A Simple Lifestyle Change
A Simple Lifestyle Change by Joe Rosenberger
I really did not like vegetables. Or beans. Or really any foods that were 'good for me'. Prior to 2019, I had asked my long-time vegetarian wife, "If I went vegan ... what would I eat??"
I filled my body with mostly highly processed junk food ... knowing yes, it wasn't the greatest choice, but also not knowing just how bad of a choice those foods were for my over all health. Honestly, it wasn't something I truly cared about until getting my cholesterol checked in 2011 at a work health assessment.
My triglycerides and LDL were through the roof ... so much so the nurse checked my readings twice to make sure their machine wasn't broken. I knew I was overweight ... my new belt and pants size told me. I knew I wasn't fit in any way ... being breathless coming up the stairs told me.
Overweight and now knowing I was at high risk of heart disease motivated me to finally make some changes. At the time, I knew I had to change my eating habits and get more activity in my life. Away went the red meat, soda, and large portion sizes and in came more leafy vegetables, nuts, and water. I also started a regular walking routine which soon turned into a running routine. Ultimately this, plus a gym membership, resulted in shedding nearly thirty pounds. But ... my cholesterol numbers still remained just over the high threshold and I still struggled with an extra ten pounds which at times would drop and then reappear.
It wasn't until 2019 and experiencing the loss of my dad when I took another pause. What ultimately took my dad into the next plane of existence? Heart disease. Others in his family? Heart disease. Where was my own cholesterol? Still in the high range. What was one simple lifestyle change I could implement to change that? Go plant based. The science and proof is there that this works. (For a quick read, check out this article: https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/nutrition-information/lowering-cholesterol-with-a-plant-based-diet and this associated article: https://www.pcrm.org/news/health-nutrition/plant-based-diets-lower-cholesterol)
But ... I hate vegetables.
Operation "Veganize Joe" began.
My own process was to go "Pescatarian" first and begin to make friends with certain things like broccoli and beans. As a transition, I also used some plant based processed foods like frozen meals and vegan burgers. But, in trying to reduce my potential for heart disease also meant watching higher sodium intake ... and these processed foods are notoriously high in sodium and oils. Soon, I announced while making a shrimp scampi dish, that this was going to be the last animal I was going to eat. That was now over three years ago.
Only a few months into the new lifestyle I had my yearly exam and blood work. The LDL reading had dipped from the year before by nearly ten points. I was only one point over the high threshold. Something was working.
After that, I tried to further reduce my intake of processed foods and make friends with other fruits and veggies. The following year, my LDL reading had dipped below the high threshold for the first time since that "you're going to die" moment in 2011.
Something else happened in this journey of being powered by plants ... the running routine began to grow and the distances began to get longer. The recovery time for my muscles after long runs grew shorter. The extra ten pounds dropped and never returned. The constant indigestion disappeared. The daily intake of Tums, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen went away. Not to mention, the over all feeling of being healthy appeared ... which hadn't been present since I don't know when.
Of course this 'Veganize Joe' journey started with my health as the main concern ... but along the way for all of us, we learn new information that we may have either turned a blind eye to, or just not taken the time to educate ourselves with. My decision to be plant powered also has a profound environmental impact ... and an impact on the suffering of the non-humans who are forced into horrible conditions which, if we kept our dogs in those same conditions, we would be jailed for abuse. To me, when we were outraged by Michael Vick's dog fighting ring and went home and cooked a steak, chicken, or pork dinner, we were in the same league. I look back now and have some guilt for not getting it sooner and earlier in life.
Equally as important is the environmental impact 'animal agriculture' has on our planet. In the Standard American diet, beef consumption results in 1,984 pounds of CO2e annually ... switching from animals to plants would reduce that by 96%. (https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.6b01006). Animal Ag is also a leading cause of deforestation, water & land pollution, and loss of biodiversity (https://climatenexus.org/climate-issues/food/animal-agricultures-impact-on-climate-change/).
A simple lifestyle change can affect so much more than just your own health. "But I hate vegetables" is an excuse. I know ... I made that same excuse for far too long. My health, the planet's health, and non-human's health suffered because of it.
A simple lifestyle change ... it can change your life.
As January, 2023 quickly approaches, consider joining in Veganuary. It's an easy way to introduce yourself to a cleaner way of living and new healthy habits. Part of being a healthier you isn't just joining a gym or resolving to exercise more often ... it's also about how you fuel your body machine.
Check out the Veganuary site for more: https://veganuary.com/en-us/
Cheers to your health and happiness ... come join me in a simple lifestyle change!