Death. The Other Option.

extremeAt the risk of sounding like a nag, when the hell are people going to wake up and realize the food they eat to sustain their life is the same food that is causing disease, obesity and sickness? Moderation is a myth, oil still isn’t “heart healthy” and the fork could potentially be as lethal as a weapon. The statistics prove Americans moderate the wrong foods. Even the saying from the American Dietetic Association, “All foods fit,” has been taken out of context. The original saying is not “all foods fit,”  but, “All foods can fit into a healthful diet ‘if’ consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity.”

Change. It doesn’t come easy, if at all. People are resistant to change in favor of the status quo. Reasons vary including:

  • when the status quo is satisfactory
  • when the purpose of change is not clearly understood
  • when those affected lack courage or self confidence
  • personal fear of failure to master new skills
  • fear of personal loss of ego, status, power or resources
  • when implementation appears to be rigid and inflexible

Each of these reasons “excuses” could be applied to why people don’t take their health more serious and make changes that they would benefit from. I admitted to myself for 42 years that “I was fine.” This when dining on fast foods, fried foods, dairy and meat while not enjoy veggies and limiting starchy foods. I knew I had a problem, but I wasn’t strong enough to face the fears associated with making change.

Then something amazing happened, so unexpected it was exhilarating as I looked towards the future, seeing a happy, healthy life ahead. I accepted the change and challenged myself to accept a new, plant based lifestyle leaving behind the foods that were the cause of all my health related problems.

I know this sounds like fiction and many won’t think twice about it or consider change in their life, continuing to follow their “healthy” lifestyle that includes meat and dairy. I don’t care if you are gluten free, buy only organic, believe grass fed beef is somehow healthier or still hold on to the belief that fancy cooking oils are beneficial. The fact of the matter remains, your decisions on foods are the key to your health and many Americans continue to make the wrong decisions.

As the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Change doesn’t come without dedication, effort and a bit of struggle. I know this as well as anyone when making the decision to get healthy, which I did in October, 2011. Yet 3 years later people continue to find excuses not to take establishment to keep them healthy.


Left: The “SAD” days. Right: Powered by plants!

If literature and words are not enough to convince the majority to reconsider, how about leading by example. That is what I am, living proof you can take control of your health, forget about doctors and medicine and heal yourself. The transformation has been nothing short of amazing! Gone are all the maladies I once struggled with; my weight, aches and pains, including consistent migraines, foot problems (plantar fasciitis), stomach issues and lethargy.

People willing to try could be rewarded in as little as 12 days at no cost to them thanks to Dr. John McDougall and his free McDougall Program. The Internet is chocked full of beneficial information, programs and recipes to assist individuals in their quest for health. Julie Marie Christensen at Protective Diet promotes “a diet rich in whole plant foods, free of all animal products, saturated fats, oils, nuts, sugar, artificial sweeteners and food additives.” It takes 30 days to “eliminate the physical addiction… then our taste bud receptors are not searching for the missing oils and fats any longer.” Why not start now?

Unfortunately many consider a plant based lifestyle “extreme” by making the decision to remove meat, dairy and for some, oil. Open heart surgery is far too common, as the 6th most expensive surgery in the U.S. at $324,000*. “Part of the high cost of open heart surgery is because it’s often an urgent medical procedure that is usually followed by complications. Longer care and follow-up needed after surgery add to the price tag.

Conversely I hear many complain about just how expensive it is to eat a plant based diet. According to the IRS, the average person in America spends $301 on food, and the average family of four spends $765. According to the US department of Labor, a typical family of four eating “moderately” at home in 2011 spent $664. But that’s eating many processed foods (source).

I’m not saying to spend $1.50 a day on food as Darshana Thacker did on Forks Over Knives, but by following some simple rules you can save money following a plant based lifestyle.

  • Buy in bulk: beans, grains, pastas, flours, herbs, spices and nutritional yeast are staples in my pantry.
  • Make a list: write down what you want to buy and go into the store with a purpose, this will help limit food and ingredients you don’t need.
  • Comparison shop and coupons: visit a few different grocers to see which store has weekly deals or sales going on. Watch Sunday papers for coupons, which could allow you to save additional money.
  • Buy frozen and canned food: some veggies and fruits are season, so you might need to find another option. Frozen veggies are inexpensive and can be used in a variety of ways. In a pinch, canned ingredients (BPA free) can be used if something is not in season or unavailable from the bulk bins. In the past I have primarily used beans and tomatoes.
  • Menu planning: create a menu for the week, figuring in the amount of leftovers that could be used for additional meals during the week. Meal planning will allow you to create a more accurate shopping list.

Some of these suggestions are good practice in general regardless of the foods you eat. Initially stocking your pantry could require a bit larger of a cost, but in the long run removing the pricey cuts of meat, dairy such as cheese and processed foods will result in substantial savings over time.

The argument from many usually includes, “I’m going to die anyways, so I am going to eat whatever I want.” By all means do what makes you happy, but expect the possible consequences that come with eating a diet high in red meat, sugary drinks and desserts, high-fat foods, high-fat dairy products, and refined grains. The cost could be your life. You might suffer a heart attack and be diagnosed with coronary heart disease (CHD) requiring open heart surgery. Both of those options sound extreme to me. A plant based lifestyle offers results, but only if you WANT to take control of your health.

Plant-Strong: Year 1

Hard to believe it has been 1 year since I decided to change my diet and take control of my health. Today marks my first anniversary since giving up meat, dairy and oil and eating plant-strong. It has been an amazing start on the road to health and believe it of not it does seem to get easier. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would I could do this. Ask me a few years ago and I would say I could “never go vegan.” Not only have I done so, I have gone an extra step and I have been rewarded with excellent health based on my doctor’s opinion, more importantly based on the numbers.

I don’t focus on what I chose NOT to eat, rather all the choices I do get to eat. It wasn’t easy at times and I struggled, but I never strayed too far from what Dr. John McDougall teaches. I learned of him in the documentary, Forks Over Knives. I was also introduced to T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn. These three gentlemen are my found on which I have built a strong pillar of health. Without their research, studies and teaching I would continue to eat poorly and rely on big pharma and the medication establishment to care for me as I age.

Now at age 42 I am in the best shape of my life and it will only improve. While re-learning nutrition is continuing, it was interesting to see just how jaded the government and big business were in regards to our health. Special interests and profits are the main goals of industries like meat and dairy. They don’t care about YOUR health. They will feed you lies, as long you continue to buy and support their product. Many fallacies surrounding milk as well, does it really do a body good? Research it for yourself.

Now, 12 month later I don’t miss that slice of cheese or that steak on a special occasion. I have found a heart healthy way to enjoy food and thrive on a plant-based, whole foods diet. But I am not here to push this lifestyle on anyone. I would much rather push good nutrition so well intended individuals can make their own decisions. I like being in the 1%, the small minority that make up the group who base their diets around plants. I have gotten comfortable with people looking at me with a queer stare and saying, “You don’t eat meat? Or dairy? Or oil? But olive oil is healthy for you…”

You can read just how far I have come in my latest addition under McDougall titled, 1 Year Review. It provides a run down of the last 6 months and the steps I took to achieve goals I had set, including the last 10 pounds I wanted to shed, along with lowering my cholesterol under 150. I also layout some of my future goals to accomplish in the next year. That actually started today with a new weight lifting program called Stronglifts 5×5. More on that tomorrow.

Behind Door #2

Many people I talk to don’t understand why I have given up meat…and dairy…and oil. All they hear is, “you are vegan?” I don’t even try to explain a plant-based, whole foods lifestyle. It relates to FINALLY, after 42 years deciding to take my health out of the hands of doctors and into my own hands. While I haven’t been severely sick or injured often, I have used medical services in the past. Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise the level of service provided seems to be deteriorating. “Seven years ago, the World Health Organization made the first major effort to rank the health systems of 191 nations. France and Italy took the top two spots; the United States was a dismal 37th” (source). It is estimated that the US spends $2 trillion annually on healthcare expenses (source).

As I have read in The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and some papers written by Dr. John McDougall much of this expenditure is not geared towards nutrition or prevention. “The health insurance companies and the big pharmaceutical corporations are raking in gigantic mountains of cash and yet the quality of the health care that we receive in return is rather quite poor” (source). The numbers are staggering when you look at the quality of medical care many individuals receive.

Unfortunately a good many number of doctors and medical facilities are not about finding the root cause of an illness, when they can prescribe medication or invasive surgery. “Nearly half of all Americans now use prescription drugs on a regular basis according to a CDC report that was recently released. According to the report, approximately one-third of all Americans use two or more pharmaceutical drugs, and more than ten percent of all Americans use five or more drugs on a regular basis.” It does not have to be this way for a majority of people. Yet doctors don’t want to see healthy people, since they don’t make them or “Big Pharma” any money. Only sick people do. (NOTE: Here are 50 U.S. Healthcare Statistics That Will Absolutely Astonish You)

Thanks to diet (or radical lifestyle change, as seen by many of my friends) I am now on the road to a healthy lifestyle. I feel great! Unfortunately I am still battling a left knee injury from soccer that has slowed me down for the past 40 days. During that time I have been to the doctor’s office twice, seen the orthopedic surgeon three times (totaling 12 minutes), gone through 3 weeks of physical therapy and finally, yesterday received my referral for an MRI. In my opinion that should of happened about 3 weeks ago. Then again, I am not a doctor.

As I wrote a few days ago, the physical therapist is of the opinion I have a mensical tear, NOT osteoarthritis as diagnosed by the orthopedic about 3 weeks ago. The pain has yet to improve when going through physical therapy. So in the words of my orthopedic surgeon, “congratulations you win what’s behind door number two.” That being an MRI. We will see what, if anything the MRI reveals. I am still of the opinion there is something torn in the knee and physical therapy confirmed by nagging feeling. I am still shocked at the lack of complacency by the orthopedic surgeon. To show he did care, he inquired about the numbness in my right knee, which had the ACL replaced in 2009 and tingling in my right toes. Needless to say, the numbness is still there, but he was happy to hear the tingling went away. Thanks doc! Guess I am the first to end up with a numb knee after surgery.

Coincidence?: Part IV – The Bullshit

My wife continues to tell me it’s due to insurance reasons, but I have my doubts. I called the physical therapy office today about 90 minutes later they returned my phone call, took some basic information and started the process to schedule some appointments. The first available appointment, April 3! That is three weeks away, what am I supposed to do in the meantime with a knee that continues to be a problem as described yesterday in Coincidence?: Part 3?

The moment after hanging up the phone with the PT office, I dialed the doctor’s office. I explained my situation and how the knee was doing. I explained that it would be next month before I could get in for physical therapy and if there was someone available to see me today. Unfortunately, maybe I should have pushed a bit more, the nurse practitioner, wasn’t available, but they would not have the doctor see me. Huh?

The reason was because the doctor was not the original physician to “treat” (which they didn’t) me last Monday. All I am trying to get out of this visit is an MRI and a referral to an orthopedic surgeon, someone who knows more about the true problem other than hearing “it’s a sprain, ice, heat and you’ll be fine in 6 weeks.” My body is telling me otherwise, yet nothing I have said or done seems to strike a chord with this doctor’s office.

I am set up with an unnecessary appointment (that will cost me $15) with the nurse practitioner, who will probably spend less than 5 minutes with me (again) and not provide me with additional information that I already don’t know. I would venture to guess they will be quick to prescribe medication. Way to go! Big Pharma to the rescue again. Pfft…not. Regardless of the outcome, I won’t get a definite answer on my knee until AFTER we get back from vacation (which starts Sunday). It includes a roadtrip to SoCal with stops at Disneyland and San Diego scheduled. That is one less week to recuperate IF surgery is needed to resolve the MCL issue. Unfortunately time on the books is not something I have a lot of. So the saga continues…