What Inspired My Shift from Standard American Diet to Plant-Based Eating in 2014?
Here’s a short answer:
Several factors kept knocking around in my head. One was my persistent weight gain. My dad’s heart disease. My stepmom’s dementia (fatal). Another was a nagging dissatisfaction with what aging has come to be in our country:
- A steady decline in health, vitality, and ability, seeming to affect folks increasingly earlier in life.
- Bathroom counters spread with prescription medications bearing long lists of scary side effects.
- Seeing those scary side effects manifest in people.
It also bothered me that many folks seem to accept such decline as inevitable, and that they have little power to change course. I’d felt that way as well. But increasingly, at age 52, I felt like a stubborn puppy pulling back on its leash and out of its collar. Noooo! I wanted to know what I could do to stay healthy and head off or lessen trouble coming my way, and had been pursuing that question for a bit.
Here’s a little more to my answer:
My mom died when she was 36 from cardiac arrest, and when I hit my 40s it seemed as if every year a friend or colleague would suffer a fatal blow from heart disease, cancer, even to a “freak” reaction to supposedly cinchy cancer treatment. A pre-SCUBA training physical in 2012 revealed my cholesterol was high and my doctor’s nurse called in a statin prescription for me. “How long will I need to take this?” I asked. “For life,” she said. “And don’t eat grapefruit. The combo is deadly.” But I love grapefruit! I didn’t take the statins, tried to drop some pounds (unsuccessfully), and six months later the cholesterol went down a few points but was still high. I filled the statin prescription and took the pills for maybe a week, but then felt some weakness in a knee while swimming, freaked out and pitched the statins. And determined to find a different way.
When an issue gets to me, I start reading. My mom (step) had suffered dementia, so I’d been reading a lot of books on that subject. My dad was having major heart issues and had undergone heart surgery. Then in January 2014, my husband’s beloved, spirited, spunky and loving cousin – who was in her mid 60s – dropped dead. It shook me.
We started watching health-related movies. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead was particularly moving to my husband, so we ordered a juicer, hit the grocery and overfilled two carts with fruits and veggies, and committed to a week-long juice fast. During that week we watched more movies and at same time I was reading T. Colin Campbell’s Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition on a tip from a cousin. We watched Forks Over Knives and pondered what to do with the information. And decided to go forward with a whole-foods, plant-based diet.
My story is not one of facing immediate life-threatening disease and resolving it. However, that anticlimactic state of consistent good vibrant health is my very goal! And to that end, I’m keen on learning from others who have, indeed, reclaimed their lives from disease.
So what happened after you went whole foods plant based (WFPB)?
My husband and I both started to lose weight, about 2 pounds per week. Weight loss, while eating as much as we want and whenever we want, which is a tremendous relief being someone who likes to eat! For a very long time we’d have seconds and thirds of whatever we were eating. We had our cholesterol levels checked after a month of WFPB and my total cholesterol had dropped from 239 to 177! (Folks with totals more than 200 are generally given prescriptions for statin medication. My goal is for a total of 150 or lower, medication free.) UPDATE: A February 2017 check has my total cholesterol at 151.
We kept losing weight. My 6’1 husband – who was a super skinny guy into his 20s – went from 200-plus pound highs to 170, sometimes 165. I’m 5’7, have never ever been slender, had hit 165, 168 pounds on too many occasions. I was relenting to be happy with 158, which frankly was pure struggle. But by eating a plant-based diet, my weight dropped to 142, which is the weight I – again – struggled to maintain prior to getting pregnant years ago. In the last year or so, another dozen pounds slipped away.
After 40-some years of fighting the scale, it is a relief to have a stable trim weight. Stable, as in easy to maintain within a 2-pound range.
We’re healthy. In the three years we’ve been eating plant-based, we’ve gotten a few short-lived colds. Our digestion is great, meaning fast, easy and frequent. Menopause, which had just started when I shifted, was noticeable prior to the shift and imperceptible after. No hot flashes, mood swings, and the like. Everything works well and I don’t take any hormones or medications to maintain wellness. During a checkup awhile back we had our blood tested for various nutrients and we were good on all counts. Our energy is good. It feels great to feel so good. Whew.
Our daughter Margeaux’s story, shared on my Personal FAQs page, is more dramatic yet.