My Perceptions and Learning of a Plant-Based Lifestyle

I was flat out ignorant! As I reflect back to how I approached being healthy I can honestly say I had no approach and I was simply ignorant about almost everything in regards to living a healthy lifestyle. January 17 marked my three year anniversary of living a plant-based lifestyle. What happened to me? To find out, you can reference the My Story page on this site that explains the progression I went through. In this post I’m going to share my perceptions and learning prior to and after going plant-based.

Karen Graff and Keith Crouse tried over and over and over to get me to understand what I was doing to my body and to simply be open to learn more about living a healthier lifestyle. Karen would often be concerned about my blood results (ex. 327 cholesterol) and ask me, “don’t you want to be around for Morgan?” She was certainly alluding to the path I was on. I was simply ignorant and oblivious to taking control myself other than listening to my doctor for a short period of time. I took cholesterol pills he prescribed that for some reason didn’t lower my levels much. That and assortment of other pills due to deficiencies I had. What the heck?!?!?

Keith – “what the heck is up with this guy?” I continued to ask myself this question for  years as he would periodically give me a nudge at work to consider eating healthier – to live and feel better. He was consistent pushing this darn video with forks or knives or something like that. It was of course, Forks over Knives, I later found. He was there when I was simply ready to be open to educating myself about this stuff. Perfect timing…

Thank you so much Karen and Keith for caring enough to consistently try to help me when I needed it. You knew it and I simply thought nothing would happen to me. Also I felt this must be the way one feels as they get older. I got educated and took full control over my health. As I learned going through my mom’s several illnesses prior to her passing, there is no quarterback looking after you in our medical system. Each person needs to take control of their own health. We control our health through the actions we take including education and then implementing what we learn.

Here is a list of my perceptions of eating a plant-based diet prior to my education:

  • I simply didn’t understand why someone would choose to be vegan or vegetarian.
  • The food looks like it sucks. Is it just salads? What else is there?
  • One must have incredible will power to deprive themselves of eating meat, dairy and eggs. I thought – I know I don’t have that will power and don’t even want to consider that will power.
  • I can work my butt off to overcome a bad diet.
  • It’s not worth me cutting everything out, I can eat pretty healthy (what I thought was pretty healthy…ha!) and be ok
  • If I eat lean meats and low fat dairy products I will be OK. That’s what my primary physician would hand me (pamphlet) after a horrendous blood result report. That is SAD = Standard American Diet = hand me a drug = never get better.
  • I need protein. Where do vegans and vegetarians get their protein?!?! I didn’t know what protein meant but I had to have a lot of it for whatever reason I’m not sure. Boy this is confusing…
  • I need milk for strong bones and calcium. That’s what all the ads say right?
  • It seems most vegans and vegetarians are really lean. Are they healthy? They seem like they may need to eat a bit more.

I’m sure there were a few more perceptions I had but that’s a pretty good list and it is pretty crazy how powerful perceptions and biases can be. I am so happy I took control of educating myself first to then have a purpose and belief for taking action whatever that would be.

Below are highlights of the what I have learned over this journey. This list could be a couple hundred lines long. I will spare you of that. That is part of the purpose of The Healthy Giraffe, to share what I learn as I go so I’ll keep sharing in future blogs and events.

  • I know much more than my doctor about nutrition. Doctors receive on average less than fours hours, not classes, of nutrition education in medical school and that in most cases isn’t tied to preventative measures. FOUR Hours!!!
  • Based on this, I better educate myself and take control over my health. The years I have left I want to feel great. That is in my control, not anyone else.
  • Cholesterol medication was barely making a dent in my levels peaking at 327. After going plant-based I dropped that number over half….no pills and never again. Coronary Heart Disease can not only be stopped but reversed. Check out Forks over Knives, What the Health, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn for more info there. I love his quote – “Coronary heart disease is a benign food borne illness which need never exist or progress.” Pretty simple it seems…
  • In the U.S., death by heart disease is our number one killer. Number two is cancer. I just heard this morning that soon cancer will take over the number one spot and it’s not due to heart disease numbers coming down. The current cancer epidemic is mostly caused by consuming animal products. Genetics play such a small role here. I lost my dad to prostate cancer in 94′. I have a much greater chance of acquiring prostate cancer or any other type of cancer due to what I put in my mouth, not genetics. Check out Dr. Michael Greger’s review on the Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death (both cancer and heart disease covered among others) and Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s, The China Study, for more info. Dairy is such a major player in cancers and diabetes. Dr. Neal Barnard does a fantastic job covering this in the video, What the Dairy Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know.
  • Oh the protein myth. Basically you get more complete protein via plants vs. animals, who get their protein from plants, without the side effects of being over weight, obese, or suffer from any of the chronic illnesses they cause – starting with heart disease and cancers. Also, if you are consuming enough calories each day you are getting enough protein. Deficiencies in protein are really rare. Check out Dr. Garth Davis and his website and book, Proteinaholic, for more info there. He learned a lot about what he was researching and turned plant-based as a result.
  • What 97% of Americans don’t get enough of is fiber. Why don’t we hear about that? Fiber is not in animal products….. You can find fiber in plant-based foods. There are so many benefits consuming fiber. It certainly helps clean out our intestinal track in many ways and with fruits, the sugar acts like a slow release pill to help reduce blood sugar level spikes. Dr. Garth Davis covers this in depth as well in Proteinaholic. Help your gut biome out – eat more fiber!
  • Consuming animal products cause inflammation in our body and as Dr. Greger states in, Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, the inflammation usually lasts for 4-5 hours. So if you are eating animal products every meal you are in constant inflammation. That then leads to one of the chronic illnesses. The Standard American Diet is good at breaking down our auto-immune system.,,
  • Buy organic when you can. Reference the Environmental World Guide’s (EWG) annual list (Dirty Dozen and Clean 15) of produce that contains the most and least pesticides. The pesticides used to kill weeds are not helping us in any way. Refer to Dr. Zach Bush and my blog, Chronic Illness and Inflammation Explored, for more info here and on the chronic illnesses I have already shared above.
  • The amount of animal cruelty is beyond anything I could ever imagine. Don’t believe if something says it is cage free or whatever terms used. I learned the formal definition of ‘range free or free roaming’ animals. All a farm has to prove to be labeled as ‘range free or free roaming’ as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture is quite shocking – “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” If you search the web, you can find several examples of this as simply a factory farm having a door that shows the outside. What a shame… What the Health shares several examples of animal cruelty as well. How can we not hear about this?
  • The food I eat now tastes better than what I used to consume. The trick I learned and wasn’t even aware of it was simple – the S.O.S. syndrome as Dr. Alan Goldhammer references. That is Salt, Oil, and Sugar. The U.S. is addicted to salt, oil and sugar. In one way or another that is how I prepared or ate my food prior to choosing to eat healthy. I got off the addiction to salts, oils and sugar and I can now taste real food and it is fantastic!!! Dr. Goldhammer’s video, Escaping The Dietary Pleasure Trap, covers this topic so well.
  • I just feel great! Prior to going plant-based I felt like this must be the way you feel when you get older. The heck with that! I’ve taken control over my health. I feel to good and the side effects are great!

I know this is a long one today. I hope you can take one nugget from my experience to help you live a healthier lifestyle. You can also look at the page, Get Started, for references I found extremely helpful along the way. Please reach out with questions or comments.

– Add Health to Your Life

Blog Photo – one year apart (prior to plant-based and during my journey) – with Kevin Griffin, lead singer of Better than Ezra and of course, my girl Morgan!

 

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