PD – Day 4

Accountability! Isn’t that what it is all about? If you are not accountable for your actions and decisions, who should be? The answer, no one! The New Year always rings in many resolutions from many people looking to make change. A 2016 article cites, “ 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions, according to one commonly cited statistic. There are many reasons people can’t stick to their resolutions, from setting too many of them to getting derailed by small failures.”

For those who follow a Protective Diet lifestyle we must learn to build on what we’ve started. For me, I started this whole foods, plant-based journey in 2011 behind Dr. John McDougall and the documentary, Forks Over Knives. Thankfully I found my way to Julie and her Protective Diet, taking the plant-based lifestyle to a healthier dimension. I do appreciate all the information supplied by Dr. McDougall because without him, I probably would have never made the change.

My transformation was staggering, to say the least, but not unexpected. However, there were points in the journey that saw me take a few steps back before making a small gain. Maybe that is to be expected. We know this lifestyle has amazing health benefits, we watch Julie and listen to her on a variety of lifestyle topics. We read testimonials from other PD members but yet we still hold onto some doubt that it won’t work.

While I never stopped following a Protective Diet lifestyle, I did slide far enough away that I needed to reassess where my health was at. A blood test was not needed to tell me I wasn’t in a good place, every time I stopped to get fast food, I felt guilty, knowing it was a wrong decision, yet nearly every time I went through with it. So here I sit, looking to build up a strong foundation I laid years ago. Thanks to people like Julie Christensen, John McDougall, Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Campbell.

While I did not resolve to “follow a PD lifestyle” ahead of 2018, I did recommit myself to change. Again, pictures are worth a thousand words and while it might be monotonous seeing my before/after picture, it’s a driving factor for me. I recall how strong I felt when I participated in my final Tough Mudder event in 2014. The previous year was even stronger, as I said, “I accomplished more than I ever could imagine. While I won’t call Tough Mudder easy, it wasn’t as difficult as I had made it out to be. I had fears to face out on the course, which only strengthened my resolve and increased my confidence when I accomplished certain obstacles.” This was a result of improving my health and gaining strength.

Even now, I am sure there will times of weakness or exception made. While I admire those who hit that “100% PD compliant,” I am not sure I am at that point. Yet. Even when I was a mindful eater, running and lifting weights on a regular basis, I still had my weak moments but those did not dominate my lifestyle, like they do now. Those little moments did snowball and gain momentum, which eventually saw my lifestyle and health do a complete turnaround for the worst. So maybe those “weak moments” are the ones I attempt to work out this time in order to achieve and more importantly, maintain my health.

Commitment to Health

pd_comparisonThis October will represent 5 years since I have taken control of my health thanks in part to Dr. John McDougall and Julie-Marie Christensen of Protective Diet. It’s amazing and powerful to see the foods we eat and their effect on our health. While I don’t want to measure my success solely in terms of weight loss, there were many benefits that went along with losing 44 pounds in 10 months. Many ailments and problems I had seemingly disappeared as a result to my commitment to health, results of my blood tests revealed my high cholesterol had decreased by 134 points! Looking in the mirror I saw a new, slimmer, healthier person looking back. It was a great feeling! Here’s a quick video, look for me at the 5:21 mark.

Along with these benefits, I took up running, to help supplement the weight training I had started. With a renewed vigor I started participated in Tough Mudder with co-workers, which tested my mental and physical abilities. I wanted to push  and learn what limits my body could endure, so I signed up for my first half marathon, which I finished in 1:58, followed by my first 50k (31.7 miles) a year later in 8:53. If that wasn’t enough I have run three 50 mile races the past 2 years, posting a PR earlier this year of 13:40! The results were proof to me that without taking control of my health none of this would have been possible.

It’s amazing to hear Julie speak about her passion that is Protective Diet, she inspires many she touches with her (and Jerry’s) positive message about health and the foods we eat. Reading and hearing testimonies from other ‘PD lifers’ should be proof that what Julie teaches works. While I was never skeptical, I was impressed with how I further cleaned up a diet that already had removed meats, dairy and oils. Seeing the many vibrant and smiling individuals on the Protective Diet Living page only helped to reinforce her message and my life changing decision.

Somewhere during my journey, over the past 4 years I hit a bump, which turned into a slide and suddenly I found myself out of control, falling back on poor decisions and bad habits. Through it all I stuck to the basics that got me here; no meat, dairy and oil while following a starch based diet as Dr. John McDougall promotes. Yet the gains I had achieved were slowly fading into the past. I attempted to remain positive, knowing that if I achieved these improvements before I could do it again! A list could be draw up, excuses made but honestly, what good would it serve? None, I lapsed and now it’s time to refocus and get my health back on track.

Today was ‘Day 1’ and I am sure MANY Protective Diet Living subscribers know what I am talking about. As the saying goes, “tomorrow is a new day…” That is what today was, a new day, one in which I watch Lesson #97 on Protective Diet to get me pointed in the right direction and take control of my health, so I can look and feel like I did a short time ago.

At no point do I feel as if I failed myself or others when it comes to this lifestyle, as I was able to stick to the basic principles, but Julie is able to take that change to the next level. That is where I want to return to. Being able to confidently say I love what I eat and how I feel. No one should ever feel as if they “can’t do this” or “won’t have success.” I know both of these statements will not hold me back as I have bigger plans in the future.

With so much going on in life, free time hasn’t been abundant, but the time I had could have been spent more wisely with regards to running, an activity I thoroughly enjoy. Earlier this year I had plans to add two more ultra marathons to my list. The first, Pioneer Spirit 50, a 50 mile race from Cool to Folsom with a portion of the trail familiar thanks in part to running the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run, twice. This was supposed to be a training run in August, for the Folsom Lake Ultra Trail 110k, a a 68.35 mile race around Folsom Reservoir. Both races are more difficult and challenging, mentally and physically. Right now I am not at my best health, but both these races are on my calendar for 2017.

If that’s not enough running, I plan on attempting my first 100 mile race in March next year at the Razorback Endurance. This will be the first time at this distance with a 36 hour cutoff and relatively no vertical component on the 2-mile loop. This is truly the biggest challenge I want to attempt, even if it’s only one time. In order to be successful I need to be mentally and physically prepared for this challenge.

The 21 meal menu is complete, ingredients purchased as I look forward to the next few weeks using the Guide to Optimal Health as a reference to regain my health, fitness and feel better about myself. Lots of support from many individuals who are following the same lifestyle, so I am not going at this alone. If I can master this, ANYONE can! Time to eat…

Here’s a quick video, look for me at the 5:21 mark.

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.

Put Down the Fork


People need to put down the fork and pay attention to what is happening to their health. Many won’t, continuing to eat an industrial, Western pattern or “standard American diet,” characterized by high intakes of red meat, sugary desserts, high-fat foods, and refined grains. It also typically contains high-fat dairy products, high-sugar drinks, and higher intakes of processed meat (source).

Your worst enemy, the fork. This utensil has lead to one-third (34.9% or 76.4 million) of U.S. adults being obese. “Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death” (source). Yet with obesity numbers continuing to rise and the top 11 pharmaceutical companies seeing profits of $85 billion (in 2012), the message continues to be largely ignored.

Just over 3 years ago I was the poster boy for these “sad” choices in my diet. I failed to heed warning signs as my body was continually poisoned. Sickness and maladies plagued me, headaches were becoming a constant in daily life and my weight continued to increase. I was misguided to believe my pants and shirts, now ill fitting were getting smaller, as there were always bigger, comfortable, better fitting clothes to buy. That lifestyle changed overnight thanks to Forks Over Knives when I took control of my health

As we approach Thanksgiving, I have much to be thankful for. I have a beautiful wife, wonderful son, a great job, good friends and most importantly, my health. That’s similar to what some of my co-workers would say, with the except of controlling their health. As traditionally happens at the workplace, a potluck takes place and each employees provides a dish to share. This year, many wanted to pass on the early helping of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes and opted to do breakfast/brunch.

givethanksWhile sharing ideas I was taken back by the negativity, jokes and rude comments when offering plant based suggestions to share. The responses were not surprising, the entire office knows I follow a strict plant based lifestyle, which some believe is void of flavor and no fun. Through education, experience and challenging myself with plant based recipes nothing could be further from the truth. I use my wife is the measuring stick, if she eats the plant based recipes I cook and likes it others will too!

The reality of the situation, it no longer bothers me but one would think I was offering servings of poison by the reactions I receive every time we discuss food and toss out truly healthy alternatives. Why? Can’t people accept he fact they can be healthy AND happy? As Dr. John McDougall says, “People love to hear good news about their bad habits.” That is how many individuals have chosen to eat and many willingly accept the future consequences to their health. Give plants a chance and be thankful.

Potato Hack Redux

potatoesIn April, 2013 I participated in a potato hack for 20 days. It was a simplified, starch based way of eating for 20 days based off the ‘All Hail the Potato Challenge‘ found on the McDougall Forums last March. While I had achieved great health leading up to this challenge, I was looking to use my 20 days in order to “reset myself” and consume those foods that got me to where I am today. Over the last 12 months I feel my diet has improved from where I was this time last year. Yet my eating habits continue to get me in trouble from time to time.

Satiety or the feeling or condition of being full after eating food, is what Dr. John McDougall promotes when it comes to a plant based lifestyle.  Unfortunately, I have found myself eating more and more, especially at dinner time, which results in a “stuffed” feeling. It’s not just a single meal, looking back over a typical day I can identify failures starting without breakfast. These habits have seen my weight increase, lipid panel results increase and have a “blah” sort of feeling all day.

Food choices have improved, thanks in part to Julie Marie at Protective Diet (formerly Plant Purity), which I wrote about last year prior to starting my potato hack. Her recipes, like those from McDougall are meat, dairy and oil free. Yes, this includes chicken and fish, which are both meat. You would be surprised how many times people ask that question. It also include ALL oil. Yes, even those fancy oils that are promoted as “healthy” in your diet. Julie takes eating to a new level removing “nuts, sugar, artificial sweeteners and food additives.”

Now, you might be asking yourself, “What the hell do you eat?” Plenty of good, healthy, natural food that is satiating! I usually try to eat through out the day without a need to count calories or worry about eating too much. When I started following a plant based diet I used Fit Day as a tool to monitor my weight loss, which reinforced the fact my shirts and pants fitting better. Julie makes 123 recipes available for free on Protective Diet (just register for FREE). Prior to this, I was following an “SOS” approach promoted by Chef AJ and Ramses Bravo cutting out the “evil trinity” of sugar, oil and sodium.

Excess sodium intake has never been a problem in the past. Rarely did I pick up a salt shaker to “add flavor” to my meal (unless it was meat) prior to a plant based lifestyle. I understand sodium has been linked with hypertension, “which is an established risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. In addition, excess sodium/salt intake has been associated with stomach cancer, osteoporosis, edema, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, headache, angina, left ventricular hypertrophy, arteriosclerosis, and autoimmune problems.” (source)

The real culprits are sugar and food additives, which can be very difficult to cut out, but a diet based on whole foods makes this transition easier. “The warnings about sugar are mere whispers at best. Yet sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine, and Americans are consuming 152 pounds of sugar a year!” (source) For example after giving up dairy, I was introduced to almond milk, which is a great replacement for dairy milk. Yet 1 cup of Blue Diamond Vanilla Flavored Almond Breeze is loaded with 13 grams of sugar as well as a plethora of additives that my body doesn’t need; EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, CALCIUM CARBONATE, NATURAL VANILLA FLAVOR WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS, SEA SALT, POTASSIUM CITRATE, CARRAGEENAN, SUNFLOWER LECITHIN, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, VITAMIN D2, D-ALPHA-TOCOPHEROL.

Additives aren’t easy to spot sometimes, disguised under the title of “natural flavoring” or “spices” under ingredients. Take MSG, “There are more than 25 names for MSG, so sometimes you find it spread out a little, just in case the manufacturer gets “checked out” by anyone other than the FDA. (source) These additives are synthesized by chemists so you desire more in order to get you addicted. “… they want you to only experience the best 1 millionth part of the taste – so you get “addicted” and keep having to go back for more and more, searching continuously for gratification – eating more of that product which in turns fills Big Food Companies pockets.” (source)

Many consumers don’t pay close attention to ingredients and know what these harmful substances can do (More on additives in a future T6F post). Many have been linked to cancer in animal studies, are carcinogenic, tumor causing and others that cause serious health related issues. So why ingest them?

I digress as I have moved away from my original point of having improved my eating habits thanks to Protective Diet. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back and examine those habits and ask yourself “Am I doing everything I can for my health?” I know my diet still had flaws and I cravings that occasionally flair. For me, following a plant based wasn’t good enough.

Recently there have been times where I have consumed food I shouldn’t have for various reasons. Sometimes these “foods” are the best available option, other times I am hungry, without food. For example, white rice is probably the one food I exploit regularly. Within walking distance of Chinatown in Oakland, there are so many Asian restaurants, but most include ingredients or foods that I don’t eat. White rice, is simple, easy and satiating, but not as healthy as brown rice.

As many know, sometimes you don’t need a reason to eat off plan, you do it, forget about it and move on. Stating December 1 I will go 20 days basing my meals around potatoes…again! Mashed, baked, unfried, steamed, covered with cheese, chili, gravy or vegetables. Every meal I eat will contain potatoes in some form or fashion. This will allow me to “reset” myself and start the year off on the right foot.