Going (Mostly) Meatless and Loving It
Benefits of Plant-Based Diet.
There was once upon a time when Dawn McDonald could not hardly go anywhere without her bag of prescription medication.
Whenever her husband would ask her to meet her somewhere for any length of time, even if it was only across town, she would have to rush home to get her medicine before going anywhere else.
She had prescriptions for everything and anything including high blood pressure, cholesterol, and even migraines.
Being overweight didn’t help. In a way, neither did her countless prescriptions. Even with them, McDonald constantly felt sick, achy, and un-energetic.
Her breaking point arrived when her doctor diagnosed her as pre-diabetic, requiring her to add diabetic medicine to her endless list of prescriptions.
“I knew I did not want to be on the diabetes medication because a lot of people have had [bad things] happen to their health,” she says. “I thought that this was serious and I had to do something.”
McDonald’s doctor advised her that she could improve her health if she lost weight. So she decided to embark on her health journey to do exactly that.
She started with small steps, from avoiding eating at restaurants to cutting out processed food. She also began exercising more by purchasing a fitness watch and walking more often.
Eventually, she had gone completely meatless, eliminating meat, dairy, and processed foods, and focusing instead on a whole food, plant-based diet.
McDonald’s journey began in 2014. Four years later, not only has she dropped 70 pounds, but she no longer requires her many prescriptions.
The only time she ever felt sick was when she deviated from her diet for about a week. Otherwise, she feels better than ever.
“I can enjoy things [now] because I no longer feel sick all the time,” McDonald says. “It certainly has been a great journey for me to make it this far and it is all worth it to feel well and healthy.”
My Own “Mostly” Meatless Journey
Testimonies such as this, as well as others from the local health advocacy group, Chat and Chew, have inspired me, article author James Coulter, to go on my own health journey.
Ever since I started covering Chat and Chew for local publications, I have heard many stories about how people’s lives have turned around for the best since going meatless.
I figured that if people much older than me can experience such results, then someone half their age can, too.
This would not be the first time I’ve embarked on such a journey. Nearly 15 years ago, upon graduating high school, I weighed 250 pounds.
Upon starting college, I started exercising and eating healthier. By the end of my freshman year, instead of suffering the “freshman 15,” I lost 70 pounds.
I had dropped so much weight that when my parents visited that spring semester, they could hardly recognize me.
I’ve since gained some weight back and have been lingering just above 200 pounds. Even after joining a gym five years ago and going daily, my weight never dropped below that.
This plateau was most likely due to my diet. My exercise habits may have improved, but I was still eating the same fatty foods that I had always eaten.
So, earlier this summer, I decided to make a major change by eliminating meat, dairy, and soft drinks from my diet.
When most people think of a vegetarian diet, they think of nothing but salads. While you can certainly eat your fill of salad greens, I didn’t want to restrict myself to such a mundane diet.
Upon doing research online, I discovered many enticing meatless recipes that served as great replacements for the food I once ate: spicy black bean burgers, buffalo cauliflower bites, lentil sloppy joes, and dragon fruit barbecue.
Within my first month, I lost 12 pounds. Within the past three months, I’ve lost nearly 30 pounds, going well under 200 pounds.
To be fair, at this point, I consider myself “mostly” meatless, as I occasionally still eat meat. But from this point on, I expect to continue finding new ways to incorporate more plants on my plate.
“May Food Be Thy Medicine...”
Numerous studies have proven the age-old advice to eat your vegetables to be correct. One study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition revealed that vegetarian diets were twice as effective in reducing body weight than conventional diets.
Other studies have shown that plant-based diets offer many health benefits, including lowering body weight, cholesterol, and risks for diabetes, heart disease, and even death.
Ever since becoming a registered dietitian in 1987, Laura Goolsby, Clinical Coordinator at Keiser University in Lakeland, has noticed her field becoming more receptive towards a whole food, plant-based lifestyle.
During her visit to the Florida Association of Nutrition and Dietetics’ annual symposium in Orlando this year, she noted that many of the discussions emphasized plant-based diet. One speaker mentioned how such diets could reverse diabetes and decrease the need for medication.
“We are seeing more and more people getting healthier because they are eating a plant-based diet,” Goolsby says. “It is really encouraging, [since] there is so much more research available to support a plant-based diet.”
While not completely meatless herself, she has made great strides into making her diet and lifestyle more plant-based. Since she knows how hard it can be to adapt to such a lifestyle, she suggests making baby steps in the process by at least having one meatless meal a day or week.
“Going all in can be difficult for some people, and so I would start slowly,” Goolsby says. “It takes some planning in terms of making sure you have a variety of plants into your diet… but I believe it is worth it in terms of our health.”
“... And May Medicine Be Thy Food”
Vikki Deedrick has experienced such benefits in her life. She has been vegetarian since 2000, and has been completely plant-based even before joining Chat and Chew six years ago.
One such benefit of her lifestyle has been her overall good health. Unlike many of her friends and family, she does not need to take medication.
“As I got older, I didn’t want to go down the same path that I saw some of my friends going down who are now on diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure medications,” she says. “I did not want to do any of that.”
During a cardiac cauterization two years ago, no blockages or issues were discovered. In fact, her doctors praised her for having arteries even healthier than people younger than her.
Her husband has been plant-based along with her for the past five years. Prior to this, he had a shoebox of medication for his high blood pressure and cholesterol. Since going meatless, he no longer needs to take them now.
“My husband, who has been on all these drugs for three decades, had always been told by numerous doctors through the years that his cholesterol and blood pressure were hereditary, that there was nothing he could do about it, and he would be on these drugs for the rest of his life,” Deedrick says. “Well, clearly, there was something he could do about it, and he is no longer on those drugs.”