Interview with a Nutritarian: Kurt

When I met my husband, Kurt, over 30 years ago, he was a bon a fide cowboy. Being athletic, he was fit and trim and rarely had a health concern so he never went to a doctor. He also had the uncanny ability to only eat when hungry. Even if there were only a couple bites of his favorite pie left on a plate, and he was full, he couldn’t take another bite. However, he was a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy; a 16 oz steak and baked potato slathered with butter was the ultimate meal.

Over time, Kurt traded his saddle in for a computer to financially support raising our family, and his life became sedentary. However, his diet changed considerably about four years ago when I decided to embark on a health makeover by following Eat to Live. For over three years Kurt’s meals at home consisted of high-nutrient foods, but he affectionately called his way of eating “Fuhrman-Lite”. He basically followed the principles of nutritarian eating about 70% of the time, but his daily lunches out consisted of fried chicken dinners, Greek specials or Subway sandwiches and chips, and he loved to treat himself to chocolate shakes, cookies, and candy bars on a regular basis. Since he wasn’t significantly overweight he continued to enjoy his daily splurges.

Last year, at age 53 he was experiencing frequent chest pains. It occurred when under stress at work, exercising or exerting himself, and eventually he started to be more and more uncomfortable even at rest, while sitting and lying down. He’d even re-position the seatbelt shoulder strap while driving, thinking that may be the cause of the pain. It increased over several months, but he didn’t talk much about it or go to a doctor. 

Thankfully, Dr. Fuhrman came to my hometown to speak at an all-day Health Immersion, and I happened to mention Kurt’s symptoms to him, and he spoke to Kurt about them.  Dr. Fuhrman was immediately concerned and said that Kurt was experiencing unstable angina; that he had one or more arteries that were over 90% blocked. Even with Dr. Fuhrman telling him the gravity of his life-threatening situation, Kurt continued to eat the standard American diet for another week until his blood pressure shot up dangerously high one morning. (Dr. Fuhrman had instructed him to check his blood pressure on a daily basis). That afternoon he was sweating, had pain in his neck and left arm, and felt terrible overall. The denial was over, and Kurt instantly became a fully committed nutritarian. That was a year ago this week.  Welcome to Onlyourhealth, Kurt.

 

What was your life like before fully committing to the nutritarian eating-style?

I was tired and didn’t feel well most of the time, but because the symptoms developed so gradually, I accepted them as normal. It was challenging for me to go for a walk down the road, and I usually had to take a nap after lunch every day but didn’t realize it was connected to the food that I was eating. I also had chest pain, eventually even when sitting and lying down. I was concerned about the pains and knew that I needed to change my eating habits, but the thought of giving up meat was the biggest obstacle that kept me from fully doing it. Being married to you [Emily] I thought I was eating “healthy enough” at home, at least healthier than I had for most of my life so I was relatively content. 

 

How do you feel now?

I have a lot more energy now, and I can walk briskly without exertion. I wake up rested every morning, and I no longer need a nap after lunch. I lost over 25 lbs those first three months, (and dropped a clothing size), and I’ve been maintaining that weight since. My blood pressures are consistently under 115/75, and the ongoing chest pains are gone.

I used to get a lot of sinus infections during the winter months, but I haven’t been sick this entire year; not even a cold. I’m a computer consultant and work on client’s computer systems. Invariably someone at a customer’s site is sick so I’m exposed to a lot of bugs, but I haven't caught anything all year.  I can even smell things now that I couldn’t before, and my taste buds have greatly improved. Foods and beverages that I used to like, I don’t even like anymore; including milk, pop, and lemonade, and foods that I used to not like, I now enjoy.  

 

 Do you have any success tip(s) to share?

 

  • It’s important to have a good understanding of Dr. Fuhrman’s teachings. Emily had tried to encourage me to read Eat to Live, but reading it just wasn’t that big of a deal to me.  I saw her success after many years of fad dieting and gimmicks that didn’t work so I knew this was the “real deal”. I knew it was the healthiest way to eat, but I wasn’t ready to fully embrace the changes for myself. Then Dr. Fuhrman came to Fort Wayne for the Health Immersion, and I listened to his lectures and they made a lot of sense. I finally understood that in order to reverse heart disease there could be no margin for cheating. It clicked, even though I still wasn’t ready to give it 100%. 

  • It’s helpful to have support from others. Most likely I could’ve changed on my own, because I was desperate to reverse my blocked arteries, but Emily’s ongoing support has been a huge contributing factor to my success. 

  • Be persistent and give it time. If unsalted food doesn’t taste that good to you in the beginning, be patient, because eventually your taste buds will change and you’ll enjoy the subtle flavors of foods without salt. It really does happen.   

 

In a nutshell, what has nutritarian eating done for you? 

It has changed my entire family’s life. First, Emily got her health back, and now all of us are eating healthy and feeling better because of it.  Plus we’ve all been spared a lot of unnecessary and costly suffering and tragedy as well. 

I Could Never Do That!

The following post was originally published on Onlyourhealth about two years ago. I thought it’d be helpful to dig it out of the archives for some inspiration again this time of year. Even now, I still hear, “Oh, I could never do that!” in response to the way I eat, and I’m sure that many of you do too. It’s good to be reminded on a regular basis of the many medical problems that we nutritarians get to bypass, and the many wonderful pleasures that we get to enjoy as a result! Some of the comments at the end are funny, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking all rolled into one. May they encourage and uplift heavy hearts, and cheer everyone on in the pursuit of excellent health. Cheers to all!

 

vegetablesIn the Fall of 2008, after I had dropped 40 lbs in three months, my peers started commenting and asking questions about the noticeable changes. By the next Spring, when 100 pounds were off, complete strangers such as clerks in stores would comment and ask questions as well.

Everyone’s question was, “How did you lose weight?” 

Of which my reply would always be, “By following Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, Eat to Live;. . . . basically eating lots of high nutrient, plant-based foods.” 

“You mean no meat? No cheese? No pizza? No McDonald’s? . . . . Oh, I could never do that!” 

Now, over 2 ½ years later, the majority still say to me, “Oh I could never do that!” in response to anything remotely related to the idea of eating meals primarily composed of plant based nutrition. 

 

Well, the following is what I think in response to, “I could never do that”:

 

  • I could never blow the family budget on unnecessary test strips, insulin, medications, doctor and hospital bills, or bypass surgery.

  • I could never carry around expensive medical supplies and meds while traveling.

  • I could never ask a loved one to mow the lawn for me due to fatigue and ill health.

  • I could never turn a child away from playing a game due to a migraine headache.

  • I could never miss out on the joy of a wedding celebration due to obesity and depression.

  • I could never ask someone to drive me to kidney dialysis three times a week.

     

 

 

Dr. Fuhrman added:

 

  • I could never have heartburn and burping half the night.

  • I could never sit in the bathroom for 15 minutes trying to painfully squeeze out a hard log.

  • I could never watch a volleyball game at the beach instead of playing in it.

  • I could never have rubber bands put on painful hemorrhoids by a rectal specialist.

  • I could never worry about running to catch a bus, for fear of having a heart attack. 

  • I could never have such severe stomach cramps that emergency room personnel would assume it was a heart attack. 

  • I could never fall down and fracture a hip because my blood pressure medications dropped my blood pressure too low.

  • I could never be intubated in the ER with a tube put down my throat and hooked up to a breathing machine after suffering a heart attack.

  • I could never be in a nursing home unable to talk after a stroke or move the left side of my body. 

 

How about you? 

What could you never do?     

 

 

image credit: flickr by Claudio Matsuoka and FotoosVanRobin 

 

Never Give Up

 

There's nothing more deeply satisfying than crossing the finish line of a goal accomplished. 

 

This past year my 21-year-old son died unexpectedly. After the initial shock wore off, I entered into a dark season of PTSD and bereavement for several months. During the most acute phase of it I could barely function, because I would be in a daze of paralyzing grief and confusion. I had a difficult time accomplishing the simplest of tasks such as unloading the dishwasher or starting a load of laundry.  Vigorous workouts were unthinkable in the quagmire of my demise.  I couldn’t even successfully take inventory of food to make a grocery list, let alone muster up the strength to navigate the supermarket aisles or prepare a pot of soup.

I continued to eat whole foods, but many times a meal only consisted of a bowl of oatmeal and an apple; or a green pepper with hummus, a banana, and some nuts. I was just too overwhelmed in the anguish of grief to care for myself properly during that time and apathy set in.   

It saddens me when I hear some say, "I fell off the wagon" in reference to making unwise choices due to a stressful day or difficult season of life. Hard times happen to everyone; they just do. Unless one has made a conscious decision to completely throw in the towel and quit eating healthfully altogether, no one has fallen off any wagons.  The nutritarian eating-style is for life; not a diet to jump on and off on a whim. The wagon mentality only fuels yo-yo dieting for those who buy into that mindset. And the most dangerous part is that staying off the wagon may last for days, weeks, or years . . .until one gets psyched up to get back on it again.  

Even if some days are like wading through quick sand, and it’s a challenge to continue on, stay committed to making wise food choices as best as one can possibly manage.  It may be only baby steps, but keep moving forward in the pursuit of excellent health. There’s never a valid excuse to throw in the towel and completely quit, because nothing is more deeply satisfying than crossing the finish line of a goal accomplished. Earning one’s health back is a priceless treasure that comes with absolutely no regrets.

The sun will shine again and happiness will return as one continues to stay the course.

Never give up.

“It will take strength. It will take effort. But the pleasure and rewards that you’ll get from a healthy life will be priceless.”   Dr. Fuhrman

 

 

image credit: celebration by Elijah Lynn