Dr. Michael Iversen, M.D. Plant-Based Cyclist Success Story
Updated: Sep 4, 2019
My motivation to become healthier came in 2013 at a medical conference I was attending. The speaker: Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. When he said that Coronary Artery Disease was a food-borne illness, it stopped me in my tracks, seeing how unhealthy and overweight I had gotten. Previous to whole foods plant-based, I had tried low carb, weight watchers and forms of calorie restriction, but as I'm sure you've heard many times, none of them worked. Looking back now at those diets, I was still eating the foods that were harming my body.
So, I started to consume as much knowledge and good food as I could. The hardest part for me was finding food to eat when dinning out with family and friends. If I knew there weren't going to be many options that I could eat, I just ate a healthy meal at home before hand. Another huge tip for those wanting to make the transition is getting your spouse on board. It was not easy for me, but we're both so glad we made this journey together.
I was losing weight so fast and I had gotten so skinny in such a hurry, people thought I had cancer. We're normalizing obesity in this country so much so that the new norm is 'being overweight', and anything less than that is 'underweight'. Over the course of 10 months on a whole foods plant-based lifestyle, my pant size went from a 44 to 29. I had lost 120 pounds from 285 to 165, my blood pressure went from a raging 170/110 to 120/70, my HgA1c went from borderline diabetic to normal.
As a leaner and more healthy cyclist, I was able to complete my first century ride (100 miles) in 4 hours. I have a BKA (below-the-knee amputation), and people often joke if I have a battery in my artificial leg.
Despite doing so well and my health markers improving so much, I suffered an atrial fibrillation in December of 2015. Doctors weren't sure why this happened, but was not diet or lifestyle related. I was put on blood thinners and had an ablation in February of that next year. I was off my bike for 6 months and I gained 30 pounds. But, by June of 2016, I was off all medications and ready to get back on the bike.
Some of my favorite plant-based staples include spinach lasagna, sandwiches with oil free hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts, avocado, spinach or cereal with almond milk. On days when I'm taking a long bike ride, I may eat bran cereal, oats, banana and raisins or Ezekiel wraps. Plant-based chilis are also tasty as well as whole wheat vegan pasta with various fat free tomato sauces and whatever veggies are around spiced up however I feel at the time. My 'junk food' is Whole Foods vegan chicken salad. I used to eat the tofurkey sandwich stuff, but now I’m going processed and oil free except for nutrition while riding.
As a 56-year old physician and as someone who has walked-the-walk, my strongest argument for people to adopt a plant-based lifestyle would have to be avoiding Coronary Artery Disease, Diabetes, hyper-tension and lowering your risk for cancers. Also, you just feel better when your healthy and normal in size. Eat to live, make it a lifestyle and understand the science behind why this lifestyle works so well. (watch Forks over Knives). You can do this!
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