A Year In Review

2015 was the year of Caitlyn Jenner, Pope Francis, the man bun, and for me, the life-changing experiment that was 12 in 12.  A few days from now, we will unveil 2016, a blank canvas waiting to be painted. I find this both exciting and distressing at the same time. On the one hand I feel the excitement and rush of new possibilities! On the other hand, the uncertainty of an unknown future fills me with dread. The only thing that quells the anxiety is to ring in the New Year with a resolution, which makes me feel like I have some sort of control.

According to Statistic Brain Research Institute, I am one of 45% of the population that make New Year’s resolutions, and guess which one tops the list… weight loss.  Not only does the diet industry know this, they count on it, and they cash in big as a result.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that Oprah not only bought shares in Weight Watchers just before resolution season, but has also become their celebrity spokesperson? And how about all those new diet claims lining the shelves in your favourite bookstore this time of year? With the sheer volume of plans, I could have kept my experiment going until I became a centenarian! And it doesn’t stop there. Not only is the next season of NBC’s The Biggest Loser set to air on January 4th (just a few days into your resolve), but ABC is launching their new reality weight loss show called, My Diet is Better than Yours, a few days later.

“There are thousands of diets promising to help people lose weight, but choosing the diet that will actually work is a different matter. Our new format sets out to narrow the choice by selecting six diverse and revolutionary diet plans and, for the first time ever, testing these methods on TV in a real life experiment.”  

– Chris Coelen, My Diet is Better Than Yours

SOUND FAMILIAR!!!!!  The show is Searching For My After’s 12 in 12 experiment, but with a honking budget and commercials! But I digress…

Where was I? Ah yes, New Year’s resolutions… perhaps you’re looking at adding weight loss to your resolution list. Maybe you too are looking with abject terror at the filled to bursting fitness section in your local bookstore. Maybe this is your first time on this website and you have no idea what I’m talking about. Well don’t worry… I’ve put together a summary of each of the plans I tested during 12 in 12, highlighting my stats, my likes and dislikes, and the lessons learned while I was on them to help you narrow down your search.



Month 1: The Start Here Diet

Pounds lost: -9.4

% weight loss: -3.70

Liked: Excellent plan to ease back into dieting.

Disliked: Eliminating trigger foods cold turkey.

Lesson Learned: Even a small step is a step in the right direction!



Month 2: Weight Watchers

Pounds lost: -6.8

% weight loss: -2.78

Liked: No food is off limits.

Disliked: Weighing, measuring, calculating, and tracking, every morsel was tedious.

Lesson Learned: Learned to recalibrate portion sizes.




Month 3: Paleo

Pounds lost:-9.3

% weight loss: -3.91

Liked: Very simple to follow.

Disliked: Got a bit constipated eating protein at each meal. Missed whole grains.

Lesson Learned: Pre-historic (aka pre-processed) rules!



Month 4: Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type

Pounds lost: -4.5

% weight loss: -1.97

Liked: The app listing your beneficial-neutral-avoid foods was handy when I went grocery shopping, or planned a meal.

Disliked: Still craved foods on my avoid list.

Lesson Learned: One size does not fit all.



Month 5: The Mediterranean Diet

Pounds lost: -5.3

% weight loss: -2.37

Liked: Loved the social aspect of the plan, and looked forward to having dessert once a week.

Disliked: Pushed the boundaries and ate more cheese, bread, and olive oil than I should have.

Lesson Learned: Enjoying a meal with family and friends makes the food taste better : )



Month 6: Whole Food, Plant-Based

Pounds lost: -4.5

% weight loss: -2.06

Liked: The most ethical and humane of all the plans, plus I pooped 3 times a day – whoohoo!!!

Disliked: Never felt full.

Lesson Learned: Mother Nature knows best and provides everything we need.



Month 7: The Biggest Loser

Pounds lost: -5.4

% weight loss: -2.52

Liked: 1,500 calories a day is very doable.

Disliked: Dreaded exercise – didn’t enjoy the monotonous machines at the gym.

Lesson Learned: Progress, not perfection.



Month 8: The 8-Hour Diet

Pounds lost: +2.8

% weight loss: +1.53

Liked: Fasting gave my body a chance to recharge.

Disliked: Only plan I gained weight on – you can’t tell a food addict they can eat whatever they want because they will!

Lesson Learned: Make time for rest.



Month 9: The Hormone Diet

Pounds lost: -6.6

% weight loss: -3.12

Liked: My sleep improved tremendously – yay!

Disliked: Most expensive program at $700 for the month (naturopath visits and supplements).

Lesson Learned: We must make adjustments for different stages and phases in life.



Month 10: Twelve-Step Program for Food Addicts

Pounds lost: -5.9

% weight loss: -2.88

Liked: After eliminating flour, wheat and sugar, my taste buds were alive and food tasted better, and I didn’t get one hot flash when I was off sugar!

Disliked: Restrictive – made eating in ‘real life’ situations (i.e. dining out, meetings, etc.) tough.

Lesson Learned: Live life one day at a time, and meals one bite at a time.



Month 11: The Gabriel Method

Pounds lost: -2.2

% weight loss: -1.10

Liked: Meditation exercises and being in nature grounded me : )

Disliked: Guided visualization felt like hypnosis.

Lesson Learned: Question and challenge limiting beliefs.



Month 12: A Course In Weight Loss

Pounds lost: -1.9

% weight loss: -0.96

Liked: With every lesson, I went deeper within myself and reconnected with God, and the real me : )

Disliked: Felt a bit new age.

Lesson Learned: Self-love conquers all – even a plate full of Oreos.

Don’t let the diet industry spoon feed you – test the plans out yourself!  You might find one suits you perfectly right off the rack, or you might have to tailor one by combining your favourite elements from a few of them like I did.

I hope it helps you narrow your choice, and you don’t have to be on a reality weight loss show to find out!

And The Winner Is…

I want to thank all of you for your words of encouragement and support throughout this experiment. Being accountable to you during 12 in 12 helped me stay the course, and for that I am truly grateful. The objective of the experiment was to find the right diet for me, and I believe I have done just that.


I doubt I would have come to my conclusion had I not tested a variety of plans. Each offered clues to what my body liked and disliked, and what practices I’d commit to given my lifestyle.  The experiment also helped me identify areas of imbalance, such as not getting sufficient rest, and ignoring the mental, emotional, and spiritual issues that led to me becoming obese in the first place.

Throughout the experiment, I was asked several questions, but two came up repeatedly – how do you stop cravings, and what diet works best? If I had the answer to the first question, I’d be rich! Personally, whenever I tested plans that had me eliminate sugar from my diet my cravings subsided dramatically.  As for which diet worked best, the answer varied depending if you meant which one gave me the best results on the scale (Answer: Paleo), or if you meant digestively (Answer: Whole Food, Plant-Based), or for my lifestyle (Answer: the ones that kept it simple). What I can say with certainty is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ diet because we are all different.

When I started this journey, I thought I would find the answer by simply connecting the dots.

Connecting the Polka DotsInstead, I found the answer where the dots interconnected based on the criteria I valued most.

Venn Diagram 2

Therefore, the winner of the experiment is not any one diet entirely, rather a combination of several plans that resonated with me. I call my personalized plan, THE BEST OF THE BEST, and this is what it will look like.

Meal Plan

My body responded best to Paleo on the scale, but my heart, conscience, and digestive system wants to be Whole Food, Plant-Based (WFPB).  As contrary as that sounds, I will be doing both, the term for which is FLEXITARIAN – go figure!

Therefore, I will:

  • Adhere to Paleo’s protocol of not consuming grains, dairy, or legumes when I eat animal proteins.
  • Aim to have a WFPB meal at dinner, allowing me to digest more efficiently before bedtime.
  • Snacks will primarily be fruits, nuts, and seeds.
  • Both Paleo and WFPB omit dairy and flour, which is doable for me, as I do not tolerate them well.
  • I won’t be weighing and measuring my food – it’s not always practical, and I hated doing it. I will however, gauge portion sizes using the hand technique.

Hand measuring

What about sugar?

When I tested plans that had me cut sugar (Twelve-Step Program for Food Addiction, Paleo, WFPB) I saw tremendous benefits. I stopped getting hot flashes, my cravings subsided, and I was able to taste the subtleties in foods again. However, diets anchored in ‘always’ or ‘never’ are my downfall, leading me on a self-destructive path of binges and regret – I feel like I failed, and ultimately fall off the diet bandwagon.

Therefore, when it comes to sugar I will:

  • Allow myself one teaspoon of sugar in my morning coffee.
  • Adopt the practice of enjoying one or two desserts a week, like in The Mediterranean Diet. This way I won’t feel deprived, and will be less likely to binge.


As someone who suffers from insomnia, I know firsthand that a tired body doesn’t burn calories as well as a rested body.

Therefore, I will:

  • Aim to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night by continuing with The Hormone Diet’s protocol of powering down devices 2 hours before bed.
  • Refrain from eating after 7 PM, not only to aid digestion, but to recharge my cells.


Several plans recommended supplements, however, The Gabriel Method’s regimen worked best for me.

Therefore, I will take:

  • One probiotic daily
  • Two digestive enzymes with breakfast
  • Omega-3 once a day
  • One multi-vitamin (that includes vitamin E) and a multi-mineral.
  • In addition, I take Vitamin D during the winter months.


If I were grading my efforts during 12 in 12, I’d flunk myself when it came to exercise. I only incorporated regular physical activity when I tested The Biggest Loser and The 8-Hour Diet; otherwise, it was hit or miss. I think it’s because I hate the monotony of the machines at the gym.

Therefore, I will:

  • Channel my inner child and start playing again. Along with getting my 10,000 steps in a day, I’m going to participate in fun activities like hula hooping, jumping on my mini-trampoline, belly dancing, and going for walks along the lake to keep me active.


I don’t want to dread exercise, I want to look forward to it. Hmmm, maybe the next phase of the journey will have me testing various exercise plans!

Feeding My Mind and Spirit

Lastly, the mental, emotional, and spiritual lessons I tackled in the last quarter of 12 in 12 had the biggest impact on me. That’s why my customized plan will devote the same amount of time for soul work as for physical activity. I must exercise both for optimal health!

Therefore, I will:

  • Delve deeper into Marianne Williamson’s A Course In Weight Loss. Taking my time to work through the 21 spiritual lessons.
  • Continue with the meditation and visualization exercises from The Gabriel Method. However, I will be recording my own morning and evening tapes, personalizing them for my needs.



And so my friends, this concludes 12 in 12. However, the journey continues! I invite you to join me in the new year here on Searching For My After, where I will continue with The Best Of The Best chronicling my next step towards a happier, healthier me. SIZE 10 HERE I COME!!!!

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What A Difference A Year Makes

A year ago today, repulsed at my 253.8 lbs. self, I decided to give dieting one last try – I vowed to get to my goal weight once and for all, or resign myself to a life of stretchy pants.  Equipped with an album full of before photos and a library bursting with diet books all proclaiming to have the solution to my plus-sized problem, I set off on a quest for my after shot, which has eluded me in the last three decades of searching.

As with any expedition, I needed a guide to help me navigate along the way. In my case, I enlisted twelve such experts in the past year, each claiming they knew the route to the size 10 Shangri-La that my size 22 self, sought. Each guide took me through the scenic and diverse landscape of the diet and exercise world – some covering familiar territory, others foreign.

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Month 1 – Tosca Reno, creator of The Start Here Diet asked me to (1) dive inward and identify my emotional triggers for overeating, (2) uncover my hidden foods and eliminate them, and (3) ease into exercising by moving a little.

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Month 2 – I attended weekly Weight Watchers meetings and used their unique accounting system, which assigned a point value to food and exercise. Everything had to be weighed, measured, and tracked, before I could eat it.

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Month 3 – Paleo channelled my inner CaveMare and had me eating like my hairy knuckled, grunting forefathers did before me. Brontosaurs burgers – good. Grains, dairy, legumes – bad.

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Month 4 – In his plan Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type, Dr. Peter D’Adamo categorized the foods and exercises for each of the four blood types as either beneficial, neutral, or avoid. My ‘O’ blood type meant saying au revoir to crispy bacon and my morning cup of joe.

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Month 5 – The Mediterranean Diet had me returning to my cultural roots, enjoying unprocessed foods and beverages from Italy and the surrounding region, as well as incorporating simple daily activity, like walking, and social interaction to boost mental and emotional health.

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Month 6 – I joined forces with the beautiful and inspiring Michelle Riccio of Tit Happens, who coached me through the Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet. We ate ‘face-free’, unprocessed, unrefined, nutrient rich fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats.

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Month 7 – My friend and fitness trainer, Nikki Kamphuis, got me moving when I tested The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start program, which models the hit show’s format of eating a 1,500 calories a day, coupled with daily exercise.

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Month 8 – The creators of The 8-Hour Diet, had me watching the clock, stating I could eat whatever I wanted within an 8 hour period, so long as I ‘ate my eight’, and started my day with a minimum of 8 minutes of exercise.  Outside of these 8 hours, I had to fast.

marilina-chibi-hormone-paleo 001Month 9 – Toronto’s own Dr. Natasha Turner claimed I could optimize my fat burning potential with The Hormone Diet. I went to her clinic for one-on-one care and was given a customized a food and supplement plan which addressed my hormone imbalances, as well as my unbearable hot flashes.

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Month 10 – I attended weekly meeting at various Twelve Step Programs for Food Addicts, a fellowship that has members abstain from addictive foods containing flour, wheat, and sugar.

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Month 11 – Jon Gabriel, creator of The Gabriel Method guided me through visualization and meditation exercises claiming they would turn off my FAT Programs.

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Month 12 – In A Course In Weight Loss, I worked through Marianne Williamson’s 21 spiritual lessons designed to address compulsive overeating by replacing fear with love.

I want to thank all my guides for navigating me to today’s weigh-in. In the past year they’ve helped me cover more ground than any previous attempt, bringing me closer to taking my after photo, which up until now, seemed as plausible as taking a selfie with Sasquatch.

When I stepped on the scale this morning, my eager little fat cells cried, “Are we there yet?! Are we there yet?!”

“At 195.2 lbs. No. Not yet, but we are halfway to after”, I replied. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s great! The point of 12 in 12 was to test a variety of diet claims to see which worked best for my body and my lifestyle.

What A Difference A Year Makes!

In my next post, I will share just how my body responded to each plan, and which I will I continue with for the rest of this journey… and look at that, just in time for resolution season!

Processed with MOLDIV

A big thank you to the talented Jennifer Wood for taking my final before and halfway to after photos, the gifted Nathan C. Younger for his fabulous illustrations, and the compassionate Ann DeLuca, my life coach, who help me work through the last quarter of the experiment, which delved into the mental, emotional, and spiritual landscape of this journey.

If you enjoyed this post, or found my yearlong experiment interesting, please share!


Results for A Course In Weight Loss (the final plan of 12 in 12), click here.

For my Week 52 Food Journal, click here.



Just Call Me Loser

I’m baffled by my pound a week weight loss while on the whole food, plant-based diet given my “output” was twice as much as my “input”. I was secretly hoping for results similar to magician Penn Jilette, who lost an astonishing one pound a day following Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian diet, a plan similar to the one I followed.

However, if I took the scale out of the equation, my digestive system LOVED this plan the best! So did my conscience – I get verklempt thinking of all the little animals still frolicking in the pastures because I put my knife down.

Nevertheless, the point of my 12 in 12 experiment is to find a weight loss program that will give me the results on the scale, and one I think I can sustain for the long-term.

This leads me to believe that at least one of the following variables were in play last month:

  1. My daily choices were out of balance (i.e. not enough plant-based protein and too much healthy fats).
  2. My body doesn’t respond to a plant-based diet as part of a weight loss regime.
  3. After being on a diet for the last 6 months, my metabolism is slowing down and heading for a plateau.

If I were to guess, I think it’s the latter, and that means I have to make adjustments to my diet, exercise, or both.


I don’t think the problem lies with any of the diets I’ve tested so far, as they range from 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, so exercise (or lack thereof) must be the culprit.

Since starting 12 in 12 I haven’t incorporated much exercise into my day. In the first quarter, I simply focused on the diet. In the second quarter, I challenged myself to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. Now that I’m entering the third quarter of the experiment, it is time to kick it up a notch and sweat the small (and big) stuff around my hips, belly, and bootay! Let’s face it, just like Meghan Trainor, this girl is all about the bass, and if I want to get it in shape, I have to call in another trainer to help make it happen.

For a second month in a row, I’ve been blessed with an earth-angel to walk alongside me on my journey. This month my new friend, Nikki Kamphuis, will help me ease into an exercise regime. Nikki is a personal trainer and a master trainer with Lebert Fitness. She’s going to ensure that I maintain proper form to avoid injury, and will work around my medical issues.


There are so many plans out there that incorporate diet and fitness – it was hard to choose one. I reviewed the following plans that made bold claims:

  • The Shred Revolutionary Diet claims you’ll lose 4 inches and 2 sizes in 6 weeks using Dr. Ian K. Smith’s concept of “diet confusion”
  • Choose to Lose operates on a 7-day carb cycle solution designed by “transformational specialist”, Chris Powell
  • The 3-1-2-1 Diet created by celebrity trainer, Dolvett Quince allows you to eat AND cheat, promising a 10 lb weight loss in 21 days

Although these plans are designed to help you get off plateaus, I found their diet and exercise formulas a bit complicated, so I’m going with a well-known, easy to follow program that fits neatly into my month-long trial.

The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start program mimics the successful reality TV show, minus spending 6 hours a day at the gym with fitness trainers barking at you, and a big cash reward at the end.

I’m a huge fan of the show (pun intended), and now I’ll get to experience it for myself as an at home contestant. Woohooo – let’s do this baby! It’s time to lace up my sneakers, dust off my Thigh Master 2000, and become a LOSER myself!


To learn more about the Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start program, click here and you will be directed to the 07. June 2015 section.

The Results Are In

To find out how much I lost during Month 6, when I tested the Whole Food, Plant-Based diet, click here and you’ll be directed to the Measure Up section.


Debunking Myths


Today’s post comes to you courtesy of my dear friend and whole food, plant-base coach, Michelle of Tit Happens


So, Marilina, you have decided to eat a Whole Food Plant Based Diet for a whole month – how many times have you been asked:  “are you crazy – no meat or dairy??!!”,  “where are you going to get your protein?”, “what about calcium?”, and “how are you going to survive off kale and spinach for a month?”

Well, the reality is, it isn’t hard to eat a filling, satisfying, delicious whole food plant based meal, all while getting the right amount of protein and calcium your body needs.


First, I will address the thought that this diet only consists of kale salads and carrot sticks.  While carrots may cross your plate more frequently than they would in eating a Standard American Diet (SAD), it doesn’t mean you are now the modern day Bugs Bunny.  Rather, a whole food plant based diet involves eating veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, mushrooms, beans, legumes and whole grains.  With a fridge and pantry full of these foods, the possibilities are close to endless.  Just look at Marilina’s past posts from this month to see the variety of delicious and nutritious meals and snacks we have made and enjoyed together – tacos with guacamole and cashew sour cream, bean burgers with a side of sweet potato fries, chocolate mousse, granola bars, and yes, a kale and cabbage salad.



Okay, so it all sounds delicious, but what about the protein?  Don’t I need to eat at least one Brontosaurus Burger a day to ensure I survive?  The answer to that is straight up, NO!  All of us need protein – it is needed to build and repair tissues – but it is found in so many other foods than just cows, pigs and chickens.  The building blocks of protein are amino acids – which are either created by the body or ingested through the food we eat. There are nine essential amino acids which our body cannot produce and therefore we must get them through our diet.  By eating a variety of plant based whole foods, our bodies will get all the amino acids, and therefore protein, they need.  There is a lot of talk about eating certain foods together to get a complete protein, however, many now believe that is not necessary – as long as your diet consists of a variety of  grains, legumes, and vegetables, your protein needs are easily met.  If you still aren’t sold, feel free to add in a protein shake.

To calculate your daily protein requirements: Body weight (in pounds) x 0.36 = recommended protein intake (in grams). 

  • Sources of plant based protein:
    • Cooked Veggies (1 cup)
      • Peas – 9g
      • Spinach – 5 g
      • Brussels Sprouts – 4 g
    • Cooked Whole Grains (1 cup)
      • Quinoa – 8 g
      • Farro – 8 g
    • Cooked Beans and Legumes (1 cup)
      • Lentils – 18 g
      • Edamame – 17 g
      • Black beans – 15 g
    • Nuts and Seeds (1 oz)
      • Hemp seeds – 10 g
      • Pumpkin  seeds – 9 g
      • Almonds – 6 g


Now onto calcium –  if you aren’t drinking milk and eating yogurt and cheese doesn’t that mean your bones are going to start randomly snapping and your teeth are going to crumble the next time you bite into an apple?  NO!  We have been taught that the best sources of calcium comes from dairy, but the reality is the foods that grow out of the ground can easily give us all the calcium we need.

The daily value for calcium is 1,000 mg.  Below is a list of great whole food plant based calcium sources:

  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (fortified nut, hemp + flax) = 200 – 300 mg
  • 2 cups of raw kale = 200 mg
  • 2 tbsp of chia seeds = 180 mg

Kris Carr’s Green Smoothie: 1 cup of fortified almond milk, 2 tbsp hemp seeds, 1/2 cup kale, 1/2 cucumber, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/2 banana gives you over 500 mg!

The moral of this story is, variety is the spice of life – by eating a variety of plant based whole foods you can get all the vitamins, minerals and amino acids your body needs.  The only exception is vitamin B12 – so if you plan to eat a whole food plant based diet, please consider adding in a B12 vitamin – other than that, enjoy all the benefits that come with eating a diet full of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals your body will thrive on!


The delicious whole food, plant-based recipes mentioned above will be posted throughout the week… stay tuned!

To view my Week 25 food journal, click here.


We MexiCAN… and we MexiDID!

imageMichelle and I decided to have a whole food, plant-based Mexican theme night and made guacamole, cashew sour cream, and taco seasoning mix from scratch. Join us in the kitchen to learn just how quick and easy it is to make these delicious dishes without additives or preservatives!

To get the step by step recipe, please visit Tit Happens.

Mother Of All Mothers

This is the first Mother’s Day I was sans offspring to shower me with praise and adoration. Although there was an element of suckage to this, I’m actually thrilled that the fruit of my loins are in remote corners of the world, sinking their teeth into the tukhus of life, as they experience incredible adventures I could only dream of when I was their age. Nessa is teaching English to impressionable young souls in South Korea, and Telli is exploring the archaeological ruins and gelaterias in Rome…. Atta girls! I must have done something right!

Although no one was home to make me a delicious whole food, plant-based breakfast in bed this year, I was not alone as my family gathered to celebrate motherhood at my parent’s place with, you guessed it, food… lots of it!

My poor family, I make their heads spin as each plan in 12 in 12 varies considerably and they never know what I can and can’t have from one month to the next, so they cover all the bases. When I was doing Paleo, I missed out on homemade cannelloni, pasta, pizzas and breads. This month, I’m missing out on rigatoni drenched in homemade sugo and spicy oven roasted sausages. But no matter what plan I’m on, I noticed it never excludes fruits and vegetables.

imageAnd that’s when I realized, as I was enjoying this lovely whole food, plant-based meal, one mother gets overlooked every year, which is quite sad since she is mother to all of us.


Like most mothers, Mother Nature is a giver – she nourishes us with her bounty, and captivates us with her beauty – that’s why I decided to spend my Mother’s Day appreciating all that she does for us.


Mother Nature is always speaking. She speaks in a language understood within the peaceful mind of the sincere observer. ~ Radhanath Swami


To view my Week 23 food journal, click here.