An Athlete’s Story by Guillermo Vasquez
I wanted to give you an update on my progress. First the article on Mac Danzig was unbelievable; I wouldn't have thought he followed a vegan diet at all! In my 4th week I feel better health wise and I can feel it each week as I progress. I also feel it when I do my running, cycling and strength work outs as well. Most of my events are now trail runs and mountain biking races for my age group. I'm 51 and I feel great though I’ve realized it is much harder to train and stay in shape when you get older. I knew that going vegetarian was important but never really understood the vegan diet and how it could improve my health even more.
Actually I became a vegetarian about 19 years ago, when I became ill, that was when I looked into nutrition and health. I decided to take care of my health and started eating foods that would improve my health. I then decided to followed a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.
After I gained my health back I continued my semi-vegetarian diet and slowly resumed my running and fitness routine. I’ve always watched my red meat intake, because it caused havoc on my digestive system. But I continued to eat poultry, pork and seafood as long as it was cooked healthy. I continued to watch my diet and exercise regularly, because I knew both played a key role in improving my life.
Besides cancer and diabetes was a factor in my family. My mother died 24 years ago from pancreatic cancer, my father recently passed 4 years ago from complications from prostate cancer and my sister passed away 6 years ago from a life time battle with diabetes. Which she developed at the age of 16. Now after reading your book I am certain that my father, mother and sister could have improved their health if they had changed their diet.
Also since I've started the plant based diet, I don't feel run down like I did all day at work. And I was hitting those thermogenic energy drinks to give me a kick start during work and after for my runs and biking sessions. But it seemed like I could never improve, get my energy back and lose a little extra body fat. I also realized that eating all that fast food garbage was the evil all along. All those chemicals, saturated fat and processed food garbage was not natural or healthy. Since then I haven't had an energy drink in just over three weeks. And I realized those drinks were just a bad cycle for me, constantly bringing me up and down.
Since then I have run 5 marathons, countless half-marathons and numerous cycling events. I realized as we get older, our metabolism slows down and our bodies can’t maintain the same level of fitness like it did 15 years earlier. So I turned to sports supplements to help my body get a lift and to try to get leaner. After reading Kathy’s book, I realized it was my diet all along and I was just making those sports nutrition companies rich for the past 15 years.
It wasn’t until I saw Kathy’s segment on the Oprah Show that a light bulb went off within me. I was like “wait a minute, something rings a bell about the vegan diet”. I started to do research right way and I ordered her book a few days later. It wasn’t until I read and re-read her book that I started to understand how dairy and animal proteins were actually making our health worse and not improving it. To be honest I thought the vegan diet was a just an over extreme form of vegetarianism. I did a check up a year and half ago and my doctor was impressed how low my blood pressure and cholesterol levels were. But now after starting a vegan diet, my goal is to impress my doctor even more. And show him that nutrition does play a key role in one’s health.
I changed careers 3 years ago and it is very demanding and stressful at times, I now work as a state public officer in the law enforcement sector and eating junk food was the only option so I thought. But after reading your book, I now take healthy snacks for lunch and now eat at places where it allows me to eat my plant based diet. Also I have found myself getting leaner naturally which I thought would never be possible at my age. I plan on looking into some vegan cookbooks that offer tips and quick easy recipes for me. And will as give new ideas in vegan cooking.
A large number of my family still do not understand the vegan diet and many are adamant that the only way to get proteins is through red meat and that we need dairy as well in our diets. Hopefully I will be helpful to them in realizing that vegan diet is about improving ones health and well being. Hopefully I will be able to persuade them to read your book and realize the changes they can in their diet will change their health forever.
I just wanted to say thank you! Your book has really helped me change my life for the better and of course you helped save my wallet from all the sports supplements I was wasting my money on. But I will say Kathy you and your book have been a blessing to me. People ask why I run and I always give them the same answer. Now when they ask why I run and became a vegan? I will respond by saying “to add life to my years and to add years to my life”.
Thank you again.
Weight Loss Was an Unexpected Benefit by Ben Goldsmith
Being overweight is difficult at any age, but it’s particularly difficult, I think, for those of us who were overweight as children. Comments about our weight by strangers, family and friends—however harmless they’re intended to be—were incredibly painful reminders of a reality over which I had virtually no control and wanted so badly to change. As a kid I didn’t know what carbohydrate or calorie meant. All I knew was I looked different than my friends, and I wanted more than anything to fit in.
I became self-conscious about my weight pretty early on. As a ten year old, I dreaded swimming lessons at summer camp because it meant taking off my shirt. I avoided looking down, particularly in pictures, because I knew it exaggerated my double chin. Riding on the school bus, I’d keep my knees together and try to take up as little space on the seat as possible.
My diet was never all that different from anyone else’s. We mostly ate dinner at home and only had fast food occasionally. My parents packed the same ham and cheese sandwiches in my lunch that my friends’ parents packed in theirs. But, for some reason, I always tended to be a little heavy.
Even though I had friends and a loving family, being overweight as a child made me feel sad and alone. It’s a little hard to explain, but I always felt like I was different and that there was something wrong with me. The sadness went away when I did things that allowed me to forget about my body, and there were a few things that could always cheer me up. One of them was being around animals. Animals saw me the way I wanted to be seen: as a person just like anyone else.
Like many high schools around the country, my school allowed students to leave campus for lunch. And, like most schools in the United States, there were several fast food restaurants within walking distance.# Beginning in ninth grade, my friends and I ate fast food for lunch virtually every day. Not surprisingly, that’s when I went from being heavier than my friends to being significantly overweight. By my junior year, at roughly 5’6, I weighed just over 200 pounds.
Having been overweight my entire life, I think at some point I just gave up. It didn’t matter if I was a little heavy or seriously overweight. I was a fat kid and that wasn’t going to change. The best I could do was eat the food my friends ate; at least that way I’d be one of them. At one point during my sophomore year, my friends invented a weekly event they called Meat Fest. Meat Fest, held at lunch on Fridays, entailed eating as much of as many different kinds of meat as we possibly could. My Meat Fest meal of choice: A double bacon cheeseburger with gyro meat and sausage from a local fast food joint that was conveniently located on the same block as my high school. With fries and a Coke, I think it probably cost around $7.
I was never a particularly sedentary kid, mind you, even during the glory days of Meat Fest. All of this happened prior to the proliferation of wireless Internet connections, high school kids with cell phones, and Xbox Online. Hell, I was on the tennis team! I was a normal American kid eating normal American food doing normal American things. As I would come to find out a couple of years later, low and behold, the problem wasn’t how often I ate or how little I exercised. The problem was the food I chose to eat.
On a normal spring day during my junior year of high school, my friend Katie and I had plans to catch a movie after school, and she’d invited a friend of hers, Ryan, to come along. The plan was to pick up Ryan on the way to the theater, and Katie and I decided to stop at McDonald’s before heading to his house. While we were eating, Katie told me that Ryan ate a vegan diet and insisted we keep our stop at McDonald’s a secret.
This struck me as odd. As far as I was concerned, we weren’t doing anything wrong. I’d heard that PETA was boycotting KFC at the time, and I would have understood the need for secrecy if we’d been eating there, but this was McDonald’s—what could be so wrong about that? Still, the last thing I wanted to do was offend him, so I gladly agreed to keep our lunch between us.
Later we went back to Ryan’s house and hung out. He seemed like a cool guy, and we had a lot in common. Nothing about Ryan suggested that he had any fundamentally different beliefs than I. Ryan offered Katie and me something to drink after a while: he had OJ, Coke, bottled water and rice milk. I’d never heard of rice milk, so I asked if I could give it a try. It wasn’t the best thing I’d ever tasted, but it wasn’t bad either.
Why, I wondered, would this guy my own age deprive himself of a glass of milk, a Big Mac, or a plate of cheese fries? Given how much I enjoyed those things, his decision to abstain based on a set of beliefs actually struck me as rather commendable. He’d have to feel pretty strongly about it to refuse something so delicious. So I asked him why he chose to be vegan. His answer – that he wasn’t willing to cause suffering to other living creatures and then this recitation of lots of intense and awful details about that suffering -- changed my life.
Effective that day, I was vegan, and have been ever since. It just made sense. Why should I eat something that caused an animal to suffer when I could choose to buy something else? Rice milk wasn’t as good as milk, I thought, but it wasn’t bad enough to justify buying cow’s milk, which, as Ryan explained, came from an animal that was continually impregnated to maximize her dairy production, and her male calves we likely slaughtered for veal.
My decision to adopt a vegan diet was a very personal one. While I became increasingly concerned—and, later, outspoken—about the plight of animals raised on factory farms, I chose to adopt a vegan diet that day because I knew it was something I had the power to do, and I knew the choice was right for me. I loved Meat Fest as much as any of my friends, but I liked a lot of other foods, too. The way I saw it, when I sat down to eat, I could make a choice: I could eat the thing that I thought would taste best, or I could eat something perhaps slightly less delicious but that caused far less suffering. When I chose the latter, I felt good about myself—like in some small way I was making a difference.
I don’t think I substantially changed what I ate on a daily basis; I replaced the animal products I’d been eating with plant-based alternatives. Rice or soy milk on cereal, PB and J instead of ham and cheese, Earth Balance instead of butter, tofu and seitan instead of meat. Save the occasional temptation—a tiny slice of brie, my grandmother’s matzo ball soup and coffee cake—I found that nearly everything I liked to eat could be replaced by a plant-based version of the same thing. Even when I tried a vegan product that tasted terrible, there was usually another brand that I found to be a little tastier. And, over time, vegan sour cream stopped tasting like, well, fake sour cream. Today, vegan sour cream tastes rich and creamy—a great topping to or ingredient in some of my favorite foods.
After a while, I stopped comparing the food I was eating as a vegan to the food I ate growing up. My tastes started to change. I had fewer cravings for rich and fatty foods, and I realized for the first time how sweet and satisfying whole foods can be. I started eating more fruits and nuts, used pure maple syrup as a sweetener instead of sugar, and added fresh spinach or kale to many of my favorite dishes. And, having never found a tofu scramble I really enjoyed, I just invented my own.
My family was, by and large, supportive. My aunt Annie took me to a local bookstore to go shopping for vegan cookbooks and to read up on vegan nutrition. If my parents were cooking pasta with chicken for dinner, I’d just have my dad make me a serving without the chicken. If we were having tacos, I’d just have mine with beans, veggies and salsa. Did I like beans as much as I liked ground beef and cheese? No. But it wasn’t bad, I still got to eat with my family, and I felt good about my choices. And by the time I got to college, most grocery stores had begun stocking various plant-based meat and dairy replacements.
Even my friends were supportive. I still attended Meat Fest, and a double veggie burger and fries became my new usual. When we’d have barbeques over the summer, I’d bring along a box of Boca Burgers and it was like nothing had changed at all. Sure, people cracked jokes about it, but they were my friends. I didn’t object to what they ate and they didn’t object to what I ate. We all just made our own choices, and no matter what anybody said, I felt good about mine.
Looking back on it now, it’s amazing how little changed when I became vegan. It seems inconceivable that going from a meat-eater one day to a vegan the next wouldn’t require a huge shift in a person’s life, but it certainly didn’t in mine. There was one major thing that changed, but it was a change I didn’t expect.
It never occurred to me that adopting a vegan diet would cause me to lose fifty pounds in two years, but that’s what happened. I lost the first twenty or so pounds before I left for college. People were beginning to notice that I was slimming down, but I didn’t notice a huge difference that first year until my mom took me shopping the summer before I left for my freshman year of college: I hadn’t worn a size medium shirt or a pair of pants with a 34” waist since I started high school.
The rest of the weight came off my freshman year, and that’s when the difference really became apparent. Gradually, over the course of that year, my body completely changed. My face looked slimmer, my waist leveled off at a size 32,” and I even lost what my mother had always affectionately referred to as the “baby fat” on my hands.
Since the weight came off so slowly, it wasn’t until I went home for Christmas that year that I fully understood the extent of the changes. My friends and family couldn’t believe their eyes, and my grandmother found it rather unacceptable that I had yet to replace my once again baggy clothes.
I didn’t get substantially more exercise or eat any less than I ate before: I just ate differently. I’m virtually the same weight today as I was my in sophomore year of college, when for the first time in my life I finally felt good about my body by making changes in my diet that made me feel good about myself.
Reversing the Family Heart Attack Pattern by Robert Dew
For the record, this is a portion of my family’s health history:
Great uncle: deceased, at 45. Cause: heart attack.
Grandfather: deceased. Cause: heart attack.
Grandmother: deceased. Cause: stroke.
Great grandfather: deceased. Cause: heart attack.
Mother: deceased- congestive heart failure.
Father: living with two triple by-passes, two pacemakers and congestive heart failure.
That’s how my family stories end. We all die of heart attacks and strokes. But every story has a beginning…
One of the few pieces of stemware I recall from my childhood was a nice set of sturdy, faceted goblets. They were obtained courtesy of a well-known peanut butter manufacturer. The peanut butter came off-the-shelf in special glasses, sealed with a pry-off lid. Our set was a result of me eating countless spoons of it in front of the TV. We had an even dozen. I would have been pleased to supply a dozen more but the promotion ended.
I had another food treat; this one invented by my dad. He would sit down to watch a football game with a stick of butter, a packet of saltines and a bottle of ginger ale. He scraped out a furrow of butter onto the cracker and downed the thing in one bite. Every two or three of these were washed down with ginger ale. I loved it too. By halftime, the butter, crackers, half a jar of peanut butter and a quart of ginger ale were gone. We were eagerly consuming the three main food groups in the American Food Pyramid: sugar, grease and salt.
I did eat other things. I loved breakfast; listening to bacon and eggs talk to me as they cooked in the same pan. Grits had to be consumed with a ton of butter, salt & pepper. Hamburgers were my favorite food. I always took off the lettuce and tomato and gave the pickle to my wife. I could not pass a hamburger stand without wanting to stop for double fries and triple burgers. When I cooked burgers on the grill (Which was often) I always made an extra rare and greasy one to eat while I was cooking the rest. I did like broccoli, as long as it was rendered unrecognizable, swimming in butter and cheese. Then there were donuts; fried in oil, dripping hot from the basket, coated in sugar. And more than once, at midnight, I found myself eating Oreo cookies while staring at the clock. So there you have it: Breakfast, lunch, supper, dessert and snacks- A diet of kings.
I ate a lot of fast food, dined at restaurants. When we ate at home there were plenty of meat and potatoes. Of course we added a tiny feel-good garnish of fruits and vegetables that were either loaded with sugar or cooked in some sort of fat. I went to the gym and took vitamins. But while I was eating all this, I was doing something else; I was constructing, piece by piece, the links of a chain. The resulting concatenation: Heart Disease.
My awakening was gradual. I had been watching my father take a seemingly inexorable journey. During each of his by pass surgeries I witnessed drops in his cognitive skills. This once sharp and inventive man was moving backwards. Holding the thread of a simple conversation became difficult. In parallel with this was an increasingly diminished physical capacity. The strong man of my youth was growing feeble. In many ways our roles were reversing; the child became parent and caregiver. But it made me think…
A few years ago I started to consider my position. In thinking about my dad, I remembered reading an article in the late seventies about a treatment that reversed heart disease through diet. (Nathan Pritikin) While researching his methods I found other books that detailed the relationship between the typical western diet and degenerative diseases—books by Nathan Pritikin, Ross Horne, -Dean Ornish, Caldwell Esselstyn and Lance Gould. I tried to practice the lifestyle, but could not maintain the efforts.
Then it happened to me. I became aware of symptoms consistent with heart disease. Once they began, they progressed at an alarming rate. I contacted Dr. Esselstyn and described my symptoms. I had already read his book and asked if he could recommend a doctor who supported his method of treatment. In July 2009, I went to the clinic and had a stress echo test. I failed miserably.
The attending nurses & doctor wanted to send me to hospital immediately to have a catheterization and most likely a stent or bypass. I told the attending doctor that I respected his opinion but that I had to put on the brakes. I had already concluded that I wanted to try a plant-based solution to my problem. Needless to say, that announcement caused some hysteria.
Dr. Esselstyn supported the decision. I was immediately armed with Nitro tablets and instructed to go to the hospital if I had to use them. Beta-blockers and Statin medications became part of my daily regime and I renewed my dedication to a plant based diet. As it turned out there was a cancellation and subsequent opening in what was Dr. Esselstyn’s first small group program at the Cleveland Clinics newly opened wellness center.
This was my condition just prior to stress echo testing:
- Blood pressure: resting, 130/95.
- Cholesterol: 250.
- I had to stop three times on way to test from the hospital parking lot. No hills or steps; I was on level ground
- During walks with my grandchildren, I could make two driveways before angina onset.
- Could no longer maintain my normal fast walking pace.
- Couldn’t wrestle on the living room floor with the grandkids.
- I had excessive weight gain. Waist size- 38”, pushing 200 lbs.
- Emotional and work stress could trigger angina attacks.
- Had to take acid reducer every day or suffer severe indigestion.
- Joints ached, stiffness every morning.
- I had acne rosacea since puberty, and my skin was worsening every year. (I like to joke that I had four of the new seven dwarves: Flaky, Oily, Blotchy and Red.)
- I had developed tinnitus (Ringing in ears) during the last year. It was worsening.
I attended Dr Esselstyn’s program in early August 2009. Since then, I have had no surgical intervention. The approach has been through diet and regular moderate cardio exercise. The diet is totally plant based with no added fats or oils. Beginning gradually, after about a week into my new life style, and over the course of six months, my physical conditions changed to:
- Blood Pressure: resting, 115/65.
- Cholesterol: 127.
- No longer stopping halfway through parking lots.
- Walking around block with grand kids without discomfort and I’m not counting driveways.
- Walking at my old fast pace again.
- Can wrestle with the grandkids again.
- Emotional and work stress does not trigger angina.
- Lost about 35 lbs. back into 32” waist.
- Stopped taking acid reducers. No indigestion.
- Morning stiffness and joint aches almost completely stopped.
- Acne has cleared up beyond what I could ever have imagined.
- Perceptible tinnitus volume reduction.
As far as I am concerned the results are nothing short of miraculous.
That was my story, but my story is really three stories.
My wife Barbara had a heart attack 2-1/2 years ago, had a stent implanted and went through subsequent cardiac rehabilitation. She was faithful to exercise and stayed close to the doctors recommended diet. (Although I found it perplexing that hamburgers were on the menu in the recovery room.) All the previous symptoms had gone; she had no edema in her feet, no shortness of breath, no chest pain.
About 4-5 months after surgery she had an angina attack. That was only the first. The angina episodes returned with increasing frequency until they were averaging about one per week. She had trouble with weight gain. The edema in her legs and feet had started to return.
This was about the time that I was getting involved with Dr. Esselstyn’s program. I explained the concept and benefits of a plant-based diet to her but she was dubious. She hadn’t read the books, I wasn’t a doctor and a prophet is rarely accepted in his own land.
A nugget of wisdom in Dr. Esselstyn’s program prerequisites is that you must attend with a partner, preferably your spouse. Barb agreed to come only out of support as my wife. But God bless Dr. Esselstyn. His thorough but concise explanations of 25 years of research won the day, for at the end of the program, during the question and answer time, a little hand rose from our corner of the room.
Barb told the group that although Robert was attending the program, she was the one who had had the heart attack. It was the first time she had ever fully understood the cause of the disease. The cause had finally been explained and the cure thrown in for good measure. On the way home that evening, she turned to me and said, “If we’re going to do this thing right, we have to clean out the pantry.” And we did! The nugget paid off; not only with her initial support, but with the support we give each other.
Barb experienced the following changes in her condition:
- One angina attack a few days after program.
- No angina attacks since.
- No further edema.
- Can wrestle on floor with grandkids.
- Lost 40+ pounds and 4 dress sizes.
Sometimes she seems more excited about losing dress sizes than angina attacks, but after you don’t have them for a while- you don’t think about them. It’s just like me no longer thinking about doing the basement stairs three steps at a time.
The third part of the story is about my father. At 87 he has had two bypass surgeries and two pacemakers. With each of his bypass surgeries I saw a pronounced drop in his strength and cognitive skills. These were never more evident than before and after surgeries. Dad came to live with us after mom passed away in January 2009. His condition at the time was:
- Diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
- He could hardly get around. He shuffled more than walked. It was an effort to go back and forth kitchen to bedroom.
- Didn’t drive.
- Had frequent angina attacks.
- Thin and very frail.
- Suffered from indigestion.
- Frequently took laxatives for constipation.
- Had type 2 diabetes, taking oral medication for this.
By default, he ate the same as we did. He didn’t like it and hated the “cow food” we ate. But he ate it. We observed the following changes in his condition:
- He slowly improved. His strength returned and he began a healthy weight gain
- He could now stand to wash dishes, without sit-down breaks
- Because of consistent good blood sugar indications his doctor took him off the diabetes medication. His diabetes was now being controlled by diet alone.
- He has fewer problems with constipation and indigestion.
- He began driving again.
- No recent angina attacks
I’d like to say that we all are living happily ever after. But there is one glitch. It is an important glitch. Dad improved so much and was feeling so good that he started leaving the house more often. Suddenly he had days when he just wasn’t hungry. He had nausea and diarrhea, and constipation returned.
It was only when we discovered the empty packages under his bed that we found out about his “departure” from our lifestyle. The dangerous glitch is that you start to feel so good that you go back. Dad had started buying junk food and sneaking it into his room. The good news is that he is feeling better again and has sworn off cookie & cheese curl binges.
The New Menu
We are still fledgling vegans. I do still miss many of the old foods, but I don’t miss angina, weakness, indigestion, high blood pressure and 38” pants.
We learn more every day. We try new foods, new recipes. Some are miserable failures, many are delicious. We have re-tasted a couple of our old favorite foods; they were incredibly greasy, full of salt and almost unpalatable. So while I think miss them, I know I really don’t.
Barb makes a wonderful lentil soup in the pressure cooker. It’s easy. Just chop up all of the constituent vegetables, throw in the lentils, add vegetable stock, seal the pot and cook for ½ hour. It’s great coming out, but even better the next day.
I was never a lover of vegetables. Munching down a whole bowl of greens is tedious. One of the most effective ways I found to increase the intake of greens has been making green smoothies. My concoctions have a less than stellar aesthetic quality; mixing blueberries in with deep green kale, strawberries, lettuce and a banana doesn’t yield an eye pleaser. But they are antioxidant rich, loaded with fiber and vital nutrients. They taste good and make a great replacement for sugar filled soda.
I have approached the whole thing with a two-part philosophy:
- The thought that I can never have a certain food again is depressing, so I compromise and say I’m just not going to have that food today. I can’t do forever, but I can do a day.
- I ask myself, “Am I going to die if I don’t eat this steak?” No. But I might die if I do.
The whole thing starts to sound like an AA meeting, and maybe it is; there is certainly an addictive quality about the diet of western civilization. But I don’t really care.
My body tells me that I feel better. The documented studies say that at least some of the damage will heal. So I am encouraged. So it is good. So there is life after hamburger.
My Diabetes Cure by Natala Constantine
I was diagnosed with diabetes two weeks after my husband and I got married. I was twenty-five years old. I sat in a doctor’s office, trying to remain calm as the doctors and nurses spoke to me, telling me that my blood sugar was dangerously high. My husband and I sat in an emergency room listening to a doctor explain how my blood had turned acidic, how I was fortunate to be alive, how they were not sure if I would make it. I would survive that night, only to spend many nights wishing that I hadn’t.
I spent five years of my life trying everything to control my diabetes. I went to doctor after doctor, all who put me on different cocktails of drugs to help control my diabetes. Some would work for a time, but in the end, I was constantly adjusting the medications, constantly battling high blood sugar, and still battling high cholesterol, being morbidly obese, hormonal problems, blood pressure issues, nerve damage, early arthritis, and other physical problems, mostly caused from diabetes.
My story is like millions of others. I tried everything--every diet, every workout regimen and every drug. I was on what doctors would prescribe as a ‘healthy diet,’ which always meant lots of animal protein and almost no carbohydrates, including vegetables. I was told that a high animal protein diet was the only way to control my diabetes. My blood sugar would improve at times, but I could never decrease my medicines, and my health overall was deteriorating.
When I turned 30, my diabetes remained out of control. I was still on the doctor-prescribed diet, high in animal proteins. My weight tipped the scale at the time at over 360 pounds. I was in the gym 2-3 hours a day and I was only losing a couple of pounds a month. Then I developed an infection in my lower right calf.
For a diabetic, an infection anywhere in the foot area or lower leg is dangerous. I already had significant damage to my lower legs due to nerve damage and poor circulation. I already had severe pain in my feet, caused by early arthritis in the bones in the tops of my feet. And I was facing an infection in my leg.
The doctor looked at my leg and expressed grave concern that the infection wasn’t healing. She told me that if things didn’t improve, I might be facing partial amputation.
I was devastated. I was only thirty. I didn’t think things like this happened until later in life. I thought about my husband and how this seemed so unfair to him. Our life together was completely focused on my illness. I sat in the doctor’s office and sobbed. I was on 9 different medications, I had no energy to work, I was trying everything that I was told to do, and nothing was working.
I got to the point where I questioned if I had the strength to go on. I would cry myself to sleep at night. I didn’t want to continue living life as a morbidly obese, out of control diabetic. But I realized that I did want to live.
On one of the darkest days, a good friend suggested that I look at a natural approach to my diabetes. She told me that I needed to look at food as medicine.
I was angry with her at first. How dare she suggest something so simple? Didn’t she know that I had been to the best doctors? That I was on the best medications? That I was injecting myself with insulin, that I was on the best diet, that I was working out?
But I did take her advice to heart. I started searching for new answers and came across a few books that talked about healing diabetes naturally. I had always been completely against the idea of doing anything ‘natural’. I thought the approach was absurd. As I read, though, I couldn’t ignore the facts or the science. So many of the books described my situation exactly.
I decided to stop doing what was not working and to try something completely different.
My reading led me to a 100% healthy plant-based diet. After years of eating all that meat, I decided to make the leap.
For the first three weeks I felt as though I was ridding myself of something much more than animal products. I realized that I had many powerful addictions to food. Food had a hold on me that I could not even conceptualize prior to those three weeks. I would sit in my car and cry outside of sub shops, just wanting a tuna melt.
Prior to that three weeks. I was on over 100 units of insulin per day, and in three weeks I was taking no insulin.
Shortly after this, I was once again in my doctor’s office, watching as they looked at my numbers in utter amazement. When they asked me what I did, I told them I had adopted a completely plant-based diet. They didn’t seem surprised at all and told me that plant-based diets were helping to reverse diabetes. When I asked why they had not suggested it, they told me “because it is not practical”.
There I was, morbidly obese, taking 9 drugs, shooting insulin into myself multiple times per day, suffering nerve damage and severe pain, and yet they thought that changing my diet in a fairly easy way would be less practical?
It was at that moment that I took my health into my own hands. I found out everything I possibly could about plant-based nutrition. I learned everything I possibly could about how my body works and which foods were meant to go into my body and which foods never were.
Everything changed from that moment. I slowly decreased all the other diabetes medicines I was on. I lowered my cholesterol without drugs, I lowered my blood pressure without drugs, I corrected my hormonal problems, without drugs. And that infection on my leg? It completely healed. The arthritis in my feet? It went away.
After years of battling with the scale, the weight finally started to come off. I’ve lost a total of 125 pounds. While still obese, with over 100 pounds left to lose, for the first time in my life, I can see the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
Today, I am medicine free. I have been on a complete plant-based diet for a little more than a year. This journey took me to places I would have never imagined. It took me to a place beyond myself. When I became aware of my body and what I was feeding it, my life changed. For years, I consumed death, and for that I almost lost my life. The way I lived my life, the way I looked at foods, was such that I was not an active participant in my life. I was not living, I was barely surviving. I was not experiencing life, I was going through motions, hoping that someday someone would find a magical cure.
It wasn’t until I discovered that I was the key to my health that my life completely changed. Today I live with hope. I live with knowing that I am in complete control of my health and preventable disease. I live with knowing that I cannot rely on anyone except myself to make conscious choices every single day that either give life or take life away. Once I let go and made the decision to live, my life changed completely.
Today, both my husband and I live and thrive on a complete plant-based diet. Our lives have become filled with hope. We thrive, and we continue to learn.
There is an answer to type 2 diabetes, there is an answer that is found not in a doctor’s office or pharmaceutical lab, but in our gardens. Today, I am living a life free of pain, free of harsh drugs, and free of out of control diabetes.
A Journey Begins by Bruce Wieland
I grew up on a farm in South Texas and I was 5 years old the first time I saw an animal slaughtered. It was November and the first nor’easter of the season had arrived overnight sending the temperatures down into the high 40s. It had been hot the day before and when I woke up that morning I was excited by the sudden change in the weather.
Cold weather meant the holidays were coming. It meant my mother would be baking cakes and cinnamon rolls. We would be getting a Christmas tree soon. It also meant I would finally be able to wear my “new” winter coat. It wasn’t really new. It was a hand-me-down from one of my older brothers who had long outgrown it. The coat was gray twill with a thick cotton fleece lining. It had a hood, deep pockets, a zipper in the front, and I thought it made me look very grown up. I had been trying it on for months, looking forward to having a legitimate reason to wear it, and now, at last, the first norther had arrived. It was the perfect weather for a new coat.
As it turned out, it was also the perfect weather for butchering a hog. On butcher days, my mother would close off the work room from the rest of the house and open the doors and windows to let in the cold air which allowed us to work indoors with the meat without it spoiling so quickly. All this I learned about later. That particular morning in November, I was just excited about the cold weather and wearing my coat. My father was getting ready to go outside. He put on his heavy boots, his jacket, his winter cap, and got his .22 rifle out of the gun closet. When I asked if I could go with him, he said yes, but my mother looked at him disapprovingly and turned to me saying no, she was sure this was not something I would want to see. I don’t remember how long they discussed it, but my mother was eventually outvoted two to one. She reluctantly pulled my hood up over my head and tied it under my chin. As my dad and I walked out the back door, my mother told him to be careful and to make sure I was safely out of the way. That made it sound dangerous which I thought was exciting, and I remember walking down to the hog pens happy to be going on an adventure.
At some point, I’m sure my father explained what was going to happen. He must have told me he was going to shoot a pig so we could make sausage and have bacon and pork chops, which I liked. But all I really remember about our walk is the cold air and the wet grass and feeling snug and safe and warm in my gray coat.
The hog pens were on two large concrete slabs that were tilted slightly to allow the manure to be easily hosed into a central trough that drained into a nearby cesspool. There were six pens in all, separated by horizontal metal pipes welded to upright metal posts. My father handed me the rifle to hold while he climbed over the bars into one of the pens where there were about a dozen young pigs. Once he was inside, I handed him the rifle and he pulled me up onto the edge of the slab where I could hold onto the bars from the outside and see into the pen.
They were only 3 or 4 months old, nowhere near full grown. I was struck by how evident their different personalities were. Some were playing, running around each other in circles. They would press against one another than do a little trick where one pig would stick her snout under the belly of another pig and lift him up an inch or so then turn and run, and the pig who had been lifted would chase after her like they were playing tag. Two or three pigs, however, stood perfectly still, watching my father’s every move as though they were aware that something was different about this morning. Most of them, though, thinking they were about to be fed, gathered around my father, who looked them over carefully then pointed to one of the pigs who was nuzzling his leg for food, and said, I think this is the one we want.
Using the barrel of the rifle, he gently tapped the pig on his shoulders, guiding him away from the other pigs toward the corner of the pen nearest where I was standing. To me, the pig seemed to think this was some kind of game he was eager to play, but didn’t quite understand. With each tap, he would take a step forward then look back over his shoulder at my father, as though to check to see if he was doing it right. After a few more steps, when the pig was in the right position facing into the corner a few feet from where I was standing, my father glanced over to make sure I was watching, then moved the muzzle of the gun to the back of the pig’s head. The pig tilted his head slightly and looked up at me. He gave a little grunt. My father pulled the trigger.
The bullet shattered the pig’s forehead on its exit and sent a fine splattering of blood into the air. I blinked when I felt the warm mist on my face and hands. When I opened my eyes, I saw the pig lying on his side and a thick stream of blood running from his head down the slanted concrete. The other pigs had scrambled for the opposite corner and were squealing and climbing on top of each other trying to get as far away as possible. My father knelt to make sure the pig was dead, then looked up for my reaction. I’m sure his heart stopped a moment when he saw me. I was covered with tiny drops of blood. He jumped out of the pen, lifted me off the slab and carried me to a water faucet where he wet his handkerchief, wiped the blood off my face and washed my hands under the cold running water.
I remember that he was talking, but I don’t remember anything he said. I pulled away from him and started walking back to the house. He called, but I didn’t answer. Instead, I started running. I was again aware of the wet grass and the cold air, and I kept thinking that just a few minutes earlier, the blood on my coat had been inside the pig and he had been alive and happy and walking around with his friends, thinking he was going to get something to eat. And now he was dead with his head blown open and his blood running down the slab, and all this had happened because of me – because I wanted to go outside wearing my coat. Later, when I confessed this to my parents, they told me that the pig would have been killed whether I had been there or not. I did not find that comforting and I did not believe them.
My mother washed the blood out of the gray jacket, but I never wore it again. I had changed. I was now aware that I lived in a place where animals were killed. I never walked by the cement slab without remembering that pig, the first of thousands of animals I saw butchered or loaded up for transport to the slaughterhouse. It never got easier to watch. It was never O.K. with me and I could never understand why it didn’t seem to bother anyone else. My parents often said that they didn’t enjoy killing animals, but they had to because that’s how we got our food. I was taught in school that eating meat was essential for good health, and since every single person I knew and loved did it, how could it be wrong?
It took years to unravel and correct all the misperceptions and misinformation from my childhood. In time, I learned that my family’s hog operation was idyllic compared with what happens on today’s factory farms and in modern slaughterhouses where death is neither quick nor painless. As I became more interested in farmed animal welfare, I watched many videos. One in particular still haunts me. It showed an endless stream of pigs, each hanging by one of their back legs on hooks attached to a moving track, like clothes at a dry cleaner. The pigs were screaming and struggling to free themselves as one by one, the workers slit open the veins in their necks and began hacking them apart, some while they were visibly still alive and conscious, their eyes bulging, their expressive faces twisted in agony, fear and confusion.
Pigs are intelligent, highly social animals with personalities as complex and unique as any cat or dog. But that doesn’t stop us from killing 115 million of them every year.
My journey into this awareness of animals began with the killing of a small white pig on that chilly November morning. With that experience, I learned to doubt, and eventually, to challenge the status quo and to ask questions, all of which were variations on the one question no one could answer: If killing animals for food is necessary and right, why in my heart and soul does it feel so deeply wrong?
I stopped eating meat when I was 24 years old. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. I’m 50 now, and when I consider all the choices I’ve made in my life, I can say without hesitation that the choice to stop eating meat is by far the single best decision I’ve ever made.
It was effortless. I was ready. I had been ready since I was 5.
The End of IBS by Dora Smagler
10 years ago I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Everything I ate made me gassy, bloated & constipated. I used laxatives at least once a week! I bought all kinds of books, cookbooks & read tons of articles on IBS but I still couldn’t find the right diet that worked for me. Most of the time I ate foods that I didn't even enjoy. It was very depressing. About 6 months ago I was introduced to The Quantum Wellness Cleanse by Kathy Freston. After all I had been through I figured a cleanse could only be good for me! Well 7 days into the cleanse I lost 4 lbs and by the end of the cleanse I was ready to go vegan!
I was very intimidated at first. Kathy had a long list of groceries and tons of recipes in her book. I wanted to try them all but I wasn't familiar with most of the vegan foods she mentioned. So I went out and bought everything she suggested because I was determined to learn how to cook vegan meals & become a vegan!
I started going to the fresh market on Saturdays in Union Square to buy fresh vegetables. I fell in love with so many different kinds of veggies and those I'd never thought I'd cook & enjoy; pumpkin, butternut squash, zucchini, brussel sprouts & beet root. I even took a leap and bought myself a juicer from Bed Bath & Beyond. I was so excited to try it.
At the market I bought pounds of spinach, kale, collard greens, parsley, carrots, kiwis & apples, which by the way cost a total of $15.00, and then I went home & started juicing. After the first time I juiced I was addicted!! I started juicing 3 times a week now I do it every single day. People comment on my skin all the time, they tell me I have a glow, my hair & nails grow faster now & everything in my life has just changed for the better! I just feel good. I feel happy, healthy, full of energy & motivated. And I have lost about 10 pounds.
During the 21 day cleanse I started using acacia fiber once a day to relieve my constipation & it worked like magic. However, not too long ago I skipped a dose or 2 by accident & noticed I wasn’t constipated anymore, so I decided to stop using it to see if I could go on without it. I have been a vegan for 5 months now, I juice daily and I haven’t been constipated once!! I no longer need the acacia fiber.
Last year I was also diagnosed with manic depression. I was given medication for my frequent panic attacks and sleeping pills because I was never able to fall asleep at night. Since I've been a vegan I have been able to come off my medication and stay off. I haven't had one panic attack. I have no more trouble falling asleep every night & sometimes I even take naps during the day which is something I was never able to do. Becoming a vegan has completely changed my life!
When I told my family & friends I went vegan they were incredibly supportive. Whenever we went out for dinner they would ask me where I'm "allowed" to eat. It's very comforting to have support when you make a life change as I did going vegan. Although I was happy with my change I was still in the learning stages of becoming a vegan. I had to learn how to eat while traveling & while eating out with friends. I thought it was going to be a challenge and to my surprise it was fairly easy. Just about every restaurant I've been to had something on the menu for me to choose from. My personal favorites from these restaurants are Mexican (bean burritos), Middle Eastern (Hummus or falafel), Japanese, (seaweed salad, cucumber avocado rolls and edamame), and Italian (whole wheat pasta with veggies in garlic & olive oil)!
I am so grateful to Kathy Freston! The Quantum Wellness Cleanse helped cure my IBS and I'm a much happier person knowing I am in total control of my body, my mind, and my overall health!
I think people in general are intimidated to go vegan because it requires research, patience & understanding. Research, to find out where all dairy & animal products come from, how we get them, and how they are processed. Patience, to find out which products do not contain animal by products. And understanding, that if you take the time to research everything that goes into your body & how it affects you, you will take the time to make the change. I'm glad I took the time and followed through. I have never felt better!!
No More Pain! by Nora Tobin
I have always considered myself to be an extremely active healthy person. I grew up in Lake Tahoe where I spent my childhood outdoors, doing multiple activities with my family including hiking, skiing, kayaking, rock climbing, wakeboarding, and more. My parents would always make sure my brother and I would have well balanced meals after our adventures which usually would include some type of meat, poultry or fish, starch, and veggies.
I continued my healthy childhood lifestyle into my adult life. I am a personal trainer/yoga instructor/semi-pro beach volleyball player. In order to have the energy to work and play, it is essential for me to eat healthy. My version of healthy was based on the information I have accumulated over the years and my habits from childhood. I was taught eating an animal protein-based diet is the best way to eat (especially as an athlete). I have discovered this could not be farther from the truth.
For the past seven years I had experienced horrible stomach aches periodically. The pain lasted a few days up to a few weeks. No doctor was able to diagnose the problem and recently, the pain had become unbearable. I went to a gastroenterologist who had me take multiple tests including a hida scan, scope, and ultra sound. All of the tests showed I was the picture of health. Why was I experiencing such terrible pain? I went to UCLA to see a new set of doctors whom I was sure would find the problem. More tests were ordered and I was told that my gall bladder was probably causing the pain. The doctor suggested I have surgery and get it removed. There was no guarantee the pain would be relieved. In fact, the statistics show that 40% of people who have their gallbladder removed, have the same symptoms or worse after surgery. Excuse me? You are going to cut me open and remove an organ with no guarantee it is going to relieve my pain. No thank you.
The doctor prescribed medicine to calm down my stomach, which, if used in much higher doses is an anti-depressant. I was not open to this solution, since I never take any pain medication and had no idea the effects the medicine would have on my body or mind. During this whole process, there was never one doctor who asked me about my nutrition. I would think that would be the first question when it comes to stomach pain. Apparently, according to much of the medical profession, there is no link between stomach pain and what you are putting into your body on a daily basis. Once again, this could not be farther from the truth. Nutrition is the most important component to living a healthy life free of illness.
I met Kathy Freston at the most crucial point along my path of pain. I had started teaching Kathy yoga right when I found out about the possibilities of surgery or pills to solve my problem. Kathy and I became close right away because of her kind and open nature. I trusted her instantly and told her all about the pain I had been going through. The first question she asked me was about my diet. She was curious what I ate on a daily basis. I told her I ate a well balanced diet consisting of lean protein (chicken, turkey, fish), veggies, fruits, grains, dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese). I thought this was a great balance of all the food groups that I needed. Kathy suggested I cut out dairy and meat and see how I felt. She explained to me how dairy and meat function in the body and the effects these foods group can have on many people. Kathy gave me her book, The Quantum Wellness Cleanse, which describes in detail the health, environmental and moral issues with meat and dairy among other very useful information regarding nutrition. After reading her book and talking to her every week about the benefits of being vegan, I decided to make the switch. I made a conscious decision to never eat animal products again for my own health. The difference from when I was eating my “well balanced diet” to my vegan diet now is EXTRAORDINARY! I want to say it is a miracle, but that could suggest that not everyone can experience the benefits from eating vegan. The beauty of this life changing decision is the effects are not specific to my situation. It has made the world of difference for me and it can make the difference for anyone else who decides to make the switch.
Vegan used to be a foreign word to me and I could not imagine how anyone could only eat vegan foods. First question was always, “where do they get their protein.” I have now learned from Kathy that there is no better way to get your protein then from plant protein. I workout hard everyday and have a taxing job on my body and I am so happy to say I feel better than ever. I am getting all the nutrients I need from a vegan diet and I have exponentially more energy then ever before. The stomach pain I was suffering from is now completely gone. I am excelling in my sports, workouts, and career because I feel incredible everyday from putting that right foods into my body. Kathy has helped me make a life altering decision and has saved me from a life of constant pain or serious surgery. The change has been easy and enjoyable.
There are many choices we make every day that effect us in one way or another. The change to vegan is one of the most important choices we could possibly make for our health. A vegan diet is a guarantee to a healthier and happier life. I am ever grateful for Kathy who showed me the way!
Epstein Barr Virus and Rheumatoid Factor Eliminated! by Charlene DeCesare
Prior to completing the 21 Day Quantum Wellness Cleanse, I struggled with fatigue and had been diagnosed with acute Epstein Barr Virus and a positive rheumatoid factor. As an active person with a family, a full-time job and many goals, I was seriously “sick and tired” of being sick and tired.
I heard you on the radio and decided to buy the Quantum Wellness book and give the 21-day program a chance.
In the past, a "cleanse" made me think of diets involving concoctions I might have drank on a dare (or for $10) in the fourth grade. But luckily, your program wasn’t anything like that. Whew!
I blogged daily about my experience (www.beamingbalance.com) but long story short, it was a challenging but incredible three weeks!
After the program, I felt wonderful. Although not advertised as a “diet,” I was also pretty excited to have lost seven pounds and have a much flatter tummy! *Happy dance!*
Because I felt SO good with this program, I just knew there was something in “the Big 5” that had been making me sick before.
After a period of reintroducing gluten back into my diet, I was tested for Celiac. That was a negative. However, through an IgG food allergy test found out I have severe immune reaction to most dairy products. Since I never noticed significant dietary distress with dairy, I would never have thought to even consider it!
Today I continue to avoid beef, poultry, pork and dairy. The difference is night and day. My RF is negative and the chronic fatigue I had for most of my life is completely gone. I feel great! Truly amazing.
I still find people's reaction to the vegetarian thing fascinating. People often say to me, "You don't eat meat? So you just live on vegetables??"
People must know that there is more food in the world than meat and vegetables! Then again, before your program made me let go of my own restricted attachments and see all many, many wonderful options, I guess I felt the same way!
The bottom line is that I actually enjoy a much broader array of tasty food choices and I have so much more energy to do the things I need and want to do. Life is good!!
Thank you so much!