A WFPBNO Transformation Part 1 – The backstory
It was August 2018, less than a year away from my 60th birthday. When I asked my spouse Chandu what gift she would like for us to celebrate the dual milestone of our 32 years of married life and my milestone birthday, I expected her to say “let us visit an exotic destination” or “let us go on a cruise”. Instead, she just said “Can you be the man I married 32 years ago ?” And in a moment, just like Alladin had no idea of the adventures he would have when he was asked to retrieve the magic lamp, I had no clue about the magical journey I would undertake to retrieve the fountain of my youth. But first, let me digress back to the question, and my beloved’s request.. I was puzzled ..was I not the same person she married? In my mind I had thought age had refined me like vintage wine in a bottle! Instead, this person who had always sworn to speak truth to me, had acted as though the wine had got a bit old and stale!
To prove her wrong, I immediately dug some old school pictures out and there I was, all of 29 years old, leaning casually against a pillar, looking lean, rugged and fit as a fiddle. This version of me looked like he was ready to run a marathon at a moment’s notice. In another picture from the same era, I was crouched down in front of a black Mustang, on the balls of my feet, as though I am ready to run a sprint at a moment’s notice. Then, I took the most recent picture of myself out. There I was sprawled out on a chair with a silly complacent satisfied lip smacking grin in a casual cafe in Bengaluru, having eaten the biggest and most satisfying Ghee Roast Dosa and patting my rotund stomach. In another recent picture, I am slouched between two young employees, with my 38” paunch flopping over my belt, with my young colleagues looking ready to hold me up to prevent me from collapsing from my own weight. I recalled vaguely that the young man against the pillar used to play 2-3 hours of squash /day, worked hard and had enough bounce and energy for 18+ hours/day and ate sparingly because he could not afford too much. These days, that pudgy guy on the chair had aches and pains in all his joints, took white pills for sugar control, pink ones for blood pressure, and green ones for cardiac issues twice a day. He snored, huffed and puffed like a steam engine and whenever he had an excuse flopped down on the couch with an excuse that was most often “I am tired, give me something to eat” with no energy for good personal interactions with his near and dear ones! It was no surprise looking at my puffy face my doctors had told me that “I was a high risk candidate for heart problems, and that I had metabolic syndrome”. Both my cardiologist and GP wanted me to up my dosage as they continued to see my body deteriorate from the ravages of age, stress and poor lifestyle habits. However, the surprise was that my doctor’s appeared to think that more of the same (ie. more medication) would keep me stable, instead of any other alternative changes.
I knew that I had to do something about it, but what? I had tried everything had I not? I was a vegetarian, I did not drink pop, I was diligent in trying to keep stress levels down, I used to walk on the treadmill for 30 min/day watching my favorite show, I used to take my medications regularly, and pop a lot of supplements. And, I was so efficient about my deteriorating health that I had put away several thousand dollars per year to make sure that my regular doctor visits would get me the “best” care. And even, after all this effort, year after year, my body appeared to be winding down inexorably and unpredictably.
Fast forward to18 months later, today I am a fit 60+ year old, with a lean 32” waist, a body very similar to the 29 year old graduate student except for the grey hair and beard, no health conditions, minimal aches and pains, no snoring, and more importantly, my wife and daughters tease me that the energizer bunny is back! People ask me again and again, how much weight I lost? And my answer to them is always the same “I lost my cardiologist, I lost my GP, I lost my diabetes and cardio issues and blood pressure! And about my weight, it is what it is..it just another indicator of my overall health and well being”. If you are a fan of numbers, my BMI is a healthy 21, my Triglyceride/HDL ratio is well below 2, my LDL/HDL is below 3, my A1C is 5.6 and my blood pressure average is 130/80 with a resting heart rate of 48.
A WPFBNO Transformation Part 2 – The Learning’s
So what changed ? And how did new ME 2.0 transformation start? What did it take ? Here is the story of my WFPBNO (Whole Food Plant Based No Oil) Journey..
At the end of August 2018, my wife and I decided to visit Shobha and Eashwar after dropping off our daughter at graduate school in New Orleans. We had not seen this wonderful couple for over 10 years and we were looking forward to spending quality time with them, and exchange stories of our kids growing up, and how we are all coping with our health as we neared our retirement, and all the usual topics when we wax nostalgic about the good old days! Instead, my wife and I were shocked to see a younger much more vibrant couple than we had seen them a decade ago. It was as they had stepped into a time machine and set the dial back about 10-15 years! Both of them told me that they were fully independent of most medication and they kept referring to something called “WPBF” and a “lifestyle change”. It was refreshing to see this couple working in harmony and inspiring people around them through something they deeply believed, and it was all the more unusual that the “secret sauce” was really not such a secret but a consistent application of wholesome, evidence based scientific nutrition combined with awareness and body fitness.
I could not believe it, and I am still in awe that making a switch to whole plants, moderated eating will make revolutionary changes to our bodies, it was truly an epiphany. Today, after having kept up with the learnings from evidence based researchers and activists like Dr.Neal Bernard, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr Colin Campbell I am firmly convinced that modern medicine has in it’s quest for easy “cures” along with the convenience of “fast food”, has not only neglected but actively downplayed the importance of how human health is intricately related to sustainable eating style that does not endanger the planet and living animals, yet contribute to a wholesome mindset coupled with a wholesome body.
I learned from Shobha that you don’t really need any kind of oil to make salads, in fact you pretty much don’t need oil (an important contributor to adding unnecessary calories) for any kind of cooking thousands of tasty mind blowing dishes that are a feast to our senses. I learned that as long as your tongue is your master, you will blindly follow societal cues, often led by many unscrupulous marketers with an agenda to maximize profit through unhealthy foods. I learned from her that uncooked plants are a big source of pre-biotics and these contribute to a healthy wholesome gut that kick starts your metabolism. I learned that milk and all milk products are really important for a calf to become a 1500 lb cow but most human bodies don’t process casein and other milk protein well and it becomes a key factor for increasing your weight and decreases your gut health because our body does not digest these proteins (and peptides)well. I learned that soy milk does not give you man boobs (unless you drink a ton of it every day), and I learned that eating healthy does not mean starving yourself with a taste deficient meal. I learned that big changes can happen in incremental steps, and that your innate “intelligence” has to control your “mind” and “body”. I learned that the “why you are doing it ” is more important than the “how you are doing it” that most people obsess over. I learned that Shobha was and still is the driving force for an enthusiastic community of people all on the same journey and inspiring, coaching and supporting each other of which I have become a fervent and contributing member. A big part of my journey has been the constant encouragement of my wife who has witnessed these remarkable changes, and is convinced that these changes have strengthened our natural immunity and our personal relationship as we work towards motivating each other through mindful actions.
But the most important thing I learned was that the WPFB diet is really the first step towards a holistic change in our lives for the better, one that contributes to a better, more alert mind, an active body and more positive attitude. I have begun calling it the “WHOLISTIC” lifestyle. I think my transformation is mostly related to “Whole Foods”, but other components are “WHOLE BODY WORKOUTS” and “WHOLE MIND AWARENESS”. When the the three components come together beautifully and in harmony, and the results are not just a gift you are giving yourself but also an everyday gift you are giving to your near and dear ones who love and care for you.
Shobha is our kindred spirit in this transformational journey and who lit our lamp of awareness. While I cannot really truly pay her back for this gift of life, I can do much more by paying it forward, and being the best I can be, every single day, inspiring others around me to do the same. Let us pledge to be happy, healthy and humans and in harmony on this extraordinary planet that has been trusted to us.
March 29, 2020