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.

Death Isn’t an Option

Death isn’t an option. What does it take for individuals to realize something in their life needs to change when it comes to their health? I am sure many can relate to stories parents or grandparents living out their days, dying in a bed. That is NOT the way I want to live out my life. Unfortunately many won’t resolve to make changes in their lives to bring about a positive change in their lifestyle to improve their health and possibly extend their life.

It’s been about 11 months since I watched Forks Over Knives and made the decision to change my lifestyle. My blogging, in conjunction with posting and reading threads on Dr. McDougall’s Discussion Boards reaffirms the changes I have made to improve my quality of life. The question often arises, “What was that ah-ha moment” that made you realize you needed to change your diet? For me, it was the documentary and I can’t thank my co-work enough for turning me on to it.

Yesterday I received word that my gym partner of 6 months and co-worker for the last 6 years passed away after suffering a heart attack. He was admitted to the hospital on Friday and passed away yesterday. Not exactly sure what transpired over the weekend after he was admitted. He wasn’t exactly a spitting image of health, even though he was muscular and strong. He had been suffering from a heart condition for a few years.

At work, he was like many other co-workers in our office, not accepting my decision to cut out meat, dairy and oil from my diet to improve my health. As a weight lifter he was into his protein, either from meat or through the use of supplement shakes. His protein intake was considerably higher than the levels I chose to follow, opting of a more normal level, approximately 60 grams/daily. Only seeing him at work, I saw just a glimpse of how poorly he ate. Along with lots of red meats, it was a high volume of soda as well, coupled with the aforementioned protein supplements and shakes.

I am sure diet played a role in the final outcome, although I will never truly know. Obviously there were other underlying issues that contributed to the downfall and eventual death of a friend. Not sure any of my comments relating to diet ever got through to him, based on what I saw at work and his eating habits, nothing had changed.

Outside of work, we spent the last 6 months working out 3 to 4 times a week. Joining a sports club (aka gym), I was excited to add the exercise portion of a healthy lifestyle to my schedule, but was hesitant because I did not know how to use a gym effectively. This is where my buddy stepped in.  He helped me with basic moves and exercises designed to work specific body parts each session with lifted together. For those introductory knowledge I am very thankful I knew him and had a chance to work out with him.

As I said it’s an unfortunately situation and I am sadden at the loss of a friend and co-worker who leaves behind a son and daughter. This loss only strengthens my resolve that I have the correct choices in swearing off Big Pharma, eliminating unhealthy foods (meat, dairy and oil) from my diet and spending 3-4 days a week exercising. At no other time in my life have I felt as healthy as I have the last few months. I miss how I feel when I can’t get to the gym. Thankfully I have been very good and haven’t strayed fall on my newly developed eating habits.

Rest in peace Rob, you will be missed.