If you grew up in America, you’re likely among those who know they “should” eat better. Our collective eating habits and relationship with food are woven into the very fabric of our culture. My family was typical. Eat your meat, finish your milk, and veggies on the side. If this sounds familiar, it’s likely you’ve echoed the words, “I know I need to eat better.” But when? When should we eat better? And how? How in the world do people actually eat healthy in our modern society? At a young age, I had it all figured out. My covert strategy? Eat the occasional “Magic Salad,” which I believed would counter-balance all the negative effects of my horribly fast, food-like diet. I fanned the flames of my denial by assuring myself with notions like, “at least I’m not as big as “that guy,” or “I’m only 26…I have all kinds of time to deal with this later.” Was it ignorance, chemical-laden food bliss, or a bit of both?
At the time I had no interest in making any real changes. Nor did I care to know where my food comes from. I want it neatly packaged and ready to eat with no behind-the-scenes information or haunting images. My modus operandi was humming with precision until about age 35, when I got the news. An unwelcome splash of cold water from my doctor bluntly laying down the news I was “obese.” What? “Wait a minute” I muttered, “those BMI calculations don’t take into consideration muscle mass right?” “Nice try” is all he said. Dang! I’m not sure if he noticed me staring at his rotund belly and portly stature. Apparently I was in good company. He added that if I continued with my “reckless eating” patterns, I could be signing up for pre-diabetes, hypertension, and a host of other medical complications. Great. Now what?
I decided it was time to go “diet shopping.” I tried a few that sounded good, but none were sustainable for me. I reflected on my father’s premature death from cancer at age 53, and more recently my wife’s father dying of a similar type of lung cancer at the young age of 66. Her mother suffers from Alzheimer’s, which set in during her early sixties. Way too young. Wondering how to avoid this, and hearing my doctor’s haunting words echoing inside me, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I knew then it was time for real change. As they say, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
A documentary landed in my lap that would forever change the way I see and “interact” with food. The film, “Forks Over Knives,” became the genie I was seeking. Watching it somehow created a paradigm shift, rocking my dysfunctional and co-dependent relationship with food at its very core. Arising from the ashes and rubble of my past food addictions rose a sustainable new healthy way of eating, and my whole food, plant-based diet was born.
The food part was easy, but I struggled with pangs of, “Whoa I’ve become a vegan! How the hell did that happen I wondered? It seemed so quick and didn’t fit with my current self-image of being a somewhat rugged, outdoorsy-type dude. Burgers and fries were just part of my story, or so I thought. Since making this shift to a whole food, plant-based lifestyle, I’ve lost over 60 pounds, have tons of energy, and never have to worry about the next new “wonder diet.” My wife and kids are on board, making this plant-strong lifestyle an absolute joy. It’s really refreshing when you take “I know I need to eat better” off your to-do list. Your body and mind will thank you every day. It’s a good feeling knowing I’m doing everything in my power to be as healthy as possible. We all have to die at some point; I just don’t want it to be my fault.
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