Tag Archives: Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn

TRANSFORMATION

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Heart disease is also 100% preventable. It is a life-style disease and if you have it, it can be reversed through diet and lifestyle changes.

February is Heart Health Month which coincides with Hallmark’s favorite “holiday” … Valentine’s Day. Quite obviously planned that way, I am sure.

What you may not know however, is that February is also the anniversary of my mom’s passing … from a heart attack. Do you see the theme here?

My mom.
My mom and a creepy clown.

She was 47 years old when she passed from a massive heart attack with very little warning. Two months prior, I had celebrated my 17th birthday and the joy of finally having a driver’s license.

My dad was turning 50 in early February as well and my mom worked endlessly planning a huge surprise birthday party for him.

She worked on every detail. She was so excited at who was coming and was busy buying all kinds of “over the hill” decorations.

It was also around this time, that I was making a more conscious (and vocal) effort to stop eating meat. Growing up I was never a huge fan of the stuff. There were a few things I would eat but I hated turkey and would always try and hide it under my mashed potatoes. 🙂

The party came and was a huge success. Two weeks later, she was gone.

The last photo of the four of us together - at my Dad's 50th party.
The last photo of the four of us together – at my Dad’s 50th party.

For those that know me now, that photo may be a bit of a shocker.

Me at 17 vs Me now
Me at 17 vs Me now

I’ve always admired the “success stories” that I see online of those who have been transformed physically that I guess I never really saw my own transformation until I revisited these photos recently.

Then vs Now
Then vs Now

Yet, the transformation that I love the most, is how my mind set changed after my mom’s passing. Whether intentional or subconscious, I made the connection between eating certain things and heart health.

The older and more mature I became, I would learn to research, read and understand the connection fully and more importantly, implement it daily.

Now it is a way of life for me. I can’t recall anything else and there is no other way I would want to live. Do you know why?

Peanut & Squeaker
Peanut & Squeaker

Those two blonde cuties right there. Having turned 40 not too long ago, it hasn’t gone unnoticed in my own brain that I am just now 7 years younger than when my mom left this Earth and more importantly my family. In 7 years, the Peanut will be roughly 16 years old herself. I am certain that history will not repeat itself.

How am I so certain? Because I am in control. I know that cholesterol only resides in animal products. Think chicken is a better choice? It contains the same amount of cholesterol as red meat. Eggs? One egg has as much cholesterol as a Double Whopper. Think about that. One egg!? And don’t get me started on oil (any oil) – it has the potential to impair the flow of blood to your heart significantly not to mention it is highly caloric and contains no nutritional benefits.

Don’t worry, I am not going to turn this into a “don’t eat meat or oil post” … (but seriously, don’t) instead, I want you to stop and think about what you are putting in your mouth in connection with how you feel on a daily basis.

I didn’t jump right into kale salads mind you. I went through a junk-food vegan phase. Sure, Frito’s and Oreo’s are vegan but let’s be honest, that is not food, not really. It took time.

And like me, you may still envision yourself looking a certain way when in reality, you probably do not look like your 17 year old self anymore. While we are at it, how are you FEELING?

Do you get out of breath easily? Is it hard to get out of bed? Can you walk a mile easily? Do you get leg cramps? Acid Reflux?  Sadly, heart disease does not often come with a warning. You don’t necessarily have to have high cholesterol or blood pressure either to have heart disease (my dad didn’t and he also suffered a heart attack).

There is a reason heart disease is called the silent killer. Sometimes the only warning that you get, is when you are having a full-blown heart attack and by then, it may be too late.

Don’t kid yourself. Everyone is getting older. Moderation is not “okay” anymore. As Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, the author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease has said, “If you eat unhealthy foods in moderation, then you’ll have a moderate heart attack.

I miss my mom every day. I often say: If I knew then what I know now, she’d still be here. Yet I might not know what I know now, if she hadn’t had a heart attack. I might still look like my 17 year old self, but with gray hair and quite possibly a few pounds heavier.

People often think Vans and I are so “fit” because we bike and run. That is only a small piece of the puzzle. When I was 17, I was playing basketball, softball and soccer – all year round and sometimes two sports at one time! You wouldn’t know it though by that photo.

Thin doesn’t equate healthy. I want you to look inside. I want you to really look. What is most important to you right now?

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Is it really worth jeopardizing your health, your life, your family to consume something that has the potential to stop the flow of blood to your heart? Forever?

Medication only masks the problem. It doesn’t fix it. Food, the right food (aka plant-based whole foods), can fix it. The right food, can reverse the damage that has already been done. The right food can allow you to see your children grow, walk them down the aisle and have grandchildren. The right food, can save your life.

We’re only given one heart … take care of it.

My heart belongs to these three right here.
My heart is no longer mine. It belongs to these three right here.

~Trailmomma

If you want more information, I urge you to please watch this video and read Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease or visit Dr. Esselstyn’s website.

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HOW DO YOU MANAGE?

Being that I am a vegan (or plant-based), I often get asked the question “Where do you get your protein?” Since I am going on 20 years of eating a plant-based diet, I don’t really get asked that question as often as I once used to. I guess when people realize that I have not eaten meat in 20 years and I am still standing, running and raising two kids that apparently I am doing something right. Vans celebrated his one year of being vegetarian this past September and he is continuing on this journey, with no pressure from me. We have been married 9 years and have known each other for 13 and I never once asked him or forced him to become a vegetarian. I never refused meat in our home. Granted I never cooked it much but he knew how long I had been a vegetarian and he rarely trusted my meat cooking skills (I don’t blame him).

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What I find funny though is that the minute Vans stopped eating meat people jumped on his case about his protein intake! He didn’t declare across the world that he no longer wanted to eat animals, but just went along his way and in certain social situations just tried to get around the meat being served. This experiment really opened his eyes to how meat laden a lot of his work situations are and how little they catered to those who did not eat meat.

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I don’t want to go into a whole post about veganism and where can one get their protein. All you have to do is google and you’ll find tons of blog posts, articles and websites devoted to the topic. However, I do want to highlight the key people who I respect and who validate a plant-based diet over one that contains meat. What is that saying? “Knowledge is the best defense?” Well I am here to point you in the direction if you want to know more about a plant-based diet and how it can benefit your life.

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A lot of people know about Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn who wrote the book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” and he convincingly argues that a plant-based, oil-free diet can not only prevent and stop the progression of heart disease, but also reverse its effects. That is pretty profound stuff. You can read more about Dr. Esselstyn here I know it hits a cord for me coming from a family history that is high in heart disease.

 Dr. Joel Fuhrman  is another favorite of mine to reference. He’s a board certified family physician and the author of the book Eat to Live. If you have the time, I highly recommend reading his book. Not only is it informative, it will open your eyes to the benefits of eating a plant-based diet over a meat laden one. Dr. Fuhrman dives into detail with such examples like eating 100 calories worth of broccoli will provide you with 11.1 grams of protein, 0.4 grams of fat, 0 cholesterol, 2.2 grams of iron and 10.8 grams of fiber.  When you compare that with 100 grams of beef the comparison is shocking for most. 100 calories of beef will give you  8.0 grams of protein, 7.4 grams of fat, 24.1 grams of cholesterol, 0.9 grams of iron and 0 grams of fiber! Read his book, it may surprise you. The chart below focuses on a sirloin steak vs a cut of beef most commonly consumed by Americans.

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His book may also scare you a little because he dives into a plant-based diet with both feet asking that you consume a pound of greens a day. While that would be truly beneficial to your body, it might also hurt your wallet a little bit.

Another person of influence is Dr. Garth Davis. I first heard Dr. Davis on Rich Roll’s podcast and later I moved to his Facebook page. As a doctor he is the first to tell you that his nutrition course was all but one hour in medical school. Doctors are taught to heal, fix and provide medication that heals and/or fixes ailments. They are not taught the age-old quote by Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” That quote is by the same person that the Hippocratic Oath is thought to have stemmed from and is taught to young medical students sweating their way through medical school. Why would nutrition not be included? If you could heal yourself without the benefit of medication wouldn’t you do it? Or is America only after the quick fix?

Dr. Davis is actually a weight loss surgeon. He performs those surgeries where they section off the stomach or what have you to allow highly obese people to lose weight as a lifesaving technique. On Rich Roll’s podcast, Dr. Davis has said that never once were any of his patients vegetarians prior to surgery. He himself was not a vegetarian until a few years ago when he found himself over weight, with high blood pressure and cholesterol. He was quickly resembling one of his patients. Now, a man whose JOB is to perform surgery to allow people to lose weight is coaching his patients to live off a plant-based diet! He makes money off of expensive, invasive surgeries and yet is choosing to help his patients by promoting more vegetables and fruit. Think about that.

So the health benefits aside, what about the pure nature of our digestive system? If science based fact is not your cup of tea, how about mother nature? The human body is not and was not designed to digest and process meat. One of the best explanations I have ever read was from Kimberly Snyder’s book “The Beauty Detox Solution.” In her book she compares humans to the animal we most resemble, primates (monkeys, chimps and gorillas). In fact, 99.4% of our DNA sequence is shared with that of chimpanzees. She compares humans/chimpanzees to tigers a carnivorous animal.

If you notice humans (and chimpanzees) have flat teeth and no claws. Flat teeth like our strong molars are perfect for grinding down plants and vegetables while our canines can be used to open nuts. Tigers have claws that they use to rip into the flesh of their prey and they have large pointy shaped teeth (including their back molars) in which they use to tear apart the flesh of their prey.

She moves further into the discussion by comparing our digestive tracts. The human liver has a very low tolerance for uric acid, a by-product of digesting animal protein. A tiger’s liver however contains uricase which is an enzyme to  used to break down uric acid. Furthermore, a tiger’s intestines is very very short compared to that of a human’s super long intestines. Our intestines are so long so that it takes longer for food to digest and for us to absorb the nutrients and minerals whereas a tiger’s short intestine is short so that the meat they consume is quickly processed and digested which explains why they have to eat so often. When humans consume meat, the meat is not quickly processed through our intestines and ultimately sits there rotting while our body is working over time to produce enough acid to break down the meat and move it out of our system. Just picture that the next time you are presented with meat and see how appetizing it is for you when you think about it rotting inside you over the next few days.

I truly could go on and on here. A few other people of insight are, Julieanna Hever over on the site The Plant Based Dietitian. She also has a Facebook page and she posts some of the best photos online. Rich Roll is an endurance athlete/vegan who has an amazing podcast. I will admit, I was not a fan of his when he first started. His voice alone was very monotone but he eventually grew on me and I cannot deny the amount of information I have gathered from his guests. He also wrote the book Finding Ultra where he talks about how he changed his life around (in his 40s) via a plant-based diet. I also have numerous books by Brendan Brazier another outstanding athlete.

I also just purchased the book No Meat Athlete by Matt Frazier which has not arrived yet. When it does, I plan to do a full review.  Please don’t think that being vegan means that you have to also be an athlete. By all means, no. Plant based at any stage in your life is better than nothing at all.

If you are looking for more resources that are not in the form of a book, please watch (on Netflix or Amazon or online) Forks Over Knives, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead , Vegucated and Hungry For Change. Those are my top movies right there if you are looking for more information, motivation or if you are just curious. Worst case scenario, you’ve only wasted 90 minutes of your time one evening and you can go back to eating the way you always do. Best case scenario? Better health. It is as simple as that.

Now I get asked all the time if my girls are also vegan or vegetarian. The answer is they are not. I never lie to them when they ask me questions about food but I don’t want to force the matter on them. It is their choice. I grew up never really liking the taste of most meat but I was “forced” to eat it while under my parent’s roof. When I left for college (and shortly before that by means of hiding it when I could) I stopped eating meat entirely. I may have had a few moments here and there where I found myself eating it but I truly never enjoyed the taste or texture. Flash forward many years later, my mom died of a heart attack (and had severe issues of high blood pressure before that) and my father also, although much later in life, had a heart attack (which he thankfully survived) but who ironically now, is very curious about plant-based diets and even limits a lot of his meat in take. I believe he sticks to chicken only which I would love to argue with him about but instead, I am happy he’s baby-stepping his way to a more green diet.

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Poppy & Gramie

I always feel that if you force something on someone, they will do the opposite. My five and two-year old are prime examples of that which is why I want the decision to be theirs. When they are ready, or if they are ready, they can choose to not eat meat but at least now I am educated enough to help them navigate a way to ensure that they are getting proper nutrition. That is what I lacked when I was in my early days as a vegan. I was one of those “unhealthy” vegans eating fake meat and processed foods. I try to set the example for my girls by eating healthy food in their presence. As a parent, I think that is the best you can do. Sure my kids eat junky processed sugar laden foods but I warn them about how they will feel eating certain foods but ultimately give them the choice (within reason of course).

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I have now armed you with a few resources. If you are suffering from aches and pains, are overweight, tired, not sleeping well, sleeping too much or just plain not feeling your regular self or the way you used to feel when you were years younger, don’t blame old age and don’t blame solely your lack of exercise. Look at your diet. What are you eating? How much are you eating or better yet, what are you NOT eating (leafy greens, veggies, fruit etc.). Take a minute and think about what you had for breakfast today, for lunch? What can you do to improve your dinner? Don’t jump 100% into a plant-based diet. Start with small changes like Meatless Mondays or perhaps have one meal a day that is not meat based and is solely created from plants.

Your body, heart and mind will thank you. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or if you want more information or even recipes.

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~Trailmomma

*Disclaimer: Please do not interpret this as medical advice. The information and ideas presented on this site are for information resources only. Please consult a physician before making any health care decisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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