Death. The Other Option.

extremeAt the risk of sounding like a nag, when the hell are people going to wake up and realize the food they eat to sustain their life is the same food that is causing disease, obesity and sickness? Moderation is a myth, oil still isn’t “heart healthy” and the fork could potentially be as lethal as a weapon. The statistics prove Americans moderate the wrong foods. Even the saying from the American Dietetic Association, “All foods fit,” has been taken out of context. The original saying is not “all foods fit,”  but, “All foods can fit into a healthful diet ‘if’ consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity.”

Change. It doesn’t come easy, if at all. People are resistant to change in favor of the status quo. Reasons vary including:

  • when the status quo is satisfactory
  • when the purpose of change is not clearly understood
  • when those affected lack courage or self confidence
  • personal fear of failure to master new skills
  • fear of personal loss of ego, status, power or resources
  • when implementation appears to be rigid and inflexible

Each of these reasons “excuses” could be applied to why people don’t take their health more serious and make changes that they would benefit from. I admitted to myself for 42 years that “I was fine.” This when dining on fast foods, fried foods, dairy and meat while not enjoy veggies and limiting starchy foods. I knew I had a problem, but I wasn’t strong enough to face the fears associated with making change.

Then something amazing happened, so unexpected it was exhilarating as I looked towards the future, seeing a happy, healthy life ahead. I accepted the change and challenged myself to accept a new, plant based lifestyle leaving behind the foods that were the cause of all my health related problems.

I know this sounds like fiction and many won’t think twice about it or consider change in their life, continuing to follow their “healthy” lifestyle that includes meat and dairy. I don’t care if you are gluten free, buy only organic, believe grass fed beef is somehow healthier or still hold on to the belief that fancy cooking oils are beneficial. The fact of the matter remains, your decisions on foods are the key to your health and many Americans continue to make the wrong decisions.

As the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Change doesn’t come without dedication, effort and a bit of struggle. I know this as well as anyone when making the decision to get healthy, which I did in October, 2011. Yet 3 years later people continue to find excuses not to take establishment to keep them healthy.

pd-testimonial

Left: The “SAD” days. Right: Powered by plants!

If literature and words are not enough to convince the majority to reconsider, how about leading by example. That is what I am, living proof you can take control of your health, forget about doctors and medicine and heal yourself. The transformation has been nothing short of amazing! Gone are all the maladies I once struggled with; my weight, aches and pains, including consistent migraines, foot problems (plantar fasciitis), stomach issues and lethargy.

People willing to try could be rewarded in as little as 12 days at no cost to them thanks to Dr. John McDougall and his free McDougall Program. The Internet is chocked full of beneficial information, programs and recipes to assist individuals in their quest for health. Julie Marie Christensen at Protective Diet promotes “a diet rich in whole plant foods, free of all animal products, saturated fats, oils, nuts, sugar, artificial sweeteners and food additives.” It takes 30 days to “eliminate the physical addiction… then our taste bud receptors are not searching for the missing oils and fats any longer.” Why not start now?

Unfortunately many consider a plant based lifestyle “extreme” by making the decision to remove meat, dairy and for some, oil. Open heart surgery is far too common, as the 6th most expensive surgery in the U.S. at $324,000*. “Part of the high cost of open heart surgery is because it’s often an urgent medical procedure that is usually followed by complications. Longer care and follow-up needed after surgery add to the price tag.

Conversely I hear many complain about just how expensive it is to eat a plant based diet. According to the IRS, the average person in America spends $301 on food, and the average family of four spends $765. According to the US department of Labor, a typical family of four eating “moderately” at home in 2011 spent $664. But that’s eating many processed foods (source).

I’m not saying to spend $1.50 a day on food as Darshana Thacker did on Forks Over Knives, but by following some simple rules you can save money following a plant based lifestyle.

  • Buy in bulk: beans, grains, pastas, flours, herbs, spices and nutritional yeast are staples in my pantry.
  • Make a list: write down what you want to buy and go into the store with a purpose, this will help limit food and ingredients you don’t need.
  • Comparison shop and coupons: visit a few different grocers to see which store has weekly deals or sales going on. Watch Sunday papers for coupons, which could allow you to save additional money.
  • Buy frozen and canned food: some veggies and fruits are season, so you might need to find another option. Frozen veggies are inexpensive and can be used in a variety of ways. In a pinch, canned ingredients (BPA free) can be used if something is not in season or unavailable from the bulk bins. In the past I have primarily used beans and tomatoes.
  • Menu planning: create a menu for the week, figuring in the amount of leftovers that could be used for additional meals during the week. Meal planning will allow you to create a more accurate shopping list.

Some of these suggestions are good practice in general regardless of the foods you eat. Initially stocking your pantry could require a bit larger of a cost, but in the long run removing the pricey cuts of meat, dairy such as cheese and processed foods will result in substantial savings over time.

The argument from many usually includes, “I’m going to die anyways, so I am going to eat whatever I want.” By all means do what makes you happy, but expect the possible consequences that come with eating a diet high in red meat, sugary drinks and desserts, high-fat foods, high-fat dairy products, and refined grains. The cost could be your life. You might suffer a heart attack and be diagnosed with coronary heart disease (CHD) requiring open heart surgery. Both of those options sound extreme to me. A plant based lifestyle offers results, but only if you WANT to take control of your health.

Plant-Strong: Year 1

Hard to believe it has been 1 year since I decided to change my diet and take control of my health. Today marks my first anniversary since giving up meat, dairy and oil and eating plant-strong. It has been an amazing start on the road to health and believe it of not it does seem to get easier. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would I could do this. Ask me a few years ago and I would say I could “never go vegan.” Not only have I done so, I have gone an extra step and I have been rewarded with excellent health based on my doctor’s opinion, more importantly based on the numbers.

I don’t focus on what I chose NOT to eat, rather all the choices I do get to eat. It wasn’t easy at times and I struggled, but I never strayed too far from what Dr. John McDougall teaches. I learned of him in the documentary, Forks Over Knives. I was also introduced to T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn. These three gentlemen are my found on which I have built a strong pillar of health. Without their research, studies and teaching I would continue to eat poorly and rely on big pharma and the medication establishment to care for me as I age.

Now at age 42 I am in the best shape of my life and it will only improve. While re-learning nutrition is continuing, it was interesting to see just how jaded the government and big business were in regards to our health. Special interests and profits are the main goals of industries like meat and dairy. They don’t care about YOUR health. They will feed you lies, as long you continue to buy and support their product. Many fallacies surrounding milk as well, does it really do a body good? Research it for yourself.

Now, 12 month later I don’t miss that slice of cheese or that steak on a special occasion. I have found a heart healthy way to enjoy food and thrive on a plant-based, whole foods diet. But I am not here to push this lifestyle on anyone. I would much rather push good nutrition so well intended individuals can make their own decisions. I like being in the 1%, the small minority that make up the group who base their diets around plants. I have gotten comfortable with people looking at me with a queer stare and saying, “You don’t eat meat? Or dairy? Or oil? But olive oil is healthy for you…”

You can read just how far I have come in my latest addition under McDougall titled, 1 Year Review. It provides a run down of the last 6 months and the steps I took to achieve goals I had set, including the last 10 pounds I wanted to shed, along with lowering my cholesterol under 150. I also layout some of my future goals to accomplish in the next year. That actually started today with a new weight lifting program called Stronglifts 5×5. More on that tomorrow.

I can’t…

“I can’t” or “I won’t” are two of the most frequently used terms I have heard since changing my diet. When I say diet, I mean how I eat overall. I am now more conscious when making decisions at the market reading labels and ingredients as well as when I am cooking. But for some it’s hard to look past this “diet” and see an extreme shift in lifestyle since making the decision not to eat meat, dairy and oil. Then I read a story saying, “a study funded by the CDC and released on Monday projected that by 2030, 42 percent of American adults will be obese, compared to 34 percent today and 11 percent will be severely obese, compared to 6 percent today” (source). America is fat and only getting fatter!

While I wasn’t obese, based on charts and numbers I was overweight for my height. At one point on 2011 I weighed in at 221 pounds. Today, I tip the scale at 180 pounds. How did I do it? It was a simple plan, but one which doesn’t include the words, “I can’t” or “I won’t.” For me health I needed to make wholesale changes in what I ate. If I didn’t, I could end up being one of those 42% that will be obese by 2030. It could of happened very easy because of how I ate.

Since they don’t teach you good nutrition in school or television,  you must do the research and make the decision to change. Package labeling can be misleading and if you don’t know how to read labels, you are only contributing to the problem. Phrases like “all natural,” “fat free,” made with real fruit,” and “low sugar” are just a few. It’s not easy, I’ll admit it, there were times I wanted to eat a block a cheese or chow down on a piece of steak, but I would only be letting myself down and taking two steps backwards, based on the progress I had made.

We all hear the word “moderation” thrown around when it comes to food. Olive oil in moderation is okay. Meat in moderation is okay. Cheese in moderation is okay. In other parts of the world it might be, but America doesn’t know how to moderate its intake when it comes to food, especially unhealthy food. Here are a few numbers from registered nutritionist and dietician, Jeff Novick (source):

The items we know that are causing harm to Americans right now are the excess consumption of added sugars, refined grains, sodium, fat, and saturated fat.

So, how much does the average American consume of these?

Added Sugars – 242% over the recommended upper limit.

Refined Grains – 200% over the recommended upper limit.

Sodium – 229% over the recommended upper limit.

Saturated fats – 158% over the recommended upper limit.

Solid fats – 281% over the recommended upper limit.

America then wonders why it’s so fat and the outlook on individuals and the medical establishment are not favorable. I’ll be honest, changing your diet to cut out oil, dairy and meat might not be the answer for you, but to avoid turning into a statistic, you might consider some changes. Yet when I talk to people about my weight loss and improvement in my health, they respond with, “I can’t” or “I won’t” in regards to making changes to their diet.

As Americans consume excess added sugars, refined grains, sodium, fat, and saturated fat, they don’t consume enough good foods. “There are items that we know are very beneficial, that we should be consuming a certain amount of in order to gain their benefit.  These are fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber” (source):

 So, how much does the average American consume of these?

Fruits – only 42% of the recommended minimum intake.

Vegetables – only 59% of the recommended minimum intake.

Whole Grains – only 15% of the recommended minimum intake.

Fiber – only 40% of the recommended minimum intake.

Combine not eating in moderation and a lack of exercise and it’s no surprise that Americans continue to pack on the pounds and end up being a burden to the medical establishment that continues to see medical procedures and costs rise. In reality a change of emphasis on diet could have great benefits to an individual and society as a whole. Unfortunately when people don’t have a desire to change, say “I can’t” or “I won’t” change won’t occur.

I don’t push my plant-based lifestyle on anyone. I do enjoy the benefits I have experienced the past 6 months since taking on this lifestyle. In all honesty, I don’t miss the meat, but miss the cheese. I have overcome my dependency on using oil in cooking. I am now enjoying the flavors of new and different foods I now cook. Moderation has taken on a new meaning to me. Vegetables, grains and starches now dominate my daily diet. When it comes to food, words like “I can’t” or “I won’t” are no longer in my food vocabulary. I am open to try many foods I never have eaten before. This healthy change has produced excellent benefits, but it’s up to each individual to make a change to improve their own health.