Changing the trajectory of my lifestyle – By my friend Dr. Andrew Kloneke
Five years ago, I experienced an unusual sensation in my upper thorax while running on the treadmill which I attributed to heavy breathing and bronchial tube irritation. When it occurred again during rapid walking, I realized that this was angina, chest pain of heart origin. In a rapid fire sequence of events, I flunked a treadmill and cardiac catheterization, culminating in 6-vessel heart bypass one week later.
During recovery, a good friend sent me 2 books – The China Study by T.Colin Campbell and Reversing Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyne. I had a little time on my hands recovering from surgery so I started in on Campbell’s book. The connection between diet and heart disease was something I was aware of but it had never been laid out so elegantly for me. I soon realized that I had eaten myself into coronary disease and that the main culprit was excessive animal protein ingestion.
And as I continued to read and understand how diet also played a role in cancer, dementia and auto-immune disease, my determination to change how I fed myself became even stronger and a new lifestyle was set in motion (for more on this see my physician homepage at http://mydoctor.kaiserpermanente.org/ncal/provider/andrewklonecke).
While not terribly difficult, it did take some time to figure out how to cook and eat in a new way. I was lucky in that my wife willingly adopted the new program and is constantly developing new and delicious recipes. For her, converting American favorites (lasagna and other pastas, meatloaf, tacos, enchiladas, etc.) to delicious low-fat plant based meals has become a favorite pastime ( you can find many of these at http://kathyklonecke.tumblr.com/).
It did not take long before we felt the benefits of our new plant based, processed-food-free diet. We both felt better with more energy and the added fiber was a very pleasant surprise for our GI tract. And the best reinforcement for this new dietary behavior came when I did my first round of blood tests and found that my diabetes and elevated cholesterol were now a thing of the past without any medication. And without even intending to lose weight, 40 pounds disappeared in a matter of months.
As I look back on the events of the last 5 years I recognize 2 things. The first is that I was long living in the land of denial. I always thought that exercising and a less stressful lifestyle would insulate me from any and all serious diseases. I thought I could eat whatever I wanted to whenever I wanted and that it would not matter. It does matter. The second is that I could have done this long ago and spared myself the misery of life threatening surgery. The benefits of a whole food plant based diet have been known for quite some time. In fact, had I known 5 years ago what I know today, I might not have consented to bypass surgery. And, I sometimes resent that my doctors did not give me that option.
So, don’t wait until you are faced by a crisis to change your ways. You are what you eat and you would be wise to eat a non-processed and plant based whole foods diet in order to live a longer and healthier life.