I want to share my brief story about how I became a plant-based lifestyle (vegan). I have no health issues and have never taken any prescriptions of any kind, except antibiotics and a few temporary medications. I have been passionately taking care of my health and eating health foods for about 35 years.
When I was 25 years old in 1979, my co-worker friend took me out to lunch at the health food store in Charlotte, NC. I was stunned to see an open face veggie sandwich topped with alfalfa sprouts. It was delicious. I was curious and explored new food products around the health foods. I couldn’t afford to buy expensive healthy foods. However, I saw all kinds of health and nutrition books on the shelves. I noticed a book "Are You Confused" by Paavo Airola, Ph.D., N.D. Yes that was me and bought it! I learned a lot of new information from his book and was fascinated by it. I got rid of unhealthy foods in fridge and pantry. I tried many new recipes.
I joined a health food co-op club and volunteered ten hours a month. I received a 20% discount which helped as I was a low income, single mother. Most food co-op members were vegetarian so I decided to become vegetarian for four years, until my second ex-husband complained of intestinal spasms from legumes causing gas. In 1984, moved to Chattanooga, TN where I grew up. I went to a Seventh-day Adventist doctor that did blood tests. My cholesterol was 204. He told me I needed to cut down and stop eating so much cheese. However, I gave up being a vegetarian and started eating a semi-vegetarian diet including only white meats, eggs, cow's milk and soymilk on and off for years and of course heavy plant-based foods for 27 years. I haven’t eaten any red meats since 1979.
I was passionate about health and nutrition education so I attended Madonna University and studied dietetics. I received a Bachelor of Science degree and completed a dietetic internship program at the Hurley Medical Center in Flint. In 2009, my friend who was pesco-vegetarian told me about a documentary film “Earthlings”. I watched it with closed captions. It hit me hard and I was so disgusted. I stopped watching it after 45 minutes of the one and a half hour film. I quit eating white meats and eggs immediately but I was cheese lover. It was hard to stop cheese but I cut it down slowly over nine months.
During that time, I was searching the Internet for vegan information. I tried new recipes and also I saw information on Facebook. I found a book entitled "Becoming Vegan" by Brenda Davis, RD. I picked her book because she is a registered dietitian. She helped me understand how to eat a balanced plant-based diet before I became 100% vegan on April 15, 2010. Then I learned more about the impact of this way of eating on the environment and animal rights. I created and founded a new group on Facebook called "ASL (American Sign Language) Vegan-Vegetarian Unity" in October 2010. I have almost 2000 members from America and a few from other countries. I approve members to join who know sign language for Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Hearing people. I also made a big project video "ASL/Deaf Proud and Happy to be a Vegan" with English subtitles. It is 29 minutes about nutrition, environment (that was me when I was vacation in Cayman Brac Island last year) and animal rights.
Happy whole food plant-based lifestyle..... Go Vegan! 😊
Sandria (Sandy) Graham holds a bachelor degree in dietetics from Madonna University, a plant-based nutrition certificate from eCornell and is a Nutrition & Health Program Instructor at Michigan State University Extension. She has been passionate about eating healthy foods for her entire adult life. She is a tireless advocate for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and has created ways for the community to access this information with both a Facebook group and a video on YouTube. The first PBNSG meeting Sandy attended was March 9, 2016 featuring Dr. Esselstyn. She found out about the group around Dec 2015, but it took until March to get the "interpreter thing" in place. She has recently started an American Sign Language PBNSG small group.
I have had a very good education in nutrition and muscle health due to my profession as an herbalist, massage therapist and non-physician naturopath. At one time during my education, I tried a vegetarian diet in an attempt to have a healthier lifestyle and because I had guilt over how our world treats its farm animals. However, I did not last long because I lacked energy and felt that I would have to include grass-fed farm animals raised organically. As the years flew by, I noticed a steady rise in my blood pressure as I started past fifty years of age. I also started gaining unwanted weight.
Before fifty years old I could get any extra weight off just by stopping an ice cream and chocolate habit. But, after fifty, that was no longer the case. Doctors also started warning me that I better start on meds for my high blood pressure as it was getting into the dangerous zone. I absolutely detest taking any kind of drugs—over the counter or prescribed. So, I started googling about high blood pressure and found my way to the video on Netflix “Forks Over Knives”. I smirked about this as I considered it most likely to just be another new fad, but was desperate to bring my BP down without drugs. So, I thought, it can’t hurt to try it for a month just to see if I loose my energy again like I did on that vegetarian diet so many years ago. Well, viewing Forks Over Knives was last year, and I am still eating WFPB! I absolutely love it….I can eat all it want of the most flavorable food known to God and have all the energy a 69 year old could hope for! My BP went quickly down to normal in only one week. And, I lost 30 lbs without even thinking about it. My clothes just started to fall off of me.
Thanks to all those who help support this movement. God bless them one and all.
Here is my new body at 69 years young:
Kathy de Plaza, West Grove, Pennsylvania
HI, my name is Kevin Rubin, I own a small business in Toledo Oh. My wife recently changed jobs to a large corporation, who for health insurance reasons, paid to have us get blood tests done and send them to our family physician. So, i went through the ordeal and 1 week later I received a call from him.
I have been heavy for a majority of the last 15 years. I was successful on the Atkins diet for a time, but after researching it more, stopped it, based concerns of health vs weight loss. So, i went to my regular habits of Hot Wings and Beer for sports, pizza and cheeseburgers during the week, etc.
So, back to the call, my DR called and told me to come in and see him, meanwhile, he sent 2 prescriptions to the pharmacy for me, and i was to start them immediately So i did, i soon figured out that they were for diabetics. Now, my mother has diabetes, but i never thought I'd get it. So, i went to see my Dr. He came in, sat down and said "I'm going to run 2 scenarios by you, and i want you to choose which path you're most comfortable with, and then i'll give you my opinion."
"Path #1" He said, pointing to his counter with 5 medication bottles and a blood test kit "would be to do what everyone else is prescribing and doing, and that is to attempt to manage your condition with medication and blood tests." I said "What condition?" He said "Kevin you're diabetic." Crap! I cant believe it, after all my hard work of eating whatever i wanted and not exercising, this happens? How is that fair? I said "Ok...whats Path #2?"
"Path #2" He said. "You simply stay on the 2 prescriptions i gave you and meanwhile watch a video on Netflix called Forks Over Knifes. If you agree with the video, then call me and I have a book for you to read next>"
So i watched it with my wife and called him back and he said to read "The Engine 2 Diet by Rip". So i read it and agreed to go down path #2.
Lets fast forward 3 1/2 months to Monday, Feb. 23rd 2015. I went in to see my Dr. I was down 26 lbs. I was in communication with my Dr. and saw him every 30 days until this visit. He had me do blood work. These numbers I'm about to share with you are mind staggering. They are accurate and I have the printed reports to prove it.
My numbers were as follows:
A1C (Blood sugar level) 12.7% down to 5.6%
Cholesterol: 653 down to 245
Triglycerides: 10,000 down to 481
Now, Cholesterol and Triglycerides are still very high, but no where near as septic as they were. You saw the numbers right. Trig. 10,000. I was a heart attack waiting to happen, but never knew it.
My Dr. said he'd never seen such a dramatic drop in A1C is 24 years of practicing medecine. He's actually whiting my info out and using the report to show his partners, who call him the mad scientist for prescribing Plant Strong vs. medication.
My Dr. really got to me when he said the following: "Kevin, do you know what it's like to go into work every day and fail? well, that's what medicine is. I'm helping people manage their disease, but im not curing anyone. Pharmaceutical companies are getting rich, people are staying sick. Kevin, by doing what you did, you are no longer in the diabetes danger zone, and as you continue, to lose weight, your other numbers will continue to come down. You've effectively reversed Diabetes in 14 weeks."
To be safe I'm still taking half dose of diabetes medicine for a bit. But essentially, I'm out of the danger zone with blood sugar. And my Cholesterol and Triglycerides are the lowest they've been in years and still dropping.
You know, you read stuff, listen to people who give success stories, and say, wow, thats gotta be 1 in 1000, but in just 14 weeks, Plant Based life style reversed my diabetes and probably saved my life. It gets easier, people just need to stick to it. I'm a believer now.
Thanks for listening, I hope someone finds this inspirational.
Creating healthy food is my specialty and I love sharing the importance of a plant-based lifestyle. But I wasn’t always vegan, and I understand very well the challenges a new vegan can face. And that’s why I became a Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator. Now I work with clients around the country, helping them establish new healthy, happy, energizing habits, one delicious meal at a time.
I was around 12 years old when my mom learned that she was diabetic. Along the way, she struggled with high blood pressure, angina, painful neuropathy, and congestive heart failure. Before we lost her, she suffered two heart attacks and a massive stroke. This is the backdrop for my story, because I believed (because she did) that chronic illnesses were a normal, unavoidable part of aging. We thought my mom was a bit of a health nut; after all, she bought skim milk, low-fat cuts of meat, and she used margarine - not butter. I had never heard the word vegan.
Years later, after the birth of my own two kids, I flirted with the South Beach Diet to lose 10 stubborn post-baby pounds. But instinctively I knew that something was wrong with any eating plan that allows fat-free Cool Whip and sugar-free Jell-O, but does not approve of fresh fruit. That diet may have been effective, but I knew even then that it was not healthy.
Over the next few years I developed an intense interest in the best nutrition for good health. That led me to The China Study, and later to as many books as I could find by Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, and Dr. Neal Barnard. I could barely read these fast enough. I was fascinated by plant-based nutrition, and my eyes were opened. This stuff was jaw-dropping and empowering.
I gave up most animal products easily, but dairy was a hurdle. Processed oils took me even longer. If only I had known all the strategies I use now! I did it in stages, but finally my transition was complete. I was fully immersed in plant-based eating. In the process, I lost that same 10 pounds (this time effortlessly). I had more energy than ever. My blood pressure fell to 110/70. My cholesterol dropped 40 points.
I had always loved to cook, but now that I was vegan, I was having more fun than ever. Creating recipes became my new passion. When I was offered an opportunity to write a vegan food column for The Ann Arbor News to share ideas about healthy food, I jumped in with both feet, and that inspired my Ann Arbor Vegan Kitchen blog. Soon after, I was conducting cooking demonstrations, and teaching heart-healthy plant-based cooking classes at Washtenaw Community College.
I was so excited about the power of healthy food, that I wanted to shout from the rooftop, and that ignited my commitment to further training. I became a Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator through Main Street Vegan Academy, and a Certified Personal Chef through Wellness Forum Health. I completed training in Nutrition for a Healthy Heart and earned a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. I also became Forks Over Knives Plant-Based Certified through Rouxbe Cooking School, and recently graduated from the Starch Solution Certification program through Dr. McDougall’s Health and Medical Center.
My recipes have been featured in The McDougall Newsletter and the Center for Nutrition Studies Newsletter, and included in Vegan Magazine, Honest Cooking, and The Vegan Friends Cookbook, a collaborative collection of original recipes from vegan chefs around the world.
In an amazing twist of fate, I had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Joel Kahn in New York City in 2014. He had flown in to teach a class on our last morning of training at Main Street Vegan Academy. When Dr. Kahn learned that I was from Michigan, he told me about Paul Chatlin, and the work he had begun with his new Plant Based Nutrition Support Group. I could hardly wait to talk with Paul, and was immediately impressed when we spoke. I continue to be thrilled by the incredible, far-reaching work Paul does every single day to improve the lives of others, and I am proud and truly honored to serve as one of the chefs on the Plant Based Nutrition Support Group (PBNSG.org) team.
Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator / Certified Personal Chef
Sharon has been living a plant based lifestyle for 32 years; starting back in 1983 when she began her health care administrative career. Her interactions with hospital patients as a health care administrator and the loss of her parents at an early age sparked a curiosity regarding what causes sickness and disease. This put her on a path to live a nutrition rich plant based lifestyle and study the positive effects it has on health and well being.
A little over 3 years ago I weighed 300lbs, I was a type II diabetic, a drug addict, fast food addict, and suffering from severe depression. My addiction started in high school. Adderal made me feel superhuman. It was also a way for me to control my weight. I have always had issues with self-image and self confidence. It also allowed me to be able to stay up for days at a time without loss of concentration or energy and I loved that feeling. But after college the drug had destroyed my metabolism and I started to gain weight. The heavier I got the more I started to isolate.
After a while I just stopped caring and became addicted to fast food. By this time, my life revolved solely around when was I getting more adderal, getting more adderal, and eating fast food, while the entire time being severely depressed and angry at everyone and everything else. My relationships with my family were strained and I never socialized with my friends. I was barely working and running out of money. I knew that I was heading towards the day when I would be living on the street. I finally picked up the phone and called my father for help. Two weeks later I checked into rehab.
My first day in rehab I was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic. After rehab I moved to California into a sober-living house. I took it upon myself to reverse my type II diabetes by implementing a plant based nutrition plan into my recovery program of medication and therapy. What I didn't realize was that plant based nutrition would become the backbone of my entire recovery. Within 6 months I reversed my type 2 diabetes and today I am over 3 ½ years sober and weigh 165lbs. Amazingly, my waist size has gone from 47" to 31". I realized that plant based nutrition has an amazing power in regards to addiction recovery.
I became a certified holistic lifestyle coach and developed a program using nutrition as a tool for addiction recovery and relapse prevention. I now run groups at sober-living houses and Intensive Out-Patient Therapy centers in LA. I recently had the honor of speaking at Rip Esselstyn's Engine 2 plant based health immersion in Arizona and have been invited back as a speaker for 2016. I have also had the honor of being a guest on the Rich Roll podcast, Running To Mental Health podcast, The food Heals Podcast, Break The Stigma Podcast, soon to be a guest on Lean Green DAD podcast, and have been featured on Forks Over Knives. People always ask me about what Ive lost and I enjoy telling them about the 130lbs, the diseases (type2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression), and the 7 medications.
But what I enjoy more than all of that is what I have gained. Early morning runs on the lake with my dad, a real relationship with my Dad and the rest of my family, my self worth and self-confidence, my purpose in life, the ability to help others, most importantly, my twin brother Bobby. He has moved in to my place in LA to started his own plant strong journey. In 2 months he has lost 40lbs, been taken off of his type 2 meds in a week, and dropped his blood pressure from 140/100 to 120/80 in 3 weeks. Today, I can honestly say that I am the happiest I have ever been and the healthiest I have ever been in my life. Plant based nutrition didn't just save my life, it gave me the ability to create an entirely new one. It's one that I look forward to living every single day.
I made my resolution to change my life New Years 2 years ago. It was so easy and so rewarding that I want to share the experience with anyone who will listen.
I opened my eyes in the recovery room and saw my two boys and my sister. My 18-year-old said, “you needed three stents. You flat-lined three times, and they had to shock you eleven times. They didn’t think you were going to make it.”
Five days later, I was released from the hospital. My sister suggested I check into a vegetarian or a Mediterranean diet. I did a web search and learned that a plant-based (vegan) diet was more successful than either of those, by a significant margin. More research led me to order Dr. Esselstyn’s book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. And through his website, I emailed Dr. Esselstyn for more information:
Less than twelve hours later, my phone rang. The voice on the other end of the line said, “Hi, this is Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.”
I was stunned, but his voice was unmistakable from the videos I watched! We spoke for 27 minutes. Since that day I have not ingested anything that can damage my endothelial cells. I have been 100% committed to plant-based eating without compromise, and I will be for the rest of my very long very healthy life!
I now weigh 150 lbs. and am full of energy all day long. I have a 32-inch waist and wear size 30 waist pants. My cholesterol dropped from 202 to 123, without any medication. My LDL dropped from 142 to 77, and my HDL dropped from 45 to 23.
I am now affiliated with a phenomenal Plant-Based Nutrition Support Group in Michigan, and in less than a year we have grown to more than 550 members!
Nine months later, my numbers have made my cardiologist a believer, and I hope that he will at least mention plant-based eating as an option for his future patients."
I'm constantly awed by the generosity & energy of the Esselstyn's & their contribution to spreading the word on the health-changing benefits of a whole foods plant-based no-added oil diet.
My transition from vegetarian to total plant-based eating has given me a new lease on life. I am a survivor of 2 heart attacks and a triple bypass – all before the age of 47. My doctors told me they did not have a reason for my heart related incidents because at the time I was extremely active, in great shape, non-smoker, non- drinker – all the good stuff. I followed their low fat, meat based diet after the 2nd heart attack – the first was classified as a silent heart attack. One year later I was back in the hospital in need of a triple bypass. I asked for answers because I had done everything they asked. Unfortunately, all of the doctors available at that time were not willing to entertain the option of plant-based dietary changes.
I started gaining weight because my physical activity was limited. I went on a personal crusade to find a solution to my heart issues. I stopped eating meat and poultry in 2009. I wondered why my cholesterol did not drop. I found so much information and sources and although they were extremely different they had one main factor in common – plant-based diets lead to healthy living. I ran across Dr. Joel Kahn while attending the VegFest in Novi, MI. He was the first doctor I had ever heard speak of food as a means toward better health. I went online and checked him out and I have been a patient of his ever since.
I found out there are good and bad vegetarian/vegan diet plans and some are presented as gimmicks. I mentioned to Dr. Kahn that I was running across a lot of resentment and criticism from others including medical professionals, co-workers, family and friends. He introduced me to the PBNSG. I am proud to say I have been eating 100% plant-based for 1 year now and I feel so much energy and I have started to lose weight, my skin is clearer, I am looking forward to my next blood test results.
PBNSG has made me a more informed consumer and patient. I have learned to pay closer attention to my body and I currently have doctors that suggest nutritional changes instead of prescribing medications. 8 years ago I was on a medical regiment which included 16 pills/daily, and now I only take 3 pills/daily. My goal is to be completely free of all prescribed medication.
I will continue to provide information to my family in order to possibly change their viewpoint on food consumption.
Each day I am filled with gratitude.
I have experienced all of them (except I had no blood pressure or blood sugar issues):
- My energy soared
- I lost 20-25 pounds and keep to my healthy BMI weight
- My digestion became regular for the first time (from once every other day to 3x a day… TMI?)
- Got my clarity back with less headaches
- Lowered my cholesterol from 208 to 117
- Felt free!