Tuesday, February 10, 2015

48 hours as a Vegan (Dr. Esselstyn's diet to prevent and reverse heart disease)

For years Jon and I have tried to eat healthy.  His dad had open heart surgery just a few months before we married so Jon took things seriously when the cardiologist spoke to the family.  At that time we thought healthy was a Lean Cuisine meal and margarine on our white bread.  As time went on, we were all into the "Healthy Balance" spreads and milks etc.... Heck I thought I was healthy when I quit diet soda and just began drinking regular Pepsi LOL!

Then about four years ago we learned that Sam was missing a liver tumor inhibitor out of his DNA.  He had one but not two like most folks have.  That scared us and we went organic for the most part.  Of course we still ate out some, which was our only down fall.

Then in 2013 we began reading research about heart health and switched to ONLY "expeller pressed oils" and olive oil.  We focused on more veggies and fruits for the family. 

Our concern has been Jon's family history of heart issues.  It's about as bad as you can get.  He has managed with exercise, self control and good eating to keep his cholesterol in an acceptable level between 197-211, it has fluctuated.  Because of his family history the doctor wanted to put him on some statin drugs but there are a lot of side affects to those drugs.  My cholesterol has been around the same also.  We both have low blood pressure and no issue with our sugar.

So we were hopeful that being really serious would get the numbers down.  But it did not.  Jon walks a lot in his job, all over the prison campus, as well as exercises about two hours a day on his days off.  He also exercises on work days at lunch most days.  In spite of that, the cholesterol won't budge.

Recently I found a hard core book about changing your eating habits for life
This doctor is on staff at Cleveland Clinic, the first place to do by pass surgery.  He was sent 20 patients who were not candidates for surgery and were given no hope.  He put them on a strict diet and they lived.  The study is now 20 years old and most of those original patients are still alive.  In fact there is medical proof that their heart disease reversed itself to some degree in all of them. 
The rules of the diet are tough. No meat, no dairy, no added oils.  If it has a face or a Mama you don't eat it- no eggs
Here is a CNN clip
You can read Dr Esselstyn's credentials here
Poor Bill Clinton has gone on this diet, that is why he lost so much weight.
Now Poor Yvonne has gone on this diet too.  Jon is handling it WAY better than me.  I've actually grieved the loss of much of the foods I like.  It's one thing to be a vegan and eat all the nice packaged foods but they have oils in them.  It is very hard even in the health food stores to find things without added oils, even olive oil. 
So here are the rules:
Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD,
Prevention & Reversal Diet Work
  • No meat, no poultry, no fish--not even salmon
  • No dairy of any kind--not even skim milk or non-fat yogurt. 
  • No eggs--not even egg whites or Egg Beaters
  • No oil--not even virgin olive oil or canola oil
  • Aim for 100% Whole Grain products. Ingredients must say, Whole Wheat, or Whole Buckwheat, Whole Rye,etc. 100% stone-ground wheat is not Whole Wheat unless the word Whole appears.  Forget about semolina flour in pasta.  Forget about white rice.  BROWN rice only.   For several years we have been eating Arnold's HealthFUL breads, there is no oil in them.
  • Do not drink juice. Fruit is fine.  A little juice used to saute, or season recipes or for salad dressings is fine 
  • Do not eat nuts, even walnuts unless you do not have heart disease.
  • Do not eat avocados, if you have heart disease.
  • Do not eat coconut, if you have heart disease.
  • Eat soy products cautiously.  They are high in fat (40% +) and many are highly processed. 
  • Reduce sugar as much as possible.  When you do use it for recipes, stick to the more unprocessed varieties.  But don't fool yourself, maple syrup, agave, and honey are still sugar.
  • Read all labels, especially THE INGREDIENTS!!! (I have a small magnifying glass I keep in my purse)
** we are assuming that we have some heart disease so we are also not eating nuts....goodbye peanuts!  Jon has had many heart tests but outside of a heart cath we can't be sure 100%.  We don't want to chance it. 


The doctor  is also a focus of the new documentary "Forks Over Knives." Esselstyn has won some high-profile allies -- such as Dr. T. Colin Campbell, co-author of "The China Study," and Dr. Terry Mason, chief medical officer at Cook County Hospitals in Chicago and the city's former health commissioner.

Now Dr Esselstyn does not claim this diet prevents cancer but none of the people in the study have developed cancer.  Interesting enough a friend of mine has a son with a brain tumor.  He was diagnosed four years ago with an inoperable tumor and given just months to live.  He is still alive and doing well.  His mother put him on the "China Study" diet, very much like this diet and his tumor has stabilized.  He does get chemo but there had never been the hope that chemo alone would cure him.  His doctors are now beginning to be interested in his diet!

So we have embarked on this journey.  It is much harder than anything I have ever tried before.  It's not so much a diet as a lifestyle change.  I've been shopping twice now for this adventure.  Once in Publix, where I got angry at smelling the fried chicken LOL and today in a health food store where I just got overwhelmed .....  but I came out with a no oil pizza crust and low fat tofu with no oil!  So tonight Jon and I had pizza...

It was not Papa John's or Pizza Hut but it helped me to have something tasty and filling.  I don't crave sweets, I'm a hearty meat eater so this is rough! 
This is a hard change but if it keeps us healthy, it's worth it!
We are going to have our bloodwork redone in April to see where we are at and to see if this is working for us.  We should see a change by then.  Although I'm fine where I am weight wise, there is no doubt the weight will fall off me with this change.  My doctor wanted me to lose 50 pounds which I thought was extreme.  I'm pretty sure that is 100% doable with this change!
Do you love to eat or do you love life?  I love life!  I want to be healthy for my kids!
I suggest you get the book and read the studies.  It convinced me!  The funny thing, I didn't realize my brother in law and his family also changed to a vegetarian diet.  They have chosen not to be as strict, but they've not read this book yet! It certainly made me realize the importance of what I eat.
BTW, the kids are staying on their regular diet for now.  Steve almost had a heart attack when I first started talking to him about this.  He is the worst eater of the family and proud of it.  I worry about him but he doesn't listen. His taste buds are like mine.  Shad is addicted to sweets in a terrible way.  Sam is a wonderful eater, for some reason he has NO desire for sweets, except for fruit, oranges being his favorite.  Sarah is a good eater too, she does love ice cream.   Thankfully when they eat at home, it's healthy.  I cooked them Shrimp Jambalaya today and made them happy.   YES it is hard to cook for them!!!!!!!  
So say a little prayer that I can stay on track and come up with good recipes.  Jon needs my help with this.
Yesterday we took Sam and Sarah to the geneticist.  We should get some results back in the next month or so.  Both are in a study through the University of Wisconsin focusing on eye conditions, especially Peter's Anomaly. 
Jon and I stopped and got the kids lunch and we got a baked potato with extra chives on it.   Our first time eating out as a vegan!


  1. Good for you and Jon! However, I think this strict of a diet will be difficult to sustain long term. Consider following it 90% of the time and 10% of the time be laxer. Otherwise, it is too easy to have an on/off diet mentality. I don't see you completely not eating out with friends; yes, you can probably improvise, but then everyone else is eating your favorite Southern food in front of you... Just my thoughts. Good luck and post any good recipes you find.

  2. I hate strict diets ... My daughter nearly lost her life to a vegan raw diet...
    Because she just stayed on it 100 % of the time.
    She lost her periods her energy her good mood and reconstruction is slow slow slow...
    I am sad to think she might have missed the right time to be a mum. (35)
    Our bodies need "equilibre". (balance)
    How are you going to react when you discover that to fight alzeimher you need to swallow spoonfuls of oil ?
    Our mind needs oil... our body needs a bit of everything
    My daughter is learning it the hard hard way, and we are crying the waste of her good health.

    1. That's too bad about your daughter. Sometimes that happens, especially if a wide variety of veggies/fruit are not eaten. I know people who are vegetarians but all they do is eat fried veggies & lots of soy! We are having our blood work monitored. I don't' think Jon will have any issues as he likes all kinds of veggies. With me, I need to be a little more careful. Also we may need to take B12. I'm much more worried about heart disease than anything else.

  3. someone shared this link


    and this,


    It might be interesting for you, but I really don't want to discourage you eating healthy !

  4. I've been vegetarian for nearly 4 years and do take a month a few times a year to go completely vegan. It is tough when you rely on dairy and eggs to completely cut those out even for a month. As for my cholesterol and triglycerides, they fell dramatically when I went vegetarian and even more when I added in intermittent fasting. Who knew that the occasional fast would drop cholesterol numbers dramatically, when paired with a heart healthy diet. The cookbook The MediterrAsian Way is great!

  5. My folks have been on this exact "diet" for years! They are healthy and doing great. Heart disease is scary.

  6. We have been trying to eat healthier too. I thought I was doing a good job giving my kids vitamins and all.. Then I found out about how these vitamins are all synthetic and don't do anything good for us.. So I have been making sure the meat we do eat is grass fed organic and try to eat a lot more fruits and veggies.. And I recently found Purium and they have a bunch of green powders and a fruit/veggie drink for kids. There's no artificial anything in them! It might be worth checking out. If you want to try it you can use one of my $50 gift cards there! www.mypuriumgift.com and the code is rush4health It is a company I found after much prayer. Their products are all certified organic and NON GMO.

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