Protein

gotproteinA conversation was initiated by my sister the other day when she commented via Facebook Messenger regarding a reply I posted to one of her foodie pictures, “I sure did eat that chicken.” This after she had viewed Forks Over Knives and said she was considering a plant based lifestyle. Needless to say I was ecstatic to see her taking control of her health. Positive changes were on the horizon, much like my experiences, she would see weight loss, a decrease in aches/pains and an increase in energy and overall glow. These changes would benefit her when it comes to her passion, participating in Spartan Races throughout the year. I was thrilled at what the future would hold for her.

Last Monday the topic turned to protein. “Proteins are made up of amino acids. Think of amino acids as the building blocks. There are 20 different amino acids that join together to make all types of protein. Some of these amino acids can’t be made by our bodies, so these are known as essential amino acids. It’s essential that our diet provide these. 1” Eight of these amino acids the body cannot produce and require a source. Many Americans link protein with meat, prior to changing to a plant based lifestyle meat was always part of my diet. Recommendations from the USDA as “commonly eaten protein foods” list “Meats” as the top protein source, but nowhere are vegetables mentioned 2.

My sister was taken back by my answer as it related to the amount of protein I eat, “30?!?!? That’s really low. For you.” In reality that number was actually higher, 45-50 grams, as I was reciting it from memory, when I was tracking my daily food intake for nearly 2 years. I can guarantee that level would have elicited a similar surprised response. When I made the decision to stop eating “animal byproducts,” dairy and added oil I also tackled the challenge to learn nutrition. I was under many misconceptions I had been fed since I was a child learning about the food pyramid and nutrition through school.

gr-totalmeatconsumption-462All the nutritional information I have gained is supported by science and research from well known individuals like Dr. John McDougall, T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. My opinions were not formed based on “broscience” gleaned from weightlifting forums, Paleo enthusiasts or crossfitters. Nor were they taken from the USDA, supported by powerful meat trade and lobbying organizations: the American Meat Institute, the National Meat Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, all of whom have a powerful pull in Washington D.C. 3

While meat still tops the list as the primary source of protein, there are other, healthier options available, yet they go against the conventional norm. Take quinoa as example,  8 grams of protein per cup. “While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom. 4” Other foods that get shunned include; rice and beans, soy, chia, buckwheat, seitan and vegetables.

Brussel sprouts, spinach and broccoli each contain 6 grams of protein per 1 cup . Matt Frazier of NoMeatAthlete.com has a comprehensive chart of Vegetarian Protein Foods, listing the amino acid, recommended daily amounts from WHO (World Health Organization) and the best vegan sources.

The amount of misinformation continues to promote meat as the top source for protein. Wrong statements from experts include:

Although plant proteins form a large part of the human diet, most are deficient in 1 or more essential amino acids and are therefore regarded as incomplete proteins. (American Heart Association)

Single plant protein foods usually are lower in protein quality than most animal proteins because they lack significant amounts of various essential amino acids. (Tufts University Medical School)

Other protein sources lack one or more amino acids that the body can’t make from scratch or create by modifying another amino acid. Called incomplete proteins, these usually come from fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. (Harvard School of Public Health)

These are a sampling of quotes compiled by Dr. John McDougall from his monthly newsletter, the article is titled, “When Friends Ask: Where Do You Get Your Protein?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that men and women obtain 5% of their calories as protein. This would mean 38 grams of protein for a man burning 3000 calories a day and 29 grams for a woman using 2300 calories a day. This quantity of protein is impossible to avoid when daily calorie needs are met by unrefined starches and vegetables. For example, rice alone would provide 71 grams of highly useable protein and white potatoes would provide 64 grams of protein 5.

protein-fight-club-logoSo where does the confusion comes in? What is the recommended daily allowance? Why is more suddenly better? Since when are non-meat proteins “not as good?” Worse, what are the repercussions of too much protein on the body? In America, protein usually begins and ends with meat, recently we have seen the dairy industry promoting milk as a source of “high quality protein” in their ads. Unfortunately many Americans won’t question what is being promoted by the dairy and meat industry with their agendas.

Just how much protein does the body need daily? In the words of Jeff Novick, MS, RD, “I don’t know.” He goes on to say, “The only way to know the actual protein needs of any one person on any given day is to do a nitrogen balance study on that person on that day. But, realize that whatever your needs where today, they may be different tomorrow.6

Based on the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, “The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for both men and women is 0.80 g of good quality protein/kg body weight/d and is based on careful analysis of available nitrogen balance studies. 7” Using my body weight of 175 lbs (79.37 kg) that equates to 63 grams of protein daily.

In 1905 Russell Henry Chittenden published his findings on protein in Physiological Economy in Nutrition. These findings contradicted what German physiologist, Dr. Carl Voit concluded that protein intake for people should be 118 grams per day, which became known as the “Voit” standard. One hundred years ago he wrote, “We are all creatures of habit, and our palates are pleasantly excited by the rich animal foods with their high content of proteid (protein), and we may well question whether our dietetic habits are not based more upon the dictates of our palates than upon scientific reasoning or true physiological needs.7

Through experiments on himself, trials conducted at Yale University and scientific research on protein, Chittenden in 1904 concluded that 35–50 g of protein a day was adequate for adults, and individuals could maintain their health and fitness on this amount.  Studies over the past century have consistently confirmed Professor Chittenden’s findings, yet you would hardly know it with the present day popularity of high protein diets 7.

Suvée,_Joseph-Benoit_-_Milo_of_CrotonThe role of protein can be linked back to Milo of Kroton, Olympic wrestler in the sixth century B.C. said to be one of the strongest men in ancient Greece. Olympians came from the upper social strata in Greece, these families could afford to feed on more protein-rich legumes and meats to build muscle and did not have to rely on mostly breads, fruits and vegetables 8.

In the 1960s and 1970s, many people thought protein was a miracle food because muscle magazines hyped it so much. Bodybuilders and other athletes would follow diets made up mostly of meat, milk and eggs. The raw-egg milk shake was particularly popular, thanks to Rocky Balboa. Why would anyone swill such a concoction? The answer is simple: misinformation. Articles and advertising from those days falsely communicated the notion that protein from raw foods, particularly eggs, is more available to the body for building muscle than protein from cooked foods is 9.

Since the 1990s we have seen protein supplements and powders promoted. Muscle magazines ads and commercials. Misinformation regarding protein continues to fuel debate with a whirlwind of misinformation. One fact still remains, the RDA for protein intake is 8 grams per kilogram.

“Incomplete amino acids” is a term I heard constantly when I was registered at Stronglifts Forum as it relates to my plant based diet and being successful while lifting weights. This myth regarding as it relates to veganism was disproved years ago, says Jeff Novick.

The “incomplete protein” myth was inadvertently promoted and popularized in the 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappé. In it, the author stated that plant foods are deficient in some of the essential amino acids, so in order to be a healthy vegetarian, you needed to eat a combination of certain plant foods at the same time in order to get all of the essential amino acids in the right amounts. It was called the theory of “protein complementing. 10

Lappé certainly meant no harm, and her mistake was somewhat understandable. She was not a nutritionist, physiologist, or medical doctor; she was a sociologist trying to end world hunger. She realized that converting vegetable protein into animal protein involved a lot of waste, and she calculated that if people ate just the plant protein, many more could be fed. In the tenth anniversary edition of her book (1981), she retracted her statement and basically said that in trying to end one myth—the inevitability of world hunger—she had created a second one, the myth of the need for “protein complementing. 10

As the health of Americans continues to decline and obesity continues to rise when will we realize our diet is the root of the problem. “The healthy active lives of hundreds of millions of people laboring in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America on diets with less than half the amount of protein eaten by Americans and Europeans prove that the popular understanding of our protein needs is seriously flawed. 11” Since the early 1930s, meat consumption in the U.S. has risen dramatically. In 2012 an estimated 52.5 billion pounds of meat were consumed! “Though meat consumption in the U.S. has dropped off slightly in recent years, at 270.7 pounds per person a year, we still eat more meat per person here than in almost any other country on the planet. 12” On average American men consider 6.9 ounces of meat a day or 50.6 grams of protein. Women eat 4.4 ounces or 32.2 grams. 13

Health issues start and end with food on your plate. As Dr. McDougall says, “Misinformation leads to disastrous outcomes. People have serious health problems like heart disease, type-2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory arthritis that can be easily resolved by a diet based solely on plant foods. However, advice to make this dietary change may be withheld from you or a family member because of the erroneous fear that such a diet will result in a greater catastrophe, like a nutritional collapse from protein deficiency.” My awareness on how and what I eat has increased after 3 years of following a plant based diet. I am more aware of the inaccuracies that continue rear their ugly head as it relates to this lifestyle, especially protein. Yet no one can deny the health benefits I have experienced. Still with proof (me) standing in front of them, many won’t accept this lifestyle as an alternative in order to promote their health.

1. “Nutrition for Everyone: Protein.” CDC.gov, CDC, Web. 4 October, 2012.
2. “What Are Protein Foods?” USDA.gov, UDSA, Web. n.d.
3. “The Politics of Meat.” PBS.org. Steve Johnson, n.d. Web.
4. “Quinoa: March Grain of the Month.” WholeGrainsCouncil.org, Whole Grains Council, n.d. Web.
5. Bowes & Church’s Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. J Pennington. 17th Ed. Lippincott. Philadelphia- New York. 1998.
6. “Protein Requirements” jeffnovick.com, Jeff Novick, Web. 11 February, 2012
7. The McDougall Newsletter December 2003: Protein, nealhendrickson.com, Dr. John McDougall, Web. December 2003
8. “Diets of Athletes at the Ancient Olympics.” topendsports.com, Web. n.d.
9. Kleiner, Susan and Maggie Greenwood-Robinson. Power Eating-4th Edition. Mercer Island. 1998. Print
10. “The Myth of Complementary Protein.” forksoverknives.com, Jeff Novick, Web. 3 June, 2013
11. “When Friends Ask: Where Do You Get Your Protein?” drmcdougall.com, Dr. John McDougall. Web. April, 2007
12. “A Nation Of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up.” npr.org, Eliza Barclay, Web. 27 June 2012.
13. “The United States Meat Industry at a Glance.” meatami.com, Web. March 2011.

3 Years Plant Strong

3yearsToday makes it 3 years plant strong after making what some was called “extreme changes” in my life. The decision to take control of my health was unlike any other challenge I had undertaken. At 42 years of age, I was feeling overweight, rundown, sore with aches and pains, constant migraine headaches. Since turning 40 I had undergone two knee surgeries and I wasn’t the same person I was 10 years ago, even 5 years ago before taking that road less traveled on my journey to health.

I have a coworker to thank for getting the ball rolling (read Live to Eat) recommending the documentary, Forks Over Knives. After viewing this documentary I was left stunned. I didn’t know what to think, everything I thought I knew about nutrition (like most Americans) was not what it was. Many of the foods I enjoy under the guise of “health” had been promoted by conglomerates like the beef and dairy industries in order to profit not to maintain health.

FOK moved me, so much so that on the day before Halloween I made the decision to get healthy and stopped consuming foods that were making me sick and fat; meat, dairy and added oils. Many thought I was crazy and didn’t understand the reasons for these changes. In fact, many didn’t really care to listen or show interest in getting healthy. I happened upon Dr. John McDougall and my life changed. It wasn’t easy at first, as I had to learn nutrition all over and forget the inaccuracy I was fed growing up about food groups and what many Americans fail at, moderation.

Removing all meat from this way of eating was an easy decision, but wasn’t done for ethical reasons. This was the first step in a long journey to health. Cooking with added oils was challenging, as the first question I asked myself, “how am I saute my veggies?” Little did I know a small amount of water or vegetable broth works wonders and provides a real food taste instead of oil laden flavor. Dairy was the third part of the equation. As it was I didn’t drink much milk and rarely ate cereal but had never had milk alternatives; soy, almond, hemp or rice. In the end cheese would be the one “food” I missed. I struggled with not eating cheese to the point I would use that fake vegan shit, which was probably more processed and worse for you than dairy cheese.

Through it all I was able to overcome some early challenges. I made a commitment to my health and started recording everything I ate. While I wasn’t counting calories I was tracking food for my benefit, in order to see trends and provide a visual record of where I started and the goal I wanted to achieve. I purchased and read The McDougall Program: 12 Days to Dynamic Health. It was these words that reinforced what I had seen on FOK. The program sounded easy and I saw no reason I couldn’t follow it and be successful.

When I started the program I weighed 219, at times I had tipped the scale above 200 pounds, but at my physical on December 27, 2011 I weighed 216 pounds and had a total cholesterol (TC) of 264 mg/dL, which had continue to rise the previous 3 years. To think it wasn’t my pants and shirts getting smaller, but me getting larger, in part due to the fact of my poor eating habits at work and home. The health problems I faced were being fed by the dairy, meat and oil I continued to include in my diet.

It was a sign of good things to come when I weighed in on the day of my physical over 20 pounds down from where I was when I started less than 30 days ago. At the start of December I weighed in at 190 pounds and my clothes were fitting. The more impressive number I swooned over, the fact I dropped 64 points in my TC! 64 points! I was shocked and amazed that doing nothing but changing the way I ate could make such a powerful statement. It was this real world experience I required that let me know I was doing the “right thing!”

Like man who had just found Jesus, I thought this was my savior. In some regard it was, if I had not made wholesale changes in my life I would continued down that destructive road to deteriorating health. As it was I had turned my health around and I was beginning to reap the rewards and feel the benefits.

Since that day in 2011 I have learned valuable information regarding nutrition. I have connected with many individuals whose health, at one time, was worse off than I was prior to beginning. I have tried many new plant based recipes that I never knew existed, found new and exciting chefs I turn to on a daily basis. People like Julie Marie Christensen who promotes a “protective diet” Chef AJ who cooks “unprocessed” Susan Voisin who’s foods are fat free and vegan and Cathy Fisher “who has straight up good food,” just to name a few. I found I can still sink my teeth into oil free, fat free pizza thanks to Mark Sutton.

Since reaching my target weight of 175 pounds that is where I have remained (+/- 3 pounds). It’s been amazing that it actually gets easier to eat and those foods you thought you would miss, you don’t . I have no problem going to a BBQ without grabbing a slab of meat, burger or dog. No longer do I favor cheese on my pizza. Potatoes have been a godsend and is a cornerstone of this way of eating. Unlike meat, potatoes satiate my hunger. I don’t need to feel guilty eating a few pounds of potatoes a night, unlike choking down that 16 oz. steak I used to desire.

Vegetables and grains now make up my core meals, it’s not all salad, all the time. I would end up being very hungry if it were. My body now thrives on carbohydrates (goes against everything the Paleo crowd promotes) daily. I have learned how to scrutinize labels for ingredients I don’t want to eat. No longer do I (try) eat foods with additives in them. It’s amazing what the FDA approves to be used in food, my body is better for it as I won’t trust the government when it comes to how I eat.

While I would love to say a plant based diet is for everyone, sadly it is not. There are many who will swear how they eat is “healthy” or “clean” and they know how to eat in moderation. That’s great! Enjoy your food and all the best as it relates to your weight and health. While I do promote a plant based lifestyle, it’s not exclusive or better than any other diet, I just know how my body has healed itself and thrived in the past 3 years. The journey has been amazing. I look forward to improving my life as I get older.

Heathy Kids

4basicsHealthy eating shouldn’t be a consideration, but something we do every day without thinking about it. Every night I ask my son what he wants for dinner. The same question is posed to me wife, occasionally the answers are the same, “I don’t know.” “What do we have?” “I don’t care.” I am sure many mothers and wives can relate to these answers. Yet if I take their responses and cook something I want, I’d probably be the only one eating dinner.

At work last week, the topic of cooking came up in the office and someone said, “who has time to cook?” Of course I took that opportunity and chimed in, promptly being told, “yea but nobody like to eat what you cook.” That was like a dagger in my back. No one likes what I cook. Hmm. So I have been mulling that comment over the past few days, wondering how I turn that negative into a positive and possibly help my son make a transition to a healthy lifestyle. In fact it’s not difficult at all.

My wife must make her own decisions when it comes the foods she eats. I tried, pushed too hard and in some respect failed to accomplish the goal of making her plant based. I continue to hold out hope she sees and feels the benefits. While failure may be too strong of a term I went about it the wrong way. Unlike many wives who say, “I do the cooking and my husband will eat what I cook or not eat at all” or a comment that insinuates the husband doesn’t cook. Thankfully my wife can cook, very well when she does, even if I don’t favor her cooking now being plant based.

My son is 8 years old,  growing, gain weight and getting taller but my wife has a concern he is on the road to obesity. Many of his friends, it could be said would be right there with him, but that’s the last thing I want for any of these kids. The responsibility now resides on my shoulders to clean up my son’s terrible eating habits, which I am a contributing factor. I have spent the last few days reading web sites and wondering how I approach the “healthy alternative” so that my son can make a transition to a healthier lifestyle.

This question was posed on the Facebook group, Protective Diet Living. Actually my post was one in a series of posts discussing kids. I wrote,

As a parent I play a role in the development of my son (now 8) as he grows. My wife has voiced concerned over his weight. I would not consider him fat by any stretch, but knowing what I went through growing up, carrying a bit of a belly, being self conscious with no shirt on, I want my son to have a better chance at health, earlier than I did. I have been racking my brain the past 2 days and I know I have a strong basis in what I need to eat. I have a list of recipes that share basic ingredients I know he favors. I just need help making a transition for him. How do I do it? Full blown like I did? A little at a time? Do I make the meals more fun with presentation? Get him involved in the cooking? Just need a shift kick in the butt to get going. I know many of you will have some wonderful suggestions. Thanks!

Many basic staples of a plant based lifestyle are foods not uncommon in today’s diet. Foods such as potatoes, veggies, grains, including rice and legumes. Okay, so the Paleo community would disagree when it comes to staples, but they are a topic for another post. My son eats more vegetables at age 8 than I think I ate up into my early teens, so he has a good start. Unfortunately like many kids his age crap rules his diet. Those time saving frozen and processed foods are far too easy to heat up and serve, but what I am actually doing to my child?

Julie Marie Christensen, the force behind Protective Diet wrote a piece discussing parents, asking, “Many people who practice a vegan or plant based diet for health consider knowingly feeding your children foods that contribute to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity a form of child abuse. What are your thoughts or excuses for bringing these life threatening foods into you home after you know the facts?” I have no excuse, I am guilty of contributing to his poor health choices, knowing the damaging results this could have on his life. I struggle everyday to make better, healthier choices for him since I have control over what he eats.

The responses to that and a few other comments seemed to share a similar theme. While I don’t consider it child abuse, the health problems associated with a diet high in sodium, sugar and processed foods only leads to bigger problems as kids grow older. I am living proof and I will consider myself lucky I was able to rescue myself and turn around my health. I believe in what I eat and how I prepare it, I also want what is best for my son (and wife), but I don’t want to continue contributing to a poor diet that had adverse effects on our health.

Some of the suggestions I received were great and provided me some ideas on how to move forward. Most important, keep food fun. A day doesn’t go by that my wife doesn’t stress this when I am dealing with my fun. Turn tasks into a game or competition. Include my son in more of the shopping, selection and preparation of foods. What better way to learn mathematics than in the kitchen by measuring! We could easily kill homework and dinner while cooking together.

While he might be too young to understand the science behind my decision to change my lifestyle, I do stress how healthy I am now, as compared to just a few years ago. No longer do I suffer from aches and pains or rely on a handful of pills daily to make it through. He does however have some basic concepts of why I eat a plant based diet, but is continually inquiring about eating meat. I do feel changes can be made moving forward.

Food Funk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am calling it a food funk, that is what I have been in recently with the news of a triple bypass heart surgery for my dad about 12 days ago. Much of the anger, frustration, confusion and stress has subsided, but I question if what I am doing is good enough for my health and goals I have set? Many already view my way of eating as extreme, which is fine. I don’t have an issue with what or how much eat. No longer am I overweight or suffering from an increasing cholesterol number, a testament that changes to my lifestyle have resulted in a healthier being.

Much of my nutritional rebirth started with Dr. John McDougall and expanded to others; Dr. Caldwell B Esselsytn, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Jeff Novick MS RD,  along with many celebrated Internet cooks and educators who share their knowledge, experience and recipes. I won’t say what I have learned is correct, although I would like to think that, there will always be an opposing group who present information against a plant based lifestyle. That’s fine, as what works for me might not work for you.

There are also a number of people I communicated with on a daily basis via Facebook who’s opinions I respect when it comes to promoting a healthy way of eating. Many of these individuals, at one time were sicklier or heavier than I was and turned around their lifestyle. I am still amazed at the results I accomplished and that I now control my health, not the industrial medical complex or big pharma, who continually pushes pills to make you feel better.

I have been described as orthorexic, which (in my opinion) is a made up disease by Stephen Bratman, M.D. “Orthorexia nervosa (also known as orthorexia) is a proposed eating disorder or mental disorder characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy” (source). Taking that ridiculous statement into consideration, I feel I am making better decisions when it comes to foods I want to ingest, as well as foods I want to avoid. “Bratman proposes an initial self-test composed of two direct questions: “Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?…Does your diet socially isolate you?

Does my diet socially isolate me? Within my circle of coworkers and friends, yes, it probably does, but I don’t have a problem with it. I can find an acceptable and pleasurable meal nearly anywhere. Yet, people I talk to feel my way of eating is “too restrictive.” On the contrary I am probably eating a wider variety of food now than I was 2 years ago. Most everything I eat is better for me promoting my health to where it is now. No longer do I need to eat animal products (meat and dairy) in order to thrive. Yet that continues to be an uphill battle, even if you have just suffered two heart attacks and successfully had bypass surgery.

Every meal I eat is pleasurable, my motto now is “live to eat” rather than “eat to live”, which is what I was doing 2 years ago. Popular opinion or that of individuals doesn’t phase my strong convictions when it comes to how I have chosen to eat. I am happy to have cut the animals products and dramatically reduced the oils, sugars and sodium. I still have my vices, but continually monitor what I am eating, in hopes of further refining what I fuel my body with.

If those refinements see a further change in what foods I eat, in the name of health, so be it. Nothing is permanent and change can be beneficial. During my previous 2 years, I took 30 days to see how I would feel while going gluten free. While I didn’t feel any different that doesn’t mean wheat or gluten would be something to remove in the future. GMO or genetically modified organisms has been a hot topic when it comes to our food supply, which include corn and soy. These two foods are currently in my “healthy” way of eating. Some claim wheat could be damaging to your health. Chances are wheat will be the next food to be reduced or cut out. There are many other options for grains; barley, brown rice, spelt, kamut and quinoa just to name a few.

Health After Heart Surgery?

openheartThe last 10 days have been a real mental struggle for me, as it has me questioning the steps I have taken the past 2 years when it comes to lifestyle and how I maintain my health. The steps I have taken could be considered “extreme” and many find excuses not to improve their health or think they are healthy based on what they eat or the fact they exercise. But my way of eating is not perfect, I think anyone would be hard pressed to find any way of eating that is “perfect” for everyone.

It took me quite awhile to realize that how I eat can’t be pushed on other individuals. While I didn’t want this to happen, my convictions were quite strong and my good intentions probably came over a bit brash. No longer do I “push” a plant-based lifestyle, it works for me but that might not be the case for others.

My sister and I received an e-mail from our mom telling us that dad had suffered what appeared to be a minor heart attack. Needless to say, I became angered and frustrated with many of the words I had been preaching to my parents for the better part of 2 years. My dad was overweight, had high BP and was on cholesterol medication. His exercise consisted of playing golf, but usually that meant rolling up to the ball in a cart and not walking. A few years prior he had a stent implanted to improve blood flow through weakened arteries. This would hopefully would help the circulation in his legs, which was becoming a problem.

Last Thursday we received a text message saying she took him to the hospital as he “didn’t feel right” as a precaution. It probably turned out as a life saving move, as it was the onset of another heart attack. Since his admittance I have been very hard on myself; confused, angered, frustrated and questioning. Fairly or not I probably took it out on my wife and sister unintentionally. Thankfully I have an online support group who understands the life threatening situation and provided me some good information. That’s not to say my wife and sister didn’t, but the online support is a plant-based group on Facebook following the Dr. John McDougall way of eating.

I was questioning how and why this was happening and my fingers were pointing to my mom as the reason my dad was in this position. In reality that wasn’t the case, but all the years of living the lifestyle he did and the decisions he made led him to a hospital bed and days later a triple bypass heart surgery. After the first heart attack I sent my parents a copy of Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Hopefully this first visit to the hospital would be an event best not repeated. I don’t believe either of them took this seriously and based on some of the answers my mom gave me, they didn’t bother reading the book.

I will agree with my sister, eating a sweet potato won’t clean your arteries overnight, but continuing the same poor eating habits won’t strengthen your chances on not having a second heart attack. Open heart surgery isn’t the answer to someone who has years of build up and plaque in their arteries. While the success rate of open heart surgery exceeds 95%, you need to look at your lifestyle and how you are going to eat. Continuing with the same standard American diet will cause the same damage to the endothelial cells and potential blockages that will lead to further heart attacks or worse, death.

I have said before Americans don’t know moderation. They can’t moderate what they eat and when they do, the data shows they moderate the incorrect foods. Jeff Novick from the Myth of Moderation, “Moderation is no longer an option in regard to calories, or in regard to the foods we know can be harmful, or in regard to the foods we know to be beneficial.  We are so far from what constitutes healthy in America, that we have much work to do to get back to where we could once again discuss moderation.  Rationalizing the over consumption of harmful foods, or the minimal consumption of beneficial foods, with a saying that does not apply to our situation, will not help us.

While I don’t believe my parents will change their lifestyle after nearly 70 years, they need to make further changes to their post open heart surgery way of eating. Meats (yes mom, even white meats like chicken and pork) as well as oil (yes mom, even that small tablespoon) need to be limited. Meat should no longer be the focal-point of a meal, it should after as a side dish. She is amazing with grains and vegetables, so I don’t doubt she could put together some excellent meals. Will she? Probably not. I don’t care if the meat you buy is grass fed beef or the chickens are free range. It also doesn’t matter if that oil you bought is coconut, truffle or any other fancy type.

I do agree with many individuals that fats are needed in any diet, even if you are attempting to lose weight. Natural fatty foods, such as avocados, olives and nuts are just a small sampling of foods you can eat without having to dip into processed oils for cooking. While I don’t expect my parents to make the same radical changes in their lifestyle, I do hope this is that “ah ha moment” in which they look at what they eat and make changes.

It’s my hope I can see my dad drop 10-15 pounds, decrease his total cholesterol and start walking daily. This would also require the support of mom to cook “cleaner” foods that promote health. I have offered to give her countless recipes that my wife, who is rather finicky, when it comes to how I eat, enjoys on a regular basis. It requires more than just an effort, you need to make a change in your conscience to understand the steps you are taking to improve your overall health. This also means to stop drinking scotch and wine as regular as they do. My sister and I comment on the drinking regularly. Alcohol has been one of the toughest items for me to remove from my diet the past 2 years. No longer and I drinking nightly or even weekly. To be honest, I don’t miss it.

While I don’t want to single out my mom or place all the responsibility on her, hopefully they will take the words of wisdom I speak to heart when they look at life after open heart surgery. Changes can be made, even now to improve their lifestyle and health. The choice, is theirs. I can only provide information, support and most of all love.