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Last week we met Jim who lost an astonishing 50lbs by switching to a plant-based diet. This week we're talking with Dr. Cat who has lost 100lbs and recently started blogging in hopes she can educate other health care providers about the importance of diet as a tool for preventing and reversing disease.
HH: What brought you to a plant-based diet?
My husband, a nurse, and a complete meat-and-potatoes-guy actually introduced me to it! He has a heart condition, paroxysmal artrial fibrillation, and he wanted us to try Dr. Esselstyn's diet (from Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease) to prevent further complications. We also watched Forks Over Knives and I was sold. Viva the power of plant-strong diets!
HH: Do you prescribe a plant-based diet to your patients?
I do! My speciality is Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. I treat patients with disabilities or those recovering from illness or injury such as a stroke or chronic pain.
HH: Do your patients ever criticize you for pushing a plant-based diet?
Of course! No one wants to change their lifestyle. Taking a pill is much easier. Usually the reaction is "NO WAY DOC!" But then I pull out my pictures of me about 100lbs ago and they start to listen a bit more.
My philosophy is that even if they don't do EXACTLY what I recommend, if they even do PART of it, that is better than nothing!
HH: It's incredible to hear of your weight-loss -- nearly 100lbs! What type of obstacles have you encountered with your journey to health?
My biggest obstacle was being willing to get treatment for my food addiction. I believe that my compulsive overeating is as serious a disease as alcoholism or drug addiction. It was killing me and I could not stop on my own.
Then I found Overeater's Anonymous (OA), a 12-step program that saved my life. Once I began treating my eating disorder I was able to focus more on the nutrients of food rather than my obsession with it. After OA, I discovered a new obstacle: I had a complete lack of education about nutrition and health.
As an M.D. I was "supposed" to be an expert in healthy lifestyles, but I never received any course in nutrition or exercise during medical school (A UNC study in 2006 found that only 32 of 106 medical schools offered a nutrition course - offered! not required!). Thanks to trailblazing physicians and scientists like Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Campbell, Dr. McDougall and Dr. Fuhrman, I know more and have embraced a plant-strong diet with great enthusiasm.
HH: You've recently started a blog, tell us a little bit about your mission:
I want other health care providers to read it. I want patients to read it. I want them to know how I lost nearly 100lbs.
I want them to know there are dietary choices people can make to feel better and reverse disease. I want doctors to prescribe preventative care programs for patients and I want patients to know how to navigate the healthcare system. I hope by sharing my experiences I can achieve these goals.
HH: Finally, where does Happy Herbivore play into all of this?
The Happy Herbivore online community have made my husband and I feel like we are not alone in this health journey! We are grateful in particular for discovering The Happy Herbivore Cookbook (which I have now started carrying with me to social events since so many of my friends and family have heard me raving about it!)
We have yet to try a HH recipe that we didn't like. Even my husband, who is not much of a cook, has made HH recipes without difficulty. I also recommend Happy Herbivore to my patients because let's face it -- yummy food that makes you feel good makes this journey possible!
Thank you Dr. Cat for sharing your amazing personal story (you look incredible!!) -- and giving us a new perspective about the health care industry. We're so thankful for Drs like you!