• Ian Cramer

When life feels like death: The life-changing effects of diet and lifestyle.

Updated: Oct 25, 2019

It’s been one year since changing to WFPBNP (Whole Food Plant Based No Oil) and so many people have asked me how did/do I do it because you have seen such a dramatic change in me or because some of you are struggling with some of the things I was struggling with so I hope this truly helps you!

Last summer, I spent the majority of it in bed and going to doctors. I had chronic body inflammation, mostly along my chest and shoulders. It was debilitating and caused extreme anxiety. I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation about 3 years ago, so I didn’t know if I was having heart issues or even having a heart attack. I also had chronic heartburn that was actually affecting my vocal chords and prescriptions did not help. I had vertigo that would come and go and ruin my day because I would just have to lay down so the room would stop spinning. My joints were starting to hurt. And because of the stress of everything going on with my body, my a-fib episodes were getting worse. My digestive system constantly felt off, either nauseous or burning. I would go through cycles of feeling terrible, so then I would be afraid to eat, I would lose weight from not eating, and start feeling a little better, then start eating again and feel terrible again. I was not even eating red meat at the time thinking I was eating healthy. I would come home from work and climb right into bed because I would be so exhausted from the constant anxiety about the pain I was feeling in my body. My primary doctor said it was probably just acid reflux and kept giving me different prescriptions and told me to stay away from acidic foods. Didn’t work. I also saw an allergist and my cardiologist but no one could give me an answer about why I felt so terrible. I was scared. It felt like I was dying. One day my husband came home from work and I was just standing in the driveway crying, praying to God that I couldn’t live life like this. I wasn’t even living. Every day I was in fear thinking I was dying or that I would never be healed from the chronic pain and my new way of living would be spent mostly in bed. My daughter didn’t have her mother present and my husband, who is very active, was mourning the life he thought he would live with his wife. It was that bad.

"I wasn’t even living. Every day I was in fear thinking I was dying or that I would never be healed from the chronic pain and my new way of living would be spent mostly in bed."

I don’t even remember how I came across the documentary on Netflix called “Forks Over Knives”. I believe it was an answered prayer because little did I know, this one documentary would change my life. I watched the documentary and Dr. Esselsytn caught my eye. I have a strong family history of heart disease and have always been worried about my heart. My pain seemed to always radiate from my chest and I had a-fib and my calcium test already showed I had the start of a blockage. I checked out the book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Dr. Esselstyn and for the first time in a long time I felt hope. I truly felt like I had control over my health, my heart, and my life. Dr. Esselsytn has helped so many people get their lives back. He is my hero. He has proven that diet can actually reverse heart disease. It was totally worth it to me to simply change my diet and follow this way of eating (WFPBNO) for a long healthy ACTIVE life. Next, I dove right into to getting more educated about WFPB. I watched all the documentaries I could on Netflix (Food, Inc, PlantPure Nation, Cowspiracy, What the Health, Food Matters and many more). I checked out the books “The China Study” by Dr. Colin Campbell, “The Pleasure Trap” by Douglas Lisle, “How Not To Die by Michael Gregor”, “Engine 2 Diet” by Rip Esselstyn, there are so many great books! I started listening to the Ian Cramer Podcast, which has different medical professionals talk about plant based diets, like Dr. Kim Williams, head of cardiology at Rush University in Chicago.

For those of you that are close to me, you know I have tried to lose weight for years. I have tried Weight Watchers, various low carb diets, calorie counting (my fitness pal), etc. I would do well for a little while but those diets were just not sustainable for me. I learned from “Forks Over Knives” and the other documentaries and books that eating a plant based diet can actually reverse heart disease, lower your chances of getting cancer, and even heal autoimmune diseases. WFPBNO is basically a vegan diet but with no refined sugars, no refined flours, and no oils. And there is no counting calories. You just want to concentrate on eating whole foods, not processed. I was sold. I checked out a bunch of cookbooks from the library like Engine 2 diet, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, Forks over Knives Cookbook, even general vegan cookbooks and I would just modify them to leave out the oil, refined sugars, and refined flours. My first 3 or 4 months, I spent hours in the kitchen, I’m not going to lie. I had to relearn how to cook. I couldn’t just throw a chicken breast in the oven. I learned about nutritional yeast (cheese alternative), how to use dates for a sweetener, and my famous Yonanas (banana ice cream). The first 4 months I only concentrated on my diet. I didn’t even incorporate exercise yet and I lost 40 lbs. I never count calories and I eat when I’m hungry and my husband will tell you I eat all the time. I felt a lot better but was still having heartburn and pain. But, since the pain was significantly less, I was able to pinpoint which foods were causing it. So I ended up also cutting gluten, soy, rice and nightshades. If you don’t have a problem with these foods they are perfectly okay on a plant based diet. My body doesn’t seem to do well with them so I cut them. After cutting out these foods, I can say I feel 95% better. I hardly ever get heartburn. When I do, it’s because I overeat or tried a random food my body didn’t like. My atrial fibrillation episodes have gone down so much I cut my meds in half. I started working out regularly about 3 months ago and I now workout at least 5 days a week. I have so much energy and have enjoyed this summer so much. My husband and I just shake our heads in disbelief thinking about how I was lying in bed last summer crying that I was dying and now I am hiking 12 miles, rock climbing, climbing sand dunes, and running.

"I now look at every bite I eat as something that can cause inflammation and harm my body or something that can heal my body and it makes my choices easy! If anyone is struggling with their health, I encourage you to start with your diet. Just try whole food plant based!"

I encourage you all to do your own research. All of it you can probably get for free (online, library, podcasts, Netflix). You can find a ton of WFPB recipes online. I would get a craving for Chinese food or pizza and just google a WFPB version of what I wanted, and go home and make it. Some are hits and some are misses. Your taste buds will change. When I first started out, I saw a recipe online for a carrot hot dog. I cracked up laughing and asked, “How long do you have to be a vegan before a carrot tastes like a hot dog?” But you have to just keep an open mind and hang in there and believe me your taste buds will change! Let me tell you the way I feel now, I would never go back. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am so blessed and grateful. I thank God for leading me down this path and my family for always supporting me. People ask me if I get cravings or miss eating meat or dairy but I’ve been eating that my whole life. I’d rather live an active happy life, than be eating the way I did before and living in fear and pain. Once you find out what the standard American diet does to your endothelium (you will learn what that is), you won’t want to eat that stuff either! I now look at every bite I eat as something that can cause inflammation and harm my body or something that can heal my body and it makes my choices easy! If anyone is struggling with their health, I encourage you to start with your diet. Just TRY whole food plant based! If it doesn’t work for you and you don’t feel better after a month, then go back to your way of eating, but at least give it a try! I know Engine 2 has a 7 day kickstart, they have a FB page (The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Challenge Group) or check out the book at the library and try it! I hope this truly helps those of you that have been asking or those that need it! Much love! XOXO

-Brittany Gonzalez

If you want to share your transformation story with the world, you can find more information here.

#chronicdisease #chronicpain #AFib #AcidReflux #Esselstyn

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