In the previous issue we introduced a new series of articles about conscious eating, based on my personal experience of exploring the plant-based diet. I’d like to continue with what actually triggered me into changing my diet and my whole lifestyle.
To be honest, I was getting concerned about aging – not necessarily about growing old, but more so about the health problems that seem to come with it.
When I looked at my life, I realized that for many years I ate whatever I wanted, I didn’t exercise much, and I was stressed. I also gained some unwanted weight which started to affect all areas of my life. Being in my early 40s, I was beginning to worry about my health and the future of my health.
I could see people struggling with health problems all around me, even in my own family. My grandma spent the last twenty years of her life in bed – sick. She passed away around the same age that my parents are now. My other grandmother had a stroke, while my grandfather recently died after fighting cancer for years. My father has high blood pressure. My mother and my uncle both struggle with high cholesterol and with a multitude of lipomas (non-cancerous growths of fat cells encapsulated by thin, fibrous pods usually just below the skin). And the list goes on.
So I wondered: “Is disease in my genes?”
I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of the elderly members of my family if I could help it, so I started researching, reading books, and watching YouTube videos. I wanted to learn as much as possible about improving and preserving my health. It’s amazing how much knowledge one can gain from the right source! The more I learned, the more I realized that all these health issues in my family appeared to be related more to lifestyle, including what we eat and what we do, than to aging.
Although older people bear the highest risk of chronic disease, such as cancer, they could significantly lower their risk if they changed their lifestyles. According to a report published in February 2011 by The American Institute for Cancer Research, “Any cancers can be delayed or even prevented through a balance of regular physical activity and a plant-based diet.” 
I knew I was on the right track: I needed a lifestyle change!
I came across an article online called Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes. The study suggested that genes are not the main cause of most chronic illnesses. Their findings showed that the source of cancer is rooted in the environment and in our lifestyle, including diet (fried foods, red meat), cigarette smoking, alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity. 
I kept on researching, reading, and learning. One of the books that had the largest impact on me was The 80/10/10 Diet by Dr. Douglas N. Graham. This book opened my eyes to the truth that people are fatter and sicker than ever! When I was reading the facts that we as a nation have become the fattest people on earth, I was socked. Many people don’t realize it because obesity is so common nowadays. As a matter of fact, statistics show that two-thirds of Americans are overweight. Sadly, obesity is rapidly moving up in the ranks of causes of preventable health problems and sometimes death. 
In the Standard American Diet (or SAD diet), our consumption of junk food, animal products, chemical additives, toxic pesticides, and GMO products has increased in the past years, and at the same time our health has worsened rapidly.  These alarming discoveries led me to the exploration of a strictly plant-based diet as a possible solution to improving and preserving my health.
I learned that plant-based foods are usually rich in antioxidants which are able to terminate free radicals that damage cells and cause chronic inflammation. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes contain no cholesterol and are low in fat, especially saturated fats. They are also high in fiber and other nutrients. There are several plant-based foods that are also good sources of protein, such as beans, peanuts, and soy.
Numerous studies conducted over the last few decades have shown that people whose diets include a large intake of plant foods tend to have a lower risk of chronic disease, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. As Christian Nordqvist explains in an article published in October 2012, “plants have bioactive compounds that play an important role in controlling genetic and other biological factors that contribute towards the development of chronic disease.” 
The first recorded heart attack is said to have appeared in British literature just over a hundred years ago (1878). Approximately one in five Americans now suffers from some form of cardiovascular disease, and more than 2,500 Americans die from it each day! In 2001 just under 700,000 Americans died of heart disease.  With a plant-based diet and lifestyle changes, some of these deaths could have been prevented!
Just a generation or two ago cancer was a ‘grandparents’ disease’. Today we have cancer hospitals for children! Millions of new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed each year, and sadly nearly half of those are predicted to die.  With a plant-based diet and lifestyle changes, some of these deaths could be prevented!
More than 18 million Americans have diabetes, the sixth most frequent cause of death in North America. The number of adults in the U.S. diagnosed with diabetes has increased 61% since 1991 and is projected to more than double by 2050. Today, diabetes claims more than 200,000 lives each year.  With a plant-based diet and lifestyle changes, some of these deaths could be prevented!
The bottom line is that we can’t expect a different outcome if we do exactly the same as the two-thirds of the country! If we truly want results, we have to start making better choices and living more healthfully.
In my research I gathered that when it comes to our health, we have to understand the difference between creating health and treating symptoms. Dr. Graham points out, “it is always better to correct a problem – to remove its cause – than it is to supplement or suppress it.” When we use drugs, remedies, and therapies to eliminate symptoms, we do nothing to address their original cause, hence nothing to improve health. We must educate ourselves about the causes of health (not disease) and include these in our daily routine. 
So that is what I did. I gradually implemented healthier choices in my diet and daily routine. I tried a 30-day juice fast that detoxified my body and kick-started my healing process. I started drinking delicious smoothies I made with fresh, organic fruits and vegetables daily. Little by little, I replaced animal products and high-fat, processed foods with fresh, wholesome plant foods in my diet. As a result, I lost 30 pounds and I regained my energy.
Soon after, I became aware that keeping off the weight and improving my health will require constant work and dedication. I continue to eat mostly fruits and nuts throughout the day, drink fresh-pressed juices and smoothies, and consume light, meatless dinners at night. However, I realize that well-being is not only about what we eat. Diet is just one of the many fundamental elements – but it is a good start!
I invite you to follow me as I continue my journey to finding a healthier way to eat and live. Stay tuned for tips and more in-depth information on how the plant-based diet can improve your health, too.
 Evidence Shows Activity And Plant-Based Diet Lowers Cancer Risk, Even Later In Life. Published in February 2011. www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/217465.php
 Plant-Based Diets May Prevent Chronic Diseases by Christian Nordqvist
Published online in October 2012. www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/251689.php
 The 80/10/10 Diet by Dr. Douglas N. Graham
 Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes. Published online in July 2018. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515569/
 Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2011 by Elisabeth Arais and Betty L. Smith. National Viatal Statistics Report, Vol 51. No 5. www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr51/nvsr51_05.pdf
 Americans Eat Themselves to Death by Lindsey Tanner. March 2004. www.cbsnews.com/news/americans-eat-themselves-to-death/