Get ready, y'all. This is going to be a little long.
I am a fifty-something woman who grew up in the south eating some very amazing, deliciously sinful foods. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, hamburgers and french fries, pizza, barbecue chicken and coleslaw were the norm. Basically, a typical western diet. Years of eating this way took it's toll. In 1983 my father started experiencing heart problems. He had his first open heart surgery that year…. a bypass. Daddy’s journey of battling heart disease had begun. Mama changed how she prepared meals and cut sugar from their diet. Daddy tried to eat right, but longed for those good foods he grew up eating, too. In the end, he fought long and hard. After his second bypass surgery, a stroke, angina, diabetes, copious amounts of medication, and thousands of dollars in health care he finally succumbed to his long battle with these chronic diseases. In May of 2008, he drew his last breath. Daddy’s struggle and death ingrained in me the will to do life differently. At the time, I was in x-ray school. I had gained weight and my blood pressure was getting high. I remember one day after clinicals, one of my classmates and I stopped to have our blood pressure taken. Mine was 150/80 something. I was taken aback. This blood pressure reading definitely got my attention. I had just lost my father to heart disease and here I was about to go down the same path. I declared I wouldn’t follow in his footsteps and started searching for a better way. However, I was so busy with school, studying and clinicals that I didn’t give it my best effort. But after graduation, there were no more excuses.
One afternoon around that time, I was watching the Oprah Winfrey show and her guest was Kris Carr. Kris was a young woman diagnosed with a rare cancer that was incurable. She had multiple tumors in her lungs and liver. Given this news, Kris was determined to live the best life she could live with cancer. The short story…..she began a research journey that led her to some amazing discoveries in the area of nutrition. Using the grocery store as her pharmacy, she arrested her cancer. She had found a way using nutrition and then wrote a book about it. Kris' book is what led me to become a vegetarian in the fall of 2008. I remember thinking that if eating a plant-based diet can do this for her with cancer, what would it do for me without cancer.
So, I began eating a vegetarian diet a week before Thanksgiving. Wow, what a time to start something so new. I ate about a 2 oz. piece of turkey that Thanksgiving and then that was it for years. The first thing I noticed was how amazing I felt. My skin looked dewy and my blood pressure had returned to normal. Within 2 weeks, I had lost 4 lbs. That was a nice benefit since I had struggled with weight issues for many years. I never seemed to be able to lose more than 5 lbs. on any diet or at any given time. I was hopeful that this way of eating would not only keep me from having the same health issues that my father had, but that I would also, finally, be able to lose the weight. Unfortunately, the weight didn’t come off like I thought it would. The other benefits, however, were outstanding.
I stayed committed to eating a vegetarian diet for a few years. But then, when we moved to the lake, we found this great little hamburger joint that made the most amazing hamburgers. I began eating meat again. This little hamburger addiction only happened on the weekends. I would eat healthy during the week. I was still struggling with weight issues and desperately wanted to lose a few pounds. Back in 2008, I had signed up to follow Kris Carr’s newsletter and blog and last summer, she announced that there was going to be an online health summit hosted by James Colquhoun of Food Matters taking place and that I just needed to sign up online to be a part of it. I signed up and began watching the numerous videos and interviews and became intrigued by all the health information I was hearing. I mean, I thought I knew so much about health and nutrition, but this health summit opened my eyes to so much more. This health summit focused a lot on people dealing with cancer, but the science behind it just made so much sense to me. I could feel a change taking place in my outlook on food. As a result of that summit, I was beginning to think that eating some meat wasn’t so bad. They recommended that if you ate meat, to eat wild caught fish and grass-fed animals. They also recommended that you cut out gluten and sugar. So, I did. Deep down, though, as I was eating the grass-fed bison or wild caught salmon, I just felt like this was not the way I should be eating.
And then, almost simultaneously, I began going to a new doctor that wanted to do blood work for a baseline measurement as part of getting started in his practice and I watched a video by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. where he talked about reversing heart disease. He wrote a book called Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. As it turned out, I would need to read that book. When my blood work came back, I was shocked and so disappointed in myself. I felt like I was a healthy eater. And, although my exercising had been sporadic all winter, I still exercised. Yet, my numbers were high……high cholesterol, high blood glucose, high triglycerides and I mean really high. All I could see was my father’s journey of poor health, but this time it was happening to me. After my initial shock and a few tears, I went straight to the bookstore and purchased Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s book and devoured it in two days. He made sense…..a lot of sense. He performed a study on a group of heart patients, some of which had angina and some had already had bypass surgeries. They were sick! This study was conducted to see how the patients would do on a low fat, plant-based diet. Basically, they would not eat meat, dairy or oils (which included nuts and avocado). They would eat only plant-based…whole grains, legumes, beans, vegetables and fruits. The result...every one of the participants improved dramatically and over time reversed their heart disease. They lost weight, their cholesterol levels came down, their angina went away and 20 years later they are still alive and well.
Well, I thought, that’s it! I am going to have to be one of those people that eats a vegan diet. Vegan sounds radical, it sounds restrictive and depriving. Low fat, plant-based sounds better, doesn’t it? Anyway, that week, I turned a corner. I made the commitment to get healthy. I am committed to eating in such a way that it results in weight loss and good health. I heard someone say this and I feel exactly the same…I don’t want to grow old being fat, sick and medicated. I want to grow old as healthily as I can.
So, why am I sharing this with you? I can tell you that I thought long and hard about it. If you have been a follower of my blog, you may have noticed that my trend is to be upbeat and light-hearted as well as fun. I would rather tell you good things than dwell on the not so good. It has almost given me the shivers to share my state of health with you. LOL! But, just the other day, one of my favorite doctors that I follow online shared a verse of scripture. When I read it, it resonated with me. I felt like I had done all this research, watched countless videos, followed many doctors and their findings on health and realized that I shouldn’t keep it to myself. The scripture…. Matthew 10:8…..Freely you have received, freely give. So there you have it. I want to freely share what I’ve learned with you.
Over the next few weeks, I will share with you my journey back to health. I will share the names and websites that I’ve followed. I will give you the numbers from my original blood work, my progress along the way and finally, the new numbers on my follow-up visit for repeat blood work at the end of May.
I know this has been long, I apologize for that. But I really felt strongly that I needed to give you a little background before proceeding. My hope is that the information I share will be of help or at least of interest and that I can be an encouragement to you, if you find yourself on a similar path or want to avoid it altogether.
Take care and we’ll talk soon.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor am I a nutritionist. I am not here to tell you that my journey to health is the answer for everyone. I encourage you to do your own research and decide the best course for your health. But, if you want the short story…something to get you started toward better health, then maybe I can help.
I’ve done the research according to my lifestyle and health concerns. Along the way, I may not tell you exactly how something works. I may not remember the details, but at the time of my research it made sense to me. So, I remember the main idea, the benefits, basically the thing that you are supposed to do. I will be writing these posts to tell you what I’ve learned about what to eat or not to eat and how it can affect your health.
Again, I am not a doctor. If you find information here contrary to what your doctor says, then by all means…do what your doctor tells you to do. I am not a professional, just someone who is truly interested in living healthy, for as long as I live. And, I would love to be that encouragement for you.