What It Takes to Change Your Diet

From farm to table.

You have to control what you can and try not to worry about the rest. I am on this dietary path because, frankly, I was tired of being a “Mystery Diagnosis” type patient with mysterious, painful ailments that could only be addressed by my doctors with medication. To review: I’ve had breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, histoplasmosis, chronic bronchitis, multiple rounds of pneumonia, broncolithiasis, sinusitis, and those are just the highlights during 40-some years of bad dietary habits. I’ve had autoimmune reactions in the past that have sent my platelets above 1,000. I had RA so bad in 2008 that I could not hardly get out of bed to walk across the room. I would wake up crying from the pain just to roll over. I swung between being about 10-30 pounds overweight at any given time.

Last evening, I walked two miles with ease. I am on no pills, except B12 twice a week. Since starting my new plants-based, whole foods routine in February, I’ve lost 14 pounds. And that’s without hardly any exercise. I just started a walking routine two days ago. My latest round of blood work from earlier this week shows inflammation as good or better than any of my readings when I was on Methotrexate, which I have not taken since February. In March, when I had my first blood work on the new diet and was being super-strict with consumption, I had nearly the best blood work I’d ever attained since 2008, when my RA nightmare began.

What it takes to change is the validation from my blood work and physically how I feel. I have honestly never felt better in my life, except for summers as a child when I was illness-free (winter always meant bronchitis, like an accepted, normal change of the season). I feel like I am living a life again, not just living to avoid getting sick or not living to avoid pain. Pain now comes from muscle strain, not RA.

And I am not alone on this journey. I can assure you that if you Google the word “nutrition” and whatever ailment you have, you will find people seeking the answers I sought months ago. Once you get beyond WebMD and the Mayo Clinic for basic understanding of your condition, then you can move on to the role nutrition plays in whatever ails you, and it is like the curtain being lifted on the great and powerful Oz. I am a college educated professional with a world of information at my fingertips at all times, and I had no clue.

To that end, there is important work being done on the nutrition front, and new, well-written and respected books released just within the last few weeks to help further people’s access to this information. I get no kickbacks or any payments for these endorsements, I simply believe in what these people are doing and know my dietary changes helped me get my health back. Download these books on your iPad or Kindle (again no kickbacks, just products I love) and take them with you on your summer vacation, so you can be inspired to change your diet. And summer is a great time to start something like this, surrounded as we are by fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and sales at your local grocery store.

“Whole,” by T. Colin Campbell and Howard Jacobson, continues on the scientific exploration of why our bodies respond to whole, unprocessed foods in a seemingly miraculous way and why the medical community needs to get into better balance and away from a pills-first mentality. If you are like Bob Dylan and want to know the roots of these ideas (Dylan apparently always wanted to know the source of song roots), then go back further to read “The China Study” and see how the initial research unfolded and led to “Forks Over Knives.”

“My Beef with Meat” by Rip Esselstyn. Rip’s dad and T. Colin Campbell were the stars of “Forks Over Knives” with their combination of research and how the plant-based, whole-foods diet regimen works for any number of health issues, most significantly heart disease and diabetes. This book is the follow to the “Engine 2 Diet,” and I’m betting the recipes in the new book are as good as the ones in the previous. Rip comes across as such a positive person and works tirelessly on the talk-show circuit to spread the word for this cause. For a great motivation, watch his “Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue” video (I saw it on Amazon) and you will be cleaning out your pantry and fridge in no time.

“VB6” by Mark Bittman. What a great idea for this book. Seriously, if this was an easy path to take, everyone would be vegan. But hardly anyone is, and that’s because everyone thinks it’s a sacrifice or you’re taking the last bit of pleasure from people’s lives, which is why a doctor will give you medication to control your blood pressure/heart disease/diabetes, rather than say “no more ice cream and french fries for you.” Bittman was facing his own health crisis and decided to compromise as a Vegan Before 6. So, during the day he was eating vegan, at night, whatever he wanted. Though I think he probably stayed pretty true to the vegan path around the clock as time went on, knowing that he didn’t have to made all the difference for him. The power of giving yourself this flexibility cannot be overstated. While I am now vegan 24/7, it took me a long time to get here. And, knowing what I know now, I would never go back.

The pantry is always a work in progress, but it works.

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