My name is Sara Binde.
I’m a native of Fargo, North Dakota, USA. And I’m a former fattie.
I haven’t been health conscious for the majority of my life. In fact, grew up eating the unhealthy Standard American Diet. Like an obedient child, I ate what was put in front of me and didn’t question it.
Now I’m different. Now I care about my body. I care about my life. I’m invested in my health. And I understand that what I eat affects how I look and feel.
After my sophomore year in high school I began working at Subway. Ironically enough, this was part of the reason I began to pay attention to my food. Subway is marketed as a healthy alternative. However, as an employee, I knew what really went into the sandwiches. And it wasn’t healthy.
The highly processed meats were disgusting. I quickly avoided eating them. Not long after, I switched to the 9-grain bread. Next I almost exclusively ate vegetarian subs. I taught myself to like tomatoes and fell in love with avocado.
Another component of my life in high school was theatre. I’ve always been interested and actively involved as much as possible. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get cast in large rolls when you’re… well, large.
However, I was determined to change that my senior year of high school. It decided it was going to be my year. I was going to get a lead role.
That meant I needed to slim down.
I began going on hour-long bike rides, counted calories and ate less processed junk food. I stopped eating the nearly unrecognizable food the school dared to call a meal. Instead, I made my own lunches. I baked bread at home to make my sandwiches. Sandwiches were paired with salads, baby carrots and fruit.
My work paid off. In the spring I was cast as a lead role in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. My first success.
I graduated high school in June 2012. Though I didn’t have anything left to work for, I kept up my healthy habits. They had helped me accomplish my goal. The new habits also made me happier and healthier.
My regular exercising and cleaner eating continued when I started college at NDSU. I was not going to gain the ‘freshmen fifteen’. Consciously I chose healthier foods when given the option. Unconsciously I consumed less meat and milk. I ate fruits and vegetables every day.
Though these changes were huge improvements to my diet growing up, an ever bigger change was around the corner: a plant-based diet.
The Bucket List Challenge
I started a bucket list my freshmen year of college. One item on the list was the Buffalo Wild Wings Challenge. Another item was learning how to knit. I accomplished both of those before attempting my next item: going vegan for 6 months.
My family thought I was absolutely nuts.
I decided to start on January 1, 2013.
I told my family about my plan after the Thanksgiving holiday in November of 2012. They thought I was absolutely nuts.
I expected it to be a challenge. That’s what the bucket list was: a challenge. But I didn’t expect to be hungry all the time.
The beginning was extremely difficult. That’s because I took a road trip from Fargo, ND to Frisco, TX the first week of my challenge.
Bad idea, Sara.
Hardee’s. McDonald’s. Even the grocery store. Everywhere we went I ate things that lacked flavor or left me hungry. It was impossible for me to find food to eat besides bread and salads.
Post-road trip wasn’t much better. For the first month, I had persistent, buzzing headaches. Focusing took more energy. Yet I kept pushing.
Because I was so uneducated, my meals didn’t vary much. Here’s what my daily food intake looked like:
- Breakfast: cereal with soy milk, a sliced banana and coffee
- Lunch: English muffin with PB&J, an apple and a salad. Sometimes I had white rice, too.
- Snack: Self-made trail mix of nuts, raisins and granola
- Dinner: Vegetable stir fry with carrot, broccoli, tofu, beans and bunch of soy sauce
- Snack: Banana with peanut butter
Every chance I got I swiped fruit from the cafeteria to keep in my dorm fridge. And I asked my roommates do the same.
I met my now husband, Rob, during the first six months of my new diet. We crossed paths online. Looking back, it’s crazy how it seems as if fate brought us together. If I hadn’t done the vegan challenge at that time, we never would have met.
Rob greatly influenced and expanded my knowledge about plant-based diets. I learned about the health, moral and environmental effects of veganism. Before we met I’d toyed with the idea of staying vegan after the 6-month mark. After, I was sure that’s what I wanted to do.
When I first moved back into my parents’ house I ate whatever was vegan. I ate as much fruit and vegetables as I could but didn’t have a focus. I was trying to be healthier but didn’t quite understand what that meant yet.
The miserable raw food lifestyle
Rob introduced me to a raw foods lifestyle. I thought to myself ‘That must be super healthy. I’ll try that.’ Banana smoothies became my breakfast, lunch and dinner. I ate tons of zucchini pasta with basil pesto, too.
I thought I was eating healthy because I was eating raw. How wrong I was.
My raw food lifestyle didn’t work out well. I had a small budget and limited knowledge. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I wasn’t getting the calories or nutrients I needed. I was often hungry after dinner, so I “cheated” frequently by eating white rice. I felt guilty when I “cheated”, but it was nearly impossible not to. My belly was demanding more!
After a few months I changed my meals to include a wider variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and oil. The plus side was that I felt fuller. The downside was that I stopped losing weight.
I was confused. I still had extra weight to lose. Why wasn’t I losing weight?
Unknown to me, it was because of my high fat, raw vegan diet with processed oil.
In December 2013, I went to the doctor. My hair was falling out and I was tired and cold all the time. Rob and I suspected I had a thyroid problem. Test results confirmed that my TSH levels weren’t normal. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and prescribed medicine but didn’t take it. Instead, I began taking an iodine supplement and Brazil nuts on a daily basis.
Not long after I gave up my raw diet. It wasn’t optimal and was keeping me fat.
Raw ‘til 4
I went to Spain to study abroad in 2014. Rob and I lived together there. Our diet was a mix of things.
In the beginning I tried to persuade Rob that I still wanted to eat a high raw diet. It didn’t end up being economical or practical. We gave up on the idea quickly.
We began eating Raw ’til 4 (RT4) style. It was definitely an improvement. We drank fruit smoothies for breakfast and lunch. Our dinners were centered around cooked starches such as brown rice, whole grain pasta, legumes and potatoes.
After my first month in Spain I got my TSH levels retested. I was ecstatic to find out they were in normal range. The iodine had worked!
We ate RT4 style most of our time in Spain. We had a few weeks’ time when we experimented with starch versus sugar calories. These experiments were dubbed “fruit cleanse” and “starch week”.
Eat to live
I felt healthier eating RT4 than fully raw. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much weight loss during our time in Spain. Though our diet was healthy, I retained a bad habit from my obese days: overeating. I wasn’t gaining weight but I wasn’t losing much either.
Towards the end of our time in Spain I read Dr. Fuhrman’s book, Eat to Live. I realized what to do to lose weight. It was necessary to adopt a more nutrient-dense diet.
Eat to Live encourages individuals to focus on eating lots of salads, legumes and fresh fruit. So that’s what I ate from May 2014 until August 2014. I ate salads before most dinners and focused on fresh fruits and vegetables. I upped my intake of beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils and minimized the starchy vegetables, grains and fruits.
Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian program is fantastic. Over 3 months I was able to lose 15 pounds following the Eat to Live program combined with intermittent fasting.
The Rainbow Plate
I’ve traveled much since Spain. When my study abroad program was over, Rob and I parted ways. He went to Australia June 2014. I returned to the US July 2014 after traveling Spain and Morocco.
We couldn’t stay apart for long though.
I made the exciting (and slightly reckless) decision to pursue nutrition, Carob Cherub, and Rob over university. I dropped out and flew to Australia August 2014.
During our time in Australia I developed The Rainbow Plate. The Rainbow Plate is my own dietary guidelines I follow to this day. I love it because it shows a nearly limitless way of being healthy on a plant-based lifestyle.
The Rainbow Plate is wonderful. I don’t have to worry about calories or restriction. The foods I consume have loads of natural flavor. And because it’s backed by science, it’s lead me to optimum health.
I now eat a mostly cooked diet, lots of legumes. I supplement at least one meal with vegetables and fruit. Most of the time it’s more. Rob and I eat a tablespoon of ground flax on a daily basis for fat and to balance omegas.
Always more to learn
I still have knowledge to gain. My stretch marks need healing and I’m constantly working to improve myself.
But I’m able to realize that I’ve come a long way. I used to be obese. Now I’m on the lower side of a healthy BMI. Both my body and mind are healthier.
I’ve learned a lot about nutrition and learn more each day. That’s why I’ve created Carob Cherub.
I invite you to join me on my path to becoming as healthy as I can be. I want to clear the air about what healthy is. Eating crappy food should be what’s difficult, not eating nutritiously.
With my advice, tips and recipes, I hope I can make your road to optimal health clearer and more enjoyable.
July 2017 update: I currently model as a hobby/part-time job. You can view my photoshoots on my modeling website, sarabinde.com.