My father passed away from cancer at the young age of 53. It happened ten days after I graduated from college, and it turned my entire world upside down. Twenty years later, my father-in-law passed away suddenly of a similar type of non-smoking related lung cancer at the young age of 66. After my father-in-law’s death, my wife and I moved our family from our home in Hangzhou, China (where we were teachers) back to the States. We became the full-time caretakers for my mother-in-law, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Her Alzheimer’s set in during her early 60s—way too young. Meanwhile, my mother had been fighting a long-term battle with crippling rheumatoid arthritis and the side effects of the heavy medications she takes to manage the chronic pain.
I grew up eating the typical American way: Eat your meat, finish your milk, and eat a few veggies on the side. As a busy adult, I added a lot more fast food to the mix, which I’d try to counter-balance with the occasional salad. One day, I received a wake up call from my doctor. He told me I was obese and that my numbers were not good. He also said that if I didn’t do something about my “reckless eating,” I was on my way to prediabetes and other medical complications.
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My Personal Quest to Find Good Health
I reflected on my family history and my state of health at 44 years old. I was overweight, felt tired all the time, battled sleep problems, and had high cholesterol. After taking stock, I decided to go on a personal quest to discover how others prevented serious illness and achieve optimum health. I started reading and researching everything I could and soon found myself confused by all the conflicting information.
They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Soon after I started my quest, my wife’s aunt and uncle brought over a DVD. Watching the Forks Over Knives documentary was like throwing a match on a pile of dry tinder! It was my “a-ha” moment, and I intuitively knew that this was the answer I was looking for. I wanted to know what feeling like a 10 on a health scale of 1 to 10 felt like.
My wife and I jumped into the unknown world of whole-food, plant-based eating. We researched the work of the doctors in the film and learned about the undeniable link between diet and health. Doctors T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Neal Barnard, and John McDougall became our own “Fantastic Four”—superheroes changing the world! These pioneers provided us with a clear focus and direction.
Finding Energy, Weight Loss, and Great Health
After only a couple weeks of eating this way, I found that I actually had energy and felt pleasantly full after eating. I was not tired all the time and wasn’t experiencing my normal nightly stomach cramping. The next side effect of this diet was the new and unfamiliar experience of sleeping well through the night. Instead of feeling like a sloth during the daytime, I was actually buzzing with energy. This new feeling provided a small dose of motivation to move more. I began biking for fun and actually started a “Couch to 5K” running program, which was a big deal since I was not a runner. I had hated running my whole life and sincerely wondered why anybody did it at all. I had always thought running equaled pain.
Within the first five months of full immersion into the whole-food, plant-based lifestyle and my light exercise regimen, I shed 50 pounds. Over the course of the next two to three months, 15 more pounds fell off for a total loss of 65 pounds. My cholesterol dropped 75 points and my blood pressure was perfect. In a nutshell, I had rebooted my life.
Plant-Powered Family and Future
My family also made the shift to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle and haven’t looked back. The education of our kids was easier than I thought. They were naturally interested in learning about being healthy, taking care of animals, and helping the planet. This, the plant-based diet, was the answer.
We’re committed to spreading the word far and wide about the amazing benefits of a plant-based lifestyle through our website, programs, and workshops. It’s exhilarating to be a support beacon for others on their own journeys. We speak at schools and community events about the benefits of a plant-based diet and find that young people are especially responsive to eating healthy foods that also save animals and protect the environment. Collectively, we can make the largest long-term impact by sharing the message with future generations.