Rob Hawkins: My Plant Based Journey
From Meat, Potatoes & Smoking to Greens, Potatoes & Yoga
October 22nd 2015 marks the one year anniversary of when I began the Engine 2 Diet: 28 Day Challenge to become plant-strong. It’s a date to celebrate and to reflect upon.
After spending 18 years living in Japan, I returned to the US in 2006 – which means I returned to a Standard American Diet. And I quit smoking – which means eating became a substitute for smoking and a new a stress reducer (doesn’t work by the way, you just get fat). Before I knew it, I had gained 64 pounds, weighing in at 190. On a 5’5” frame that gave me a BMI of 31.6 – firmly rooted in the obese category.
To prepare for the Engine 2 Diet: 28 Day Challenge, I took a month to slowly start changing my eating plan: eliminating meat and then worked on eliminating dairy. Just these modifications spurred my weight loss. Inspired, I then committed fully to the 28 days. Between the ramp up and the challenge, I lost 20 pounds!
What really struck me was that in comparison – I spent the full 12 months prior to the 28 Day Challenge doing heavy exercise and counting calories, and while my weight yo-yoed, in the end I had only lost 6 pounds. I ate a little better I guess but not really and that activity level was unsustainable. 6 pounds in a year compared to 20 pounds in two months was enough to convince me to keep going with plant based eating.
Fast forward to this year (2015). At the company sponsored annual bio-metric screening, I weighed in at 145 which is a BMI of 24.1. Firmly rooted in the normal range! That’s a 39 pound weight loss in a year and 45 pounds from my heaviest!
But that’s just the beginning. In 2013, the year I started trying to change my life, I had a total cholesterol of 211, LDL of 153, HDL of 29 and a ratio of 7.2. My glucose level of 111 was down from 126 in 2012, but was still in the pre-diabetic range. Triglycerides were 144.
The results of this year’s bio-metric screening showed my total cholesterol dropped 88 points to 123, LDL dropped 75 points to 78, HDL to 34 and the ratio to 3.6. Triglycerides were 58. Glucose dropped as well to 87 – safely in the healthy zone, removing me from risk of Type II Diabetes. Eye-opening to say the least!
Earlier this month, I participated in the Engine 2 Diet: 7 Day Rescue Plant Based Pilot Program at Hyland Software. I did not expect much to change since I thought I had been pretty much following the plan since last year. Well, I was surprised again. The 7 Day Rescue was a super strict regimen of plant-based nutrition. The program was designed to really hone in on the absolute core of this lifestyle and to ensure every bite consumed is the most nutrient dense foods available. It, too, was eye-opening.
While not as drastic, my triglycerides even went up 3 points, I saw my glucose drop a point, total cholesterol dropped 14 points to 109 and LDL also dropped 14 points to 64. My ratio dropped from 3.6 to 3.3. Pretty darn amazing. Originally I had thought the 2 pound weight loss was just daily fluctuation, but my fluctuating range has moved down.
I am now in the third week following the 7 Day Rescue, still going plant-strong, and I have lost 4 more pounds.
My life has completely changed from a couch potato to being very active: from meat and potatoes, to greens and potatoes. As part of my journey I have discovered a passion for yoga and am currently in Yoga Teacher Training. I hope to teach classes at work while helping to find ways to making a plant-based lifestyle easier for everyone.
Plant Strong: Group of Residents ‘Pioneer’ Heart-Healthy Plant Diet
Written by Judy Stringer
We all know that, along with exercise, a healthy diet is the key to living longer and feeling younger. It’s not surprising then that aging adults today are embracing healthier eating behaviors. While many are content with peppering their diet with more veggies, reducing fat and/or eliminating red meats, however, a group of homeowners at Pioneer Ridge is taking healthy eating to the next level: a plant-based diet with no meat, no eggs, no dairy and no added oils.
“We thought we had a healthy diet, but we were basically not eating red meat,” said Tim Simon, who along with his wife, Tracy, has switched to plant-based eating. “This is something very different.”
“It’s a big commitment,” Tracy said, “because it requires mostly fresh produce and some restaurants don’t offer a lot of choices that meet the guidelines. We’ve been cooking a lot more and having fun with it, though.”
Tim and Tracy converted to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s plant-based diet in October after hearing the extraordinary story of one of his patients, Deacon Pat Humphrey, at the Pioneer Ridge in North Ridgeville. Deacon Pat reversed a life-threatening arterial blockage plus a score of other ailments by following a whole foods, plant-based, no-oil diet. (Join In Upcoming Event Like This!)
Laurie Kortowich, full-time activities director at Pioneer Ridge, said the event was so popular, the deacon returned to Pioneer Ridge to speak twice more in early 2015. Kortowich also organized a four-week “going green” information series for residents based on Esselstyn’s plan and hosted by Cleveland Clinic Internist Dr. Polly Dengel. Dr. Degel shared insights into starting and maintaining a plant-based and active lifestyle with cooking demonstrations – all at Pioneer Lodge.
More than 80 Pioneer Ridge homeowners have attended the informational seminars and cooking classes. Many like the Simon’s are putting those practices into action. Participants are already seeing big gains in weight loss, lower blood pressure and better cholesterol readings. “I’m not sure we could have done it alone,” Tracy said. “Having friends at Pioneer Ridge do it at the same time, and even having Laurie do it, makes it more fun and, I think, has made it more successful for all of us. We send recipes back and forth.”
Tracy has lost 24 pounds and is amazed at how much energy she has. The couple spent the winter months in Florida biking up to 20 miles a day and still had energy to walk and play at the beach.
Jon and Mary Dregalla were immediate converts after hearing Deacon Pat as well. At the time Jon “had 100 percent blockage in his right artery and had undergone angioplasty,” Mary said. Her own cholesterol had been steadily climbing and she was given “one last chance” to get it under control before the doctor put her on medication.
Now, she said, “We have both lost weight, feel better and all our ‘numbers’ have improved. My cholesterol went from 215 to 168 in one month! My husband is slowly being taken off of several of his 8 to 10 prescription drugs… I could go on and on. This has been a life changing experience for us and we are fully enjoying life at age 67.”
Carol and Tom Beckwith began the program early this year. Carol said both have seen their important vital measures like blood pressure and cholesterol improve, particularly Tom who struggled in the past to bring his cholesterol in check. The support from Pioneer Ridge friends and ongoing seminars and cooking demonstrations are helping the couple overcome the more challenging diet restrictions. “We moved to Pioneer Ridge six months ago. It’s the best move we’ve ever made,” Carol said. “Before I don’t think I would have ever even heard of the plant-based plan. Now we are getting exposure to all these programs that are good for us.”
Laurie said she plans to continue finding ways to support residents in their quest to live longer, healthier lives. For now that means building on the success many homeowners are seeing with eating primarily whole grains, veggies and fruits.
“Looking ahead, we have weekly cooking demos and discussions, a facebook group discussion, recipe sharing, potluck activities – all designed to raise awareness and community support for those following a plant based diet.”