Healthfest Day 2 – Dr. Robert Ostfeld

I decided to indulge in a rare treat…a little extra sleep in the gigantic king size hotel bed. Unfortunately this meant missing the Healthfest training run at 6:30am. Instead, I enjoyed a solo run near the hotel in Marshall. There wasn’t much to see on the main road so I turned down a side street and found myself on a quiet residential dirt road. As I came up a small hill on my way back towards the main road I was greeted with a beautiful sunrise. The weather was cool, but still a welcome change from the northeast.

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It was really difficult to pick and choose which sessions to attend. There were typically two or three at a time with shorter fitness sessions woven into the day. It was nearly impossible for me to attend a yoga class and make it to the lectures I really wanted to see as well. I saw as much as I possibly could in the short time.

Healthfest Day 2

8:30 AM 

Your Heart on Plants 

The first session I attended was a talk by Dr. Robert Ostfeld, Director of Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, NY. Dr. Ostfeld presented a straightforward, research based lecture. His use of case studies, anecdotes, and ease with which he spoke of the subject matter made the talk enjoyable. The fact that the content was upheld by scientific data reinforced my understanding of the positive effects of a Whole Food Plant Based Diet (WFPBD) on the heart.

Bypass surgery
Patient date proves effectiveness of plant based diet
Patient data proves effectiveness of plant based diet

The following are notes that I jotted down during the presentation:

  • Lifestyle is the cornerstone of preventive medicine
  • 65% of 12-14 year olds have early signs of heart disease
  • There are 2 heart attacks per minute in the United States
  • Heart disease is the number one killer of adults in the United States
  • Women are 6-7 times more likely to die of a Myocardial Infarction (MI) than Breast Cancer
  • Framingham Heart Study – began in 1948 and continues to track three generations of participants in Framingham, MA to help identify the factors that contribute to heart disease
  • Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) – associated with increase in cholesterol levels in the blood. Found in meat eaters, but not present in vegans.
  • Goal of Dr. Ostfeld’s Cardiac Wellness Program is to prevent and reverse heart disease with a WFPBD
  • Case study – Female patient in her mid-60s. Status post MI (heart attack), refused surgery. Shortness of breath on minimal exertion. On cardiac medications. Started a WFPBD with no oil. In 4 months her LDL dropped 70 points and she was able to walk comfortably for 30 minutes on a treadmill. There was a strong dichotomy of opinions in her family, half of the family were in full support of the WFPBD treatment and half did not approve. Patient had to move closer to the half of the family that disapproved of the WFPBD and she returned to her previous eating habits. She quickly decompensated, had another heart attack and opted for bypass surgery.
  • HDL efflux = WFPBD makes HDL cholesterol (aka “the good cholesterol”) more efficient which can actually decrease HDL level (we are ingrained to believe that our HDL should be high and LDL low).

Dr. Ostfeld did another session later in the day called Beyond the Heart, but it conflicted with another lecture I wanted to hear. What impressed me the most about Dr. Ostfeld was the fact that he’s prescribing plant based diets to his patients and he’s monitoring real success. He also follows a WFPBD so he’s not just preaching to patients. He’s actually living the same lifestyle he promotes. His message, and really the overall theme of the conference, is that if we treat our bodies the right way we can live a long healthy life despite our genetic lot in life.

Healthfest Day 1

Friday, March 27, 2015

I drove about 45 minutes from Shreveport, LA to the small town of Marshall, TX. My hotel was practically on the highway exit to Marshall so I checked in and then set out to explore the town.

Marshall Texas Court House
Marshall, Texas Court House
Quiet street on a Friday afternoon in downtown Marshall, TX
Quiet street on a Friday afternoon in downtown Marshall, TX

There was not much happening in Marshall. I expected to see more people with the conference set to start in just a couple of hours, but the town was very quiet. I read that a few of the local restaurants were offering special vegan menus in honor of the conference so I grabbed a quick lunch at Sweet Sabine’s Restaurant. I enjoyed a veggie wrap and a delicious vegan carrot ginger muffin.

The conference opened late in the afternoon at the Marshall Conference Center. I checked in around 4:30 and made my way around the small vendor area. I watched the Vitamix guy do his thing and grabbed a sample of his green smoothie. I was mostly in awe that some of the main presenters, like Dr. T. Colin Campell (co-author of the China Study), Matt Frazier (No Meat Athlete) and Christy Morgan (The Blissful Chef) and were just walking around chatting with people. I have read their books and blogs anonymously and there they were chatting with folks and posing for photos. I suddenly became very shy! I felt a little out of place wandering around by myself.

Inside the large conference room a small vegetarian chili competition was happening. I tried the three different chilis and voted for my favorite which had almond butter in it. Sounds strange, but it really was delicious.

A local fitness group did a zumba presentation while people began to fill the auditorium in preparation of the opening night of Healthiest 2015. I sat anxiously in the third row with my glasses on and notebook in hand. How badly do I want to go to college again?!! Dr. Campbell was literally about 3 feet away from me politely talking with anyone who approached him. I posted about it on Facebook and a few friends insisted I try to talk to him or at least get a selfie with him. I couldn’t do it!! Instead I took a photo of him talking to someone else. He’s 81 years old!

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Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Mayor Ed Smith and his wife Amanda opened the conference with a short discussion of the origins Healthfest. It began as part of the Get Healthy Marshall Texas movement which was started by the Smiths. Mayor Smith was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008. After transitioning to a whole foods plant based diet the cancer was halted. Mayor Smith and his wife have encouraged and motivated their community to take charge of their health through their own enthusiasm about living a plant based lifestyle.

They introduced the keynote speaker, Rich Roll. I’ve mentioned him on the blog. I have been listening to the Rich Roll podcast for a few years now which feature a range of guests from the likes of well known health and wellness experts, bloggers, athletes and inspiring people who have overcome diversity. These people are truly living their dreams and motivating so many along the way. Rich told his story, one that I’ve heard on the podcast and read about in his book, Finding Ultra.

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Rich Roll

Next up was Dr. T. Colin Campbell with a discussion of his famed book, The China Study, which essentially chronicles the link between nutrition and chronic illnesses. He also touched on the subject of what many find difficult about adopting a whole foods plant based diet (WFPBD).

The Origin and Meaning of The China Study
The Origin and Meaning of The China Study

The last presenter of the night was Chef AJ. She’s a performer and is clearly at home on the stage. Her talks are informative with a heavy dose of comedic grit thrown in for texture. She’s got a witty sarcastic humor that resonates with me. She also looks amazing and attributes her svelte body to the rather rigid oil free, whole foods plant based diet she has been living for years. Her message is all about eating to the left of the red line something I will discuss in another post.

Chef AJ telling Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss
Chef AJ telling Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss

The night ended with the winner of the Chili cookoff being announced. I returned to the hotel tired, but excited for the next day of the conference. I browsed the Healthfest schedule and tried to decide which sessions I really wanted to attend the next day as so many of them overlapped or were held at the same time.

Rewind

I watched this compelling public service announcement entitled Rewind the Future issued by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in 2013 which essentially speaks to the fact that obesity is not a condition that arises overnight.

There was quite a debate in the comments as to whether the video depicted fat shaming or served to educate the public. This morning I read Mike’s thought provoking post “One More Pet Peeve – Fat Shaming and Thin Privilege.” The comments below the post were equally compelling and brought up many of my own conflicted feelings on the subject.

I’ve been overweight for the better part of the last 30 years. From the early age of 10, I remember overhearing my grandfather saying on what a pretty face I had, if only… You can fill in the blank. In school I was ashamed of how I looked. I felt different and awkward around my peers because of my larger size. In retrospect I was not as large as I felt. I’m still not, but it’s amazing how powerful those words in our head can be. I know what it’s like to be fat shamed by others and myself. It’s never ok to shame, bully or tease someone.

As a healthcare professional I do think patients need to be receptive to hearing the truth without assuming they are being shamed by their doctor. People also need to stop seeking the quick fix when it comes to medical conditions that can be reversed by behavioral changes. Often medications and/or surgical interventions are necessary, but they don’t eliminate the need for subsequent lifestyle alterations.  The truth is losing weight is hard work. It is tedious to have to journal your food  intake and weigh your food. It stinks say no to foods you love and feel a little hungry once in a while. Weight loss tries the patience because it can take a long time. Some days you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. On the flip side losing weight feels amazing and can inspire others around you to do the same.

Oddly enough I just started reading a continuing education module for my nursing license called The Obesity Epidemic and the Nurse’s Role. In the introduction it mentions, “worldwide, the number of overweight individuals is equal to the number who are suffering from starvation.” (Buchwald, 2007) The World Health Organization has deemed obesity a global epidemic and reports that by 2015 there will be 2.3 billion overweight people and 700 million obese people worldwide.

This is concerning on many levels. Obesity is associated with other medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Obesity is expensive to treat. Obesity can impair treatment and rehabilitation of other medical issues.

As a nurse my job is to educate and support patients. I am kind, caring and compassionate. It is not my place to judge and I don’t. I’ve been there. I’m still there to some degree.

As an individual there came a time when I had to take a long hard look at my weight problem and admit to myself how I got to that point. Then I had to face the facts and the hard truth about how I was going to lose that weight. I’m still working on it. I do wish sometimes I could rewind and stop the clock at the very moment food became more than sustenance for me.

What do you think about the video? Any thoughts on this topic?

 

Free Flow Friday

Another edition of my random thoughts posted via the talk to text feature on my phone.

I really love the new iTunes Radio. I’m currently listening to an Avicii station at the gym.

Today’s workout is Jamie Eason’s Live Trainer phase 1 week 4 chest/triceps. I tend to go out of order on the days. So far I really like this program because it gives me some structure and guidance in the gym. Plus all of the exercises have accompanying video demonstrations.

Oh my goodness why am I so emotional. Seriously I have no self-esteem or confidence lately.

Halloween trick or treating was a success despite the rain. Now I have to figure out how to slowly get rid of the massive quantity of candy without Carlos noticing.

Mission accomplished
Mission accomplished

We just got new neighbors yesterday. Hopefully they are friendlier than the last neighbors.

I really enjoy podcasts. My favorites are Roni’s Weigh, The Rich Roll Podcast, Half Size Me and No Meat Athlete.

White socks and little boys make no sense.

I just paid $3.19 per gallon of gas at Stop & Shop. It’s sad that i’m excited by this.

I’m washing my bed linens today. It takes 3 loads to do them all.

Taking Carlos and his friend to Kick or Treat event through Carlos’ soccer program. More candy coming their way!

The boys are having such interesting conversation about butts, poop, diarrhea and farts. They are talking about it while eating!

Carlos lost a shin pad during soccer and actually tried to blame it on me.

House Hunters in Athens, Greece – the couple is most concerned about getting a piano in the apartment. Also the guy looks very much like Howard Stern.

We ordered pizza tonight after soccer. I didn’t eat any because I don’t eat dairy anymore. It was my favorite pizza with fresh roasted tomatoes, feta and artichoke hearts. I made a kale salad for myself. Sometimes it’s really difficult to eat differently, but I feel so much better eating a certain diet.

Since I’m not eating dairy that means no milk chocolate which makes eating most of Carlos’ Halloween candy off limits. I have not touched one piece of candy this year. I feel great and very in control right now.

Election Day on Tuesday…go vote!

Watching the local news and turns out that guy Penn from Penn and Teller is from Greenfield, MA about 45 minutes north of where I love. Who knew?

I went to vinyasa yoga class twice this week. I love it but it’s really challenging. I want to be good at yoga someday.

It’s a late night and already 11:30. Time for bed. Long run in the morning, soccer, more soccer, afternoon Fright Fest at Six Flags and date night with my husband on the agenda tomorrow.

Half Size Me Interview

First I want to say I miss blogging. On top of a fun, active summer my computer has been having all sorts of problems. Most recently, last week I had to have the track pad replaced. I’m just not ready to put my 6 year old MacBook down yet! I love technology and my electronics, but everything I own is considered old by technology standards.   I tend to read blogs on my phone, but that’s been giving me a headache too; it’s slow and freezes up. I have an “old” iPhone 4 (no Siri).  I cannot comment on many blogs from my phone for some reason. So Carina, Biz and Marion I’m reading! I love keeping up with my favorite blogs and I enjoy commenting because it’s nice to know people are out there reading and caring about what you write. I honestly can’t tell you how much I appreciate your comments and feedback.

This is an exciting week for a couple of reasons. I’ll start with the upcoming weekend. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Montreal Marathon is this Sunday, September 22nd. I am ready! This week of training is very light. I’m focusing on my diet, stretching and a few easy runs. This training was incredible. I enjoyed every moment of it even the 22 mile run and my 20 mile runs. I endured the hot summer and surprisingly didn’t mind it too much. I tried some new things this time around including incorporating more strength training, different types of fuel for long runs, and more stretching. I feel great about this marathon. I have goals (I’m looking at you Oprah!), but no matter what happens on that day I know I am going into the race well trained, strong and healthy.

The other exciting news is that I am this week’s interview on Half Size Me. I have been listening to Heather’s podcasts for over a year now and I have drawn so much inspiration from the stories she features. Heather, herself, has an inspiring story that motivates and encourages others to stay on the road to a healthy lifestyle. I contacted Heather of halfsizeme.com first for some motivation during a time of frustration this past spring when the scale just wouldn’t budge despite my efforts. She kindly offered some advice and suggestions to help me along. I’m happy to report that I was able to push past the plateau and lose a few pounds before beginning marathon training. I then contacted Heather again after listening to one of her podcasts where a listener asked for advice about maintaining healthy habits and losing weight while working the night shift. I was honored that Heather asked me to participate in an interview.

You can find the interview today at Half Size Me. I hope you enjoy it.

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This is what I typed into my workout calendar entry for today’s exercise.

 

3.25 mile run in 31:42

My usual route around home

A few words about this run:

-My Garmin was acting funny and my pace was all over the place despite a steady normal pace for most of the run. This is a very familiar route and at one point on a flat bit my pace was around 15 min/mile. That is impossible. I will note that the weather is overcast and very cloudy so I’m not sure if that was interfering with the satellite signal to my Garmin.
-I binged on cereal before my run and boy could I feel it in my stomach. I am ashamed of this. I haven’t done this in ages, but I started on it and couldn’t stop. The fact that it was flavorless millet puffs doesn’t matter. What’s important is that I recognized the behavior and learn from it. It’s really hard not to be disgusted by my actions. I thought I was over this behavior.
-I am an emotional wreck for some reason. I couldn’t stop thinking about this issue with Laura and the gift card which led to all sorts of thoughts about things with my Dad. I was literally about to burst into tears and if anyone had seen my face they would have thought I was crazy or constipated!
-On a positive note I ran…I ran even though I didn’t feel like it. I went out and got fresh air. I moved my body for 3.25 miles. In doing so I stopped my binge and now I’m going to move on for the day. This will not break me. I didn’t get fat from three bowls of millet puffs. I will not beat myself up over this. 

 

Oddly enough just as I finished cutting and pasting this here my Mom called. I’m not going to get into the whole saga regarding my Dad, but my Mom managed to coax me into unloading onto her. I sobbed and sniffled my way through my feelings. My Mom demanded that I stop letting my Dad (they are divorced) make me feel badly. My aunt got on the phone (my Mom and her sister work together) and she joined in on lecturing me not to let anyone make me unhappy. They are right and by the end of the conversation I felt so much better. So now I’m going shopping in my new size 6 khaki capris. I am going to buy a nice dress for Carlos’ Kindergarten graduation tomorrow. I’m going to get a manicure, my eyebrows waxed and a makeover at Bare Escentuals. I would love a pedicure, but my feet are in need of a podiatrist before they can look pretty again. Ugghhh they’re feet who am I kidding?! More on that another day! Then I will finish putting together the Kindergarten class gift for the teacher. Eventually I will go to bed because I have two more nights to go of my 6 night stretch.

Life has been busy lately, in a good way. I keep up with blogs in the middle of the night from my phone when I’m on break and sometimes in the morning when I’m eating breakfast. I miss commenting and I miss writing here. I have some fun news to share and with any luck I’ll be back before the end of the week. Now time to hit the mall.

Skin Deep: New Life

I began this series almost a year ago with this post. Through these posts I have learned so much about myself. I have worked through many emotions related to my weight issues. I’ve struggled with my weight since adolescence. There is no way to effectively lose weight and keep it off without addressing the reasons I have been overweight for the better part of my life.

In my last post I finished nursing school and had recently found out I was pregnant. My mentality was beginning to shift from being solely about looking better to living a long healthy life so I could be there for my husband and child. However, old habits are difficult to break.

The Muffin

This is a story about the muffin. No, that’s not a cute name we coined for our unborn child. In the early stages of pregnancy I immediately gave myself permission to eat more. I quit Weight Watchers and though I tried to eat healthy I definitely ate for two. I developed morning sickness by the second month and an eager craving to eat breads, muffins, bland starchy foods and watermelon. Meat and vegetables were a turn off. My diet was still full of processed convenience foods. Once a month I shopped at Costco and for years I bought a dozen large blueberry muffins for my husband. As long as I had been buying them I never indulged in one. I had deemed them off limits because of their enormous calorie count.

One morning after returning home from a walk and suffering a bout of morning sickness I found myself craving a muffin so I ate one. It happened to be one of the last muffins in the package. My husband had seen me at various weights during our relationship. He was aware that I struggled with my weight, but never criticized me or made me feel badly about my weight. He has always loved me for me. However, watching me go through so many trials and tribulations with my weight he had also learned how food, weight gain and my body image contributed to my mood, personality and attitude.

Later that evening my husband was acting funny towards me, barely speaking to me. He seemed angry. All of these behaviors were highly out of character for him. After prodding him for a while he relented and admitted he was upset and annoyed that I had eaten the muffin. He reminded me how I always said the muffins were fattening and unhealthy, and that’s why I would never eat them. He had a right to be pissed. If I chose not to take care of my body pre-pregnancy that was my business, but being pregnant means caring for someone else, putting someone else first. That someone was our child.

Pregnant Body

My body grew in a way I didn’t expect. Instead of a cute protruding baby bump I grew two sizes in my behind. I joked that it looked like I was having twins, one in each cheek. I didn’t look pregnant. I simply looked like I had gained a lot of weight in a short amount of time. My clothing didn’t fit nor could I find flattering maternity clothing.

My hair got frizzy and began to thin in the front. It was far from healthy and lustrous. Initially my skin looked ruddy rather than glowing.

By the time my morning sickness ended I was left feeling large and bloated. I, all but ceased exercising save for intermittent walks here and there. Oddly I couldn’t stand music on my headphones or in the car during my pregnancy. I took walks in silence and thought mostly about how cruddy I felt.

Pregnant Mind

I felt conflicted all the time. I was supposed to love being pregnant, right?  I didn’t really. I was supposed to feel radiant. Well I definitely didn’t. I mean don’t get me wrong I loved what was going on inside my body. I loved every flutter and kick. I adored talking to my baby. Orlando and I decided not to find out the sex of the baby, yet all along I felt very strongly that I was having a boy. We didn’t care either way.

I did my absolute best to put on a good face when others asked me how I was feeling. I lied a lot. I said what I knew everyone wanted to hear…”I feel great!”

Pregnant Pause

By the time I actually began to look pregnant I had tipped the scales at well over 200 pounds. My legs and feet were swollen. My face was round and chubby. I hated the way I looked despite the joy I felt about becoming a mother.

Working nights gave me a lot of time to think during the day when I was home alone. I was angry with myself for allowing my weight and body image issues to be intertwined with my pregnancy. I knew I should have committed myself pre-pregnancy to achieving a healthy body weight. Fortunately my pregnancy was uneventful and healthy despite my weight.

I have never loved anyone as much as I did this baby growing inside me. I knew I had only one more chance to confront my weight issues and at last commit to a healthy lifestyle once my child was born.

A Gift from God

I’m sorry to say I never grew to love my pregnant body. I cried when I became unable to tie my shoes. I was frustrated that I was reduced to a select few articles of clothing including a pair of unbuttoned non-maternity plus size jeans. At my last OB/Gyn appointment just 5 days before I gave birth I weighed 223 pounds. I had gained exactly 40 pounds during the pregnancy. I was very unhappy about those numbers.

Despite the disdain with which I viewed my body I never once felt anything but amazement and adoration for my baby. After the muffin incident my husband embraced the changes in my body through the eyes of a loving husband and soon-to-be father.

After nearly 18 hours of labor and a Pitocin drip I had only dilated to 2 centimeters. There were complications arising and what I thought would be a relatively uneventful delivery turned into an emergency C-section. I have never shunned my body for not being able to deliver naturally. I was too concerned with the health of my baby to care how he came into this world. At 6:29 pm on December 17th I heard the most melodic cry as Carlos entered the world and changed our lives forever.

As a new mother all I wanted was to give my son the most wonderful life imaginable. Little did I know he would be the one to breathe new life into me.