-mile race, I ran the mile with each of my class periods. My schedule that day was 6 classes back to back so at the end of the day I ran 6 miles and my students absolutely loved seeing me out there with them, not just standing with a stopwatch waiting for them to finish!
Word got out that I was running with the students, so each class would race into the gym that day and be like, “Ms. Adzima…are you running with our class too??!” It sets such a good example for my students to care about my own health and be active with them as well. I felt better and more energized, I snuck in my own workouts with my students which was awesome, and I really think they admired the fact that I was motivating them by running or working out with them.
The time is now
Looking back on the past year, Katie is proud she’s not the same person who ate herself sick on Thanksgiving. But in hindsight, she recognizes that eight pieces of pie was exactly what she needed to finally make the changes she had put off for so long:
“People always say ‘I’ll start on Monday, or after Christmas, or when I graduate school, etc.,’ but those are all excuses. People see that they can’t give 100% at the moment, so they don’t do it at all.”
Major kudos to Katie for sharing her story with us. Leave her a comment to congratulate her on her amazing transformation!
P.S. If you’re looking to create your own amazing transformation, stay tuned for an exciting announcement about a No Meat Athlete training group for the Rock N Roll USA Marathon and Half in DC in March!
The Kickstart Plan includes:
- A 7-day meal plan, built around the foods worth eating every single day
- 14 of our favorite recipes that pack in the nutrition, taste great, and are easy to make
- Focused on simplicity and speed, to minimize stress and time commitment