I’m from Kansas City and grew up on barbecue. I ate a lot of ribs, chicken, brisket, and pulled pork. I began to struggle with excess weight when I was 8 years old, and as an adult, I became morbidly obese. At 44, I was diagnosed with six serious health conditions all at the same time: fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, hypertriglyceridemia, irritable bowel syndrome, and Cushing syndrome. I was told that I’d need gastric bypass surgery to overcome obesity and these related health issues. I was determined to beat death, but I refused the gastric bypass. I resolved to instead heal myself with lifestyle changes.
I read The Forks Over Knives Plan and decided to try the whole-food, plant-based way of eating. I also vowed to have a healthier, more active lifestyle overall. I focused on three things: eating 100 percent plant-based with no oil and very little salt, eating on a regular schedule, and walking daily.
Staying mentally tough each and every day was the biggest challenge when I started. I had over 100 pounds and multiple diseases to conquer. But I was inspired reading other success stories online of people who had beat obesity and other diseases with a plant-based diet. This helped me stay positive and upbeat until I was able to get past that initial shock.
The Payoff of Going Plant-Based
Sticking to the whole-food, plant-based diet paid off. Within six months of adopting this new lifestyle, I reversed fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, hypertriglyceridemia, irritable bowel syndrome, and Cushing syndrome. I was able to discontinue all medications. And on top of that, I lost an astonishing 120 pounds. I no longer needed gastric bypass surgery.
I have kept the weight off for over a year now. My family and friends are overjoyed with my newfound health.
There are other important factors in a healthy lifestyle, but diet is really the key. Early on in my transition to WFPB, an entrapped nerve in my leg forced me to stop exercising for three months: Because of my new diet, I gained just 1 pound during that time.
It’s been a pleasant surprise to find that I can still eat many of my favorite foods—slightly modified, of course. I still love barbecue, but now it’s barbecued smoked sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and pit beans. I also love whole-food, plant-based pizza and mushroom gyros!
Sharing the Health
Today I inform others of the dangers of childhood obesity and tout the incredible health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. I spread the word at churches and libraries and via radio and television appearances.
If you’re thinking of going plant-based, here are my tips: Don’t try to re-invent your own wheel or change everything that is already comfortable and familiar to you and your family, as it can be overwhelming. The average family eats only six to eight different meals per month. Start with figuring out how to make 100-percent plant-based versions of your usual go-to meals, and make them as healthy as possible. Once you’ve got your base of six to eight favorite meals, then you can start exploring the never-ending options out there. Almost anything you already eat can be prepared in a whole-food, plant-based way. If you like pizza, eat pizza. If you like tacos, eat tacos. If you like salads, eat salads.
Hopefully, my story will reach someone who needs to hear it, just as others’ stories encouraged me in this journey.
Ready to get started? Check out our Plant-Based Primer to learn more about adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet.