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 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, Web. 4 October, 2012.
2. “What Are Protein Foods?”, UDSA, Web. n.d.
3. “The Politics of Meat.” Steve Johnson, n.d. Web.
4. “Quinoa: March Grain of the Month.”, 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”, Jeff Novick, Web. 11 February, 2012
7. The McDougall Newsletter December 2003: Protein,, Dr. John McDougall, Web. December 2003
8. “Diets of Athletes at the Ancient Olympics.”, Web. n.d.
9. Kleiner, Susan and Maggie Greenwood-Robinson. Power Eating-4th Edition. Mercer Island. 1998. Print
10. “The Myth of Complementary Protein.”, Jeff Novick, Web. 3 June, 2013
11. “When Friends Ask: Where Do You Get Your Protein?”, Dr. John McDougall. Web. April, 2007
12. “A Nation Of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up.”, Eliza Barclay, Web. 27 June 2012.
13. “The United States Meat Industry at a Glance.”, Web. March 2011.

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.

Grocery Fat

fat_americaIt’s quite appalling to walk through my local supermarket, be it Raley’s or WinCo Foods and see the crap many shoppers toss into their cart. It’s really no surprise when you look at the individual pushing the cart and they are fat. Sorry, I don’t need to be politically correct and say, “obese”? Does that put a more medical feel to this alleged disease? It’s not a disease, it’s individuals making poorly informed decisions as to the fuel they feed their body with.

Just take a look at some of the statistics as it relates to this “disease” and then look at how simple the solution could be, if people were to learn nutrition and become responsible they would not need to rely on the medication establishment to find a cure.

  • More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese
  • The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.

I will consider myself very lucky, as I was on the road to obesity 2 years ago but looking back it took a serious commitment and desire to make sure I did not end up another suffering statistic.

The numbers are staggering! It’s as if the population doesn’t care what they eat or the related health problems they suffer. As long as the medication establishment continues to push their drugs and provide “medical miracles”, consumers will go on eating as if it’s their last meal.


obesity2010If the thought of heart disease, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure or diabetes doesn’t scare you, then go on and eat whatever the hell you want. Being healthy isn’t completely on how you look, as those looks can be deceiving. It’s how healthy you are on the inside, which is why blood tests are imperative. You have no idea if you are one Big Mac away from a clogged artery or a coronary artery bypass graft.

Yet there is America (31.8%), a percentage point behind Mexico (32.8%) as the fattest nation among developed countries (source). The CDC images above are quite telling. We are all getting fat, especially the southeast. Yet many individuals are not willing to look at their diet and blame themselves for how they look or feel. As the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” That is how it goes with nutrition, you can provide the populous with the necessary information, but if they don’t use it, the situation will continue to spiral out of control.

Two years ago I learned nutrition, not what the schools taught, as I now believe they got it wrong and I was misled growing up. Armed with this valuable information I made drastic changes in my way of eating and shed 44 pounds in 10 months! Two years later my weight remains at my goal weight of 175 lbs and my total cholesterol is at 150 mg/dL. Now these are just two indicators of my health, but after 44 years I have never felt or looked better.

Why is it so difficult to change what you eat? I am sure if left unchecked, my weight would be approaching 230-240 lbs. Why? Because I was like many typical Americans eating those fast and processed foods (frozen) loaded with fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar and carbohydrates (the processed type). I was appalled at just how bad my way of eating had become. Thankfully I was able to look outside of the box, learn about nutrition and then commit to changing my lifestyle for myself, my wife and son.

I am not preaching to go out as I did and give up meat, dairy and added oil because it’s not easy. It’s even more difficult to control the intake of sodium and sugar since my taste buds had become so accustomed to foods high in both of these additives. Take a minute next time you are in shopping and pull off random items from the shelf, there is a high probability it contains HFCS or high fructose corn syrup. Better yet, read up on 5 reasons high fructose corn syrup will kill you. “Why is the corn industry spending millions on misinformation campaigns to convince consumers and health care professionals of the safety of their product? Could it be that the food industry comprises 17 percent of our economy?

If small steps were take by individuals obesity could be slowed and even reversed, but you are responsible for taking that first step. For some it’s a step that will never come. For others it’s a step they don’t believe they need to take (oh, I am already healthy). Yet for a few, who take that step they could be rewarded with better healthy and longevity.

While none of the “small steps” are simple, I believe cutting out all added oil is one of the best ways to start turning your health around. I don’t have statistical data or case studies to back it up. I do have a wonderful quote from Dr. Caldwell B Esselstyn and a piece I wrote regarding the myths associated with oil. It could that the benefits don’t necessarily outweigh the drawbacks. No longer do I sauté with oil or add ANY oil in all the cooking I do. When I shop, I make it a point to buy products that don’t include oil, even the exotic oils like palm, coconut, cottonseed, grape seed, or the “heart healthy” oil olive.

I challenge you, to challenge yourself and make a small change in the way you see and eat food. Remove dairy from your diet for a week, don’t use oil in cooking. Opt for almond milk instead of cow puss. Make it a point NOT to include meat in your cooking for 7 days. If you really feel up for a challenge try the 10-day free program that got me on the road to health and taught me about nutrition. The overall benefits have been amazing. Hopefully you can live longer and feel better physically and mentally. Live to eat, don’t eat to live.

Measure My Health

measure-healthHow does one measure healthy? If you are skinny, you might consider yourself healthy. Some who claim to “eat clean” seem to think they are health. Eating low carbo or low fat, selecting “lean” or “grass fed” animals possibly makes one believe they are healthy. I now measure my health in terms of my blood work results. I have been doing this since I changed my diet back in 2011.

No doctor, diet or article can replace the evidence for changing my lifestyle to a plant-based, whole foods diet. The results have been nothing short of amazing! Some individuals I communicate with claim any change in my diet would have shown positive results in my blood work. Maybe they are true to a degree, but I don’t believe I would be at the same level of health if I were still eating a diet that consisted of animal products, dairy and oil.

When I was 39 years old I decided to start getting yearly physicals, as I had a myriad of ailments that were causing my problems. Along with an ACL replacement in my right knee I had abdominal pains, as yet undiagnosed Plantar Fasciitis, constant migraine headaches, what was thought to be arthritis in my left hand and lateral epicondylitis or “Tennis elbow.” It wasn’t until I was 41 that I realized I was sick, overweight and in considerable pain.

Previous blood work results revealed I was not seeing any improvement in my health. My weight, blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol continued to rise. No longer was diet the solution. Enter statins (Read LDL is Bad). These were short lived, as I suffered leg cramps, which is a common side effect along with headaches (possibly related to the continual migraines), gas, heartburn and stomach problems. Who knows what else this medication was doing to me! Without consulting my doctor I stopped taking simvastatin and attempted to make further changes in my diet, but found myself feeling hungry.

As I continued to look for alternatives to medication, I started to change how I cooked. Just one month after my physical in July, 2011 I wrote, “Since my physical I am reevaluating how I eat. I’ll be honest, my diet is not good, but it’s not too terribly bad. I know, I don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis and probably drink a bit too much beer on my days off. But I really avoid sweets and don’t over eat, which seems to be a common problem in the U.S.

While changing what I ate helped, seeing some early success (dropping 4 pounds) was really nothing but a facade, as I continue to use cheese and oils, while looking for vegetarian offerings that my wife would enjoy. I had limited success with a few casseroles, pasta dishes and soup. They were “lighter” but honestly not much healthier than how I had been eating. It would be 3 months later before viewing Forks Over Knives and making radical changes in my diet that would change my lifestyle forever.

Now some 19 months later I continue to reap the benefits of a plant-based whole foods lifestyle as taught by Dr. John McDougall. This journey of “enlightenment” has been nothing short of amazing on the road to health. I probably overstate this every time I speak about the improvements in my health. Every day I feel better than the last, no longer eating to live, but living to eat.

Blood work still plays a major part in my health, as it does many like-minded individuals I communicate with in certain plant-based circles. Since changing my diet I look forward to getting blood drawn and more important wait like a kid on Christmas Eve to get the results and see how my numbers have changed, hopefully for the better.  I haven’t had much luck getting my physician to sign off on blood work other than my physical. Thankfully he has wanted to follow up on a few other numbers (Vitamin D) and I had a few additional tests outside my yearly physical.

Last month, at the insistence of my wife I finally decided to look into life insurance. Being in good health it was something that I figure I did not need, but she wanted the reassurance that IF something went wrong (not health related) that she and my son would be taken care of. I guess that is something I take for granted and don’t really think of. So I started researching life insurance and the companies that offered it. When I settled on a company I called and spoke with a representative, who provided me with the details on term life insurance.

After a series of health and lifestyle questions, she informed me I would be required to get blood work done. Excellent! Another opportunity to check the “health” of my blood. I was excited at the prospect. I received the results yesterday and have started reading through them and comparing them to previous results. Based on my July 31, 2012 results my numbers were trending down. This was the last blood test I had taken. Results from that test:

July 31, 2012
Weight: 172 pounds
Chol: 130 mg/dL
Trig: 162 mg/dL
HDLC: 35 mg/dL
Chol/HDLC Ratio: 3.7 H
LDL: 63 mg/dL
Non-HDLC: 95 mg/dL

The only number last July that was still a concern was the Triglycerides level at 162 mg/dL. It was also the only number my doctor commented on telling me to cut back on carbohydrates, specifically potatoes. Uh, okay doc. Needless to say I did not follow his “recommendation” and continued to eat a starch based diet, as promoted by Dr. McDougall. The big change between July, 2012 and now is the level of exercise. I had gone from 3 days a week with some cardio work to lifting weights 3 days a week and running 3-4 days week. The level of weight lifting has increased greatly since October and running has been routine for the last 2 months.

May 8, 2013
Weight: 175 pounds
Chol: 146 mg/dL (+16)
Trig: 136 mg/dL (-26)
HDLC: 44 mg/dL (+7)
Chol/HDLC Ratio: 3.3 H (-0.4)
LDL: 63 mg/dL (+11)
Non-HDLC: not measured

Starting with weight, it’s no surprise I have seen an increase from my low of 172 pounds. My goal weight was 175 pounds and I have been within a few pounds of that since hitting my goal weight. With any luck I will see an increase in weight as I continue to add muscle to my body, while reducing my body fat. The hydrostatic test is scheduled for June 20.

My total cholesterol increased from my all time low of 130 to 146. I am not sure why or how this number increased over the last 9 months since my diet does not include meat or dairy. The only answer I can come up with is the fact I use nuts and nut butters on a regular basis. Knowing these both contain oils and fats, I do use them in moderation (with my cheese sauces), but have found an acceptable alternative (white beans). Avocados would be the only other culprit of a high saturated fat food. Those are used more infrequent and usually as guacamole.

I am pleased with the drop in Triglycerides by 26 points (now 136), this appears to be well under control. In my assessment it was the amount of alcohol I was drinking that led this number to remain elevated. While I haven’t cut the beer out completely, I no longer drink a 6 or 12 pack while working around the house and finding alternatives, such as Crystal Geyser or La Croix to quench my thirst. I will need to look at the “normal range” provided by my doctor, not quite sure when 136 would fall, but based on the Mayo Clinic anything under 150 is normal. The Chol/HDLC Ratio dropped as well, which indicates a lower risk factor for coronary heart disease.

Overall, I a continue to be pleased with the progress I am making. I continue to follow the plant-based, whole foods way of eating with very little cheating or straying too far away from what got to me this level of health. Like life, there is always room for improvement and I will continue to work towards making myself “heart attack proof” as Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn talks about in his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

Both HDL and LDL increased in the past 9 months. I am not trying to get stuck on the LDL (or bad) being increased, as the overall total cholesterol number is still below 150 (146). Interesting to note that even with the 11 point increase in the LDL it is reflected as “LOW” on the results