Dubuque, IAUnited StatesWhat benefits have you found in a vegan diet? (Reduced pain, higher energy levels, weight loss, etc.)
The benefits of a low fat vegan diet really came in the form of all the positive side effects. The first was that I actually felt full AND good after eating. What was going on? I was not tired nor did I have that nightly cramping feeling in my belly. The next side effect was this new and unfamiliar feeling of sleeping well through the night, not to be trumped by a new sense of energy I had not felt in, well since I can remember. At 44 years old, I assumed feeling tired was just going to be par for the course forever, since it’s been like an old friend for so many years. My feeling like a sloth was quickly replaced with a new buzzing sensation in my body, which I can only describe as energy surging through me. It actually felt like an electric current flowing through me! This new sense of energy provided a small dose of motivation to begin moving my body more. I began biking for fun, and started a “Couch to 5K” running program, which was a big deal since I’m not a runner. I mean really not a runner. I’ve hated running my whole life and sincerely wondered why anybody did it at all. My size 13 feet are as flat as a pancake, and to me the simple equation was: Running = Pain. Slowly I embraced the idea that maybe I can become a runner if I just keep it up a little longer. Within the first five months of full immersion into whole food, plant-based eating and beginning my “light” exercise regime, I shed 50 pounds. Over the course of the next 3-4 months, 15 more pounds fell off for a total loss of 65 pounds. My cholesterol dropped 75 points and blood pressure dropped significantly. What was going on? In a nutshell, “A new relationship with food,” and a diet and lifestyle shift in the right direction.How did you learn about a plant-based diet, and what motivated you to change your diet?
I suppose my journey toward a plant-based life began when my father passed away of cancer at the young age of 53. It happened 10 days after I graduated from college, and my entire world was turned upside down. It was my first face-to-face experience with serious disease and death. At the time, I was not aware of the direct link between diet and health. I relived the experience two years ago when my wife’s father suddenly became ill and quickly passed away of a similar type of non-smoking related lung cancer at the young age of 66. My world, once again, was thrown topsy-turvy due to serious illness. After my father-in-law’s death, we moved our family from Hangzhou, China (where we were teaching) into my in-laws home in Iowa to become full time caretakers for her mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. My own mother is fighting a long-term battle with crippling rheumatoid arthritis and pays the price with the effects of heavy medications to treat chronic pain.
While living and working in China, we witnessed first-hand how the “Great American Lifestyle” is changing the human landscape in that part of the world. The health gap is clear between older Chinese people who are lean and healthy, versus the growing obesity crises among the younger generation. As they are quickly adopting our Western lifestyle, which comes pre-packaged with all the dangerous food-like products we call “food,” they are now experiencing all the side affects of an animal-based diet. These include but are not limited to increasing cancer rates, obesity, diabetes, and most other chronic degenerative diseases created for ourselves by our own hand as a direct byproduct of what we eat.
Beth (my wife) and I decided to do some serious soul searching, and in the process learned as much as possible about health and disease prevention. It turns out preventing diseases that many would consider inevitable has more to do with what we’re putting in our mouths than any other single factor including genetics. Through my research, which included reading several of Dr. Neal Barnard’s books, and among others, Dr. Campbell’s book, “The China Study,” I learned about the undeniable link between diet and health. As I reflected on my own health, I realized I was in that collective group of people who know they are a bit overweight but can easily justify it because, well, “at least I’m not as big as THAT guy!” It’s a little bit like saying “at least our ship isn’t sinking as far as theirs (yet).” It was time to seriously address my unhealthy relationship with food. I had to ask myself one simple question: “How healthy do I want to be?” It was a hard question to answer honestly. It was hard because I knew the logical follow up question is, “Am I willing to do what it takes?” I decided to find out. Wondering what a 10 out of 10 on the “health-scale” would feel like, I commenced my journey into the world of whole food, plant-based eating.
Beth and I soon began exploring resources from PCRM.org and a host of other respected sites. In addition we dove headfirst into all of the nutrition books, documentaries, and wellness sites we could possibly find. All roads seemed to lead to the same destination: a whole food, plant-based diet. The landmark documentary for me was, “Forks over Knives,” which hit me on the head like a hammer. Something shifted inside me and I knew this was the answer I had unknowingly been seeking. In the process I gained some new favorite superheroes: Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Esselstyn, and Dr. McDougall. These pioneers provided a clear focus and a direction I could now point my compass to find true north. As a family, we made the “dramatic” shift to a whole food, plant-based journey and have never looked back. We were both reading the work of Dr. Barnard and others in the field, which led to this brand new world of food I never knew existed.
At first I wondered, “How in the world can you call a meal a “MEAL’ without any meat on the plate?” I was finding out the easy way…by just having an open mind and doing it. I am grateful to the entire team at PCRM and the Center for Nutrition Studies for doing great work and changing the world one bite at a time! It was a very real and fundamental shift in my relationship with food. I now have a new way of eating without “dieting” that I can depend on for the rest of my life. No more wondering about what the next new “wonder-diet” or pill is going to be. It’s fruits, veggies, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds from here on out. What an amazing feeling knowing I’m doing something wonderful for my body, mind, and the planet at large.How did the Physicians Committee influence your success? (21-Day Kickstart, Kickstart Plus, Food for Life class, lecture, etc)
The resources we discovered through PCRM have provided a solid foundation in truth on which we could stand. The answer to this apocalyptic health epidemic is so clear and so simple. In fact, it’s right under our noses. Although changing eating habits can be a challenge for many, I believe the much harder task is changing mindsets and habits of thinking surrounding food. Luckily there are amazing resources such as PCRM.ORG to provide the tools and support for successfully adopting this new lifestyle. Thanks to Dr. Barnard and his colleagues, this has become our new passion and mission in life. I would like to be an advocate and walking proof that with a little education, a pinch of ambition, and a dash of determination, anything is possible. Please don’t take my word for it…just give it a try! I love Dr. Barnard’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart program allowing you to test-drive it for yourself. On this site, you’ll find tons of great information, including wonderful articles, links, and recipes worth exploring. My favorites are the black bean chili and veggie burger, and I now have a new love of oatmeal for breakfast. As someone who has been recently indoctrinated into the whole food, plant-based world, I am strongly committed to spreading the word about its benefits, far and wide.
Our family transitioned well and is totally plant-based now. We have decided to take it to the next level and create a family business supporting others on the same path. Beth and I are both certified in whole food, plant-based nutrition through the Center of Nutrition Studies & eCornell University. Our oldest daughter, who is 10, has just completed the certification as well, making her the youngest to ever complete the course to date. She will set the world on fire by helping other kids learn about nutrition and eating plant-based foods. I’m so grateful for what this powerful information has done for our family, and I have recently become a wellness coach helping others on their journey. Since beginning, this new way of eating and becoming a plant-strong family, I participated in the “Triple By-Pass” 120 mile bike ride in Colorado over three mountain passes, and just completed a full marathon. In addition, my wife and kids also ran a 5k and absolutely loved it.
We’re committed to spreading the word about all the benefits of making the change, and going against the heavy current of the standard American diet. We continue making impacts in our local community. People are gaining a new sense of hope about their own health, and seem to be naturally drawn to our passion about making positive changes. We enjoy speaking in schools and community events about the benefits of plant-based nutrition and lifestyle changes. Young people seem especially responsive to learning about eating new and healthy plant foods that not only save animals’ lives but our environment at large. It’s exhilarating to act as a support network for others interested in making a change, and then watch their exciting transformation. My vision is to use the nutrition knowledge and expertise I’ve gained from Dr. Barnard and others to continue a strong grass-roots effort to help heal a sick community of people “eating the way everyone else does.” Collectively, we can make a large impact by sharing the benefits of building a new and healthy relationship with food for generations to come. Sharing knowledge and inspiration means truly empowering people to take charge of their own lives and health, literally one bite at a time.
The exciting part of making this change is all of the wonderful food that just happens to be HEALTHY! What a concept! Some of my favorites are from the book, "Power Food for the Brain," and include the White Bean Chili, Baked Ziti, and the Stuffed Peppers with Squash, Black Beans, and Rice. So many recipes that I love, and even more to explore!