Changing Ourselves First

Whereas 2013, with the loss of my wife of 41 years was a devastating year for me, 2014, in contrast, has turned out to be an excellent year for me. It's the first year that I can truly say that I kept all my New Year's resolutions throughout the entire year. That doesn't make 2014 my best year. There's the year my wife and I got married, there's the year my daughter was born, there's the year my daughter was married and there's the years my grandchildren were born. And there were years of enjoyment and fun with each of my family members and others in between those milestones. But still, 2014 was a very good year.

For that, I have the whole food, plant-based lifestyle and all the people who helped and supported me this past year (actually this past 14 to 15 months) to thank. Most of my readers know the accomplishments I've seen -- losing 110 pounds, coming off of all prescription medicines, conquering Parkinson's and prostate issues, eliminating all semblance of back pain, getting rid of acid reflux and more. The list of things that have changed in me is long when it comes to changes that I have seen.

But what was different this time? What allowed me to do what I had never done before, and even moreso, to feel confident enough now that I will never return to my old self? Did I have more self discipline? I don't think I did (or I do) because doing what I'm doing now hasn't really called up any high degree of self discipline. I'm doing what I want to do and I'm eating how I want to eat without really thinking about what I'm doing.

So, what is it? I think it's people. This past year, I've been surrounded by people through our Eat Smart, Live Longer Club who also believe in the whole food, plant-based way of eating. My most lasting friendships are being made through that club. We get together and we eat together, either at restaurants or in each other's homes. We share recipes. We talk about difficulties that each of us come across and how we handled them. We talk about new ideas and ways of doing things to make the lifestyle more enjoyable. We support each other in our quest for healthier eating and healthier lifestyles.

Unfortunately for many in our club, the one leg of support that they are missing is oftentimes also a people relationship. They get the club relationships, but at home, they have a spouse who doesn't go along with the idea of whole food, plant-based eating -- or worse, will berate the whole idea. Living in an active adult community, spouses are all that most members have to deal with. But it can be even more difficult in the outside world where one person goes whole food, plant-based and the rest of the family doesn't. That can create isolation and difficulties within the family and lead to either separation or eventually going back to the standard American diet.

Not having that specific issue, I'm probably not the best at offering advice on it. But my thought would be that whatever you do, if you're going to succeed for yourself, then you need to find a way to get their support (even if they refuse to do it themselves). That's because those are the people you live with 24/7. You can go to all the pot lucks and club meetings you want, but if you don't have the support of those you live with 24/7, then you're going to have a difficult time.

So I would say to talk to your spouse or your children and let them know how important eating whole plant-based foods is to you. But you will probably need to assuage their fears that you're trying to get them to eat that way. I think that can be the real reason they may not support you. They may fear that you will push it on them too. So rather than evangelize, I think it helps to make the diet first about ourselves and then let others see the results.

I can talk to people until I'm blue in the face about why they should eat a whole food, plant-based diet. And in the end, they'll eat what they want to eat, which is generally the standard American diet. My words will have no effect on them. But when they see the results that I've achieved, then the story changes. Not for everybody, but for many.

One of the most gratifying things to me this past year has not been in what I've done for myself but rather in how many people have come up to me and told me that I changed their own lives. And I didn't change their lives because I preached to them or lectured them on eating right. I changed their lives because they saw the results in me, and they wanted to know how they too could achieve those kind of remarkable results. And many have. One woman came up to me at a recent club meeting and told me that I had no idea how many people's lives I've saved because of the example I've set.

That's what I find gratifying. What's made the difference for me has been all the people in my life. And as my life has changed, so have the lives of others. We can change the world by first changing ourselves.

What more could I ask for this Christmas?