"Making breakfast and lunch simple and nearly the same as possible everyday is helpful. For breakfast, include some form of oats with their good cholesterol- lowering properties.
Try to keep lunch to soup and bread, salads, or sandwiches. Start as many meals as possible with salads. Add all the vegetables you can! Find a salad dressing you love.Greens!! Put them everywhere! Focus on them."
-Ann Esselstyn, heart disease prevention & reversal diet teacher, coach, & recipe developer, extraordinaire-
"When I look at the two of you--and compare you to all the over-50 & 60 year olds I know--well, that's what convinced me that there's really something to the way you're eating.
You're both active, slim, exercise, have plenty of energy, no health problems,---and can really get down on the floor, pick up, & play with "your favorite gorgeous grandson".
"The best thing I learned from you is that it's really possible to cook without oil!"
-Paraphrased from My Daughter-in-Law-
If you've received this via email, click here to get to the web version with all the links.
I'm now into my 15th month of sticking with Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.'s Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease Diet. Bill Clinton started in May 2010. I started in June 2010. Can't wait to compare notes.
Still going strong, with only a few modifications. Got it down pat--and I've been able to stick with it, in spite of a year filled with travel that's taken me all over the U.S. & the Mediterranean.
I've been wanting to write this update for awhile--but frankly, there's just too much to say.
But, I'm just going to dive right in & share some of the postive health changes I've experienced over the past 15 months--some tips that have worked for me--and some of my favorite products & cookbooks that have made cooking this way such a delicious & nutritious experience.
What I Love About This Way of Eating
- At 5' 3" I now weigh 117 lbs--sometimes 116, sometimes 118. I've lost 15 pounds since starting this diet, and at age 61+, that's a weight I'm comfortable with. In my twenties--before babies--I weighed 114, but, back then I didn't have a muscle to speak of. Now I do.
- Just so you know. I'm a foodie and I'm picky. I won't settle for just anything. But, for the past 15 months I've eaten as much scrumptious creative interesting food as I've wanted. If I'm hungry, I eat, and I don't think twice about calories.
- If I had the nerve to wear a bikini--I really could!
- Clothes now fit so well--no belly, a "just-right" butt, no underpant bulges. No need for Spanx. Ever! I've dropped between 2 & 3 sizes, even though I've only lost 15 pounds. Based on my experience--and everyone I've heard from who is on this diet--this is about the only way to really lose your belly fat. And there are plenty of good reasons to do just that. Click here to find out why!
- I'm not taking any medication, except for a low-dose of transdermal estrogen & natural progesterone--but that's for bone health, not health problems. Read more about that, here.
- Can't remember the last time I was ill (knock on wood) or had a cold.
- The digestive system couldn't be running any better. Even when I'm traveling--as long as I'm eating according to "the plan", as Rip says, "I'm as regular as a Swiss train."
- I can really trust my appetite to tell me when I'm hungry--and that's when I eat. I've lost that urge to eat just because I'm surrounded by tempting food or snacks. You can't "make yourself" eat air-popped popcorn or apples--if you aren't hungry!
- My blood pressure is now in the low-normal range.
- My cholesterol levels earned me a price break from my health plan for 2010 & 2011--but given the rules of my workplace's healthcare plan--they won't recheck my cholesterol levels until 2015. Sorry, I can't entice you with how much my lipids have continued to drop on this diet--you'll have to wait 4 more years.
- I feel wonderful. No aches. No pains. No joint stiffness. No problem sitting in a car for 10 hours. Is it because I've ditched all the oils and meat--the major sources for inflammatory omega-6 overload? No way to know--but, here's what Bill Lands, has to say about it. To read all you'd ever want to know about the benefits of lowering your intake of omega-6s, click here.
"..if you understand that food energy causes transient inflammatory insults and omega-6s amplify that into chronic injury and omega-3s moderate it, then you can tell people that the take home message is:
- Eat more omega-3s
- Eat less omega-6s
- Eat fewer calories per meal and stop smoking. That's it.
-William Lands, PhD., a pioneer in the study of lipids, omega-3 fatty acids, and the effects of diet on disease, University of Michigan & NIH-
- Vanity! This was the last thing I thought about when I started this diet. I did it strictly for health--the weight loss & healthy skin glow was unexpected--but I've embraced it. I love the compliments I continue to get from my husband, my friends, my nieces, my brother-in-law, my sister, my co-workers, and even strangers. It's like returning to the body of my twenties.
- My example has helped others to change what they eat, or at least consider making some changes. I'm beyond surprised to see how many relatives, friends, co-workers, neighbors, & perfect strangers are wading into the waters of a plant-based no-oil lifestyle.
- The healthy plant-based no-oil recipe options & food products continue to multiply. I can't even keep up with all the creative recipes I have to choose from--and there's always a new healthy product out there in the marketplace to try out.
- I absolutely have enough energy for 5-8 hours of exercise a week. I'm not an athlete--but I'm not a wimp, either. I'm talking about 3-4 hours of serious spinning, 3 hours of challenging weight-training, and 2 hours of yoga a week. At least when I'm not traveling. Am I getting enough protein? I'm guessing, yes!
The Esselstyn Rules:
- No meat, no poultry, no fish--not even salmon
- No dairy of any kind--not even skim milk or non-fat yogurt.
- No eggs--not even egg whites or Egg Beaters.
- No oil--not even virgin olive oil or canola oil
- Aim for 100% Whole Grain products. Ingredients must say, Whole Wheat, or Whole Buckwheat, Whole Rye,etc. 100% stone-ground wheat is not Whole Wheat unless the word Whole appears. Forget about semolina flour in pasta. Forget about white rice. I thought my Barilla Plus multigrain pasta was fantastic--turns out, semolina is the number one ingredient.
- Do not drink juice. Fruit is fine. A little juice used to saute, or season recipes or for salad dressings is fine
- Do not eat nuts, even walnuts, unless you do not have heart disease.
- Do not eat avocados, if you have heart disease.
- Do not eat coconut, if you have heart disease.
- Eat soy products cautiously. They are high in fat (40% +) and many are highly processed. Only use Lite Tofu (like Mori-Nu or NaSoya Lite Firm Tofu). I also use Soy Boy Organic 5 Grain Low Fat Tempeh.
- Reduce sugar as much as possible. When you do use it for recipes, stick to the more unprocessed varieties. But don't fool yourself, maple syrup, agave, and honey are still sugar. I use stevia.
- Read all labels, especially THE INGREDIENTS!!!
- The Rest of the World of Vegetables, Fruit, Legumes, and Whole Grains is Yours.
- To read more about Ann Esselstyn's cooking & shopping tips, click here.
Why Am I Following This Diet If I Don't Have Heart Disease?
Because my parents were very sick for many years & I'd prefer to not be.
I don't want to end up in a wheelchair, unable to walk, unable to talk, incontinent, unable to feed myself, or recognize my loved ones.
Heart disease, strokes, vascular dementia, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and even some cancers can take years to develop. Why wait until it's too late to do something about them?
After seeing the debilitating effects that strokes had on both of my parents--my dad at age 69--and my mom in her late 70's--I decided to be pro-active. No corned beef sandwiches or chocolate chip cookies are worth that price! Want the science behind these statements? Click Here.
Did I Ease Into This Diet--Or Jump Right In? Which Is the Best Way to Do It?
Jump right into it 100%! Just do it--but do it right!
Half measures bring wimpy results, and you'll lose interest.
Here's my story: After eating mostly plant-based for 2 years I had my cholesterol checked--and was surprised to see that it hadn't dropped as much as I thought it would. And, I hadn't lost a single pound--but that didn't bother me--since I figured my weight was just fine--with a BMI of 24. Wrong!
Here's the thing. Plant-based isn't necessarily heart healthy. I was still loading up on olive oil, canola oil, Larabars, hummus & baba ghanoush loaded with tahini, avocados on all my sandwiches, coconut milk in recipes, lots of dark chocolate, lots of nuts, Earth Balance margarine, a favorite chipotle spread with 6 grams of fat in 1 tablespoon, too many desserts, and vegan cheese.
When I asked Dr. Esselstyn why I wasn't seeing major changes in my lipids after eating plant-based for two years, he generously invited me to attend his day-long session at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Center on June 18th, 2010. He challenged me to do it right--100%.
So, I jumped in 100%. No exceptions. No slip-ups. I really wanted to see how my diet could affect my cholesterol--and the only way to do that was to be true blue. To read the results of my first four weeks on the diet, click here.
The Best Advice I Ever Got--Too Bad It Took Me Nine Years to Follow It
About 9 years ago I attended a Grand Rounds at my hospital on the benefits on a plant-based diet.
Dr. G advised, "You can ease into this--or jump into it 100%. But, let me warn you. If you ease into it--it will take you a long time to see the benefits. And you'll probably lose interest and quit before you get to that point.
If you do it 100% you'll quickly see changes in your body & how you feel--and that will motivate you to keep it up. And you'll be able to more quickly lose the cravings for fatty, salty, & sugary foods. Read more here.
According to the Monell Chemical Senses Study you will actually down regulate your fat receptors when you eliminate fat from your diet. You will stop craving it & wanting foods made with fat. The "fat craving" takes 90 days to go away.
It's Not About Willpower. Make It Easy On Yourself. It's About Removing Temptations. Changing Your Tastes. And Staying Full.
The work counter that sits smack dab in the middle of the medical library's back offices is often filled with sugary treats.
Yesterday J. brought in a gorgeous homemade strawberry cake frosted with strawberry buttercream. M. brought in blueberry scones. Last week it was donuts. Other times it's chocolates or pound cakes or chocolate chip cookies.
I can easily ignore them all. Really. They've lost their power over me. No, I don't have extraordinary willpower. I know that if I had one piece of J.'s cake I'd want more. So, I just ignore it.
The office refrigerator is loaded with delicious food that I bring from home everyday. It keeps me full--and if I'm full, those goodies have no power over me.
How can you have room for cake if you've already eaten a huge bowl of steel-cut oats with fresh peaches & chia, a giant portion of African Sweet Potato Stew that's made with red lentils, garbanzo beans, & loaded with spice? Plus I have a 27 ounce green smoothie, cherries or plums waiting for me in the fridge--and in a real emergency there's always a Hammer Bar tucked away in my desk.
Why would I want to waste 500 calories on a giant piece of strawberry cake?
If you haven't already read it--be sure to read NYT science writer, John Tierney's latest piece, "Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?" in the August 17, 2011 New York Times Magazine. Then you'll understand why I've been able to stick to this diet.
The Esselstyn Diet works because if you follow the simple rules, you can't make a bad decision. Esselstyn has already removed the "bad guys" from the decision-making process. You don't have to waste time deciding what not to eat. Plus, you stay full--your blood sugar stays steady--and if you're smart, you've eliminated all the "bad guys" from your pantry & fridge.
“Good decision making is not a trait of the person, in the sense that it’s always there,” says Roy F. Baumeister, a social psychologist with an expertise in decision-making research.
“It’s a state that fluctuates.”
His studies show that people with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives so as to conserve willpower. They don’t schedule endless back-to-back meetings.
They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices.
Instead of deciding every morning whether or not to force themselves to exercise, they set up regular appointments to work out with a friend.
Instead of counting on willpower to remain robust all day, they conserve it so that it’s available for emergencies and important decisions.
“Even the wisest people won’t make good choices when they’re not rested and their glucose is low,” Baumeister points out.
That’s why the truly wise don’t restructure the company at 4 p.m. They don’t make major commitments during the cocktail hour. And if a decision must be made late in the day, they know not to do it on an empty stomach.
“The best decision makers,” Baumeister says, “are the ones who know when not to trust themselves.”
Start with a Good Breakfast. Same Old Same Old Times Five
I've got about 5 breakfasts that I revisit over & over again. I never tire of them. They're delicious, hearty, and they're time-savers.
I make my steel-cut oats ahead of time--in a batch that's enough for 4 days. I switch between pumpkin-spice, fruited, & Cheezy Savory with Greens.
When I'm pressed for time I reach for a cup of Wildwood Probiotic Plain Soy Yogurt, mixed with thawed frozen berries, a couple crumbled walnuts, & a tablespoon of chia seed. It's loaded with protein, fiber, & antioxidants. Quick, filling, and delicious.
When there's no oatmeal made, or I haven't had a chance to restock the yogurt in the fridge, there's always PB2 (a defatted peanut powder) & an all-fruit jam, spread on a sprouted Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin.
Savory "Cheezy" Oatmeal with Spinach
Pumpkin-Spiced Oatmeal with Berries & Chia
Fruited Steel Cut Oats with Dried Apples, Cherries, Fresh Peaches, & Chia
Wildwood Probiotic Plain Soy Yogurt with Berries & Chia
PB2 with Fruit-Only Jam on Ezekiel English Muffins
FInd the recipes or product info here:
- Savory Cheezy Oatmeal with Greens
- PB2 on Ezekiel Muffins
- Wildwood Probiotic Plain Soy Yogurt & Berries
- Pumpkin-Spiced Steel Cut Oats
- Fruited Steel Cut Oats with Berries - I now make this with low-sugar dried fruit--like dried apples & cherries. I make it on the stove, rather than in the crockpot, but I make enough to last for four days. 1 cup of steel-cut oats, 2 cups of water, 1 cup of non-dairy milk, & 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice. Mix it all up in a pot the night before, stick it into the fridge over night, and cook it in the morning. It cooks faster, is creamier, & sweeter when you soak it overnight.
Do I Ever Cheat? Have I Loosened the Rules? Have I Modified the Plan?
Honestly? Just a very little. I'm quite happy to stick pretty close to the program. I guess you'd put me half-way between Rip's Plant-Strong & Dr. Esselstyn's Plant Perfect! Explanation? Click here.
1.No oils of any kind are in my house. I'm hard-lined about that! But, I sometimes use a little expeller-pressed canola spray on my air-popped popcorn, & on my outside grill, when necessary. It would be a mess without it.
2. No interest in meat, chicken, dairy, cheese, or eggs. No temptation there at all.
3. I don't have heart disease, so I definitely eat walnuts--but I don't overdo it. I notice that I want them more when I exercise a lot. Dried fruit & walnuts fill the bill when I've burned a lot of calories.
4. I very rarely buy avocados, but I will eat them, & have used them occasionally for company recipes. I wouldn't turn away from guac. Avocados are on on the OK Esselstyn list for those without heart disease.
5. I've deviated from "the program" by recently adding small amounts of cashews, peanuts, or tahini for salad dressings, or in recipes. Cashews really do add a delicious creaminess to dressings & sauces. Tahini is a unique taste & just a small amount can turn a so-so dressing into something extraordinary. But, I use them sparingly, & not regularly. Click here for those dressing recipes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's, Appetite for Reduction.
6. I'm a fan of soy & seitan. I love Field Roast (seitan) sausage (but I use it very sparingly), Match (soy meats), Soy Boy Low-Fat Tempeh, Tree of Life Hot 'n Spicy Smoked Tofu, NaSoya Low-fat Tofu, & Wildwood Probiotic Plain Soy Yogurt. None of these would likely be on Dr. Esselstyn's OK-to-Eat List. Maybe not even on Rip's Engine 2 list. They're by no means "everyday" foods--but I do eat them--and enjoy them. To read about soy click here. To read about my favorite fauxs click here.
7. There are times when I've eaten wild salmon, or another fish--but, again, it's very rare. I will definitely eat fish this upcoming wedding weekend, because the fish option is healthier than the vegetarian option.
8. If I'm at a celebration I'll eat a dessert if it looks extra-special. I'll eat an extraordinary wedding cake. But, mostly I stay away from making or eating desserts.
9. And yes, I've indulged in a few serving of the most amazing ice cream that I know of--Jeni's. Salty Caramel, Buckeye State, and Poached Pear & Riesling Sorbert. I know my limits--I'm staying far away from Jeni's in the future.
But, none of these have sent me down that slippery slope. They are once-in-a-long-while treats. I choose carefully--and they're usually worth it!
Oops! I've Run Out of Time
OK, once again I've run out of time, and haven't even gotten to the cooking tips, my favorite night-time snacks, my favorite food finds, my favorite kitchen tools & pantry staples.
Check back later--probably next week for the rest of this post! It's a wedding weekend.
And until then--please share some of your own Esselstyn-friendly tips & favorite foods--how you're doing--and how you're "working the plan"!
I'm sure Bill Clinton would appreciate your advice!