In my “A Powerful Lifestyle” post, I wrote about my mom and how her struggles with chronic illness influences my lifestyle choices today. However, in the interest of complete disclosure, my ultimate change in nutrition was the result of a more recent development. My husband, Rob, frequently shares his health journey and the urgency for lifestyle modification to secure his good health in the future. For him, the choice was lifestyle change or struggle
with chronic illness onset in the next 5-10 years. This post, however, has to with me. I want to tell the story from my side as the partner or spouse. More importantly, I want to talk about the most significant change to our lives--a whole food, plant-based diet.
How much of my husband’s health is MY responsibility? Well, it turns out, our future goals do not correlate with poor health and chronic illness. My end game (a robust retirement with plans for travel and adventure) requires a vigorous, healthful husband. In this context, I made the decision to own our health. Yes, I will be responsible for OUR health as team of two adventurers.
I spent many years working in the cardiac catheterization lab and have seen thousands of pictures of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle. Almost all people have three vessels, the right coronary artery, the left anterior descending artery, and the circumflex. So, after Rob got his heart scan, (armed with my previous experience) I asked the next obvious question; which vessel and where? The left main, he said, and I kind of freaked out. In the cath lab, we called a blockage in the left main or even the LAD, a widow maker. Even though I saw many blockages in these two areas and held the hands of family members as they struggled with the death or critical illness of their loved one, I really had not thought much about the implications of that phrase. Suddenly, now, the “widow maker” blockage, made ME the WIDOW. Suddenly, I am the one being comforted by family and nurses, This where a nurse’s brain goes. . . I was a little terrified.
As my husband says, knowledge is power. We did a deep dive into heart health and found Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. His prescription for reversing and preventing heart disease is a whole food, plant-based diet. Dr. Esselstyn convincingly argues, from a 20-year nutritional study, that a plant-based, oil-free diet can not only prevent and stop the progression of heart disease, but also reverse its effects. We watched the documentary Fork over Knives together.
What the heck? REALLY? I was skeptical. I am a nurse after all, with years of experience in the cardiac catheterization lab, none of our interventional cardiologists were prescribing PLANTS! We talked with patients about statins, blood thinners, aspirin, beta blockers (you know, actual medicine) not broccoli, oatmeal, or blueberries. I was sold on the “preventing” heart disease part of Dr. Esselstyn's claim, but could the right nutrition really stop the progression and reverse the effects of heart disease?
More knowledge is more power! Time to take an honest look at nutritional studies.
I was shocked! Flabbergasted! Years and years of credible, well thought out studies about the curative power of a whole food, plant-based diet on various chronic diseases. Not just preventing disease but reversing and curing disease! The affirming evidence was overwhelming. There are physicians and nurses all over the world who have been prescribing and practicing plant powered healthcare . And thousands of patients who have benefitted. I will admit, the wonderful anecdotal evidence of people who have found a way back from chronic, debilitating illness were the best reads!
There was nothing political about our commitment to transitioning to a whole food, plant-based diet. I am selfish woman; I want my amazing adventures with my best friend. It was obvious to both of us, what we were eating up this point was not preventing disease. The evidence that a whole food, plant-based diet would cause more harm was negligible. Certainly less risk of nasty side effects than adding medications. So we did it. We made the change together.
But without processed foods, dairy, eggs, fish, and meat what would we eat? Salads? Aren't carbohydrates bad for us? And how would we get protein? I'll answer these questions and talk about how to go plant based in my next post!