For the majority of my adult life, I had struggled with food obsessions, food addictions, restricting calories, starving, binge eating, trend-dieting and obsessive exercise. I was plagued with health problems, including but not limited to obesity, heart disease, migraines, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, acid reflux, planter fasciitis, chronic fatigue, acne, eczema, severe allergies, gallstones, gout, chronic inflammatory pain, constipation, depression and anxiety attacks.
I started off my twenties not eating as a way to control my weight. I was very slim and difficult to be around. I can remember my mother saying, “Lean is mean.” I think she was onto something. I thought it felt wonderful to control what I consumed or what I didn’t consume each day. This made me feel in control of something as I was going through changes in life as a young adult.
Then I met a wonderful man and we married very young. He was very aware of my obsession with food. He was understanding and helped me to understand the importance of eating. I began to gain weight. I was a healthy weight and eating normally by the time we married. Then I began the famous high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. I stuck to this way of eating for a few years, but it was an off and on struggle because I loved carbohydrates and was restricting them. Still in my 20s, I quickly packed on the pounds, and at 60 pounds heavier, I was diagnosed with acid reflux and medicated for depression and anxiety. I was given medication for pain, and for the anxiety attacks and depression for two years. The medication never provided any relief. I changed doctors and was told I needed my gallbladder removed. I was later told gallstones are a common side effect from eating a high-protein, high-fat diet that is low in carbohydrates. My body was taxed from all the fat I was consuming and formed gallstones as a result. Here I was: extreme dieting and bingeing, obese, suffering, in pain and needing surgery. I was up from a petite size six to a busting at the seams women’s size 22. I avoided all social engagements and was so depressed I distanced myself from my husband and soon divorced him. At the time, I wanted to run away from everything, including myself.
A year later, still miserable, fat and gaining, I had to have my appendix removed. Not an easy process for an unhealthy girl who was also smoking. I thought it was helping with my weight loss. It’s ridiculous, but most people think smoking increases their metabolism. It doesn’t increase it enough to make up for the lack of exercise. I was too busy smoking and trying to catch my breath to workout. At this point, my weight had climbed an additional 35 pounds. I was up 95 pounds.
I was then diagnosed with high cholesterol. I was told it was hereditary because my mother had it too. I went home and started investigating options on the Internet. I found information stating that I could reverse heart disease with a diet completely free of cholesterol called a vegan diet. I was shocked to learn what I had been contributing to by buying and eating animal products. The torture and sinful practice of animal agriculture had me off all animal products the next day. I was vegan from that day forward.
It was amazing! The pounds were falling off me. I thought God was rewarding me for not contributing to the sin of animal agriculture. I quit smoking and joined the gym. I became obsessed with exercise and struggled to shed the last of my excess body fat. I continued to maintain an overweight BMI. I was torturing myself in the gym everyday and even hired a personal trainer. I became obsessed with nutrition and studied everything I could find to increase the nutrients in my vegan diet. Unfortunately, my weight was increasing and creeping back up quickly. All this exercise made me hungry and on edge. I was always in need of a snack, feeling shaky or thinking about food. I came across a plant-based diet book that promoted eating a volume of non-starch vegetables. I followed the six-week program and shed 19 pounds. This plan allowed for nuts, but limited whole grains to one cup a day. This diet left me feeling unsatisfied, restricted and cold. I could not sustain this way of eating long term as I was still craving food. The meal options were not exciting and left me longing for familiar food favorites. I gained all the lost weight back quickly once I started eating a standard vegan diet again.
I spent daily hours in the gym to maintain what I would describe my figure as one veggie burger away from being considered fat and a five-day juice cleanse away from comfortably sliding into my tight fitting jeans. This was my decade of weight management torture. I spent countless hours trying to find an outfit that would fit and hid my love for full fat vegan salad dressings, nuts, guacamole and chips. I would avoid getting together with friends and special events with photos due to depression and anxiety caused by my ever-fluctuating weight on the vegan diet that I wanted everyone to adopt for the love of animals. My career was developing as a vegan lifestyle coach. I tried my best to represent health on the outside but I was personally struggling daily to find the ideal diet that would satisfy my foodie taste buds and allow me to achieve my ideal body weight and optimal health without restriction and excessive hunger-inducing exercise. I was well into my 30s and couldn’t take much more of this daily self-abusive torture in the attempt to find my way as a healthy vegan.
I started working as a plant-based food coach, assisting clients to lose weight. At that time, my best friend Christa died of a heart attack at age 40. I was devastated to have lost her to a dietary disease while trying what I thought was my best to influence her dietary consciousness. I then realized there is much more to health than being slim. I got serious and focused on optimal health, disease reversal and protection of the immune system. This was when I discovered Dr. Esselstyn and learned all about our endothelial cells.
This completely shifted my focus to eating for protection and promotion of my immune system. I even took it a few steps further than what science was suggesting at the time. I eliminated all forms of sugar, coffee and food additives to eliminate food cravings and mood imbalance. Sugars, coffee and additives, along with oils, animal products, high fat plant-based foods such as nuts, coconut and avocados, and refined, processed foods were out of my diet, kitchen and recipe development. I quit the gym due to lack of time. At the same time, I had fallen in love with Jerry Christensen. Jerry, an endurance athlete on his 4,450th mile of a solo bike tour across America, joined me on this program he called dietary consciousness that we later named the Protective Diet. He was intrigued by the nutritional science and endothelial promotion, along with all of the delicious meals I was creating. Although Jerry was already an athlete, he trimmed down to a very lean body fat percentage in the first few weeks. I on the other hand didn’t drop a pound until the start of my fifth week. It was discouraging at first, watching his excitement and success without experiencing the same, even though I was eating exactly the same meals as he was. I focused on the science and knew I had to keep on nourishing my body with this clean diet of protection that was improving my entire system and which was going to eliminate food cravings. I knew obesity could not exist along with optimal health, so I continued on.
Then it happened! I was out shopping, pushing a grocery cart and it seemed as if my pants became longer. I thought, did I shrink? I raced home and jumped on the scale to find I was down ten pounds overnight. Moving forward with practical studies coaching others on a PD, I noticed this common trend of body fat falling off in clusters. It was so common that we nicknamed it BCS (Baggy Clothes Syndrome). It was a drop in weight unlike any of us had experienced with any other diet program. It continued to happen in clusters throughout weight loss experiences on a Protective Diet. This had me encouraging the students I was teaching to limit weigh-ins to once a month and not to expect an even loss week by week.
After experiencing such consistent success thought my community of students and my own personal experience reversing disease and eliminating obesity, I went on to confidently develop systems to make this diet and lifestyle easy and enjoyable. Using my cooking skills, I remade all of my favorite comfort foods and every ethnic recipe I could learn to please and excite students from around the world. A Protective Diet allowed me to finally achieve my ideal body weight, eliminate cravings, and end all my meals with total satisfaction, and it was doing the same for anyone I could reach and inspire.
Sometimes I pinch myself to see whether this is a dream. I no longer had to waste time at the gym, count calories, measure portions, and I ate until I was full and satisfied while I easily achieved optimal health and maintained a slim figure without struggle. At last, I was no longer a fat struggling vegan. I was creating protection for all animals, my own health and the environment, while attracting attention with appealing recipes, kitchen systems, joyful lifestyle practices and a slim and healthy appearance. My suggestions to adopt a Protective Diet became more exciting and finally appealing to others. I shared what I was simply cooking and eating to look and feel fantastic in an online educational guidance program called Protective Diet Education, or PD-Ed for short. For years I had been teaching a local community in Chicago and Jerry saw the opportunity to share my classes with the world. His ideas were ahead of the times, and from the broadcast of my local cooking and application classes, we developed PD-Ed. We were a bit ahead of video broadcast technology at that time, but it has since advanced with our needs. We are now able to connect and interact with anyone interested in taking control of their health path with the guidance and application of a Protective Diet.
I have personally eliminated heart disease, the number one killer of humans. I eliminated this, along with all the other aliments listed above that were labeled hereditary. I did it with the change in my hereditary diet.
In March of 2016, I was diagnosed with the second leading killer of humans, malignant cancer. Doctors think this is a brain tumor believed to have been with me and growing since childhood. Going against the advice of the oncology department, my first and only medical procedure was a brain biopsy. For most, this diagnosis would be a life-changing experience filled with debilitating, life-threatening medical treatments. I returned home from the hospital with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and confidence that I was already eating a diet of protection and not having to figure out what to eat to boost and protect my immune system. I glanced down at my plate and said to Jerry, “There isn’t anything I would change here. We already eat a diet to promote optimal health, and I’m going to experience cancer like a boss.”
I encourage you to eat and live proactively. This way you will have already built an ideal defensive team with endothelial promotion. The proactive diet and lifestyle I made a priority has eliminated the stress and fear associated with a malignant cancer diagnosis.
Julie Marie Christensen is the Creative Director, Oil-free Vegan Chef and Recipe Developer for the Protective Diet Test Kitchen, Director and Educator at Protective Diet Education, former TV Chef on Health Local (a public access series focused on the elimination of childhood obesity), former Plant-based Cooking Instructor for Humana Guidance Centers, Public Speaker, Creator of The30-Day Whole Food Detox and Taste Bud Reprogram, The 50/50 PD Plate and 21 Meals to Mastery.
Julie Marie applies her whole food plant-based cooking skills and ability to teach and inspire her students with a diet that is optimal for all humans, no matter what age or stage in life. She is best known for her ability to teach plant-based affordability, day-to-day application systems, and her innovative, easy to follow cooking techniques and comfort food favorite recipe remakes designed for the entire family. She surrounds herself with an ever-growing community of global support that is successful with this lifestyle and is excited for the opportunity to share and grow with Protective Diet. It’s a diet and lifestyle for the entire family to achieve optimal health as a team. PD-Ed programming has guided many students and their families with the application of a Protective Diet to reverse disease, reach their ideal body weight, and eliminate food addiction. Julie makes the application of a Protective Diet easy, rewarding, affordable, sustainable and fun for everyone.
Julie Marie is certified in Plant Based Nutrition with eCornell and the T. Colin Campbell Foundation. Dr. Campbell, Dr. Mc Dougall and Dr. Esselstyn gave her the education and confidence to apply her cooking skills and ability to teach and inspire her students with a diet that is optimal for all humans no matter what age or stage in life. She is best known for her ability to teach plant-based affordability, day to day application and her innovative easy to follow cooking techniques and comfort food favorite recipe remakes designed for the entire family. She surrounds herself with an ever-growing community of global support that is successful with this lifestyle and is excited for the opportunities to share and grow with Protective Diet.
Protective Diet is not just Mommy’s diet. It’s a diet and lifestyle for the entire family to achieve optimal health as a team.