Just a little over two years ago, I thought that my life as I had known it was over; I was fat and sick at 52 before going on a whole foods, plant-based diet. Iâ€™m 5â€™7Â½â€ and weighed 210 pounds. My body was wracked with diabetes, chronic heartburn, extremely high blood pressure, numbness in my left arm and leg, and heart disease so bad that after an EKG at 50, the doctor asked me when the last time I had a heart attack was. I couldnâ€™t recall having one. I told her I was going to exercise, and she told me that without further tests, that if I exercised I could die. I knew it was possible, my grandfather died at 49 from heart disease. I spit up blood almost every day from gum disease, my breath was putrid, and I had an enlarged prostate (or symptoms related to diabetes, Iâ€™m not sure which) that had me up three to five times a night. I canâ€™t explain how frustrating and painful that was. I also suffered from terrifying sleep apnea; I snored so loudly my throat was constantly raw. After getting lens implants in my eyes and lying on my back for six weeks is when diabetes fully hit me. During that time I foolhardily went on an Atkins/Paleo diet that a friend swore by and went from 190 to 210 pounds. Thatâ€™s when other diabetic ailments started to snowball. I had pain in almost every part of my body, neck, back, shoulders, elbows, knees, arthritic symptoms everywhere, it was unbelievably painful getting out of bed, cars and chairs, and I started encountering minor vision problems from damaged retinas. One of the last diabetic symptoms to hit was the stinging needles of neuropathy in my feet. It was such a painful every day existence that I feared growing old more than death.
I knew something had to be done. But what? I would have never imagined that this could happen to me. I thought I knew about health. From the age of 30 to 35 I had been a personal trainer with classes in Sports Medicine at NMSU, which included human nutrition, sports nutrition, exercise physiology, kinesiology, and advanced weight lifting theory technique and practice. In 1994 and 1995 I won two NPC Mid USA lightweight bodybuilding contests, without the use of anabolic steroids. Whey protein was my only supplement. A lot of my calories came from whole foods (20 to 40%) with no more than 10 to 30% of my calories coming from fat. I ate chicken breasts, tuna, and skim milk mixed with whey as my main protein sources. I looked like that picture for five and a half years, but was hungry most of the time. It was such a struggle, that I knew it would be hard to stay on long term. Thatâ€™s when my weight started to fluctuate.
From my 30â€™s to late 40â€™s, my weight started to become an issue, increasing to 190 pounds as in the picture. I would then increase my exercise duration, frequency, and intensity. In doing so, within 6 to 8 weeks I could drop 10 to 20 pounds and most of my metabolic symptoms would be alleviated. But as I started to get in my later 40â€™s, losing the weight became increasingly difficult. By the time I reached 50 it got much worse, the more I exercised, the more animal protein I would consume. I would come home from exercising and within 20 to 30 minutes every joint in my body became so inflamed that my whole body would just freeze up. After talking to some doctors and nurses, my future looked bleak. I was being told that heart surgery with stints was a real possibility and that with the diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, I would likely be on at least five medications for life. Out of the four medical professionals, they all said that my diabetes was incurable because of how far it had progressed. I knew that was wrong, as I had clients with similar symptoms of type 2 diabetes that reversed theirs by simply losing weight and cutting most of the fat and processed foods. So I decided to do as much research as possible.
Previously, the only research that I felt was relevant came from medical websites, such as Web MD and others. I took a break from my research, and decided to watch Netflix. I saw a documentary called Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. I said, â€œWow!â€ That describes me perfectly. Then Netflix suggested Forks Over Knives. I was astounded to see all of those people reversing heart disease, diabetes, etc. The last documentary I watched was Food Matters. Now I was totally convinced. In just four hours of watching Netflix, I had more fact-based, believable nutrition knowledge from doctors like Caldwell Esselstyn, T. Colin Campbell, and John McDougall than I did with two semesters of nutrition in Sports Medicine and many hours of Web MD and their ilk.
I attacked this new diet and lifestyle with gusto; the results were very dramatic and immediate. First I emptied the house of all processed foods and animal products. Then I bought a juicer and stocked up on whole foods, mostly fruits and vegetables with minimal starches (I had not been to McDougallâ€™s website yet).
Day 1: the first time in years that I didnâ€™t have heartburn. My acid reflux was so bad that I could eat a whole roll of Tums or Rolaids and most of the time not even put a dent in the problem. I would have to resort to eating baking soda. Iâ€™d tip the box up, take in about a tablespoon and swish a little water around in my mouth. To hell with the glass and stirring it up I wanted relief immediately. Just for that, the diet would be worth it. Two and a half years later not one case of heartburn.
By day 4, the neuropathy in my feet was gone! It was like a miracle, I could stand without pain again. Most of my arthritic symptoms and pain were no longer a problem. The bathroom trips were down from three to five times a night to one to three. I no longer had the reek of excess sulfur exuding from my skin and lungs making me stink up the place. By the end of the third week almost everything that was wrong with me was healed! Iâ€™ve never again felt numbness in my left arm and leg. When I did aerobic exercise, I could feel how much easier it was to breathe. I reversed my gum disease and my dandruff disappeared. Before this whole foods, plant-based diet, I thought I never really had a problem with constipation. I thought everybody had to grunt to evacuate the bowels. I eat so much fiber now that I have a minimum of three bowel movements a day, no grunting involved.
My first six weeks on a plant-based diet consisted of juicing and raw foods. My body healed so fast on a raw food diet that I thought I had found the elixir of life and chronic disease relief. I had dropped at least 25 pounds, my blood pressure would average 110 over 70, and a stigmatism that I was left with after the lens implants was gone. Now I recover faster from workouts at 55 than at any time of my life. As a teen I never felt so good, because even back then heartburn was an everyday thing. But something was wrong. I was starving to death. No matter how many fruits, vegetables, smoothies, or juice I put in my mouth I was constantly hungry. I just couldnâ€™t see myself sticking to this diet. Then I found Dr. John McDougall.
During my research I tried to avoid Dr. McDougall as much as possible, he was saying crazy things, such as eat potatoes and rice. How was I going to lose weight eating all that sugar? When I first went to Dr. McDougallâ€™s website, I was very skeptical. Then I watched the starch solution. Everything that he said made sense. That without starches hunger would be my constant companion. In the following four days, I read almost every blog and watched every single one of his videos, from the McDougall moments to the lectures. Since then I have never been so satisfied with a diet. I eat anything and everything I want as long as itâ€™s whole foods, centering my meals on starch. My wife has been incredible. We feast every day; I never thought that excluding meats and dairy could be so delicious. She has become so creative, that I canâ€™t wait to see what combination of yummy plants she will come up with next. She adopted the diet because she doesnâ€™t like the suffering of animals and wants to help save the planet. My reason was selfish, I just wanted to feel good again. I had been a hunter most of my life. Now I canâ€™t even walk down the meat department aisle without being repulsed by the death. I respect life so much more now. The last two and a half years have been the starchivore lifestyle for us.
Old injuries that I thought would never heal, healed themselves. It took about year and a half on the diet for a tailbone to heal that had been injured in a motocross race when I was sixteen. For almost 40 years I could never drive over a 100 miles without a big soft pillow under my rear. Never needed a pillow since. I had incurred a bad hip pointer injury from playing high school football when I was 15. Many times doing lunges the last 35 years, a searing pain would shoot down my left quad. I had an injured rotator cuff that made it almost impossible to sleep on my side for 25 years. It took almost two years of going without animal products or processed foods for that to heal.
Other members of my family and friends have also benefited greatly from Dr. McDougallâ€™s advice. My sister used to call my 75 year old father shuffles because he used to have a hard time getting around. But now at 77 he lost 55 pounds in the first six months, got rid of his psoriasis, bleeding gums, and his frequent bouts of gout. He can run up and down a basketball court for an hour without any problems. No more shuffles! Another friend reversed his heart disease and diabetes, lost over 80 pounds in less than a year and is off his meds now. So many successes. Because of you and other doctors like yourself, my friends, family and I will enjoy so many more years of not just life but a high quality of life. Thanks so much, I will make up for all the animals I killed by bringing as many people as I can to your website. Thanks again for saving my life!