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Dear Chef Mark Anthony,
I want to thank you, I am a new vegan, out of necessity, I was taken to the hospital, by ambulance, when they ambulance arrive, they took one look at me and said you are throwing up coffee ground blood, we need to get you to the hospital now. I have gastroparesis, it is when you what they call a slow gut your food does not move through your stomach, but stay in your stomach until you throw it up.Anyway after I got home I prayed to god for guidance, he seemed to be telling me to listen with an open mind. I went on youtube, looking for something I was not sure what, but I was going to listen with an open mind. I looked and did not find anything that interested me, same oh same oh, I had seem before. I finally saw you chanel, you and Melody were cooking together, she shared about her gluten sensitivity, so I listened, I have celiac disease, and there are not many good recipes on gluten, so I though I will listen for awhile, that is what the Lord seemed to be saying, the longer I listened the more I thought I could do this, does not look all that hard, no fancy, ingrediences, just healthy recipes, then you said something about you being a vegan chef, I knew I had to get my digestive problems under control, so I thought maybe I should try this, you have a way about you that is easy to understand, so I decided while I watched you I was going to give this a try. After all they said next time they might nor be able to stop the bleeding, so I was willing to try anything. I have been a vegan for five weeks, and pleased to say, I have not thrown up anymore blood, no nausea, or vommiting, it is like the gastroparesis just went away. Thanks for making the vegan lifestyle look do able. I know you are the one God wanted me to listen to. You have been a lifesaver.I will be honest I tried the vegetarian diet a few years back and I failed. Usually I would have told myself, you tried this before, now you think you can be a vegan, that is harder than a vegetarian, I have friends that are vegetarian, but they only eat frozen indian stuff, so they could not help, I hate tv dinners. So Mark, I feel like you saved my life, sure glad I listened with an open mind. I was told in 1994 I had 6 months to live and to go home and get my affairs in order, had an enlarged heart, from lupus. So thank you and know I watch you all the time. I went to the University of Washington, and they fixed my heart. One of the UW cardiologist just happened to be at a hospital I was at, and said if I was willing to go there he thought they could fix my heart and they did. They kept giving me another 20 years, a month ago they said you have no Expiration date now. I take no medication, pretty good for someone 75 years old. But you are the one who convinced me I could become a vegan. You and Melody are the best. Thank you again. I was at work at my desk in the church office, when a new Christian came in and told me he learned something about God, he is seldom early, but never late. So he led me to you just when I was open enough to listen and you were kind enough to give me the tools I needed.God bless you both.A.L.
I Beat Food Addiction and Lost 240 Pounds on a Plant-Based Diet
My relationship with food has never been easy. My first diet was when I was 11 years old. In my teens, my weight in pounds was in the 100s. In my 20s, it was in the 200s. In my 30s, it was in the 300s. And in my 40s, it was in the 400s, which is when I reached my heaviest weight of 436 pounds.
I stand at 5 feet 2 inches, but there was a time when I was wider around than I was tall. I’m 62 inches tall and back then I measured 90 inches around my hips and belly.
As a child, my parents were completely baffled by my weight. Unaware of how to help me, they put me on a strict diet, but all this did was isolate me more. They made a mistake that a lot of parents do: They singled out the child as opposed to committing to a healthier lifestyle together as a family.
When I reached 436 pounds in my 40s, I vowed to lose the weight and, this time, to keep it off. I had lost over 100 pounds three different times and had taken off more than 40 pounds at least 20 times, but whenever a crisis occurred, the stress would drive me back to comfort foods. That’s when I decided to try a whole-food, plant-based diet. And it worked.
I’ve now lost over 240 pounds. Whereas I used to be in constant pain in my back and joints, even while sleeping, I now sleep easily and walk pain-free. My sleep apnea, migraines, and need for medication have disappeared. I attribute my success to focusing on the behavior I need to maintain to achieve my goals rather than the outcomes.
The truth is these are the behaviors I need to do for the rest of my life so this weight stays off. I believe I have a brain that’s especially sensitive to sugars and simple carbohydrates. Now I avoid those things. I eat very simply. I avoid sugar, oil, flour, and salt. I eat a strictly plant-based diet. No meat, dairy, or eggs.
When I see someone struggling with obesity, I have nothing but empathy for them. We judge fat people so much and it’s an anguished life. But I want others to know it’s possible to break out of the vicious cycle.
My Tips & Tricks for Success
• I keep healthy foods in my pantry and close at hand.
• I prepare food ahead of time and often plan my meals.
• I eat simply.
• I don’t eat at restaurants often, which helps keeps me on track and also saves money.
• If I’m feeling vulnerable, I don’t feel the need to attend every social engagement or party.
• If I slip up, I don’t beat myself up. I get back on track.
• The longer I’m on my plant-based path, the more bulletproof I feel. So stick with it!
Everyone can do things to get healthier, it’s working for me!
By going on a vegan lifestyle, I have lost 60 pounds, and my cholesterol has went from 263 down to 118. I have more energy than I have ever had. It has not only made me physically better, I am mentally sharper, and I have a better spiritual relationship with God. It really is true, body, mind and spirit are definitely all connected.
I also have enjoyed the money that I save. I save a LOT of money because I have my biggest meal for breakfast and am not hungry all day and eat less. If you get rid of all the meats and dairy, you will have plenty of money to buy all the healthy fruits and vegetables, grains and oats, rice, beans and nuts; and you will still have money left over. it’s a great way to save money!
And the best part is that my taste buds don’t have all that grease all over them and I really get the flavor out of the food. Every thing tastes so much better! I don’t even need all the salt, and sugar, and oil to get the flavor.
BY ERIN GREENER
When my husband, Justin Greener, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer three years ago, it was a wake-up call for our family to reevaluate our lifestyle and diet. We suffered from many illnesses related to the Standard American Diet, like morbid obesity, sleep apnea, chronic pain, eczema, and migraines.
After Justin’s successful thyroid removal and radiation treatment, we began our plant-based journey. Justin did a juice cleanse and then transitioned first to a plant-based diet. The kids and I were slower to transition but started by cutting out all processed food.
For me, this was the most difficult part. I don’t mind cooking, but finding dishes that were easy to fix and tasted good was a challenge. But one by one, we cut out dairy, oil, and meat from our diet. After that, we began to incorporate more whole foods and plants into our meals. The last part of the transition was our kids’ lunches at school. The total transition took three months.
I couldn’t believe the difference in how I began to feel. Within a year of eating plant-based, ailments I had struggled with for years began to lessen significantly or even fully disappear like my chronic migraines, skin problems, low energy, and painful menstrual cramps (from my endometriosis).
In total, I lost 100 pounds while my husband Justin lost around 200 pounds. He also saw a significant improvement in his overall health and no longer suffers from back pain or sleep apnea.
But we also noticed changes in the health of our two kids, Hannah and Hayden. Not only did our kids’ concentration and grades improve, their moods became more level, Hannah’ s acne cleared up, Hayden’s eczema healed, and Hannah lost around 15 pounds, while Hayden lost 20 pounds. For snacks we can take with us, we love air-popped popcorn with nutritional yeast, and homemade granola and kale chips.
We love how our family spends more time together now. We’ve become more active and do more activities together. We even started having family movie nights together to watch documentaries about plant-based lifestyles like Forks Over Knives, Food Inc., and Vegucated. Ever since we switched to plant-based, every year has been more rewarding than the last with more physical activity, family adventures, and improved quality of foods in our diet.
How I Lost Over 100 Pounds and Gained a New Perspective on a Plant-Based Diet
In November 2016, I was miserable, hopeless, depressed, and desperate. I was well over 300 pounds, ashamed of myself, and 100 percent uncomfortable all the time. I could barely get out of the car without wheezing, and people would flinch and give me dirty looks if they had to sit next to me on an airplane.
I went to the doctor twice in 2016 and my cholesterol ranged from 243 to 300, my blood pressure was 148/90, and my blood sugar was 116. My doctor prescribed all kinds of drugs, but I didn’t want to keep taking them. I knew I could do better than a lifetime of medication that merely kept me miserably alive.
I’m raising my grandchildren at the moment. It’s not all about me, so before I just let myself die, I decided to give it another shot. Previously, I had lost more than 100 pounds by counting calories and exercising like crazy, running five miles or more per day. I figured I could do it again. But I was in really, really bad shape, and at age 51 I just didn’t have the energy to bounce back.
Feeling absolutely desperate, I went to the extreme of actually buying some vegetables! I know, right? I never hated vegetables, but I also never considered them a main food source. As a calorie counter, I discovered you could eat as many vegetables as you want without consuming many calories at all. I also realized that vegetables taste pretty darn good, along with fruit, legumes, and healthy grains.
I’m a person who overanalyzes everything, so I started to research whether what I was doing was healthy and came across the Forks Over Knives documentary. It changed my life from the first time I watched it, and I’ve seen it many times since. Sometimes I listen to it for motivation while I run.
Thanks to a plant-based diet, I started to shed pounds like they were going out of style. Soon, I was in good enough shape to exercise vigorously again. I lost an incredible 100 pounds in the first 20 weeks. Then I was involved in a car accident that injured my back. I wasn’t able to exercise afterwards, yet I still lost another 20 pounds. Having started out well over 300 pounds, my goal weight was 200 pounds. Today, I weigh 200, just 20 pounds away from my ultimate dream weight.
Due to the car accident, I was sent to get a CAT scan on my back, and a significant amount of plaque was discovered in the worst possible spot near my heart. My doctor’s exact words were, “It’s in the widowmaker position.” The doctor wanted to treat everything with medicine due to my past high cholesterol levels. When I mentioned I had switched to a plant-based diet that could have helped or even reversed the condition, he looked at me like I was insane. But due to my incredible weight loss, he was willing to see what the numbers looked like after getting a biometric screening.
Well, it turns out my numbers were amazing. (The plaque is just dormant at this time.) My blood pressure was 112/75, total cholesterol 179, blood sugar 91. Still, it’s been a process. For most of the first 20 weeks I ate 85 percent plant-based, but since the car accident, I have been eating 99 to 100 percent plant-based. I might not check every ingredient, and sometimes if I don’t eat at home it’s challenging. But I changed my diet, and it changed my life.
Here are the top 5 things I learned on my food and lifestyle journey:
1. You can’t outrun a cookie! You can only exercise so much, and eventually life is going to show up and interrupt your routine. Studies show that people who use an exercise-only plan to lose weight fail; diet matters most for weight loss.
2. Rethink your food choices. You can’t lose weight and keep it off simply by eating less of the same crap. For me, that meant no fast food, junk food, fried foods, sweets, pasta, or white bread.
3. Watch what you eat, eat what you watch. To stay on track, view every nutritional video on Netflix and YouTube, join Facebook groups, involve your friends, or join a community organization. Whatever it takes.
4. Exercise your options. Don’t let one relapse ruin your journey. Some days you just won’t feel like exercising, but try to do it anyway. If you can’t run, try walking. If you can’t walk, try swimming.
5. Go ahead, eat a lot … of low-calorie-density whole foods. My favorite meal now is simply vegetables served over cauliflower rice (or tofu) with soy sauce and hot sauce. My favorite treat is frozen bananas whipped up in a food processor, which tastes a lot like ice cream.
Monica Kurasiewicz had resigned herself to a life of weight gain and health problems. Then she adopted a plant-based diet and unleashed her full potential.
I started my whole-food, plant-based journey in September 2016, when I went to Poland to visit my sister. She was already on the plant-based diet herself, and her husband introduced me to the book How Not to Die by Michael Greger, MD. At that point I was 35 years old and 165 pounds. My mom and my dad are overweight, and both have high blood pressure and diabetes. So I was on my way down a path that I thought I couldn’t change.
But after leaving my sister’s and coming back home to the United States, I decided to try a detox cleanse. After completing it I felt much better—no more sugar cravings or heartburn—and I figured that if I could do a strict detox for two weeks, I could do anything. I had seen the Forks Over Knives documentary; I started digging further and stumbled upon Forks Meal Planner and Forks Over Knives cookbooks. I committed to making the change. I went 100-percent whole-food, plant-based.
The hardest parts were getting over cravings for comfort foods, such as burgers and other fatty foods, and transitioning to no-oil cooking. But I learned new recipes and gradually it got easier. My favorite meals became stir-fried vegetables and tofu; chickpea-flour tortillas with veggies; and soups and stews with zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and beans.
I did not see a big change in my weight at first, but after one year, I’d dropped over 30 pounds. I now weigh 123 pounds, and I have never felt better—not just physically but mentally and emotionally, as well.
The year proved to be the most challenging and rewarding of my life. I believe the diet helped me rediscover myself and find my inner strength and light again. I got out of an emotionally abusive marriage with a man who turned out to not be the person I thought I married. I started hiking with my dog. I hiked a glacier in Alaska, and I even hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back, carrying a 35-pound pack. I got my scuba-diving certificate. I became an independent, strong, and beautiful woman, a good example to my two beautiful boys.
Now I know that we are not destined to our parents’ diseases and bad diet choices. We can change by changing our eating habits, one day at a time. It’s as simple as that. You really are what you eat.
After all this, sometimes I still find it difficult to talk with people about my transition to a plant-based diet. People almost react like I’m offending them, and they ask a lot of questions: “What about calcium?” etc. Usually, I just tell them to watch the Forks Over Knives documentary, since it was life-changing for me.
Thank you, Forks Over Knives, for opening my eyes to my new life!
Ready to get started? Check out Forks Meal Planner, FOK’s easy weekly meal-planning tool to keep you on a healthy plant-based path.Monika
April 30th, 2012, was like any other Monday. I had just had a great weekend with my wife and toddler son. I am a psychologist in private practice and spend every day in my office working with people seeking relief from emotional suffering and pursuing personal growth. Life was good by most standards. I had a new and growing family, I loved my work, and I only experienced a mild degree of stress at times. I had just had a physical three weeks earlier, and had slightly elevated total cholesterol at 170 and LDL at 105. Previously, my total cholesterol had been significantly higher, so I thought I was doing better. I had lost 30 pounds in the previous year, felt pretty well, and thought I was healthy. I ate the standard American diet with occasional ice cream and peanut butter binges.
A Crushing Pain in My Chest … Which I Mistook for Acid Reflux
At 3:30 in the afternoon, while I was sitting with a patient, a burning sensation began in the center of my chest. Within five minutes, it was a crushing pain in my chest, down both arms, and into my jaw. In a moment of extraordinary denial, I convinced myself I was having a horrible episode of reflux. I proceeded to take some medication for that. I also took eight baby aspirin, in the “unlikely” event that I was having a heart attack. The pain was 90 percent gone in thirty minutes. I finished my day, went home, and had dinner. My wife urged me to contact my doctor since I was still clammy and had mild discomfort in my chest. I finally did and was encouraged by him to go to the emergency room. I drove myself there at 10 p.m. and was told I had an abnormal EKG with elevated troponin levels. In short, I was having a heart attack. This was no ordinary Monday!
My angiogram findings revealed 40 to 50 percent stenosis in my right coronary artery and 20 to 30 percent stenosis in my left anterior descending artery. Fortunately, my heart did not suffer any damage and a stent was not needed. While in the hospital, I researched heart disease treatments and quickly became aware of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a pioneer in treating heart disease with diet and the director of the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at the Cleveland Clinic. By the time I was discharged from the hospital, I had finished his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, and it was clear to me what I needed to do. I knew that our lives would never be the same. For me, the easy part was eating a whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet. I loved the food and was convinced by the evidence that it was curative. The hard part was for my wonderful wife, who was willing to completely scrap or heavily modify every recipe she has ever made for our family and learn an entirely new menu and way of cooking. The learning curve was steep and she rose to the occasion. She became an extraordinary WFPB chef in the process and also follows the diet pretty closely herself.
After I left the hospital, I made contact with Dr. Esselstyn. He has been so kind and supportive and has even contacted me by phone on several occasions to answer questions and offer encouragement and support. Forks Over Knives was also a great source of inspiration to me as I moved through this process.
Soon after my heart attack, I had a very detailed lipid panel which showed a significant elevation in Lipoprotein(a), suggesting that my heart disease had a hereditary component. That elevation has remained high in my lipid panel and had no effect in undermining my progress.
Twenty-seven months after my heart attack, my primary care physician (Dr. Miguel Trevino) and my cardiologist (Dr. Ronald Walsh) ordered a CT of my coronary arteries to evaluate my progress. They were both very supportive and played an integral role in caring for me in my recovery. We had been monitoring my lipids every three to four months and I had consistently achieved total cholesterol readings from 90 to 110 and LDL from 48 to 55 without statins. My weight has been stable at 172 pounds, almost exactly my weight in high school. The findings of this latest CT scan were startling. There was no evidence of stenosis in my arteries. My right coronary artery (RCA) and left anterior descending artery (LAD) were 100 percent open. In short, my disease had completely reversed in just over two years. My cardiologist, Dr. Walsh, was amazed and essentially told me that I could return for a follow-up a year later if I “wanted to brag.”
What has been most compelling to me, a medical professional, was the effectiveness of using a whole-food, plant-based diet to reverse my “hereditary” heart disease. My success in reversing this disease is proof-positive that, in the words of Dr Esselstyn, heart disease is a “food borne illness that need not ever exist or ever progress…”Tim T.