Plant-Based Food: A Doctor’s Personal Journey
I have been a meat eater for more than sixty years.
Despite my forty-year career in medicine, I was rarely exposed to plant-based medicine as a therapy for lifestyle diseases. I supported nutritionists in their work, but with a view to solving medical conditions and not preventing illnesses. When I specialized in diabetes management and control, I educated myself on good nutrition so I could give advice to my patients on what foods to take to help control diabetes, and related lifestyle conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart problems. Knowing more about nutrition, however, did not make me change my eating habits much, except for stopping sugar and sugary foods and avoiding red meats. I was not addicted to fatty, fried or fast foods anyway.
Then, something drastic happened.
My daughter, Marilyn, decided at age 16 to become vegetarian. I panicked. Where will she get her protein? What am I going to feed her? What if she gets sick? My medical mind was in chaos. I was brainwashed as a child and growing up in school that protein comes from meat and dairy products. My medical training confirmed meat and dairy as major sources of protein. However, when I researched further, I was somewhat appeased that Marilyn will be ‘okay’ if she took dairy products and eggs.
Some years later, another panic attack came about when Marilyn, now grown up and very independent, announced that she is going vegan. My worries increased, but at the same time I was having health issues that seemed to be related to food intake. My colleague, who is a raw food advocate and vegan, advised me to stop all meat and seafood and eat raw food. I was shocked and had difficulty trying to make this drastic change. Then my daughter came home for a holiday, and gave me The China Study to read. I began reading it slowly, but remained skeptical.
During her trips to Fiji, Marilyn was very creative with vegan meals and was cooking delicious food happily and inexpensively. For her, vegan dishes were easy to prepare, as she was adapting her vegetarian favorites to vegan versions. Vegetables are readily available and very affordable compared to meat in Fiji. Over time, I realized it was fear was preventing me from changing my diet: fear of becoming ill, not having enough protein, and being ostracized by my family and friends.
Soon after Marilyn left for California after a three-month stay in early 2015, I became vegan. Later that same year, Marilyn wrote a vegan recipe book called ‘Food of Love,’ containing easy-to-make and nutritious meals. She shared this with me to help me honor my decision. Now I feel very confident that I made the right choice and am continuing to make better choices.
Since visiting her in California in 2017 I have also become gluten-free (she made that decision at the end of 2015), and am feeling very healthy and alert. I taught myself to make corn tortillas to replace our traditional “roti” or wheat bread. I started walking more than 3 miles daily, with unprecedented energy levels. Despite my fear and brain–washing regarding animal protein, I am a very happy and healthy vegan.
There is a large group of physicians called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) that advocates for healthy nutrition practices to manage lifestyle diseases. For me, they are much more informative than some disease-related websites. My risks for lifestyle diseases have disappeared completely within a year, and I am able to maintain a healthy weight easily, with an abundant diet.
Share with us at Alchemus Prime if you have a success story regarding beating lifestyle diseases or their risk factors through diet. And let us know if AZENTIVE can help you with wellness programs for your workplace.
Written by the ever-energetic (an)altruist at Alchemus Prime, Dr. Margaret Cornelius.