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.

2014 Lab Results

Lipid-panelPrior to changing to a plant based lifestyle I never really paid attention to the lab results at my yearly physical. My doctor never showed me the results, rarely did I inquire, but he always focused on one number, total cholesterol (TC). So it came as no surprise when he prescribed me a statin in 2011 to control my increasing TC. Thankfully I was able to control and lower it rather than experiencing the negative side effects from statin use. Diet and an increase in exercise saw my number drop from 264 mg/dL to 130 mg/dL. An amazing 130 points in just a year! This after  my doctor told me I would never have “normal” cholesterol level again with medication.

The July, 2012 the lipid panel results were the best I had every experience. I was dedicated to a plant based lifestyle and had introduced weight training and cardio to my exercise regime. By October, 2013 and my yearly physical, the TC had increased to 152 mg/dL, yet nothing had changed in my eating habits. I was continuing to follow a strength training program and I was running 5 times a week. I couldn’t finger the change that resulted in my lipid panel results increasing.

Yesterday I received the results of my most current lipid panel online. The great part with this, it now charts your results with previous results and you can see how you are trending. Much to my dismay my TC had jump again, bordering on similar results I received in 2011. The total cholesterol had increased to 193 mg/dL. Frustrated, I turned to the Protective Diet support group in search of answers.

In my mind I have this lifestyle well in control and my blood results would confirm I was healthy and thriving. Unfortunately it felt like I walked into a wall when I saw the results. Maybe I should place blame on my physician for focusing so much on a single number, cholesterol.

The lipid panel is much more than just a single number. Comparing numbers with my 2012 results reveal an increase in HDL (good cholesterol) by 11 points (now 49). Triglycerides, which I have been struggling with since the start continued to trend down, now 136 (decrease of 11 points). Yet the LDL number continued to increase, now 117 (up from 85). A new number was introduced, ‘Very Low Density Lipoprotein C’ with a value of 27 (normal range 5-40 mg/dL). What those results mean are yet to be determined by the physician. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) it won’t be my regular doctor, who is still out due to back surgery. I am seeing another doctor in the office, which could be a positive experience. I will know tomorrow.

Now that the waiting it over and I have my blood results just what do they mean? As I mentioned, I am a bit frustrated that my TC didn’t stay around the 150 level, sometimes termed “heart attack proof” even if that is more of a mind set than a reality. Regardless of health everyone is at risk, some higher than others, of a heart attack. It may sound funny, but I take pride in my lipid panel results, as it gives me confirmation that the changes I have made in my lifestyle have been successful.

Looking back over the last 12 months and examining my diet just what have I changed? Eating habits haven’t changed, introducing “animal byproducts” as my friend Susan calls them, hasn’t happened. Neither has adding oil or dairy back into my diet. At this point I would call myself about 90% compliant when it comes to following Julie Marie’s Protective Diet. While I continue to maintain a plant based lifestyle, there have been times where I made the decision to eat a meal that contained oil. Yet those times can be counted on two hands over the course of the last 12 months.

So where does the problem lie? I believe it’s a combination of lack of exercise and that 10% of non compliance. The longer I follow a plant based lifestyle, the easier it gets. The desire for cheese is gone, the smell of BBQ is still wonderful, but I don’t miss the feeling of raw chicken or having to pick up a slab of meat. Oil (it’s a junk food) is not an ingredient I cook with, regardless of properties many claim oils have. Yet that last 10% could be causing the strife I am dealing with.

As for running, yes, I love to run long distances, but time has not been something I have been afforded the last 6 months. I have too many responsibilities and priorities and don’t not enough time for myself to take an hour and run. The combination of those two factors lead me to conclude I need to focus a bit more on eating healthier, making better decisions and to set some time aside to exercise.

Julie from Protective Diet said, “don’t be alarmed. As long as you are eating a PD you are eating a Protective Diet. Meaning you are diligently eating on plan and doing everything in your power to lower your risks of heart disease and all disease in generalI wouldn’t worry about it. You are on track and the poster of health!” These are some wonderful words of wisdom to remember as I move forward. I am eating “on plan” and very pleased with the progress I have made since setting my 2014 Resolutions and continue to minimize and eliminate foods that are addictive and unhealthy.

Protective Diet Testimonial

Before & AfterAugust, 2011 had me utter the word, “vegan” for the first time. After my yearly physical total cholesterol had climbed to 264 mg/dL and would continue to increase unless I took preventive measures. My family physician prescribed me a statin, which was told would help “control” my TC but not reverse the condition. Weeks later I discontinued medication in search of alternatives. On October 30, 2011 I made the decision to take control of my health and look at the alternatives after viewing Forks Over Knives.

Julie Christensen’s Plant Purity (website before Protective Diet) came into my life after transitioning to a plant based lifestyle based around Dr. John McDougall’s teachings. This lifestyle made sense, reading success stories and experiencing weight loss and maladies disappear personally give me confirmation I made the right decision.

Prior to going plant based my weight was borderline obese, I was plagued by constant migraine headaches, side aches, plantar fasciitis, constipation and underwent two knee surgery that could possibly have been avoided. My numbers prior to a plant based lifestyle were staggering:

July 26, 2011
Weight: 216 pounds
Chol: 263 mg/dL
Trig: 269 mg/dL
HDLC: 37 mg/dL
Chol/HDLC Ratio: 7.1 H
LDL: 172 mg/dL
Non-HDLC: 225 mg/dL

The first recipe I cooked were Julie Marie’s Cheezy Scalloped Potatoes. It was the first time I used nutritional yeast in a recipe but I was hooked when the pan was pulled from the oven. It wouldn’t take a year to see impressive changes in my health. Inside of 30 days I felt better, looked better and had made impressive strides down my road to health. On December 20, just 51 days later I was shocked with my blood results:

December 20, 2011
Weight 193 pounds
Chol: 199 mg/dL
Trig: 210 mg/dL
HDLC: 37 mg/dL
Chol/HDLC Ratio: 5.4 H
LDL: 120 mg/dL
Non-HDLC: 162 mg/dL

While I remember Julie rolling out PD-ed, I hesitated to join, not because I didn’t believe in her program, but due to procrastination. I wanted the exclusive recipes, I wanted to be part of a group who accepted and supported each other, not to mention access to Julie and Jerry and everything they bring to Protective Diet.

On December 31, 2013 I made a resolution “to drive out the sodium and sugar” in my already clean approach to eating. Julie had the perfect solution to this. I registered for her PD-ed to “to decrease the dependency on sugars and nuts while enhancing my health with further education and information regarding nutrition.”

Since joining PD-ed I have continued my education in nutrition through Julie’s webcasts. Every recipe I have made from Protective Diet has been wonderful, but more importantly quick and easy. Her direction and inspiration has allowed me to further improve my plant based lifestyle. As of October 30, 2013 my health continued to flourish. Blood results were excellent:

October 10, 2013
Weight 175 pounds
Chol: 152 mg/dL
Trig: 147 mg/dL
HDLC: 38 mg/dL
Chol/HDLC Ratio: 4.0 H
LDL: 85 mg/dL
Non-HDLC: 114 mg/dL

To this day, I don’t believe I would have made the strides I have without finding Protective Diet and following Julie’s recommendations. With this new found health I have never felt better. In 2013 I trained and ran my first half marathon under 2 hours. A year later I challenged myself and ran my first 50K in under 9 hours. There is no challenge to big conquer. Julie’s approach allows each individual to take control of their health and flourish. I owe my health to everything she has dedicated to bringing to those willing to listen.


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.

Midlife Crisis

keep-calm-it-s-only-a-mid-life-crisisAfter reading this article in the Daily Mail, I guess I am struggling with a midlife crisis that I never knew I was in the midst of. The “poll of 2,000 adults found that taking part in extreme sports and investing in high-tech gadgets were also indicators of reaching middle-age.” I agree with the quarter that called the term cliché, but at age 42 I did decide to change my lifestyle and improve my health, but not because of a midlife crisis.

With the exception of my family, my health is the most important thing to take care of. At age 42 I realized I was being fed more and more medication for my ailments and after two knee surgeries I could no longer stay active playing soccer. I was feeling lethargic, sick and my weight had started to balloon to 216 pounds, tipping the scale at over 220 pounds at my heaviest. Something had to change, as I struggled with migraine headaches, joint and side pains with no relevant cause, Plantar fasciitis in my right foot. Age had started to take its toll and I was feeling terrible every time I threw back a handful of medication that wasn’t the answer.

More than a crisis, this was a period of enlightenment and I feel very fortunate that something inside me clicked and told me, “this is the right thing to do.” My doctor called my decision “extreme” and my wife thought it would just be temporary. Believe me, I would have killed to have this change happen in my mid-20s rather than my 40s, but I am thrilled it happened and I have embraced it for all it’s worth.

Now, two and a half years later after changing my diet, adopting a whole foods, plant based lifestyle I no longer rely on medication or my family doctor. My health is through the roof, so to speak and the blood work results support positive change in my life. It took just 10 months to shed 44 unwanted pounds, losing nearly 4 inches in my waist! More importantly my total cholesterol( TC), which was peaking at 264 in July, 2011 decreased to 130 just a year later. That’s a drop of 134 points, something my doctor had no answer for, especially when I told him it was accomplished without his medication.

Now, nearly two and a half years later I am more active than I have ever been because I have more energy and want to experience more things. I took up running last year and accomplished a half marathon under 2 hours in August, 2013. That race was a personal challenge to confirm everything I was doing. Yet that didn’t satisfy me. One month later I participated in my first Tough Mudder event. Talk about a great time and challenging yourself, while supporting an entire team. To date, nothing like it has compared!

After the half marathon my training was derailed due to shoulder surgery and I was not able to run the California International Marathon, which would have been my first. I decided to “think big” and go ultra. Just 2 months ago I participated in my first ultra event, running 31.7 miles across Mt Diablo in Northern California. What am amazing high, one that has me yearning to run longer and achieve greater.

Who needs a new sports car? I’d rather buy that for me wife, I am truly experiencing the best life has to offer now that I control my health and continue to push my body to new limits. I am living life as never before, setting new goals to achieve. At no time did midlife crisis ever enter my mind. If this is what one feels like it, then I am loving life.