Friday, February 1, 2013

Going Vegan Let Me Sit Indian Style Again

By Brian McEntee

Brian McEntee is the production designer for Ice Age and Cat's Don't Dance, and art director for Beauty and the Beast and The Brave Little Toaster.  

Back in January of last year I adopted a Vegan diet. It wasn't for any philosophical reason, like saving the planet or the animals on it, but purely a selfish one; more or less, "Save the Brian." My family is genetically prone to heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and... bypass surgeries. Having seen my father get a triple at age 55, I vowed then and there (in my late teens) that I would watch both my weight and diet, exercise regularly, and keep track of my health factors on a yearly basis. This worked well into my late 40's, but then my cholesterol began to creep up.  I didn't want a bypass, angioplasties, nitro pills, or to, as my father put it, “Join the zipper club”.  It seemed my only option was to take statins. So I did.

My cholesterol went down to around 150––excellent, chemically speaking, but I felt horrible. The statins made my muscles ache constantly and weakened them, so when I continued my usual exercise routine I began injuring myself. So I had to ease up on my workouts, causing me to gain weight. My doctor tried various types and brands of statins, hoping to find one with minimal side-effects, but the search was unsuccessful. 

So, what was I to do?  

My younger brother had gone on a Vegan diet a couple years back and claimed to have had some success at lowering his cholesterol. About this time in my health dilemma,  I watched the documentary, Forks Over Knives which presented a compelling argument for the health benefits of Veganism.  I went off statins and started eating Vegan the very next day.  I was absolutely skeptical a simple change of diet would do anything, but what else could I do?  I loved eating all kinds of foods and wasn’t so thrilled about having to limit my choices. This was for the fanatical fringe, not for me.

Cooking and eating Vegan proved much less complicated and difficult than expected, and I felt better within days, mostly from being off the statins. No more muscle aches!  I continued to feel better and better, better than I had in years, better than I did before I started the statins.  My body weight found a whole new normal with about 15 pounds less fat around my belly.   My stomach wasn't even this flat in high school. I was back to my old maximum exercise regimen without pain or injury.  Within 4 months my cholesterol had dropped from 225 to 191––within normal range. I couldn't believe it! Seriously––could not believe it!

But - as the infomercial goes - there's more! Whereas the statins gave me bad side-effects, the vegan diet is yielding good ones. My joints are pain-free and more limber. My skin cleared up and seems to have better tone and elasticity––it may be my imagination, but I think it actually made my face look a bit younger. Having less body fat means I look more muscular - I'm cool with that. I have better stamina and energy––I definitely feel younger.

The other day, without thinking, I sat Indian-style on the grass. After several minutes of sitting there I realized what I was doing, and that I hadn't been able to sit like that for at least a dozen years––my knees and lower back were too stiff to manage it. Apparently not anymore!

My disclaimer to this post is that this should all be classified as anecdotal––only my own personal experience––so I'm NOT advocating others do this.  If you can eat meat, dairy, and eggs without developing heart disease consider yourself lucky and enjoy it.   I just want to make others aware of my experience so that if you end up in the same health predicament that I was in you have another option to try.

I am no longer reluctantly Vegan, BTW. I'm sold.

-Read more about Brian in this FLIP post from last year.

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