Is bypass surgery in your future? What if it doesn't have to be? I had the pleasure of interviewing 61 year-old Don Carrier. Six years ago he was facing triple bypass surgery, but by making necessary diet and lifestyle changes he has changed his future. No bypass surgery and no more medications.
Lisa Nelson RD: Please share details about your health prior to making diet and lifestyle changes, such as your weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, as well as your quality of life.
Don Carrier: The best way for me to start out is when I entered Dr. McDougall's 10-day program back in 2003. At that time I weighed over 230 pounds. The main reason I went to his clinic is because I was facing a triple bypass and hoped to find an alternative option to the surgery. I was very sluggish with no energy and overweight. Please keep in mind that I was a life long vegetarian. My cholesterol was well over 200, high blood pressure (in the 160's) and basic quality of life was very poor. I was having all the typical cluster of health problems.
LN: What finally pushed you "over the edge" and gave you the motivation to make changes?
DC: I had tried many diets and even though I was a vegetarian I still gained a lot of weight. I had stopped eating potatoes, carrots, beets and other veggies because most of the popular diets claimed that carbohydrates were bad. At the McDougall clinic I was eating potatoes, carrots, beets, and lots of veggies and my energy level came back after just 3 days and I began to lose weight. Dairy and oil were two foods I was not eating during the 10-day plan. I was a big dairy eater and used olive oil regularly. I learned they were the culprit of my weight gain and poor quality of life. Halfway through the 10-day plan my whole attitude changed. I was learning how our bodies work and how to fuel our bodies correctly. This motivated me to lead a vegan life, no dairy and no oil. I never thought I would ever give up cheese, but I did and to this day I have not had even a slice of cheese since. Triple bypass surgery scared the "H" out of me and the 10-day program was the alternative solution I needed.
LN: What was keeping you from living a heart healthy life "before"?
DC: What kept me from leading a healthy lifestyle earlier was listening to what I thought was good healthy information from the media. Listening to the positive information about the Atkins diet, the Zone diet, South Beach Diet and all the diets that the media exploited was very confusing to me and it is to others. I honestly thought I was eating healthy yet wearing size 42-inch waist pants.
LN: How did you stay motivated, change your habits, and continue to stick with the changes?
DC: How do I stay motivated? It's really quit easy, the vegan diet works. Triple bypass canceled, all the medications eliminated, arthritis gone, energy level maxed and over all health excellent.
LN: Do you follow a set diet plan?
DC: Breakfast is almost the same every morning. I have organic Heritage cereal or oatmeal with berries or fruit and almond milk. Lunches during the work week consist of Thai, East Indian or Whole Foods buffets. I have trained the restaurants I like to cook without oil or dairy. The dishes are very low in fat and sodium. Dinner is mostly at home, I like pasta, soups and sweet potatoes, brown rice dishes and lentils.
LN: How much physical activity do you typically include each week now?
DC: I have to admit I have never been a gym bunny. Before I was a total couch potato, today I get out and walk or use my treadmill at home. I usually spend 30 minutes every other day on the treadmill. At my office there is a lot of physical work I do in my warehouse.
LN: What advice would you give to someone struggling to live a heart healthy lifestyle while at high risk for a heart attack or bypass surgery?
DC: I don't care how bent a person is on not eating vegetables, I found out your taste buds and cravings all change. What you thought you could not live without, soon become unimportant. You learn to substitute those food cravings with other foods. What every heart patient has to realize is that heart surgery is NO walk in the park. The medical institution makes billions of dollars every year opening up patient chests with a saw. I had it in my mind that I was not going to support the medical institution by having my chest cut wide open. Changing your diet is the safest way to continue to live a healthy life. It makes sense, it's less expensive, and it's less intrusive. There is no recovery process, no meds, and you get to enjoy life. If a heart patient decides changing their diet is too drastic, ask the surgeon to show you the tools and procedure they will use to operate. That is drastic!
Lisa, I could go on and on about the benefits of the right food and how it effects our body. So many people think being sick is in their genes and they have no control over their future health, they are totally misinformed. Good resources I recommend for potential heart patients are books by Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Fuhrman and the China Study by Dr. Campbell.
LN: Thank you Don for sharing your experience. I appreciate your time and I know many will benefit from hearing your story!