My entire life I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted with no regard for how it was affecting my health. I ate out as often as twice daily up to six days a week. I didn’t make meals, I made reservations! I paid little attention to the pounds I packed on over the years, and consequently I developed high blood pressure, a heart condition (both for which I took medication), planter fasciitis, and was pre-diabetic.
Because I suffer from “white coat syndrome”, I managed to avoid my regular doctor for eight years, and my heart doctor for three, ascribing to the notion that “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”. The truth was that I feared I was genetically doomed because of my family history. My mother suffered a stroke and required open heart surgery by the age of 70, my brother had open heart surgery by 52, and my dad by age 50. We spent years caring for my dad who also suffered from diabetes, high cholesterol, was on dialysis from kidney disease, and ultimately died painfully from bone cancer. Deep down I knew I needed to make some changes for the sake of my health, but was overwhelmed as to where to start.
My friend Deanna had been eating a whole foods plant-based diet for years, and I always thought it was just crazy. I ate few fruits and vegetables unless they were in a pie or on a pizza, and I was not about to give up cheese and ice cream. Then Deanna convinced her parents to change their eating habits and I watched them drop a lot of weight and actually reverse several health conditions. I was impressed that at their age they could make such drastic changes and improvements to their health, and keep the weight off for over five years.
The defining moment came when I finally saw my doctor and was told that my blood pressure was still elevated and I would need to increase the dosage of my current meds, or be at greater risk of suffering a stroke. Now in my early fifties—the same age as my dad and brother when they were stricken, I felt I was living on borrowed time.
When Deanna’s mom asked me point blank if I wanted to be around to see my grandbabies grow up, she hit on my greatest fear. She challenged me to take control of my health, and agreed to help me if I would agree to put forth the effort. To her surprise (and everyone else who knows me) I did everything she asked me. Since I was such a picky eater, she stopped telling me what was in the dishes, just made me promise to taste them before I turned up my nose. I was amazed to find that I actually liked nearly every dish we prepared, and that the transition off of meat, dairy, and added salt was not nearly as difficult as I imagined. And I can assure you, the benefits have far outweighed the sacrifice. I am down 46 pounds, from a size 14 to a 2-4, which is just “icing on the (vegan) cake! The most exciting news is that not only am I off blood pressure meds, all my bloodwork has improved, I am no longer pre-diabetic, planter fasciitis has resolved, and recently I paid a visit to the (dreaded) heart doctor, and was taken off the heart meds as well! Because of my family history, I still had nagging reservations about stopping it since I had been on it so long. So they decided to do a heart scan to put my mind at ease, and the test came back showing my heart is perfectly healthy!
It is now my hope to encourage my family and friends towards greater health by embracing a Whole Foods diet. Most of all I want to change the dynamics of our family history so that my children and grandchildren live long and healthy lives free of unnecessary illness and disease. I am living proof that while genetics play a role in our health history, they don’t have to be a predictor of our future health. I am so grateful that I accepted Sherri’s challenge to take responsibility for my health, and now live joyfully instead of fearfully. So now my challenge is to you, my friends—who is ready to join me and learn to “Eat to Live”?