This interview was conducted for Washingtonian magazine, and was published on July 25, 2017.
Who I am: B. Rae Perryman, 33, a contributor to the Drug Policy Alliance and a national recovery, harm reduction, and mental health advocate and activist.
Why I wanted to make a change: “I entered recovery from a long term drug addiction in 2013, and gained about 125 pounds pretty quickly for a variety of reasons, despite doing yoga teacher training. But I was overcoming so much, staying sober, and processing years of trauma. All the while, regular life was happening. So I didn’t really mind binge eating and self-medicating with food for the first few years of my recovery. Something’s gotta give sometimes. Then I started to swell up when I would fly, or even when I’d walk more than a few blocks. Stairs were downright painful. Once I realized that my body hurt all the time and moving around felt like a chore, I decided to make a change. Everything flowed from that—I just decided I wasn’t going to feel terrible.”
MOSTLY, I LIVE BY THE CODE, ‘DON’T EAT TOO MUCH CRAP AND MOVE AROUND A LOT.’
My work out plan: “At the beginning, I just tried to move around as much as possible. A flight of stairs here and there. Then two. Then four. In the summer of 2016, I started walking a lot, and jogging a little bit. I’d occasionally lift weights or use an elliptical. I do light yoga. Now, I kayak as much as possible as well. I hike a bit. My best friend/cousin, Linch, makes up workouts for me that kick my butt. I wish I could be more specific. Mostly, I live by the code, ‘Don’t eat too much crap and move around a lot.’ I just like to feel strong. I am happiest when my body works with me and for me.”
My healthy eating plan: “I became a vegan on February 4, 2016. I had been mostly vegan for a few years when I lived in Austin, TX, so it wasn’t a huge system shock. Now I eat vegetarian, and mostly vegan. I go through periods where I’ll eat lots of dairy, but I just feel better when I avoid almost all animal products. Also, I don’t drink alcohol or take drugs, obviously. I do think that helps quite a bit. Animal product, alcohol, and drug restriction/abstinence might not be for everyone—but it works for me.”
What changed: “So far, I’ve lost 100 pounds and about five dress sizes since February of 2016. My body doesn’t pain itself to carry its weight, and I feel good almost all the time. I still struggle with binge eating at times, but I continue to work on it and have compassion for myself. I have a hefty amount of stamina and am stronger than ever, which is the best part. My overall health is much, much better — and it wasn’t bad to begin with, except for being overweight!
How I stayed on track: “The first eight to ten months, I logged all my food and activity on a free app called Lose It! I still log my weight there, and love seeing the graph over time! When I fluctuate up a bit, I’m always encouraged because of how far I have come! Also, I went cold turkey on drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes (Full disclosure: I still smoke about two cigarettes and half a cigar per year, usually at the holidays) all at once in 2013.”
One piece of advice: “Cut out foods, jobs, things, or people that hurt with no apologies or regrets. Quit caring what other people think. In so many areas of life, you absolutely are what you consume. Be aware of that and adjust accordingly.”