Like many moms, Morn Cremeens encountered her first struggles with excess weight following the birth of her first child. In 1995 she found herself carrying about 50 extra pounds. Desperate to get back to her wedding weight of 145 pounds, she tried Weight Watchers. And a program at her church. And intense exercise regimens that had her at the gym two hours a day.
While each program had some measure of success and worked for a while, she found it impossible to maintain the prescriptive eating or exercise habits, and the numbers on the scale always resumed their upward climb.
Eleven years, a second pregnancy and several diets later, Cremeens was carrying 230 pounds on her 5-foot-6-inch frame and felt like a stranger in her own body. “I’d become so introverted that I felt like I had disappeared as a person,” she recalls. “I felt like I literally needed God’s help to get me free from my eating addictions.” Strong in her faith, she prayed for guidance and something new.
Then one night in 2006, while listening to a favorite radio station, Cremeens, then 37, learned about the raw-food lifestyle — eating fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, and legumes that are cooked to no more than 118 degrees F (to maintain their nutritional value and keep valuable enzymes intact). “I’d never heard of anything like it, but I was intrigued,” she says. “I did some research and discovered that people who [primarily ate raw foods] lost weight, felt great and could get off many medications.”
Cremeens knew that this would be a radical adjustment to her diet. But she felt the only thing she had left to lose was the weight that had been slowing her down.
Cremeens was fit growing up, but she put on 20 pounds during her sedentary college years in the late 1980s, weighing about 155 pounds. She trimmed down before marrying her husband, Blair, in 1992, but added nearly 70 pounds while pregnant with their daughter, Ariana, in 1995 — and after the pregnancy plateaued at 200 pounds. “I could never get enough,” she says. “Bread, noodles, pizza. I would drink eight or 10 diet pops a day.”
Her efforts at a range of fad diets worked only fleetingly, and in 2002, when her second daughter, Evelina, was born, she weighed a new high of 240 pounds.
Those added pounds took a serious toll on her health: She was exhausted even after 12 hours of sleep; her knees ached, and some days she felt as though she could barely walk. “I’m in my 30s, but I felt like I was in my 50s,” she says.
By the time she heard about raw foods, she was ready to try almost anything. She was nervous about the transition, though, and spent more time doing research.
She soon began to see the appeal of making the shift. By overhauling her diet, she wouldn’t just cut back on the foods that she tended to overeat, like soda, junk food and refined grain products — she would eliminate them entirely. To Cremeens, that actually seemed a more appealing and doable approach.
In September 2006, Cremeens took the plunge. She bought $100 in fruits, vegetables and nuts, as well as a raw-foods cookbook. She found a raw-food Web site she liked, and committed to its 30-day “raw” challenge to keep her ˙ motivated. She also created a Web site (www.mornc.com) where she could detail her daily progress.
She ate simple, healthy meals and snacks, including trail mix with nuts and raisins, hummus with vegetables, and smoothies made from various fresh fruits and vegetables. “Before, if I ate one piece of fruit a day, I felt lucky,” she says. “And my salads had always been filled with ranch dressing, croutons, cheese — all the wrong stuff.”
The first month was tough: She got frequent headaches from caffeine withdrawal, and many of the recipes she tried didn’t appeal to her. But the results were encouraging: She lost 15 pounds and was already feeling more energetic.
A Commitment to Change
Cremeens knew that being healthy wasn’t just about eating well, so she slowly began adopting a workout regimen. A few days a week, she exercised on the elliptical machine and did Pilates, mixing up workouts at the gym with exercise videos she could do at home. She committed to three hours a week, and increased her gym time as her fitness improved. She also joined an online exercise-challenge group for accountability.
While she continued to drop 5 to 10 pounds each month, she also broadened her knowledge of her new lifestyle. She went to raw-food events, where she got tips from top chefs and other raw-foodists. She learned about dehydrating so she could make fruit leather and granola, and she also experimented with sprouting so she could make recipes that contained sprouted grains like buckwheat, barley and quinoa.
Cremeens admits there were bumps along the road. Her husband and kids gamely tried her recipes, but wouldn’t commit to the raw-food lifestyle. She had to drive an hour from her home in Chesterfield Township, Mich., to a natural foods store that carried staples such as raw almond butter and agave nectar. Eating out also was a challenge, and even visiting friends’ homes wasn’t easy.
Cremeens remained undeterred, though, and by the time she celebrated her one-year “raw” anniversary in September 2007, she had lost 90 pounds. Today she weighs a healthy 140 pounds and says she has far more energy for her family and friends. Plus, her joints have stopped hurting, and her digestive and acne problems have disappeared.
Her husband, Blair, couldn’t be more proud of her. “For a long time, Morn didn’t want her photo taken by anyone,” he says. “But now she’s finally comfortable with herself again. She’s back to being the confident, happy person that I first married.”
After years of yo-yo dieting, Cremeens has found an enjoyable, sustainable way of eating and exercising. She continues to find new recipes to add to her raw-foods repertoire and works out five days a week, mixing up her routine with cardio kickboxing, yoga and weight training.
A raw-food diet isn’t for everyone, but for Cremeens it turned out to be a sustainable and rewarding way to live. She wants others to understand that the real key to lasting weight loss is emphasizing whole, nutritious foods and an activity regimen you can enjoy. Her experience has convinced her that prepackaged food, diet pills and supplements of dubious value are not the way to a slim physique — or to a vibrant lifestyle. “I invested hundreds of dollars in the diet industry,” she says. “But eating simple, healthy whole foods was what changed my life.”
Meet: Morn Cremeens, 39, salesperson, wife and mom of two from Chesterfield Township, Mich.
Big achievements: Losing 90 pounds by embracing a raw-food lifestyle and establishing a consistent exercise program.
Big inspiration: Daily blog entries. “It helped me be accountable to myself and stay focused on my goal.”
What worked: Keeping it simple. “Healthy doesn’t have to mean hard. All you have to do is open up a banana or eat an apple.”
What didn’t: Focusing only on calories, not nutrition. “I tried diets where it was fine to eat whatever I wanted, as long as I stopped at a certain point. But those diets made me feel terrible.”
Words of wisdom: Investing in your health pays big dividends. “It’s more expensive to eat fresh, healthy foods. But if you don’t pay for it now, you’ll be paying expensive doctor bills later.”