Dennis and Bobbi were living the snowbird life in Arizona when Dennis stepped on the scale. He’d gained 10 pounds since they’d headed south from Kingston, Washington, a few months earlier.
“I was concerned,” Dennis said. He was 68 and his weight — and blood pressure — had been on the rise for a few years. He’d started to experience the aches, pains, and other ailments he associated with growing older. And surgery for an abdominal hernia had kept him from sailing, riding his motorcycle, and working in his shop for more than a month.
That wasn’t okay with him. After 30 years as a mechanical engineer for the City of Portland, Dennis loved retirement — especially having time to do whatever he chose. He wasn’t interested in wasting time being sick.
“I was motivated to make changes to improve my health,” Dennis said. His Kaiser Permanente doctor had recommended losing weight to help with his high blood pressure. And Dennis wanted to reduce his chances of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. “I’d seen the guys at the pool in Mesa with long scars on their chests from heart surgery. I didn’t want that to be me.”
Together, he and Bobbi researched their options. After they watched the documentary, Forks Over Knives, the couple decided to adopt a whole food, plant-based eating plan. They ultimately chose a diet mentioned in Kaiser Permanente’s booklet, The Plant-Based Diet, a healthier way to eat.
“We’d tried other diets to lose weight,” said Dennis, a native of Sweet Home, Oregon. “But this was a different approach — focused on improving our overall health.”
The couple dived in. Bobbi found cookbooks and other resources to help keep their meals interesting and satisfying. Instead of eggs and bacon for breakfast, they opted for oatmeal with fruit and dry toast (because, Dennis said, “Without butter, you actually taste the bread – and it tastes good!”). For lunch, potatoes and beans. And, for dinner, maybe rice, beans, and a big salad.
After a month, Dennis felt better. After 5 months, he’d lost weight and his doctor said he could stop taking blood pressure medication.
“Feeling better is so important,” Dennis said. To him, “feeling better” means he’s walking 2 miles a day. And he’s walking FAST because he’s down 40 pounds and his joints no longer ache.
It doesn’t mean Dennis never gets sick. He catches an occasional upper-respiratory virus. But, with his improved health, he’s found the bugs don’t last as long, nor do they hit him as hard as they once did.
Dennis believes our society pushes unhealthy food. Happily, he’s no longer taking the bait. “For me, a plant-based diet is a good defense against bad food,” Dennis said. “The positive benefits I enjoy far outweigh the pleasure of eating unhealthy food.”
His doctor is pleased, too. “I’m at my goal weight and holding steady,” Dennis said. “My doctor says I’m doing well. And, I think living to a healthy age 70 is an accomplishment. I feel great.”
Are you interested in changing your eating habits to improve your health or lose weight?
Kaiser Permanente can help. You can always talk to your primary care provider for advice. And if you’re a current member, check out the interactive tools and resources on our website.
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