I can hardly believe that it has been two years already since I changed my diet - for health reasons - from omnivore to vegan. Out with the lamb chops, in with the lentils. Goodbye bacon and cheese burgers, hello chickpea cutlets.
So what is the verdict, 24 months into this rather drastic lifestyle change? Certainly, I am a lot healthier. Just more than two years ago my total cholesterol was over 200, and despite racking up 30 to 40 miles running per week, I was on a statin and metformin, which is often prescribed for diabetics. I had not quite reached the clinical threshold, but was definitely in the pre-diabetic stage. When my (then) GP handed me the results of the annual physical check-up, with several big fat H's (for High) staring up at me, and several sections highlighted with his blood red marker, I literally felt sick. Several weeks dragged by before I could get myself to fill the prescriptions, and it wasn't until many weeks later, that I actually started taking the recommended dosage.
Did they work? Yes, almost too well. My total cholesterol dropped below 100, which brought up an 'L' on the next annual physical checkup report. I hated being on the medication though. Then, on Sat 31 March 2007, I noticed a tiny article in a Dallas newspaper about Dr. Neil Barnard's Program to Reverse Diabetes. Back in Houston the following day, I bought the book and became a vegan overnight. It was tough the first couple of weeks or so, probably more so for my family than me. What were we going to eat? It is almost ridiculous how 'brain-washed' we were about meat & other animal products being the only 'real' food. But we made it. A few Vegan Meetups later and some more reading (T. Colin Campbell, Esselstyn, McDougall and others), and I soon started to feel more confident about my decision.
Armed with a large Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker (which I still use at least 3 or 4 times per week) I started cooking up big pots of beans, chickpeas and wheat berries, and rather obscure grains such as millet and quinoa started appearing on our plates. It was quite the journey of discovery, and it hasn't stopped yet. As some of you may know, I am working my way through Veganomicon, a simply fantastic - and often hilariously irreverent - vegan cookbook. Lots of wonderfully inventive and delicious things there. One day earlier this week, for example, our dinner consisted of baked marinated Asian tofu with Wasabi mashed potatoes and Corn and Edamame Salad. Hardly any fat, zero cholesterol, plenty of protein and loaded with other nutrients & likely a good dose of fiber. Just as importantly, it tasted every bit as good anything we might have served 2 years ago.
Two years on a plant-based diet and all my cholesterol and triglyceride readings are within the desirable range; no need for any medication to control cholesterol or blood sugar, blood pressure at around 100/60, and body weight stable around 160 lbs. I have literally not been sick a day since April 1 2007, and have more energy now than in my 30's. And then there's the running. Let's face it, there is no way anyone my age would be able to withstand the rigors of training for Boston on a diet which is deficient in any way.
The Boston training cycle is rapidly coming to an end. I would have loved to have had an extra month to train, but April 20 is just around the corner. This week I have had a few very good, hard runs:
* 4 X mile repeats on Tuesday, all within seconds of 7:00 - and I could have tacked on one more if I had to.
* 9 miles on Wednesday, 4 of which were on the Ho Chi Minh bike trail at Memorial Park. Talk about fun! It takes a lot of energy and concentration to safely negotiate the twists and turns, dips, ditches, crude bridges, moguls and roots galore. Average pace about 8:35.
* 5.5 miles on Thursday, including a hard 4.5 mile race, Stage 1 of the Tour de Bayou, a HARRA (Houston area Road Running Association) event. I finished 44th overall, could probably have done quite a bit better, but did not have much in the tank after Tuesday and Wednesday's workouts.
Tomorrow will be my last long (16 to 18 mile, depending on weather) hilly run at New Ulm. Bring on the taper!
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