Excerpt from The Plant-Based Workplace:
In 2007, as part of a routine wellness checkup, I learned that I had high cholesterol and early signs of plaque building up in my arteries. The carotid artery scan report noted that I had the arteries of a 46-year-old, yet I was only 35. My doctor wanted to put me on the statin drug, Lipitor. I refused, telling him I was only in my 30s and I knew what I needed to do to take better care of myself. I told him I would eat healthier foods and work out more. His response was, “Well, that’s not practical and I recommend you start this medication.” I politely declined and walked out.
Even without the test results, I knew I wasn’t consistent with physical activity and that my stress level was high, given the amount of traveling I did for my high-pressure job. Moreover, my husband and I were DINKs (dual income, no kids), and ate out a lot at nice steakhouses. Normal fare for us included the following: filet mignon with crème brûlée for dessert; chicken fajitas with flour tortillas, refried beans, and rice smothered with cheese; salmon filets with Hollandaise-topped broccoli and a baked potato loaded with butter and sour cream; or high-end burgers, sometimes with bacon, and a large chocolate milkshake to wash it all down. Unsurprisingly, around that same time my husband was diagnosed with atherosclerosis. He went to the hospital complaining of a “funny feeling in his chest” and after a few tests underwent balloon angioplasty and had two stents inserted into his arteries. He was only 47 years old. Afterwards, the cardiologist prescribed him a menu of pills, most of which he was expected to take for the rest of his life. To the cardiologist’s credit, he did mention the Dean Ornish diet, but we just weren’t ready to accept going completely plant-based, because we truly believed we couldn’t give up meat, dairy, and eggs.
It took me five years from the time I was diagnosed with high cholesterol to fully commit to the lifestyle change of adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet. It took that long because I believed I could not live without meat, dairy, and eggs. After exposing myself to plant-based vegan meals over time, and understanding how food choices matter beyond my personal health, I replaced all animal products with whole plant-foods in July 2012 and the quality of my life increased 10-fold! I continue to be amazed at how this now seemingly simple change has improved my life, and it can improve yours as well:
1. You will improve your health.
Most people who adopt a whole-food, plant-based diet lose weight, thus lowering their risk of obesity-related chronic diseases. Because this dietary pattern is low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free, most people also experience a reduction in their LDL (or bad) cholesterol, which is commonly used as a risk factor for heart disease. This dietary pattern has also been shown to lower A1C levels – a measure for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, which is a major public health problem. A plant-centered dietary pattern has also been shown to lower blood pressure (hypertension), a key risk factor for heart disease.
2. You will have more energy.
One of the biggest surprises to me was the amount of energy I gained once I fully adopted a whole-food, plant-based diet. In talking with others who adopted this dietary pattern, I found that they too experienced the same. Some people use this extra energy to keep up with grandkids, while others (like me) take up athletic endeavors. This increased energy comes from a combination of improved sleep quality and the consumption of anti-inflammatory foods rich with micronutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals (only found in plant foods) that are believed to have anti-aging and anti-cancer properties. This increased energy and weight loss will have you feeling lighter than before.
3. You will leave a lighter footprint on the planet.
It is becoming common knowledge that a plant-based dietary pattern is more environmentally sustainable. In fact, a recent report from EAT Lancet Commission (a group of more than 30 leading scientists from around the globe) urges the population to reduce meat and dairy consumption by 50%, and states that doubling the amount of whole plant-foods consumed is imperative for a sustainable food system. Animal-based diets cause higher greenhouse gas emissions, land use (including the destruction of our tropical rainforests), water depletion, soil erosion, and eutrophication (algal blooms). Researcher Dr. Joseph Poore stated, “A (plant-based) vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use.”
4. You will find contentment in being of service and helping others to follow suit.
The more you share about your journey and how this dietary pattern has improved your life, the more your family, friends, coworkers will be curious about what you did and how you did it. Of course, not everyone will be happy about the change or perhaps some will feel threatened. But just know that this reaction is not about you, it’s about an internal struggle that they are dealing with. Those that are happy for your new and improved life will look to you for advice including favorite recipe ideas and how to order at restaurants. Helping and being of service to others is behind a purpose-driven life.
5. You will find peace of mind.
As I interviewed others who adopted this whole-food, plant-based lifestyle and asked what they noticed, many shared feeling “at ease,” a state of “calmness” or “peace of mind.” I too experienced this and there are three theories about why this happens. One theory is that eating the flesh or byproducts of animals means you’re absorbing the energy of fear, anguish, and misery in the lives and final moments before the animal is slaughtered. Thus, removing that energy from your life brings you a sense of ease and calmness. A second theory is that a subconscious cognitive dissonance has been resolved and that the person is finally in alignment between their behavior and their personal values or identity. For example, if a person identifies him or herself as an “animal lover” and ceases to eat animals, now they are living in alignment with their values of not harming animals or funding a system that harms animals on their behalf. Sometimes this is in a person’s conscious awareness, while other times it’s buried deep in their subconscious. The third theory is that eating a whole-food, plant-based diet gives people a sense of control over their health and quality of life—now they are no longer part of a system that makes money off them being sick. Regardless of which theory rings true, many people I talk to have shared this same experience of gaining peace of mind.
You can reap these remarkable results from just one change. But maybe you have initial doubts, like I did. Now that you know what the benefits are, you have an idea of what you have to gain. What have you got to lose by giving it a try?