Wellness Connection

Alicia Marie


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Cancer Prevention with a Vegan Diet

My blogging adventure initially started when I realized three things in this exact order.

  1. Eating a vegan diet eliminated the frequent stomach discomfort I was experiencing.
  2. Eating a vegan diet significantly improved my relationship with food.
  3. Eating a vegan diet could save my boyfriend.

I’ve talked about the first two in previous posts, but the last I have yet to share. Meet Shane, my high school sweetheart and my best friend.

Alicia Marie Health Blog

When Shane and I dated in high school I was vegetarian and he was a meat and potatoes kind of guy. That was that. Neither of us really cared that the other ate differently. I didn’t really know much about being vegan nor did I really have any interest in looking into it. Like most of us, I was happy with the way I ate. And of course, I loved cheese.

Slowly the puzzle pieces started coming together. I gave a presentation in college about the health benefits of being vegetarian and along the way I found that for every good health statistic about a vegetarian diet, there was a better one for being vegan.

I ignored this for several months. I figured I wasn’t eating that much cheese anyway and I looked fit enough, so what did it matter?

Later I as described in an older post, I learned that animal rennit (the inner lining of a calf’s stomach) was found in many “vegetarian” foods. That totally grossed me out. I stopped eating dairy right then and there.

Shortly before I stopped eating dairy, Shane and I were faced with one of the biggest scares of our lives. It was the week before finals during our senior year of college. We were preparing for graduation, thinking about our future and where we would be in the next few years. Then Shane found a lump. Just like that at the age of 22 my boyfriend was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

I don’t know whether to call it niave optimism or a type A personality, but I was bound and determined to find a way for Shane to be okay. I’m so lucky that he is now—because I know that there are so many others in my position who felt the way I did when Shane was diagnosed and were faced with a terrible loss despite their determination to find a happy ending.

I was alone in my room one night scrolling through Netflix when I stumbled upon this documentary called Crazy Sexy Cancer. The title caught my attention and I paused. I sat there for a solid ten minutes going back and forth about watching it. I didn’t need anything to make me feel more upset and I wasn’t convinced that this documentary wouldn’t make me feel worse.

I took a chance. I can’t remember if I laughed or cried, but I remember being deeply inspired because I still am today. Kris Carr was diagnosed with a rare stage IV cancer on Valentines day with no promising cure. She was basically told to go on and live her life the way she wanted until she died. Ten years later she is alive and thriving.

Kris did something different than the collective population. She took control of her own life and refused to simply accept what the majority of doctors and society told her about the path to recovery. Well actually, they didn’t really give her a path to recovery. They told her she would soon die.

Kris filmed a documentary about her own journey and her search for alternative remedies. She admits now that she thought perhaps she could fully heal from cancer, that perhaps it would go away all together. While that didn’t exactly happen, Kris’ cancer has been stable—in remission for ten years. And get this, her tumors have shrunk.

So what exactly did Kris do? Kris went on both a physical and spiritual journey. She changed her frame of mind and opened it to the possibility of healing. She stopped eating meat and dairy.

The largest health study to-date, “The China Study”, will tell you that a plant-based diet will prevent and reverse heart disease and it will significantly reduce your chance of getting cancer.

It’s really quite simple, except that we’re so used to thinking about meat and dairy as critical components of our diet, the idea of not eating meat and dairy is immediately shut down. It’s tied to our taste buds, our culture, tradition, the media and more.

It’s simple in that we put food into our bodies everyday, multiple times a day. If that food isn’t good for us—what do you think will happen?

A lot of food today is processed and a lot of that food is meat and dairy. Commercials on TV or in magazines never advertise kale. You don’t see a commercial pop up about spinach, tomatoes (unless it’s ketchup), quinoa, brown rice, but we see a lot of meat and dairy. Yogurt, Got Milk?!, hot pockets, KFC.

The former fast food king, Bill Clinton, went vegan by the way.

After watching Crazy Sexy Cancer, I watched Forks Over Knives and I was blown away. I asked Shane to watch the documentary with me and I told him that if he still wasn’t convinced then that was okay, but that I wanted to at least get his perspective on the research. I wanted to see if he would be sold too.

I really didn’t think Shane would go veg. I really didn’t. I was planning on learning how to cook him up a steak only months earlier. To this day I am both impressed, surprised and inspired by the changes he has made with nutrition and fitness. (He just made a salad and now he’s cooking tofu with rice, mushrooms and peppers.)

He did it though. Today he is cancer free two years after his diagnosis. While we will never know if poor diet is exactly what caused his cancer, the approach he is taking to owning his health significantly reduces the chances of the cancer coming back.

I could give you a million different books, documentaries, articles and statistics about why we choose to eat the way that we do, but the reality is most people will read this and save the idea for a rainy day. Most people will jump on Google and find a bunch of articles to refute a vegan diet. Go for it. You can find many of those articles. I challenge you to open your mind, to learn through our story. Don’t wait for the cancer scare or the diabetes, osteoporisis or heart disease that may come later down the road when you are 40, 50 or 60. You can take steps to prevent it.

I meet so many people with acid reflux, diabetes, weight issues, etc who come to me for nutrition advice. In a nutshell this is it. You can save yourself. You can make yourself feel better now. The choice is yours.

With that, I’d like to share some quotes to challenge you and perhaps to inspire you:

Regarding heart disease:

“Despite the apparent success of the dietary approach, some critics say eating this way is extreme. Now, with the western diet, this guarantees there’s going to be what, a half a million people in this country this year who will have to have the front half of their body divided, their heart exposed, then veins will be taken from their leg and sewn on their heart. Some people would call that extreme.”—Forks Over Knives

“We’ve never treated a single patient with protein deficiency; yet the majority of patients we see are suffering from heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses directly resulting from trying to get enough protein.”—Dr. Alana Pulde and Dr.Matthew Lederman

“There’s a great metaphor that one of my doctors uses: If a fish is swimming in a dirty tank and it gets sick, do you take it to the vet and amputate the fin? No, you clean the water. So, I cleaned up my system. By eating organic raw greens, nuts and healthy fats, I am flooding my body with enzymes, vitamins and oxygen.”—Kris Carr

“Never feel like or say you are “giving up” your favorite foods. Those words have a negative connotation, like you are sacrificing something. You’re not “giving up” anything. You are simply empowered now and able to make educated, controlled choices about what you will and won’t put into your body, your temple.” –Rory Freedman

“Every year in America, without mercy, we murder 10 billion land animals, and 18 billion marine animals.

Not for health, survival, sustenance or self-defense. People eat meat, cheese, milk and eggs for 4 reasons:

Habit

Tradition

Convenience

Taste”—Gary Yourofsky

“When we were young…When we were kids…Man!…We used to be in awe of animals. They used to make us laugh, and giggle and smile. They made us pretty happy! And there was a time in our lives, when we would do just about anything in the world to make THEM happy as well. To protect them from cruelty! Or to, at least, ACKNOWLEDGE the cruelty they were receiving. I mean, if somebody was mean to an animal in front of us when we were little, we would have screamed and cried. And that’s because we all used to understand right from wrong, when it came to the treatment of animals. Until somebody told us, and taught us differently. You better believe that somebody told us to ignore their suffering! To MOCK and excuse, their pain, and their misery. To make fun of their very existence. And this is something I want you to focus on – today, tomorrow and beyond…What in the hell happened along the way?! Who taught us to be so mean, and nasty and vicious and hateful, or indifferent towards animals when they used to be our friends? These are innocent beings, who have done nothing wrong to us. Because I’m pretty sure, we can all agree on at least one thing right now… That hatred, in its purest form, is a learned behavior. Racism. Sexism. Heterosexism. Antisemitism. Misogyny. These are all learned behaviours! When kids are 2, 3, 4 years old, playing on a playground they couldn’t care less about the color of their friends’ skin or their religious background. I don’t think there is any doubt, that hatred, in its purest form, is learned. So species-ism is no different. I want to define this word as the unethical, unprincipled point of view, that the human species has every right to exploit, enslave and murder another species. And all because we believe that our species is so more special, so more superior than the other ones, that we’re the only ones that count, and we’re the only ones that matter. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but that line of thinking, that thought process, that is the basis of all forms of discrimination. One group saying and thinking that they’re more special than everyone else, and they proceed to exploit them, oppress them, denying them their right to be free.”—Gary Yourofsky

Alicia Marie Health Blog


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Avocado Chickpea [Eggless Salad] Sandwich

My morning started out with a needle to my hip joint. Perhaps it was silly to think that I wouldn’t need any sort of injection before getting an MRI, but I was pretty shocked when I found out I would need two!
Alicia Marie Health Blog

I injured myself over-training for the cross country team back in college. Then I re-injured myself training for my half marathon last June. To recover from hurting my hip the first time, I worked on strength and cross training with fabulous results. I was able to build up my mileage to 9.5 miles and run frequently before I hurt it again (same mistake, building on those miles too quickly under the self-inflicted pressure of racing.)

Unfortunately this time around recovery is not so easy. I am experiencing a difficult time running more than three to four miles a couple times a week without feeling my hip start to go. I can recognize the symptoms pretty quickly when it starts to get weak. I’ve been doing the stair climber, squats with weights, exercises learned in physical therapy, p90x here and there, pilates and more. Nothing seems to help for very long and it’s making me nervous. I’m hoping this MRI will give me some [encouraging] answers.

One of my newer strategies is to focus on building muscle. I am a total cardio junkie, but for my hip to heal, I am going to try replacing some of my cardio days with strengthening work.

I am eating all kinds of plant-based proteins, spoiling myself with delicious, hearty recovery meals and getting back into the smoothie-grind!

One of my very favorite dishes is this amazing, super tasty Avocado Chickpea Sandwich. I was sold by the preparation time of 10 minutes and leftovers for at least a couple of days. Very inexpensive too!

Eggless Salad Sandwich Alicia Marie Health Blog

Here’s the best part: it is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (healthy fats that are good your skin and brain–always a good thing!) and it tastes just like an egg salad sandwich (it’s true–I blind taste-tested my father.)

Avocado Chickpea Sandwich

  • Your Choice of Bread
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 1 ripe Avocado
  • ½ Can of Chickpeas
  • 2 Tbs. Minced Green Onion
  • ½ C. Chopped Celery
  • ½ Tbs. Minced Dill
  • ½ Tbs. of Salt
  • 2 Tsp. of Pepper (I used garlic pepper—maybe add some garlic powder if you don’t have garlic pepper)

Directions:

Cut up your veggies and set aside.

Alicia Marie Health Blog Eggless Salad Sandwich

Slice up your avocado and place the slices into a medium sized bowl. Drain your chickpeas and then pour  ½ a can into your bowl with sliced avocado. Mash your bowl of avocado and chickpeas with a potato masher, fork or spoon until all of the chickpeas are successfully smooshed within the mashed avocado. (I switched off between a spoon and a potato masher. One didn’t necessarily seem to work better than the other.) Mix your veggies, salt and pepper into the bowl of avocado and chickpeas.

 

 

Alicia Marie Health Blog Eggless Salad Sandwich

Slather your avocado-chickpea mix onto your choice of bread. Place spinach on top of the bread with the avocado-chickpea mix.

**I used my all-time favorite gluten free white sandwich bread by the Fancy Free Bakery. I attached the link, but often I find that their website is down so feel free to contact me for any details about the bakery.

A fun fact about avocados snipped from FitDay.com:

“Avocados contain the highest amount of beta-sitosterol amongst fruits. This is a plant-based fat that plays a vital role in the reduction of LDL cholesterol. It blocks absorption of LDL cholesterol from the intestines. This helps to improve the ratio of LDL and HDL cholesterol, which promotes cardiovascular health.”

Did you know that LDL is the “bad” cholesterol that collects in our heart’s arteries and makes you prone to heart attacks?

A plant-based diet prevents plaque from building in our arteries. It makes it easy to stay lean. And it enhances performance as demonstrated by professional athletes such as Scott Jurek and Rip Esselstyn.

I have provided a short interview below in the chance that you may be interested.

Interview with Rip Esselstyn

Happy eating and reading!

Alicia Marie Health Blog