Your Health: Are You Reactive or Proactive?

Last year at my annual physical I shared my choice to be Vegan with my Doctor.  The "BIG" question was, what made me choose to do this?  My answer brought a satisfied smile to his face and the comment: "That's the message you should share with everyone!"  So on the advice of my Doctor, this was my answer:

Dr. Kalmus in September, 2014

Dr. Kalmus in September, 2014

 "I'm almost 59 years old and I took a look at myself and the path I was on and I didn't like where I was heading.  My weight was a problem, as it had been for almost all of my life.  I was taking pills to lower my cholesterol and blood pressure and pills to fight depression.  My back was hurting, my right knee was hurting and my family was fearful that I was a "walking time bomb" with heart disease, kidney disease, Diabetes or even a stroke in my future.  I love my family and hated knowing that they worried about my health, even though I thought I felt fine.  I made the decision to be proactive about my health rather than wait for something to go wrong and be reactive."

My Doctor then shared with me that he became a Vegan 5 years ago.  We talked about some food ideas and stories about weight loss, reversal of heart disease and various studies all supporting a plant based diet.  He talked about President Clinton's choice to become a Vegan and how much he had improved his heart health after living through his heart surgery.  Now, whatever your politics, I hope you will agree that President Clinton, a Rhodes Scholar, is a very intelligent man.  Yet, he made the choice to be reactive rather than proactive.  Better late than never!

Many things are beyond our control. But what you choose to eat is not among those things. Make good health choices now, rather than wait for a future where you regret the choices you made and you have no choices left. It really is up to you!

Generally, I'm about as bad a procrastinator as any one of you.  Probably a lot worse than most of you.  I wait for things to go wrong and then react to them.  After reading a little bit about the obvious health benefits of a plant based diet, I made a proactive choice, a New Year's Resolution (1/1/2014) and jumped on the Vegan band wagon. I have nothing but positive things to say about how quickly and easily I lost the initial 30 lbs, how my back and knee pain have disappeared and how my blood pressure has stabilized at a healthy 112/72, all within my first 90 days.

Dr. Kalmus - June 2nd, 2015 - Same shirt

Dr. Kalmus - June 2nd, 2015 - Same shirt

I'm almost 60 years old now. Its been 17 months and I've lost 85 lbs. No more cholesterol medicine. When last checked my total cholesterol was 141 with no medications. I have no intention of going back to my old ways and am looking forward to the impending improvement in the weather so I can get out with my wife to walk the dog, to ride my bicycle again, jog a little and even play golf without pain. Yes, exercise. ME!

So, realistically, we all have to look forward to a day when are going to have to face our own fate. As my friend, Joel Kahn, M.D. writes in his book, Dead Execs Don't Get Bonuses, "None of us are getting out of here alive." The big variable is how far in the future is that going to be and how will the choices we make right now, today, this hour, this minute, affect what that fate will be.  Many things are beyond our control.  But what you choose to eat is not among those things.  Make good health choices now, rather than wait for a future where you regret the choices you made and you have no choices left.  It really is up to you!

What's it going to be:  Proactive or Reactive?


Finding my voice...

Above is a before picture as a Carnivore and my after picture as a Vegivore.  My great niece got bigger and I got smaller. It's dramatic to see the difference! I feel really good! After looking at my pictures, my wife and daughter had curiously-similar answers...

You used to eat all the time.
— My daughter
You still eat all the time.
— My wife

The amount of food I eat has gone up, not down.  I just don't eat meat of any kind and very little oil. 

Drs Kahn and Kalmus

I recently was asked by Paul to volunteer and share my story with a wider audience.  I get to write articles about weight management, contribute recipes, and speak to his ever-growing group of plant-based members. The last time I spoke in public was 1972. Up until now, I didn't really have anything to say! I still don't think I have much to say, but I am so grateful to my old friend, Dr. Joel Kahn, and to Paul for his encouragement that I've agreed to share my story.  I was convinced that changing to a Vegan lifestyle was the smart thing to do BEFORE developing any severe health problems.  Listening to a group of very smart people helped convince me.  I'm hoping by example I can get a few more people to see the difference plant-based eating can make for them and look forward to answering any questions regarding plant-based weight loss along the way.

You can do this!

You can do this!

What's your motivation?

Staying healthy for my family. How about you?

Staying healthy for my family. How about you?

If you are like me, this isn't the first time you are looking for help controlling your weight.  I'm 59 and have been yo-yo dieting most of my life. There are so many programs from which to choose. Most of them are based on some type of research (read Whole to discover the limitations of current nutritional research), some of them are a quick fix, and others are based on questionable science that may even be harmful. Before you choose, I highly recommend you see your doctor and have a physical. Not only will this give you a solid baseline documenting your current weight, blood sugar level, cholesterol numbers, kidney, thyroid and liver function, but it will help you target the area or areas on which you need to focus. Your doctor also may pick up on a number of other things needing immediate attention so get your physical before you move forward.

Remember that “Genetics load the gun but lifestyle pulls the trigger.”
— Philip J. Goscienski, M.D

Have you been diagnosed with a medical problem such as Diabetes or does Heart Disease run in your family? Have you become complacent, accepting the fate of your parent's as your own?  Do you look in the mirror or get on the scale and not like what you see?  Have you recently lost a loved one or a friend to what could be considered a diet-related illness? Are you taking a number of different medications and looking for a way to reduce the amount? Remember that "Genetics load the gun but lifestyle pulls the trigger." You would probably not be reading this if your current eating and activity habits were healthy. This is a chance to change direction and learn to take care of yourself. If you are already suffering from a food-related problem or if you have just decided that it's time to start taking better care of yourself to avoid future illness, this may be the answer.

More moments

More moments

Now that you are ready, think about how and why you are motivated to do this. Are you motivated to do the research on your own? If so, this website and all the people associated with it will be a valuable resource providing you with real science, recipes, and plenty to read. If you have a question during your research, we will help you as little or as much as you want. Our volunteers and Directors include doctors, personal trainers, chefs, dietitians, and experienced plant-based eaters -all are eager to help if you need it. Your questions will be directed to the person or persons best suited to give you accurate, constructive answers. We are also tied into an international network of plant-based professionals. If we don't have the answer immediately, we can find it. 

For those people who prefer social interaction to provide motivation, we have resources for you as well. We have Small Groups where you can interact with others at different stages of Whole Food Plant-Based (WFPB) transiton - the plant-skeptics, plant-curious, and plant-strong. The meetings are casual, insightful, and provide a non-threatening environment within which to ask any question and sample some fantastic plant-based food! There are market tours to teach you what to buy, what to avoid, and how to read food labels. We make arrangements at plant-based compliant restaurants for dinner meetings open to everyone interested in trying some delicious food. There are group meetings with local speakers and cooking demonstrations. Then we have our large monthly meetings featuring speakers that, just this year, have included Dr. Joel Kahn (our local super star!), Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn from the Cleveland Clinic and the movie Forks Over Knives, and Dr. Neal Barnard, a prolific author and founder of The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. A small $5.00 fee or donation of your choosing may be collected at the door of the monthly meetings to help offset the expense of the venue. 

Personally, I’ve lost 85 lbs in 16 months without exercise.
— Dr. Allan Kalmus

We are the largest Plant-Based Nutrition Support Group in the United States. How you found us doesn't really matter. It's free to join and you can be as active or as passive as you like. We are always looking for volunteers. We all have our own stories and motivating factors. Some of the stories are truly inspirational.

Me in 2014

Me in 2014

Personally, I've lost 85 lbs in 16 months without exercise. I've been keeping a record of my recipes and progress in a blog. My cholesterol level went from 234 to 141 without medication. I didn't have a personal medical scare. My best friend and my cousin both died from heart disease within a year of each other. At the age of 58, it was just time for me to make a change. I listened to some very smart people and they helped guide me, answering my sometimes silly questions along the way. I've made lots of mistakes, but I do the best I can to stick to the basics. Nobody has judged me. The benefits have been truly remarkable and I feel as good as I've ever felt in my life.

Me can do it!

Me can do it!

So get started. Find the movie Forks Over Knives, available on Netflix, and see if you learn a few things. If you are not happy with your weight and you just make a few healthy changes, it’s still better than continuing with the habits that got you to this point. I was surprised at how easy it is to take control of what goes in my mouth. Who chooses what YOU eat?

How I Eat To Lose Weight.

   I've been a Vegan for over 15 months and every day I learn something new.  I've lost 80 lbs. so far just by adapting my lifestyle to plant based. The question of my daily menu frequently comes up. Since I cook for myself, I'm the only one who puts any limits on what I eat. Most days, I'm eating "Plant Perfect"  leaving out all animal products, oils, processed sugar and even nuts. Dr. Esselstyn and Ann Esselstyn associated with the Cleveland Clinic have written extensively on the subject. Please click on the above links for information presented with clarity.

     We do go out to just about every restaurant that everyone else enjoys as well. Many restaurants have selections that are already plant based. Some are happy to let me order "off the menu" and others may have items that I can substitute. For example, at a local Italian restaurant, I can order chicken cacciatore, hold the chicken and substitute portabella mushrooms. I have also ordered a sliced chicken breast salad, hold the chicken and cheese, add a ripe avocado with raspberry vinaigrette dressing.  Just as delicious and really not a problem for the kitchen. They have the items in the kitchen and they're probably saving a few bucks. At those meals I'm "Plant Strong" as described by Rip Esselstyn in his book The Engine 2 Diet. There may be some olive oil involved, some nuts, avocado, etc. but its still all plant based with very, very little saturated fat. I can be just as social as I want, eat a plant based menu without requiring a "Vegan" venu.

     Food Log

If you are trying to lose weight, this is something I recommend you start to do too. There seems to have been a disconnect between my brain and my stomach most of my life. I would eat when bored, hungry, tired, social, lonely, happy, sad, to fall asleep, to stay awake until I couldn't eat any more. There was no accountability. When I started to keep a "Food Log" and could see in writing how much I was taking in, I was taking control and I was amazed! I could have fed a family. Remember to write down EVERYTHING. That means if you have a cup of coffee, write it down and include anything you added. If you make a sandwich include every slice of bread, condiment, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, etc. If you make a salad include each vegetable, spice, salt, pepper, dressing, fruit and garnish. If you have a drink, write it down whether its beer, wine, alcohol, water, soda, tea or juice. I found myself suddenly feeling full just by reading my log.

Here's my log for today:

7:15 a.m.  Smoothie - 10 oz. (blended strawberries, banana, sweetened vanilla almond milk, pure maple syrup and Chia seeds), one Bosc pear, one cup of black coffee.

9:30 a.m.  One cup of black coffee.

12:15 p.m. Steel Cut Oatmeal - 16 oz. (steel cut oats cooked the night before with sweetened vanilla almond milk, water, dried cherries, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg then topped with milled flax seed) and a glass of water.

2:30 p.m.  One cup of black coffee.

3:45 p.m.  One large Fuji apple.

4:00 p.m.  a glass of water.

6:30 p.m.  half an acorn squash (cooked with cinnamon, apple sauce and nutmeg topped with cooked farro, raisins, cinnamon and allspice) and a large salad (Romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, celery, red and yellow bell peppers and parsley) dressed with homemade raspberry ginger vinaigrette (Raspberries, fresh garlic, fresh ginger, raisins, sage, dried cilantro, tomato and red wine vinegar).

11:00 p.m. a glass of water.

     If I hadn't sat down to write this blog and kept myself from becoming bored, I would have had another piece of fruit, some unsalted raw sunflower seeds mixed with raisins or some air popped popcorn. There are always healthy options.

     There are lots of weight loss plans out there. This plant based approach works for me and can work for you too. It takes some reading and preparation to make a change like this. I did my reading and was all in as my New Year's Resolution for 2014. You may want to try a "Meatless Monday" or "The Vegan 21 Day Kickstart Meal Plan" as a place to start. You may want to take in the information a little at a time and follow a blog like mine or Dr. Joel Kahn and the Plant Based Nutrition Support Group blog based here in the greater Detroit area.  Once you get past the first 3 weeks or so, your tastes start to change. I started to look for nutritional value more and lost my taste for any kind of processed food with sugar and salt. I read all the labels. If I don't know what something is on the label I use my smartphone to look it up. If I still don't know what it is or its something not plant based or its processed I'm not going to eat it!

Here's a picture of my dinner:

                                                        Salad with Raspberry Ginger Vinaigrette 

                                                        Salad with Raspberry Ginger Vinaigrette 

                                        Acorn Squash with Applesauce, Cinnamon, Raisins and Farro

                                        Acorn Squash with Applesauce, Cinnamon, Raisins and Farro

 Its time for bed.  I'll be adding some recipes to the Plant Based Nutrition Support Group very soon. My blogs along with a large recipe section and lots of other contributors will be available there as well. Its free to join. Watch for the launch of the new website next month!

Where Do You Get Your Protein?

Now that you’ve decided to manage your weight by eating a plant based diet, your friends are going to start asking you questions. The first one is usually about protein. It occurred to me last night, that the reason the “Where do you get your protein?" question keeps coming up boils down to the fact that the average person has no understanding of protein! Fortunately for you, I took a lot of Biochemistry in college and I'm here to help.

The general misconception is that only animal sources will give you enough protein. News Flash! Ever ask a cow, horse, elephant or hippo about their diet? How about a gorilla? They don't eat any meat. Where do they get their protein? When you eat protein from an animal source, your body breaks it down the same way it does the protein from a plant source. Your muscles, tendons, hair, skin, connective tissues and organs do not look like a cow, chicken, fish or pig's because the protein is broken down by your body's digestive system and then re-assembled by your cells to form human protein! In other words:


The ONLY thing you really need to take as a supplement if you eat no meat is Vitamin B12. Animals tend to eat dirt with their food and Vitamin B12 is in the dirt. Hopefully, you wash your veggies so you need to take a B12 supplement.

The building blocks of protein are called Amino Acids. There are 9 essential amino acids, meaning that your body needs them in your diet to make protein. Plants provide exactly the same amino acids as animals, but without the saturated fat. This means that any combination of vegetables and fruits that you already eat such as lettuce, carrots, celery, peppers, tomatoes, nuts, beans, peas, potatoes, seeds, grains, apples, pears, grapes, spices and citrus fruits will give you exactly the same building blocks for your human protein that you would get from animals. The plants just don't give you the stuff that clogs up most people's arteries leading to heart disease, stroke, circulation issues and erectile dysfunction. Plants are full of fiber which keeps you regular and helps reduce your chances of getting colon cancer. You can eat all the plants that you want all day long, never feel hungry and still lose weight! I also minimize my oil intake. In fact, when I cook for myself, which is daily, I don’t use any oil at all anymore.

In a little over one year my cholesterol went from 234 to 141 with no medication and I’ve lost 82 lbs. I’ve just started to exercise because I feel so good! I didn’t lose weight by exercising. You can’t out exercise a bad diet. The reality is that 15 potato chips or 1 oz. equal 160 calories. The size of an individual bag is 1.5 oz. or 240 calories per bag. Most of the calories are from the fat content. So, if you’re like me, I would eat the whole bag and be looking for more. You burn roughly 100 calories per mile when you walk or 130 calories when you run. One pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 calories. So you could walk 5 miles per day every day for a week to lose one pound of fat or you could eliminate fat from your diet by eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes instead of animal products. The choice of what I eat is totally up to me. I encourage you to take advantage of our Plant Based Nutritional Support Group. We’re here to help you change your life for the better!

Vegan Pizza!!!

What?  Pizza again?  Absolutely!  I ate 2 slices. My friend, Paul (you may have heard 'About' him) ate the rest by himself.

So what's a pizza doing under the heading of "Weight Management"?

The thing to remember here is that this is not a diet.  It's a lifestyle.  

As long as you stick to the guidelines of eating plant-based, whole foods, you can still eat deliciously, feel satisfied, take in all the nutrition you need and lose weight.

You don't have to eat bland food and you certainly need not go hungry. When your calories are coming from whole grains, fruits and vegetables instead of oil, saturated fat and processed sugar you will feel fuller longer. You won't experience the sudden peaks and troughs in your blood sugar that make you feel like you're starving.  You will be less likely to over eat.

As long as you stick to the guidelines of eating plant-based, whole foods, you can still eat deliciously, feel satisfied, take in all the nutrition you need and lose weight.
— Dr. Allan Kalmus

Just 2 slices of the pizza pictured above contain 2 servings of fruit, 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of whole grains.  It contains no oil, no meat, no processed sugar and no refined flour.

From the information on a website of a popular pizza chain, 1 slice of pepperoni cheese pizza contains 280 calories and 11 grams of fat.

TWO slices of the pizza in the above photo contain about 300 calories total and ZERO fat.

I choose to eat more, weigh less, watch my cholesterol numbers go down, take less medicine and never feel hungry.  Medicine treats illness, whole foods provide wellness.
Who chooses what goes in YOUR mouth?

Check out my blog for more stories and recipes.