Living Longer, Living Healthier

We have a club of approximately 600 members called the Eat Smart Live Longer Club. Our club is based on the science documented in the movie Forks Over Knives. That is, we advocate eating a whole foods, plant-based diet where a substantial amount of the calories come from whole plant-based foods in the following groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and nuts and seeds. Most of my readers know this, and my readers know why we do this. We want to minimize our chances of getting sick and potentially dying from diseases that are unique to western cultures. Those are diseases like heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes and neurological disorders.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell recently visited our community and said that while our goal should be 100%, we should remember that is a goal. And the closer we get to that goal, the more benefits we will see. I consider myself 100% right now, but I understand that not everybody is there. As our club president is fond of saying, "People who take big steps see big changes and people who take little steps see little changes."

And it's those changes that we are after. While our club name includes living longer, I think what we really want is to stay healthy up to the point of death. I mention this because recently I was talking to a man in our community who manages a local restaurant. We had about a half hour talk, where he had several disagreements with our way of eating. And in pronouncing his disagreements, he also was vocal in saying that he believes he eats healthy while enjoying olive oil and fish along with some poultry. Of course, what he believes is not really out of line with what most Americans believe -- that a diet of fish and olive oil is healthy. And when compared to a diet of red meat and saturated fats, it probably is healthier. But we also know we can do better.

What most intrigued me about the restaurant manager, however, was his statement that he would rather die at 75 enjoying the foods he eats than he would to die at 85 or 95 and never be able to enjoy eating high-fat, high sugar, salty foods. Those weren't his words, but that was the direction he was going. Of course, right away I have an issue with his thinking, being that I'm only six years away from being 75. I don't feel that I'll be ready to give it up in just six more years.

But the really intriguing part, to me, was the idea that dying at that earlier age would be from an enjoyable life while dying at a later age would be an unenjoyable life. In fact, I think just the opposite is true. I would hazard a guess that a lot of people who die in their seventies don't find it all that comfortable. I've seen too much suffering by people getting chemotherapy treatments and too much pain in older folks. I've seen people go under the knife for preventive treatments that are painful and scary and in the end don't extend life.

On the other hand, I see vitality and energy in people who eat this way and are disease-free. I saw that this week when Dr. T. Colin Campbell was my house guest. There's a man in his eighties who has the energy of a fifty year old. We were talking about golf, and Dr. Campbell wanted to know where there was a golf course he could walk. He had no interest in riding in a golf cart. That's the difference.

So, when somebody says they'd rather die at an earlier age enjoying life, point out the foolishness of what they say. If they die in their seventies, chances are those last years won't be as enjoyable as they imagine. But if they live into their eighties or nineties from eating a whole foods, plant-based diet, then not only will they enjoy good foods as nature intended, but they will also stay healthy and not suffer the kinds of debilitating diseases that others suffer.

Of course, there's no guarantee of that, and I suppose a fatalistic person is going to continue eating the standard American diet. But the stats are on our side. Many doctors know that the more plant foods we eat and the fewer animal foods we eat, the healthier we will stay.  But they don't emphasize that enough.

At any rate, life for most people is more enjoyable on a whole foods, plant-based diet. I know that for a fact in my case. I had more difficulties doing things when I weighed 320 pounds than I do now at 178 pounds. I can now get down on the floor and play with my grandchildren for example. I can go all day without getting tired. I no longer have to worry about falling asleep while driving after a big lunch. I no longer have to worry about getting acid reflux at night. I no longer have to put up with the side effects from prescription drugs.

The improvements in my life are too numerous for me to believe that my life is worse off for following a whole foods, plant-based way of eating. It's a false canard for a person to say that they'd rather die sooner and enjoy themselves instead. Ask them how much they imagine they'll enjoy having chemotherapy. Ask them how much they think they'll enjoy open heart surgery. Ask them how much they enjoy having acid reflux at night. Ask them how much they enjoy the muscle aches and pains they get from their statin drugs. Ask them how much they enjoy having arthritis.

I can go on and on. But basically what I'm saying is that that restaurant manager is wrong. I'm guessing that any cancer patient would gladly give up eating a steak if the doctor told them it would mean one less day of chemotherapy. Dying sooner, in most cases, involves a lot of pain and suffering. Dying later means catching the flu or a cold and succumbing over a matter of days. There's not nearly the pain and suffering. And the food actually tastes better once a person has overcome their food addiction to salt, fat and sugar.