ProLon: Almost done!

I'm wrapping up day 5 of my experiment - the ProLon fasting mimicking diet!  It feels great to know I've made it through the week successfully, and pretty easily.  The first two days were a little rough.  Surprisingly, I've found that in the last two days I didn't need or want all of the food that was provided.  I haven't had the L drink in two days.  I've been having a soup for breakfast, one of the afternoon snacks for lunch, and another soup when I get home at night. 

I went to the grocery store tonight in preparation for tomorrow, "transition day."  I have reservations about going back to normal, considering how great I feel right now.  I hardly feel like I'm missing anything and I really love feeling lighter and more energized.  This week, I've been getting up at 4:30am every day and I've had pretty long, challenging days, yet I have had more energy in the last two days than I've had in a long time.  So, I purchased pineapples, apples, blueberries, mixed salads, veggie noodles, and a few other raw foods to eat in smaller portions with some intermittent fasting in between.  I am happy to be almost done, but I'm already excited for my next trial of ProLon.  :)        

ProLon Days 3 and 4

Day 3

I woke up on Day 3 a little tired, but ready to continue with my ProLon experiment.  I made the vegetable soup for breakfast, as I've been finding it easier to make the soups in the morning on the stove top rather than try to find a place to prepare it at the hospital.  I also made some hibiscus tea.  I was in for a really long day at work, so I packed a few pieces of celery and cucumber in case I needed it.  I also prepared another L drink in the water bottle that was provided inside the box.

I was so busy at work that I didn't notice feeling hungry, but I did continue to have a headache and needed Ibuprofen again.  I had olives and kale chip crackers for lunch, along with the NR-1 vegetable supplement.  Something seemed to click later for me later in the day, it was like my body decided to accept that I was fasting.  I had the tomato soup for dinner (which I loved) and more hibiscus tea.  I never needed the celery or cucumbers I prepared.  By the end of the day, I really started to feel like I was losing weight.  I went to bed feeling pretty great.

Day 4 

Today, I woke up feeling fantastic.  I was not hungry, I felt thinner, and I felt a different sort of energy.  I can definitely tell that I've made it through the weeds, and now good things are happening in my body.  For breakfast, I made the vegetable soup and some tea and took it to work.  I forgot my bottle of L drink at home.  Today happened to be one of the most hectic days I've ever had as a resident, so I didn't get a chance to eat the lunch.  The cool thing was I never noticed until I was leaving work at 6pm!   I ate the quinoa-minestrone soup when I got home.  There were two packs of olives (7 olives per pack) in the box today, so I ate those too.  I gave the L bar to my mom because I didn't feel like I needed it (which means I only needed about 250 total calories today, by choice!)    

I know tomorrow will be great, too, and I've been thinking a lot today about what happens after the fast is complete.  This was a big commitment and investment, and I really want to ease back into food gently to keep the progress going.  I am beginning to see how the ProLon fast transforms people's perceptions about food.  It's shifted how I think about food and realize that I can feel better and get by just fine on much less.                

ProLon: Day 2

I'm delighted to say that I've almost finished day #2 of ProLon!  It hasn't been easy, but the times I've truly questioned my ability to complete this fast have been few.  I've been struggling with headaches since yesterday and needed to take Ibuprofen to help get through the day.  I am typically a daily coffee drinker, but I haven't wanted any since Sunday morning.  I assume this is why I'm having the headaches.  The instructions say one cup of black coffee is allowed, but I've found that I don't really want it so far.   

This morning I made some tea and the quinoa soup, and took the rest of today's box to work.  Day 2 marks the start of the orange drink.  Basically it's an orange-flavored glucose water that provides a very minimal but steady stream of calories throughout the day.  For lunch, I had an L-bar and a packet of olives.  I was pretty busy at work and had no issue with hunger all day.  A little later on, I had the choco-crisp bar.  At about 7PM when I got home from work, I noticed the same intense hunger I had yesterday.  I made the mushroom soup when I got home, and had a few celery stalks and cucumber slices like I did last night.  I hate mushrooms but the soup wasn't bad at all.  There's a thickness to the soups that makes them filling.  I'm looking forward to an early bedtime tonight and seeing how tomorrow goes.  I have a really long day tomorrow, so I hope it goes well.  It'll be the halfway point of my fast!  

ProLon: Day 1

Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup

I got started bright and early this morning with my ProLon kit.  I had to switch and have the soup for breakfast and the L-bar for lunch, because the soups cannot be microwaved.  The Minestrone soup was surprisingly tasty and somewhat thick, so I felt full afterward.  I also took the two omega-3 supplements, made the spearmint lemon tea, and grabbed one of the liter-sized bottles of water that I vowed to drink everyday this week.  I then headed to work for my ER shift.  I was fine all day until about 12:30, when I started to get a little hungry.  I had the L-bar and the kale crackers and I was fine again.  Both of these things tasted so healthy, it felt good to know I was putting that kind of fuel into my body.  I also took the two NR-1 nutrient supplements.  Around 5pm, I remembered I had the olive packet and the second L-bar as an afternoon snack, and had those.  This snack made it seem like I was getting quite a bit of food, for a fast.  At 7pm, I started getting hungry again and even became a little bit anxious about the whole thing.  I ate the choco-crisp bar on my way out of the hospital.  I also developed a headache at some point around then.  Dr. Kahn told me it was acceptable to eat a few cucumbers and celery if you get hungry on the first day.  So when I got home I made the Tomato soup mix, and I also ate 1/3 of an English cucumber and 4-5 stalks of celery.  The soup was great and adding the raw vegetables helped a lot.  I took some Advil and I’m going to bed feeling pretty good about my first day.  I feel lighter already.  

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The Day Before I Start Prolon: The Fasting Mimicking Diet

I’m starting the ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet tomorrow!  The more I read the science about fasting mimicking nutrition, I am both curious and excited to try it for myself.  Over the past year I’m not feeling as energetic and "optimal" as I once was.  I can feel my metabolism slowing down a bit and I’m often tired.  I also struggle with weight loss and have been stuck at my current weight for a long time.  Although I’ve been eating vegan for about 10 years, I could still improve my food choices sometimes and perhaps that is starting to catch up with me.  I typically fluctuate between eating nearly raw and plant-based for a few days at a time, but I cannot maintain it and end up grabbing something "easy vegan" when my schedule gets busy.  I also eat too much sometimes.  I hear great things about the health benefits of ProLon and I've even read that it impacts your food choices after the fast is done.  I’m hopeful for some positive results.   

ProLon Kit

 I picked up my ProLon kit today from Dr. Joel Kahn, a good friend of mine and a cardiologist in my area.  Dr. Kahn is also a renowned expert in plant-based nutrition and is certified in metabolic cardiology.  I’ve already done a lot of reading about ProLon and I have familiarized myself with many studies supporting it.  I opened the box to find 5 boxes, one for each day.  There was also a water bottle inside for the provided drink mixes.  Each daily box contains all the food and beverages you’ll consume for the day.  The food is pre-packaged into little packets.  You are permitted to have unlimited water and herbal teas each day, and you can also have one cup of black coffee if desired.  I read through the instructions provided inside the kit, which are fairly self-explanatory.  Tonight I’m eating something I would normally eat (half a falafel wrap and some sauteed brussels sprouts).  I’m looking forward to getting started in the morning!    

Salad

A friend of mine asked asked me tonight for suggestions on what she and her husband could do with plant-based salads that wouldn't leave them hungry again 30 minutes later.  I was inspired to share a few thoughts on here about the dreaded S word!     

I feel the same way about salad.  Being plant-based for over a decade, one can get burned out on the typical salad pretty quickly - especially at restaurants, where it's often our only option.  I've realized over the past few years that (for me anyway) salad gets so boring when lettuce is the "main ingredient" - and I've figured out some ways around that.

Every Sunday, my mom and I take the biggest bowl we have and fill it with the following: Romaine, kale, carrots, olives, tomatoes, 2-3 colors of peppers, green and/or red onions, black beans, chickpeas, broccoli, cauliflower, roasted brussels sprouts, red cabbage, peas, cooked orzo or quinoa, and celery.  We divide it into smaller bowls for the week and we add avocado at mealtime.    

This is no longer just your boring salad - it's an "everything bowl."  And it's jam-packed with protein and vitamins.  It's a daily source of hyper-nourishment because it contains all the colors of the rainbow, or pretty much all of the disease-fighting phytonutrients and antioxidants that nature has to offer.  We experiment with dressings or sometimes just squeeze some lemon juice on it and I literally never get tired of it!  Here's an example of one of our creations below.  Try it sometime and add everything you like!   

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Introducing Dr. Neal Barnard

Last week, I had the privilege of introducing one of my heroes, on stage, in front of hundreds of people.  Dr. Neal Barnard was in town for a variety of plant-based, health-related events in Southeast Michigan. One of his events was our monthly Plant Based Nutrition Support Group monthly meeting.  Dr. Barnard was our guest speaker, and he discussed his new book "The Cheese Trap: How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Get Healthy."  The following is some of the story I told the audience about my interactions with Dr. Barnard along my journey to medicine:

"I’ve been grinning ear to ear ever since Paul Chatlin, founder of PBNSG, asked me to introduce Dr. Barnard. I’m a new family medicine resident doctor in the St. John Providence Health System.  I graduated in May and I’ve been practicing for almost 2 months now.  I have a little story to share about why Dr. Barnard is special to me.  I left my former 8-year career in architectural marketing to help fulfill the desperate need we have in Metro Detroit for plant based family doctors.  I feel I owe Dr. Barnard a debt of gratitude, as he’s been a pretty instrumental part of it.

I started my journey in 2009 - at that time I was eating vegan for the animals and just starting to discover people like Dr. Barnard and the work he was doing.  The more I read about him and what was happening at PCRM, I knew I had stumbled upon something pretty huge.  The more I learned, it felt like an eye opening truth about humanity, health & longevity, the nation’s chronic disease burden, sustainability, animal welfare, and how one lifestyle change impacts all of those things.  People were actually reversing diseases.  Getting off medications.  Why had I never heard of it before? 

This whole realization profoundly changed me, and I started getting more and more involved in it.  Over a year or so, I started thinking "what's the best way for me to help others discover this truth for themselves?"  I don't know why, but the answer for me was to go back to school for ten years and become a doctor…  So that’s what I set out to do in 2009.  

In 2010, which is when this picture was taken, Dr. Barnard was filming his Kickstart Your Health DVD at the PBS station in Wixom, Michigan.  My mom got tickets for us to be in the audience and when Dr. Barnard finished, we waited until every last person had their book signed and their questions answered.  Walking up to him, I was so nervous I was shaking - but I went up and told him what I had set out to do, and asked if he ever allowed pre-med students to volunteer at PCRM.  He kindly gave me his card and asked me to follow up in a few days. 

I did, and a couple months later I was on my way out to Washington D.C.  I spent a week at PCRM helping Dr. Barnard and the PCRM staff with clinical trials at GEICO, as well as nutrition counseling for patients, and the whole experience and seeing how this organization impacts population health just fueled my passion that much more.  

Medical school is no picnic.  It’s a pretty tough four years and the way things are can cause disillusionment and struggle for many students, unfortunately.  But throughout the past nine years I’ve been so focused and filled with inspiration that nothing ever really got to me.  I even had to take a year off to work on more efficient study habits, which was pretty tough But in that year off I finished most of a masters degree in public health and went back to med school with my new study skills.  Dr. Barnard has been like a north star to me throughout all this, because his work has been so inspiring to me for so long.  Every time I started feeling down or disillusioned it seemed like he was always doing something new that inspired me.  Now that I’m finally a doctor and on my way to having a plant based family medicine clinic of my own someday, it’s an absolute joy to finally get to say thank you, Dr. Barnard, for everything."  

Reflecting on Graduation Day

May 4, 2017 was one of the most awesome and unforgettable days of my entire life.  I fought back the tears as I walked across the stage at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center, while being cheered on by over thirty of my closest friends and family members.  I completed two degrees in the same semester - a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) and a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.).  After eight long, difficult years of making sacrifices and working so hard to get there, graduation day was an emotional experience that still doesn’t feel completely real.  My journey into medicine is unlike what is typical of most physicians, and it’s what made this day even more special. 

Although medicine was my childhood dream for as long as I can remember, I didn’t go into it until much later.  I got an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and I worked for eight years as a marketing professional first.  I didn’t go into medicine because of my childhood, or for status, or for money, or because of family influence.  My family probably thought I was crazy when I initially told them of my plans to change careers.  I decided to switch from marketing to medicine because I saw such a need for change in health care.  I chose to become a family doctor, specifically, because it’s an outstanding platform to be that change.      

Eleven years ago, I was on my own journey to plant-based eating for ethical reasons when I discovered the link between our food choices and our long-term health.  Information wasn’t as plentiful then as it is now, but while searching for things I could/should eat I stumbled upon the work of my now heroes, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. John McDougall, and others.  All doctors who approach medicine in a very different way than I had ever heard before.  My curiosity grew, and I began to explore their books and research.  I was stunned to read about patients reversing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, skin and digestive issues, and auto-immune diseases.  I read about patients being able to get off medications entirely.  These doctors were restoring people’s health, happiness, and quality of life.

That was the first time I had heard of a link between what I choose to eat every day and my own health destiny.   My doctor never mentioned it, my parents never knew about it, and my extended family suffered from terrible health challenges and nobody informed them either.  Food is like the pink elephant in the exam room in medicine, and so many doctors still avoid learning about and/or discussing it.  The nutrition education I received in medical school was inadequate.  By and large, my knowledge about nutrition has come from a decade of dedication to reading and researching on my own.  During my medical school training, I watched so many patients suffer, taking literally a dozen or more medications to manage conditions that could otherwise be prevented and/or improved through diet.  It’s time for change -  and I left my previous career and went to medical school because I wanted to spend the rest of my life helping to create this change.   

Residency training has begun and I am so excited.  I have a lot of learning to do over the next three years, but residency is finally my chance to start cultivating ideas and creating new opportunities to help my patients and our community achieve better health.  I want to thank my family, friends, and everyone at PBNSG for their endless support and encouragement while I continue my journey as a new family doctor.  I’m excited to find out what lies ahead, and to explore new avenues for merging healthy, mindful eating together with primary care medicine.