The Plant-Based Journey

The Plant Based JourneyThe Plant-Based Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide for Transitioning to a Healthy Lifestyle and Achieving Your Ideal Weight by Lani Muelrath, is the best guidebook I’ve found for anyone interested in plant-based eating. The preface by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and foreword by Neal Barnard, MD add to the strength of this book. Both men are heavyweights in the field of healthy nutrition, so their endorsements are powerful.

Lani Muelrath, MA, is an award-winning teacher, author, speaker, and TV host well known for her expertise in plant-based, active, mindful living. She specializes in helping people transform their bodies and their lives with mindful healthy eating. Certified in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University, she is a Certified Behavior Change Specialist and maintains multiple teaching credentials in the State of California.

She is also guest lecturer at San Francisco State University and an associate faculty member in Kinesiology at Butte College, where her book has been adopted as a required course textbook. She’s been featured in a number of national media and is hosting the “Whole Food Healthy Eats” series on CBS. In short, Lani has impressive credentials and extensive practical experience in teaching people how best to incorporate healthy eating into their lives.

Lani Muelrath’s Personal Health Journey

Lani became vegetarian while leading Yoga classes in her college days. Later, she and her husband were assigned to teach in Afghanistan when they volunteered in the Peace Corps as newlyweds. Being vegetarian in meat-loving Afghanistan was a challenge! Back in the USA, they taught environmental science in middle school. They also began doing volunteer work as field biologists all around the world. Their commitment to being vegetarian was cemented by seeing the destruction to the environment and wildlife caused by humanity’s widespread exploitation of the environment to produce animal products.

Lani-Thumbs-48-63.003Although Lani was vegetarian, she continued to eat and drink dairy products for many years until she realized that they were giving her health and weight problems. An added factor in her decision to go dairy-free was seeing how severely cows were exploited in big dairy operations. Within weeks of stopping all milk and dairy products, her health improved dramatically, and she was able to easily resolve her weight problem for the first time in decades.

Highlights from Lani’s Book

Research shows that people move toward plant-based eating for three main reasons: Health, concern for animal welfare, and concern about the environment. A plant-based lifestyle has a positive powerful impact in all three areas. Ninety percent of calories consumed by Americans come from animal products and highly processed foods. The major ingredients in more than half of highly processed foods are sugar, white flour and oil. All of these raise calorie intake and are linked to our major chronic diseases.

High blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes and obesity are nutritionally controllable to a much greater extent than most people realize. Large health organizations like Kaiser Permanente are aware of this. Kaiser wants to help physicians understand the health benefits of plant-based eating so they can better advise patients on their value. Even the US Department of Agriculture recommends that Americans eat more fruits and veggies daily than they do. If every American followed only this USDA recommendation, over 127,000 lives would be saved every year with health cost savings of over $17 billion!

Reducing intake of meat and other animal products can cut health risks even more, as shown by recent major studies published by Harvard University, the National Cancer Institute, and others. Americans consume twice as much protein as recommended. Interestingly, research shows that these risks are linked to consumption of animal-based protein but not plant-based protein. The first chapter in the book summarizes this research clearly and concisely.

Most of the rest of the book is devoted to showing people how they can move to plant-based eating. It is this careful attention to helping people who want to move in this direction that makes this book such an excellent guide. Many books on healthy nutrition describe desirable goals but leave people perplexed about how best to reach those goals. Lani does a superb job of organizing this nutritional journey to help them move toward their desired goals.

Based on her own journey and years of experience as a health coach, she describes five major steps to take along the way, subdividing them into achievable micro-steps. She illustrates all this with stories of individuals who have successfully made it through various challenges by using such easy baby steps. These stories hold the reader’s interest as they show good ways of navigating the plant-based journey.

I didn’t know Lani before reading her book, but I had the privilege of interviewing her recently on Skype. Although she is an authority on nutrition, she is delightfully personable as she talks about making plant-based eating fun and enjoyable. This comes through clearly in videos of her recent appearances on CBS. Following are links to a few of her most recent short videos (4 or 5 minutes each). You will find them interesting. To conclude, I recommend her book highly.

A Final Personal Word

My own plant-based journey has been one of slow evolution. I began cutting down on sugar 60 years ago, stopped red meat 30 years ago, and became pescatarian 25 years ago. I went essentially dairy-free in the past five years. Today I’m about 98 percent vegan. I’ve liked fruit, veggies and whole grains most of my life, but have gradually increased them as I cut back on processed foods. Now my goal is to enjoy 10 to 12 servings of fruit and veggies daily along with other wholesome plant-based food.

The result? I celebrated my 80th birthday this month and look forward to enjoying life more than ever. I’m thankful to be medication-free. I love playing tennis in our Senior League two or three times a week. I also enjoy teaching about a healthy lifestyle. Carol and I like to watch our San Antonio Spurs, go to the symphony, and take longer-range trips occasionally to visit family or attend special events.

The Dodge Family at Ed's Surprise Birthday Celebration

The Dodge Family at Ed’s Surprise Birthday Celebration

Most recently, Carol and my children conspired to surprise me with a celebration of my 80th birthday at my daughter’s home in Inverness, Florida. When we entered, over 50 friends, neighbors and relatives welcomed me with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday!” I was stunned, but recovered quickly to enjoy catching up with everyone. It was a wonderful heart-warming evening. Life is good. Thank you family, friends, and God!

Be Well!
Ed Dodge, MD, MPH

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This post was published first in Dr. Ed Dodge’s Wellness Newsletter, Volume VIII, No. 1 • January 16, 2016.