Our Redo YOU! '09 Contest winners are a busy family of four whose transformation may inspire you and your family to make healthy changes in 2009.
Meet the Olivera family—mother Susie, father Jorge, and daughters Kendall, 15, and Jordan, 9. This Phoenix-based family has made a name for themselves in the world of dog shows. In fact, they boast more national “best in show” awards than any other family in the business. But the grueling life of dog handlers was starting to take a toll on the family’s health and nutrition.
Recently, Susie realized her daughters were gaining weight and developing a skewed perception of food and body image. Having secretly battled an eating disorder all of her life, Susie became frightened that her daughters would share the same fate. On top of that, Kendall was diagnosed with ADHD. Susie wanted to find a more natural solution to conventional prescription medication.
For most of my life, food controlled me,” says Susie, who used to wake up every day feeling hungover from the previous day’s binge. “I’d promise myself that today I wouldn’t devour junk foods, but the food always won in the end. I would often drive quickly to get my secret fix and eat it in the car alone.” The compulsion was overwhelming and shameful for Susie, who would have occasional breaks in the bingeing cycle, only to do crazy starvation schemes. “I lost weight very rapidly following a 500-calorie-per-day diet that involved injections of a fertility drug, but I also started losing handfuls of hair.” Susie knew the diet was ridiculous, but she felt desperate.
Advice for Parents Everywhere
When asked if she could communicate one thing to parents everywhere, Susie replies:
“If you have the chance to free yourself and your kids of food and sugar addiction, your lives will be forever radically changed for the better.” She believes it is the best gift she could have ever given her daughters. “The principles James taught me have spared my children and me—and maybe even my future grandchildren,” says Susie.
Editor’s note: A full description of Kat James’s eating plan, including recipes, specific product suggestions, and daily meal plans, can be found in her book, The Truth About Beauty.
When Susie came across Kat James’s The Truth About Beauty at an airport, she could immediately tell the diet it described wasn’t a self-destructive one. “My one fear was that I would not lose weight fast enough,” she says. Susie dabbled with the nutritional plan outlined in James’s book, but never fully committed to the program for one reason or another. When she learned about James’s retreat near Asheville, N.C., however, she decided to attend with her two daughters and really commit to a new lifestyle.
Raising Healthy Girls
Last year, Susie noticed that her daughters had become junk food junkies and their health had started to suffer. According to Susie, their diets were about 90 percent carbohydrates. Kendall always had a weight problem. Up until a year ago, Jordan could eat anything without gaining weight. “I have been careful not to focus on the girls’ weight, but their binges and sugar crashes were looking too much like the pattern that enslaved me for most of my life,” says Susie.
When Kendall was put on Adderall for ADHD, Susie felt a sense of urgency to do something more about the family’s health. What was missing was the opportunity, she says. But then a terrible fall forced Susie to take time out. During her recovery, Susie realized she could use her time off work to attend James’s program with her daughters. “I wanted them to hear James’s story, which began when she was a young girl. I also wanted to change my daughters’ notion that health foods only taste like cardboard.”
The Makeover Begins
One of the first things Susie wanted to do was get her girls off sodas. “When James made a delicious sugar-free root beer using natural ingredients, such as stevia, Jordan took a taste and exclaimed, ‘I can do this!’ I thought to myself, ‘so can I, ’ ” Susie says.
Kendall—who was always ravenous, particularly on the Adderall, craved bread and chips at first, until James came to the rescue with homemade cheese crackers and breads made from coconut flour. “By the time the ice cream, volcano cake, candied nuts, and much more (all surprisingly sugar free) had been served, the girls were sold,” says Susie, who was pleased that her daughters were able to help make many of the dishes.
Susie, Kendall, and Jordan were introduced not just to more healthful foods, but also to nontoxic personal care products. “Our room at James’s retreat was stocked with pure olive oil soap by Kiss My Face, shave and sun products by Aubrey Organics, shampoos by Giovanni—which I fell in love with and still use today—Redmond clay and seaweed bath powders, and essential oil—based toothpaste by Young Living Essential Oils, to name a few,” says Susie.
By about day three of the program, both Susie and Jordan reported no cravings for sweets or unhealthful carbs. “Most of us were no longer having the afternoon energy slumps. Many people attending the program expected to gain weight because there was so much food. But all of us were excited that our clothes felt looser by the end of the retreat,” says Susie.
Kat James recommended the following supplements for Kendall. Most of the following nutrients can help teens and adults alike.
Editor’s note: Two specific
Making Changes at Home
After another week back home, Jordan and Susie’s cravings were still completely gone. “My weight was melting off,” says Susie, who lost about 10 pounds in two weeks. Susie also noticed that Jordan was eating much less food, or “little-girl-size plates,” as she calls it.
Susie immediately purchased the nutritional supplements that she had learned about at the retreat, including omega-3 fish oils, blood sugar—control nutrients, an antianxiety formula, and a neurotransmitter support product. New oils, organic spices, nut flours, and other staples completed the Olivera’s kitchen transformation.
Susie admits that the initial expense was substantial. But after she and Jordan started eating less and cooking more, she knew that the investment was more than worth it. “What thrilled me most was that Kendall stopped eating junk food altogether,” says Susie.
Today, Susie has continued to adjust her and her daughters’ supplement regimen. She’s continually learning more about natural products through James’s follow-up teleseminars and from a naturopath. Recently, Susie’s naturopath put her on a low dose of natural thyroid replacement, as well as progesterone cream for hormonal balance.
Saving Their Skin
“I have always struggled with acne, even at age 42,” says Susie, who thought acne control came down to oil control. Daily applications of drying treatments left her skin more wrinkled. After only a few days on James’s program, Susie could actually see her skin tone improve and facial swelling lessen. Even more amazing, she has not had a breakout since. “I’ve tried tetracycline, Accutane, microdermabrasion, and so on, but nothing has helped my skin more than changing my food,” she says.
Susie now cleans her skin with nonfoaming products. One of her favorites is Cleanse & Balance Organic Cleansing Milk from Sunshine Botanicals. “I also love Make Up Fluid foundation from Lavera and MyChelle Dermaceuticals Lip Plumping Treatment, which worked as well as more expensive synthetic brands,” says Susie.
Kendall also reported a huge improvement in her skin. She used to come home from school with pimples that surfaced during the day and say, “Yuck, that was showing on my face all day?” Today, these breakouts are mostly a thing of the past.
Calming ADHD Naturally
Susie believes that Kendall didn’t stray from the plan, even at school. But inexplicably, Kendall’s cravings remained. Because Kat had mentioned that it is unusual for cravings to remain once you eliminate things that spike blood sugar and are eating lots of good fat, fiber, and nutrients, Susie felt Kendall’s continued cravings might be related to Adderall.
Susie decided to ask their doctor for support in weaning Kendall off the medication. Susie had heard that getting off Adderall would be rough, and that Kendall might even gain weight. Nevertheless, Kendall began decreasing dosages during the following school holiday with success. She is now off of Adderall, and her moods and behavior are gradually improving. [Editor’s note: weaning off Adderall can be very difficult and shouldn’t be attempted without medical supervision.] Susie says that Kendall sometimes feels “scattered.” But that is unfortunately part of a necessary withdrawal process that Susie believes would likely have been much worse—or impossible—had she tried to wean off of the drug years from now. Kendall has also lost five pounds and a lot of inflammation, and her hair also seems to have stopped thinning. “I am convinced that Kendall being able to wean off Adderall relatively smoothly could never have happened without the complete elimination of sugar and starch, and the dramatic increase in nourishing fats (literally brain food) and nutrients,” says Susie, who recently reported that Kendall now has consistent energy and is no longer hyperactive.
“The other day Kendall was changing out of a pair of jeans she’d put on for school,” says Susie. “When I asked why she was changing them, she said they were way too big!”
No More Junk Food for Jordan
Jordan is no longer a slave to sugar highs and lows. She makes her own “tapioca pudding” from James’s recipe with Salba. Additionally, she has lost almost 15 pounds.
Susie is also a big winner in the weight-loss arena. She has lost 20 pounds, and says she wakes up early and refreshed, free of the ball-and-chain, hungover feeling. “The biochemical change James talks about when you get off sugar and start getting enough good fat is profound, and has happened fully in each of us,” says Susie. “It is very calming and energizing at the same time. When there’s no more need for portion control or willpower, it is no longer a ‘diet’—you are no longer white-knuckling it.” As a bonus, Susie says that her skin is the best it’s been in her adult life, and that the areas on her scalp with thinning hair she’d had prior to the program (as a result of starvation diets) have all but disappeared. She is also finding relief from lifelong anxiety with the help of nutritional supplements, including L-theanine.
A New Lifestyle
Susie and her daughters stay connected to James’s program through online teleseminars, where they exchange school lunch ideas. Recipes from James’s program, such as Portobello Mushroom Pizzas, Thai Chicken Stir-fry, Turkey Fennel Sauce over Shirataki Noodles, and Chiles Rellenos are favorites in the Olivera household. The girls also love to make their own recipe of chocolate cups at home. They melt xylitol-sweetened chocolate, mix in nuts, pour into mini muffin cups, and refrigerate until set.
Having healthful food on hand for travel has been a big part of the Olivera’s success. The refrigerator in their show truck is stocked with Greek yogurt, nuts, goat cheese, nut butters, grainless crackers (such as Lydia’s Organics), hemp and Salba seeds, lettuce and other salad ingredients, hard-boiled eggs, roasted pumpkin seeds, organic deli meats, and sugar-free baked goodies.
“My husband is the one who really notices the differences in me and the girls when he sees us,” says Susie.
“He is very happy about the changes in the girls’ health and behavior. When he saw me only a few weeks after Kat’s program, he said, ‘Wife, you’re looking good!’ I know he is even happier that I feel good.”