One Year of Eating Plant-Based

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A year ago today, I sent an email to Dr. John McDougall asking for help. I was sick, suffering with rheumatoid arthritis, and depressed. I had no idea how much my life would change in one year. 

As I have written before, he wrote me back the same day and life has never been the same. We cleaned out our kitchen and went head-first into eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans and seeds. Some processed food still makes its way into our house (flatbread crisps, tortillas, and the infamous Tofutti Cuties) but for the most part we stick with the McDougall plan.  The recipes are straightforward and simple, using common ingredients you can buy at any grocery store. You don’t have to live near a Whole Foods to do this.

We’ve tweaked our meal plans as we’ve went along. We eat a lot more raw food now than when we started to boost micronutrient intake. We’ve introduced more fresh juice into our daily diet that we make at home. I take a few herbal supplements to add to pain management, but I am not on any pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter pain medications. I haven’t taken ibuprofen in a year, which was my go-to drug of choice in the past.

If you are considering changing your way of eating, I’d highly recommend the McDougall program to get started. It is easy and you will find the food tastes familiar and comforting. And the pounds do come off without any portion control — that’s the most amazing part of the whole plan. Your cholesterol numbers will drop, and if you go with anti-inflammatory foods, your inflammation will greatly reduce.

I would bet that most people seek out the McDougall program for weight loss, but don’t forget its ability in managing autoimmune disease. I have come to believe that biologics and chemo drugs do not offer a satisfactory outcome for rheumatoid arthritis patients. If you don’t believe me, go to any online RA support group and read the posts that are countless pleas for advice on dealing with X, Y and Z side effect. From hair loss to uncontrolled pain and swelling, these drugs struggle to “manage” the disease. And prescriptions and drug combos constantly have to change to bring relief, if they do at all. The name of the game is to stay one step ahead of the pain and keep it numbed out. That is no way to live, but that is all we’ve accomplished on the pharmaceutical track, along with potential side effects that frankly, can be worse than the disease itself.

What troubles me most is we are OK with this as a society, and many continue to disregard nutrition as the cure for anything other than chicken soup for the soul. I am all too aware of this mindset because that’s what I thought before starting this. It’s not anyone’s fault for thinking this: There is no monetary reward in researching food’s effects on health. There is money to be made, though, in pill patents.

I am one year into not taking Methotrexate. I am using food as my medicine. I am fine. My hair is thicker, nails are stronger, I have more energy, and I’m at the same weight I was at in high school, which, consequently was the last time I ever was at this weight. I’ve had one bout of illness that came and went in two days, with no medicine other than fresh fruit, steamed vegetables and rice. This felt as radical as anything I’d ever done in my life; actually trusting my body to heal. And it did.

And it continues to do so. Each day, my joints feel better. It takes time, and I feel every day I eat this way, I am strengthening my cells to counter everything life throws at me. The dry hacky cough I usually had in winter has not appeared this year. I have no sinus issues anymore. The list of improvements goes on and on. Make no mistake: I am as passionate about the benefits of this way of eating as anything I’ve ever been involved in.

Because it works.

If you haven’t seen Dr. McDougall, here is his presentation at the NW Veg Conference in September. I met him face-to-face for the first time at that conference. If you need his help, seek him out. He answers his email. Does your own doctor do that?


8 thoughts on “One Year of Eating Plant-Based

  1. Congratulations to you little lady. I am so proud of you for taking charge of your life and turning it around. No one else can do that for you. I am so happy that you figured out what to do for yourself. We are still cold here with more snow predicted for tonight. Twyla and I went to lunch with Dan today for my birthday, he was tied up with the super bowl on my birthday. He seemed to be doing ok, said he was having trouble getting signed up for Obama care, starting over with it tomorrow. I hope the coming year will be as good for you as the past year.

    Take care DAD


  2. Congratulations to you Debbie. I have been following your progress and I am amazed and so happy for you. Keep up the good work you look fantastic. !!!
    Cousin Lois~


  3. Great post — and very inspirational! I’ll never have as clean a diet as yours (I don’t have the RA as motivation — or, let’s face it — the self-discipline), but I’ve loved reading about your journey, and I regularly use several of the recipes you’ve posted and linked to. I’m half-tempted to kidnap Jeff and Elijah and force them to go to a McDougall retreat, which would be the only way to get them off the pizza, burgers and cookies train for even a day. Keep up the good work!


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