What Inspired My Shift from Standard American Diet to Plant-Based Eating in 2014?
Here’s a short answer:
Several factors. One was my persistent weight gain. My dad’s heart disease. My stepmom’s dementia (fatal). My bio mom’s cardiac arrest (fatal). Another was nagging dissatisfaction with what aging, predominantly, looks like 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 seem to accept that they have little power to change course. I had 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 one, two, three or more friends or colleagues would suffer a fatal blow from heart disease, cancer, even to “freak” reactions 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 cardiac 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 – of getting MORE capable with age rather than less – that is my very goal and is what I’m living! And believe me, when I go for my annual checkup and answer “none” to “what medications are you on?” – year after year – that’s a win.
There are indeed scads of folks who’ve halted and reversed heart disease, prevalent cancers, diabetes, autoimmune disease and more, though. The power of plant-based diet is significant. It’s because of that power that I’m keen on stirring this conversation and helping others discover it.
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! A later check had 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 down to 170, to about 165.
I am 5’7, have never EVER in my life been slender, and was seeing 165 – 168 pounds on the scale on too many occasions. Just as we discovered this diet, I was relenting to be happy with 158, a weight which was pure struggle to maintain eating a standard American diet. (I had come to hate cooking – even going out to eat – because eating what I cooked or baked or ordered produced a biggering body.) But – to my surprise – by eating a plant-based diet, my weight dropped to 142, a weight I had struggled to maintain prior to getting pregnant in my 20s. And in the last year and a half, thanks to delving into some Chef AJ techniques, yet another dozen-some pounds slipped away. Post menopause!
After 40-some years of fighting the scale, it is SUCH a relief to have a stable trim weight. Stable, as in easy to maintain within a 2-pound range. I love the food that I prepare and am happy and satisfied enjoying it.
Erin and I are healthy, capable, and thriving. We aren’t taking any medications (nor suffering their side effects) which is a marvel to our doc when we go in for annual checkups. In the eight-some years that we’ve been eating plant-based, we’ve gotten a few short-lived colds, though they were so long ago, I don’t remember them. Eczema and psoriasis are generally slow to resolve, but I recently noticed that my two patches – which I used to scratch until they’d bleed – are finally gone. My energy has grown over time. Having been a lifelong napper, energy is an asset I cherish. These days I nap only if I’ve had an especially late night or a crazy long run. Our digestion is great, no heartburn, no stopping up, everything flows 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. It feels great to feel so good. Whew.
Our daughter Margeaux Spain’s story, shared on my Personal FAQs page and in her Iowa-rooted success story, is more dramatic yet.