While I was in the corporate world, I took a lot of Six Sigma courses. One of the mantras that Six Sigmites use is “Show me the data.” When you adopt a new, radical lifestyle change to improve your health, you want to have evidence that it is working. In my last post, I revealed that I had “gone off the deep end” and adopted a whole foods plant based (WFPB) diet. Today, I’ll discuss the results achieved thus far — I will show you the data.
How we began
Although I don’t recall the exact day we changed our way of eating, it was probably sometime in late April or early May of 2013. I do know that it was before we went to Australia to see our daughter Alexandra Morris. Fortunately, Stephanie was willing to go along with this crazy diet idea, which made it a lot easier than it otherwise would have been. We actually kinda did it gradually, because we were pretty new at this stuff and were starting before we quite knew what it all entailed. It was pretty weird.
Initially, we referred to our diet as a Vegan diet, but that that is not really accurate. The WFPB diet is Vegan++! (Geeks will get the joke). You see, vegans can eat doughnuts and Rice Krispees. They can have lots of oily salad dressing and fried okra and Cheetos. Not so for the WFPB diet. As we kept learning more, we kept finding more stuff that was not really allowed. For example, there are some yummy Indian dishes that are classified as Vegan, but if they are cooked with lots of oil and served with white rice, they are not allowed. It is frustrating at times, especially when you have to eat out and the selection of foods is limited.
Just as we were getting into the diet, we traveled to Australia. Of course, I had not thought to tell the airlines about our diet, so on the plane, we had to avoid about half the food on our plate. We probably broke some rules, but we were just learning, so we did the best we could. Upon arriving, we spent time with Alex and Patrick. They were very accommodating. It helped that Alex has been a vegetarian for years, and one of her best friends is a vegan. The only thing I can say for sure is that we did a good job of avoiding meat and dairy on our trip, and when we cooked at home, we did better than when we ate out. We went for a side trip to New Zealand, where we stayed at a condo with a kitchen. There we were able to cook our own food and do pretty well. We also found a few restaurants that we felt were pretty good, although it is hard to know about their ingredients. Back in Australia, we did find a few places where we could get a “make your own salad” and a few asian places where we could get brown rice, but even there, the oil content may have been too high. I am going to write another blog about what I would like to see in restaurants to help people like me. We spent a few days in Canberra with Patrick’s parents. They were extremely gracious and understanding, going way beyond the call of duty to accommodate our diet. It really helps when people try to understand.
Back Stateside – checking early results
Once we returned to the US (and got over our jetlag), I began thinking about how I could determine if the WFPB diet was having the desired results. The overall goal of the diet is to halt and reverse (if possible) my heart disease (actually arteriosclerosis) and to become healthier overall. Some possible measures that would indicate I was on my way might include:
- A better result on calcium scoring
- Lower Blood pressure
- Weight loss
- Cholesterol reduction
- No heart attacks or strokes
The calcium score may or may not show the impact of my dietary change. Calcified plaque may not disappear quickly even though new plaques stop forming. Also, due to the radiation exposure required to do the test, it is probably not wise to have the test frequently. Therefore, I don’t plan to have another scoring soon. I do not rule out the possibility of having another test in the future. My goal there is to see no increase, indicating that the progression of my disease has been halted.
Fortunately, I have been recording my blood pressure at various intervals since 1999. It appears that my blood pressure has been trending lower since adopting the WGPB diet — I’ll continue to monitor this. One positive sign: I have had the lowest readings I have ever recorded at times during the past month. Hopefully, after some time, I can stop taking blood pressure medicine. Time will tell. Click this link for the gory details: Blood Pressure 2013-08-14
A little background on my weight: Although I dieted by restricting calories and had dropped my weight to 150 by 2004, I had subsequently resumed my old eating ways and begun to gain weight. In 2009, we experienced a family tragedy, and with the ensuing stress, I had begun to put on the pounds rapidly. I finally conceded to wearing a larger waist size, and, although I had made a couple of attempts at dieting, but I found it difficult to resist the lure of Barbecue and Mexican food. By mid 2012, I tipped the scales at an unhealthy 190 pounds. I hid it well, however, and most people would have never imagined that I had ballooned by 40 pounds in the last 6 years.
Although the goal of the WFPB diet is not to just lose weight, the proponents claim that it will often occur. By mid June, I began to notice that my clothes seemed to be fitting looser. I stepped on the scales … 165 pounds! I was able to get into my “skinny” pants again. In August, my weight was sometimes dipping to 160. If nothing else, I had found a way to lose weight without counting calories or starving. (As hard as it is to believe, I really eat all I want, so long as I stick to the guidelines.) I was pleased.
One claimed benefit of the WFPB Diet is that total and LDL Cholesterol should drop. The goal should be 150 and 100 or lower, according to Dr Esselstyn, Again, being the data nerd, I have kept my cholesterol numbers since 1998, although not very frequently. My Numbers at last check (2012) were: LDL 104, HDL 51, overall 168. As of this writing, I have not checked my cholesterol again. I expect to see a lower number. I will check in again when I know this data.
Absence of “Attacks”
I am glad to report that I have had no known heart attacks or strokes since embarking on the WFPB diet :). What does this mean? Not much. You see, the absence of such an event is unremarkable. You never hear people say “Did you hear about so-and-so, he avoided a heart attack all year!” However, if by reducing the formation of plaque I can reduce or eliminate the risk of a heart attack or stroke, I will consider this experiment to have been successful. How will I know? Well, if I do experience an “attack”, the experiment will have failed. Otherwise, it will really be impossible to know with certainty. I can, however, have a high degree of confidence that my risk has been reduced if 1) My calcium score remains the same or reduces, 2) my blood pressure drops, 3) my weight remains under control, and 4) my cholesterol drops below 150.