Meet Carol Cunard, a 59-year-old retired math teacher who has successfully transitioned to a whole food plant-based life. Here is her story.
At age 12 Carol developed epilepsy. To treat her condition, she was prescribed a cocktail of medications to prevent petit mal seizures. She still experienced seizures and had to be continuously monitored. Over time, she was prescribed different medications to better control her condition.
After graduating from college, she married a man from Iowa who was strictly a meat and potatoes guy. Carol ate the Standard American Diet (SAD) though she liked chicken and fish more than meat. When she turned 35, she had difficulties with excessive bleeding during her menstrual cycle. Her OB-GYN doctor found the blood loss left her deficient in iron and accordingly advised her to eat more red meat. Thinking the doctor knew best, she followed his advice.
Carol has also had a history of migraine headaches, so severe that she often had to retreat to her home in the middle of her teaching day until the headache subsided. She still takes medication to ward off these headaches on an as-needed basis.
Fast forward to five years ago. Carol developed problems with her stomach – was often bloated and gassy and took antacids regularly. She looked to her gastroenterologist to determine the cause of these symptoms. As is often the case, the doctor ran a myriad of diagnostic tests and found nothing that he could specifically identify as the cause. He did ask her to complete a two-week food journal to analyze her diet. In that journal, Carol reported that she was primarily eating chicken and fish, eggs, and some dairy along with fruits and vegetables. Finding no evidence of acid reflux or any other condition, and concluding that she was eating a healthy diet, he recommended no changes to her diet but to eat earlier in the evening.
I met Carol two years ago playing mahjong, a Chinese tile game. She was still suffering from gastrointestinal problems, with no relief in sight. She was very interested in how I and another woman in our group had become plant-based eaters. We would often discuss why we made the switch and the foods that we loved to cook. Carol was immediately intrigued, leading her to read about plant-based nutrition (The Starch Solution, The China Study, Power Foods for the Brain, and Eat to Live) and to watch documentaries (Forks Over Knives and The Game Changers). Afterward she was hooked; she decided then and there that she would adopt a plant-based regimen. A primary motivator in making this decision was the history of dementia in her family. Her mother has advanced dementia and lives in a memory care nursing home. As Carol expressed to me, “I lost my mother when she got this disease and I want to do everything in my power to not have this happen to me.”
So Carol got busy. The Covid-19 pandemic afforded her plenty of time to research recipes and try new dishes. She does acknowledge that the two hardest things for her to give up were cream for her coffee and the use of oil. Since March 2020 Carol has gone 100% plant-based. She no longer suffers from debilitating migraines except when there is a major change in the atmospheric pressure. Her stomach issues have completely resolved and antacids are a thing of the past. Carol prides herself on cooking new dishes every day. She does this by watching plant-based cooking demonstrations, following recipes in plant-based cookbooks, and just plain being adventurous in her kitchen. Her three favorite new appliances are a Vitamix blender, an Instant Pot, and an air fryer.
The results of her new lifestyle have been spectacular! She is feeling much better and has more energy. An additional benefit was the unexpected loss of 15 pounds, one she had not been looking to achieve but welcomed. Her advice to anyone considering making the switch to a whole food plant-based lifestyle is to be patient with yourself. “It’s a process and a journey, especially at the beginning, when you have to spend lots of time reading labels to make sure your purchases are oil-free with as little sugar and salt as possible.” The time and effort put into learning about the healthiest diet on the planet have paid off big time for Carol. She hopes she is planting seeds that may bloom into similar changes for her adult children and that she can live out her life without the diseases that plague many who consume the SAD.
My Story will be a regular monthly feature in the PBNM newsletter. If you have a story that you would like to share, please contact Sherry Shrallow at email@example.com.