Since I said this was my Christmas gift to all of you and I’m wrapping gifts this week I had better “wrap” this one up as well! Thank you to everyone who left comments for Al on part one. He is reading them and responding and he is bit surprised at everyone’s reaction. So many people have written to tell me that they are sharing Al’s story with loved ones and friends who are suffering themselves with heart disease or diabetes. It was my hope that Al’s story would be one of hope and encouragement for people of all ages to take their health and their diet seriously. We need to let people know that a whole food plant based diet is like medicine for our ailing bodies. Please continue to share Al’s story and save lives!
The photo on the left was taken when Al was on the trip to Paris that he talked about in Part One. He was feeling quite ill and having a difficult time with all the walking. The photo on the right was taken by me the night in November that I met Al and we became fast friends!
Part Two brought to you by Al – (with a little editing by me).
So what is this “WFPB” whole food plant based diet for reversing heart disease?
- You may not eat anything with a mother or a face (no meat, poultry, or fish).
- You cannot eat dairy products or eggs
- You must not consume oil of any kind—not a drop.
- You cannot eat nuts or avocados if you are a cardiac patient trying to reverse heart disease
- No Sugar
- Low Fat – The fat content should be kept around 9 to 11 Percent.
- Avoid processed food.
“I love the food I eat.”
After 3 or 4 weeks you get over fat and you start to appreciate subtle and savory flavors. I enjoy the food and do not feel deprived. I eat as much as I want and enjoy every meal. I love the food I eat.
I was now able to travel and I flew back to Milwaukee to visit my grandniece who’s wedding I missed. Then I went to the Nevada desert for a week in my trailer. We were near Tonopah NV which is at 6,000 ft. I had no problems!
McDougall’s 10 Day Live In Whole Food Plant Based Program
In August I went to Dr. McDougalls 10 day live in whole food plant based program located in Santa Rosa California. https://www.drmcdougall.com/health/programs/ The McDougall Program is all about giving you control over your health. Most participants are able to stop all unnecessary medications, avoid surgery, improve their appearance and regain lost fitness. Sick people see doctors, healthy people don’t. Our goal is to make you healthy.
There were 55 attendees. 5 were from England, 3 from Australia, 2 from south Africa, and one from India. There were people that had high blood pressure and Diabetes, three that has MS. The gal that sat next to me had very serious kidney problems. She had placed her name on the transplant list. My Kidney story piqued her interest, and gave her hope. The first day they drew blood and weighed us. They did that halfway through, and then again at the end. We were housed at a very nice resort and spa in Santa Rosa. All meals were provided and we could eat as much as we desired. The first half I grossly overate. I tried to sample everything and at the second weigh in I had gained 2 pounds. I cut back to my normal portion size and at the last weigh in I had returned to my 150 lbs.
“Her second blood test showed her kidneys had improved.”
The last day was very emotional. The gal in the room next to me was skipping down the hallway. She was overweight with bad knees and she was so happy that this was the first time in years that she could walk, much less skip with out pain. The gal who sat next to me, told me that her second blood test showed her kidneys had improved. She did not share how much, but just that they did. Dr. McDougall announced that one of the participants had Type 1 Diabetes, which is not curable. When the (unnamed) person came to he program they were taking 100 units of Insulin. By the end of the 10 days they were only taking 30 units of Insulin. Most of the Type 2 Diabetics were off their meds, as well as those with hypertension.
Even though I had already been on the diet for 13 months, it was still well worth the experience. We sat in various classes. We had several Whole Food Plant Based Chefs give demos and recipes. We had a Dietitian present over three hours on how and why we became fat and unhealthy. Then we had a Behavioral Psychologist spend another three hours explaining why it is so hard to go on the WFPBD, and gave us several strategies to stay on the diet. Our classes were about an hour long and Dr. McDougall gave several hours of presentations. All in all it was truly life changing and well worth the price. I could not more strongly recommend it.
“If I needed a reminder (which I didn’t) to stay on the diet, here were two.”
Right after I got back from McDougall’s program I noticed something different about my left ankle and foot. They were NORMAL. In 1985 when I had bypass surgery they had striped a vein from my left leg. After a while my left ankle and foot began to swell, and in my 70’s it was very noticeable. It was just something I put up with. This was the second improvement that I had noticed on my body. About 4 months earlier I noticed that my Livedo Reticulitis on both ankles go away. That’s were the blood in my ankles just pools and does not return. I takes on a dark blueish tint. Looks like a bruise, except it does not go away. I had symptoms of Liveo Reticulitis for over 3 years! While not painful or noticeable, as long as I wore socks, it was a constant reminder of old age. If I needed a reminder (which I didn’t) to stay on the diet, here were two.
“I thought we would not see any fat people on a Vegan Cruise. Boy were we wrong.”
Then in September 2017 my wife Dottie and I went on the First Ever All Vegan Ocean Cruise. The first night over a couple glasses of wine, I shared my story to entertain the dinner table. One of the table mates mentioned that she wished her brother could have heard me. He was in bad shape with heart problems. She asked me for contact information, and sure enough I received an email from him in November 2017. I sent him a version of this document.
A few words about the Cruise. Before we boarded, I mentioned to my wife that I thought we would not see any fat people on a Vegan Cruise. Boy were we wrong. Then on the cruise I found out why. They use oil on everything. The big item in the gift shop was all the different flavored Olive Oil. My wife and I went to a cooking class and the chef had 4 different flavored Olive Oil bottles on the table. At this point I got up and walked out. In my never to be humble opinion Vegans do not eat healthy. They sure did not on this cruise. In case you haven’t figured it out, oil (or rather fat) is your enemy.
“For me the biggest benefit of this diet is my sense of well being.”
I met some of the most interesting people on the cruise. An orthodontist who for long time had been having kidney stones every couple of years. They were extremely painful, so he tried Whole Food Plant Based Diet. Since then he lost 30 pounds, Cholesterol came down and he has had no kidney stones.
We had lunch with a fellow who was a very successful engineer. When he was 35 his brother died from Diabetes. His father had died young from Diabetes. So he did some research and decided that the way to go was on a Whole Food Plant Based Diet. He was so impressed with the results that he gave up his flourishing engineer career and earned a degree as a dietitian. He is now writing a book as means to spread the benefits of a Whole Food Plant Based Diet.
Then there was a Texas woman who had breast cancer. Had her breasts removed, but she was concerned that even after the operation, she knew that there were rogue cancer cells lurking somewhere in her body. So she also started on a Whole Food Plant Based Diet as a preventive measure. She and I hit it off, because we both started our diets at the same time, and because we were in about the same place in our journey.
For me this biggest benefit of this diet is my sense of well being. I know I’m still 81 with all the creaks and groans of this old body, but now when ever I get an ache or sharp pain for no apparent reason, I don’t just automatically assume that it’s fatal. And by the way I have considerably less aches and pains.
“It is not how long I live, it is how well I live.”
The biggest downside is social. Every social event revolves around food, and for the most that is food that I can not eat. So you have to improvise and be creative. I am the perfect dinner guest, I bring my own food, and I always enjoy the meal. Did I mention I love the food I eat?
Another problem is that I have become super conscientious. As I said before, I made such an incredible reversal of my symptoms, that I was fearful that it could change back for the worse just as quick. Was it easy? No. But it is becoming easier as time goes on. Was it rewarding? Yes! Was it worth it? Absolutely. It is not how long I live, it is how well I live.
Al is taking an interest in cooking whole food plant based meals. He even made a delicious no oil dressing for the salad in his Vitamix. You are never too old to learn something new! Dottie is adorable, smart and witty. She is learning how to cook no oil, plant based food for Al. She is a fabulous cook so it’s no wonder Al is loving the food he eats!
ABOUT THE SCIENCE OF A WHOLE FOOD PLANT BASED DIET
In 1985 Dr Caldwell Esselstyn started a study using this diet because “three-quarters of the humans on this planet had no heart disease, a fact strongly associated with diet.” He started with 23 patients who were cardiac cripples, like me. Six dropped out, and of the remaining 18 there was only one coronary event in the following 11 years. That was from a patient who had strayed from the diet for two years and experienced angina. Twenty years later all of the 18 patients were still alive.
According to CNN, this is the diet that President Clinton used after talking with Dr Esselstyn and Dr Dean Ornish. He said that he had researched this diet and it worked to reverse coronary artery disease 82% of the time. In my case it was 100%.
In 1990 Dr. Dean Ornish published study titled Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? in the LANCET. Let me read you the last two sentences from the Abstract.
Overall, 82% of experimental-group patients had an average change towards regression. Comprehensive lifestyle changes may be able to bring about regression of even severe coronary atherosclerosis after only 1 year, without use of lipid-lowering drugs.
Dr John McDougall has published 10 books on Diet and Nutrition. Started his practice in the big island of Hawaii. His patients were immigrants from China and the Philippines. He had three generations. The first generation ate the traditional Asian diet of rice and vegetables were trim, fit and not not affected by chronic diseases. The second and third generation had fully adopted to the standard American diet suffered from obesity, diabetes and a whole host of chronic diseases. This started his interest in a whole food plant based lifestyle.
Dr Michael Greger author of How Not to Die, publishes short 2-3 minute informative videos daily where he shows the results of published studies on various subjects, such as smoothies and “Which are better: Flax seeds or Chia seeds. They are brief and well researched. His website is NutritionFacts.org.
“It was the hardest thing that I have done in my life.”
There are several other research MDs who have come to embrace the Plant Based Diet. I suggest you just google Whole Food Plant Based Diet and surf the internet. Just remember GIGO – (garbage in, garbage out).
So that is my story. Right after I first got on the diet and had my fantastic results I went to Amazon and ordered a dozen of each of the books and gave them to friends and family. Well almost all of them just sat on bookshelves and gathered dust. I mentioned that to a nurse once and she reminded me of an old saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. After about a year and a half, I have decided that my experience won’t be meaningful to someone unless they are ready to listen. While the benefits are wonderful, it was the hardest thing that I have done in my life. BUT I DID IT!!
The following is an epiphany Al had after we enjoyed lunch together with a group of friends and he emailed me his thoughts.
Wednesday I had a small epiphany. I had a wonderful lunch with some of my new WFPBD friends. (And you know who you are.) I left the lunch in an almost euphoric high. I didn’t quite understand why I felt so good, but I did, and every time I was around any of my new WFPBD friends I always felt great. That evening Dottie and I watched two episodes of Poldark, a Masterpiece series set in the late 1700s in Cornwall England. In the episode we watched a young doctor had returned home to his new bride after spending a couple of years in a horrible French prison, caring for other prisoners. He could not adjust to being home with his wonderful bride, and wanted to return to the navy. In an idyllic situation he was miserable, and his bride did not understand. Then a fellow released prisoner comes over and they spend the day talking, and we, the viewers, came to understand that he needed someone to talk to that understood what he had gone through. His unhappiness was a result of his feeling isolated. No one around him could begin to understand what he had gone through.
“The watching with almost disbelief, my body healing itself.”
The next morning I get up and listen to a talk show in the shower, as I do every morning. The radio show was running a campaign to raise money for Warrior Foundation – Freedom Station. This was a charity to support our wounded vets. They had a segment on how important it was for these vets to play and talk with other wounded vets. Because they felt that no one else could understand what they had gone through. That’s when it hit me. All of my old friends, had no idea of what I have been through. I knew that they had not known or seen how disabled I was. But that was not what bothered me. It was my decision, the journey, the experience, the dedication of going on, staying on, and benefiting from the WFPBD. The hours, days, and weeks of learning what, when and how to eat. The watching with almost disbelief my body healing itself. They had no knowledge, or understanding of any of this. They did not know or understand how close to death I came. Of course my “new” friends do not know that either, but they do understand how difficult it is to go on a WFPBD. What it takes to make the commitment to change your lifestyle, and to follow through for months and years. Just being with you and my other “new” friends is very affirming.
So thank you for lunch and lets do it again.
“All of my old friends think that I have gone off the deep end.”
Excerpts from another email.
I have been on the Whole Food Plant Based Diet since July 2016 and it has been a wonderful and unbelievable healthy experience EXCEPT for one small area. All of my old friends think that I have gone off the deep end. What they don’t understand is that if I had not chosen this lifestyle, I WOULD have gone off the deep end, if you catch my drift.
Just recently I attended a presentation by Rubin Guzman. Rubin made the point that if you examine your five closest friends, the probability is very high that you will be like them and have similar traits. Well that was fine pre – WFPBD, but now, not so much. I set out to meet new people and change my friends by joining several MeetUps groups for whole food plant based eaters. I have attempted to find the most interesting people that I could and you are on that list. I’m sure you are not surprised.
I have lived for 82 years (his 82nd birthday is next week). I have done some stuff I am not proud of, as well as some that I am very proud of. Staying alive comes to mind. But more than that I have observed the human condition for most of those years. I have a fair – formal education, but I have continued that education in life experience, and it is, my never to be humble opinion, that I have some knowledge to share that would be of value to others. I used to tell my youngest daughter, when she became an adult, that as a parent it was my job to give her advice, and as an adult daughter, it was her job to pick out what was relevant and valuable to her, and ignore the rest.
So that’s how this is going to work. I am going to put my musings on paper (virtual that is), and you are going to decide what is worthwhile (or interesting) for you and ignore the rest.
Additionally I am going to steal shameless from my WFPBD buddies. I mean I can not think of everything my self. I will try to give you proper attribution, but if I don’t, fell free to respond with the appropriate outrage.
“Everyone that is on a WFPBD is a hero!”
Here is today’s lesson. Again during lunch with WFPBD (whole food plant based diet) buddy Dixie we were discussing my history. I am some what uncomfortable with being an inspiration. And yet I am very proud of what I have done. She called me a hero, and then went on to say she was a HERO, and in fact every one that is on a WFPBD are all heroes.
All of us that have made the decision to change our lifestyles and go on the WFPBD are heroes. What a great concept! It is somewhat of a misnomer to call it a diet, it is a little more than a lifestyle, it is a way of life. It is not easy, it takes dedication, it takes willpower, it requires support and understanding, which sometimes are sorely lacking, but it is ever so rewarding.
So embrace your inner HERO. You are one, I am one, we are all heroes. When you run across the situation where some one attempts to belittle you for your food choices, remember you are a HERO! If you have trouble ordering something in a restaurant, or finding something in the market, don’t consider it a problem, think of it as another notch on your super hero utility belt. Attitude is everything!
Pictured here from left to right, myself, Dixie, Lorna, Barry and Al. We meet every Wednesday at a local park and walk on the trails for two hours. We chat, we laugh, we solve all kinds of issues and the time flies by! Having a group of like minded friends is a blessing when you choose to eat outside of the social norm. When Al was 80 he couldn’t walk up and down his stairs, couldn’t take the trash out to the curb without being winded and was afraid he wouldn’t live to his 81st birthday. Yet on this day he came and effortlessly waked for 2 hours with us. He put his own Christmas lights and decorations up on his house. He takes the trash out to the curb. He removed the stair lifts in his house because now he can go up the stairs taking them two at a time! He has a busy social calendar – so much so that he often double books himself!
Al has decided that he needs to create a new social group to support his way of eating. So he joined some local vegan and whole food plant based Meet Up groups and he is actively making new friends. I am delighted to be one of Al’s new friends. He teaches me something new every time we chat or exchange emails. I am taking his wisdom to heart and applying it to my own life. We will be helping him celebrate his 82nd birthday at the end of December and it’s going to be a joyous celebration of an amazing life!
Please take the time to leave Al a comment here on the blog and let him know how much you enjoyed reading his story. I hope to have him as a guest poster in the future as he continues on this amazing journey called life.
If you would like to read some books about a whole food plant based diet Al and I highly recommend the following. Consider giving some of these to your family and friends for Christmas – they contain life saving information.
Happy Healthy Holidays Everyone!
A Little Nutmeg Nugget: When I started this blog in January of 2010 I followed what I understood to be a healthy version of the standard American diet, ironically also known as the “SAD” diet. As interest in my own health and how it was affected by the food I ate evolved, I transitioned to a whole food plant based diet also known as “WFPB” diet. I have wrestled with the fact that this blog still contains all those posts and recipes from the SAD way of eating I have left behind. I no longer advocate for anyone to eat that way. At this time I am leaving those recipes and posts here. It is a record of my journey and how I came to follow a WFPB way of eating. It is my hope that those who still come here for those old recipes will be curious about what I am doing now. Perhaps they will dip their toes across the line as I did and try some plant based recipes and learn more about the health benefits.