Some of you already know a little about me from previous posts sharing stories from our lives or from talking with me in comments. For those of you that aren’t familiar, I’m Robbie’s youngest daughter, Melissa. Mom asked me to “guest blog” today about my health and diet after many of you have shown interest in learning more. While this is the condensed version and I’m going to keep it mostly to my journey, as well as how to get started on a whole food plant-based diet, I suggest getting a beverage of your choice. It’s time to settle in and get comfortable. If there’s a lot of interest I will be happy to do more guest blogs as requested. If you enjoy what I’ve shared with you, be sure to reply, like, and reblog to let mom know you want more!
I’ve always been a very active and health-conscious person, yet I struggled like most people, with the misinformation that regularly bombards us. I worked out and ran daily, regularly did calisthenics, ballet, hiking, and ate what I thought was healthy. I would splurge, drinking soda or eating sweets, but never thought it was doing much harm with occasional treats. All of my life I’ve suffered from autoimmune troubles that would cause pain or injuries. I chose to reconcile myself with this and live my life to the fullest anyway, not letting it stop me or slow me down. In my 20s I contracted Lyme disease; regretfully the doctors didn’t realize what it was and took months to treat it appropriately. The long-term damage to my joints and nerves was irreversible. Given I already suffered from autoimmune concerns, this added more complications and frustration to a growing list of health troubles. A few years later I suffered multiple herniated discs with sciatica that caused nerve damage in my foot, with some loss of feeling and weakness. Despite all my efforts with exercise, physical therapy, and staying active, by my mid-twenties arthritis and inflammation were already a problem in several major joints. At this point, not being physically capable of doing my normal activities and exercises, anxiety and depression started sinking in and becoming unbearable. The realization hit me that exercise and an active lifestyle weren’t enough, I needed to help my body to recover and be strong enough to fight off the decline that was rapidly descending upon me. The thought nagging constantly at me was, “If I’m putting into my body things that cause inflammation every day I’m making it harder for my body to actually recover!” Something had to change.
The first step, I thought, was to remove soda and overly processed sugars entirely from my diet. This was much more difficult than I imagined it would be. Should be simple, just drink or eat something else! The problem is your body becomes accustomed and, essentially, addicted to these sugary bombs of endorphins. I had to gradually wean myself off the sodas and work hard, over several months, to lower my intake of processed sugars. While I started to regain some energy and mental clarity I was still regularly in pain and would often have a multitude of flair-ups. I spoke with my physical therapist and doctor, they would joke, “If you were overweight we’d talk about diet, but you aren’t so let’s focus on your exercises.” The exercises helped, but I was only getting by. I wanted to thrive.
By what I believe to be a gentle nudge from above, I stumbled on to a review of the book, How Not to Die by Dr. Greger. At first, I was skeptical. I study science, mostly behavioral, and with this education and experience, I’ve learned to question everything. Dr. Greger was thorough enough to include information to look up every single study he talks about in his book. This sent me down a deep, twisting rabbit hole of science and information that was not readily available to me prior. I buried myself in research and regularly visited his website while cross-referencing everything back to the studies themselves to read through all of them for any inconsistencies. I desperately wanted to prove it wrong. My doctors never spoke about diet as an option, they totally discounted it. How can any of this be true? Milk causes inflammation? Eggs are not healthy? Meat is a carcinogen?!? Processed meats are listed as Group 1 carcinogen (the same as Tobacco and Asbestos, according to WHO)? Yet time and again the studies and research showed this could be true, everything Dr. Greger said (and everyone else I looked into) was true. To solidify my resolve I watched “Forks over Knives”. While much of it is a bit over the top I felt like I had finally woken up, I had taken the red pill and was no longer in the Matrix. I couldn’t unknow what I had learned.
After a lot of soul-searching, I made the switch. Gradually I cut all animal products out of my life. There were ups and downs, many times I fell back to old habits, but I stuck with it as best I could. I started by removing meat, then eggs, eventually milk and cheese. The cheese was the hardest one to let go. A few months later I eliminated most processed foods in general and sustained a predominately whole food, plant-based diet. After some time of fully plant-based, it became easier to adjust recipes and make meals. Everything was becoming second nature and it wasn’t a daily struggle of, “What on Earth do I make for dinner?!” As time went by something amazing happened, my anxiety was mostly under control and the pain I lived with most of my life was subsiding. I called my mother and said tentatively “I don’t want to jinx it mom, but that constant nagging pain of level seven or eight I’ve always had? I actually forgot about it for several days. I haven’t had pain, sure normal aches, but not MY aches.” As I continued on this path my energy levels increased, mental clarity and sharpness heightened, the pain was minimal, and overall I was thriving. I was once again able to do my workouts and be more active which allowed my body to heal more and continue on a better path to recovery.
Do I believe everyone would have these results? Honestly, I don’t know. Do I believe everyone could benefit from a whole-food, plant-based diet? Absolutely! Will it cure all your troubles? I’m not a doctor so I can’t say if that’s possible but I can encourage you to look into it yourself. Listed below are some websites and links to pages that helped me along my journey. I’m listing only Dr. Greger’s pages because he has the science and studies to back the information. If anyone is interested in other suggestions I will happily share those as well. You’re welcome to ask questions here and if there’s interest I’ll return for a Q&A or more guest blogs. The most important information I can give you is to do the best you can for you and to allow yourself to thrive. Don’t fall into a trap of “getting by.” Stay positive and keep striving to be the best version of yourself.
Dr. Greger’s site
Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, which greatly simplified my transition
#Forksoverknives #Drgreger #hownottodie #plantbased