"I could never do that!" part 2

Not long ago I wrote a post titled, I could never do that!  It was about the response I get when I tell others how I’ve lost weight, and their reaction to the idea of eating meals primarily composed of plant based nutrition. From the many Disease Proof readers that wrote comments, that post resonated deep within; solidifying the fact that most all of us could never live with the consequences of eating disease promoting foods.

The topic is beating passionately in my heart now as it's hit close to home. Recently my mother suffered a stroke, and I’ve been experiencing first hand the time, resources, and energy that will now be required to manage the debilitating disease. A stroke results in a sudden lifestyle change magnified by a hundred: immobility due to muscle paralysis, incontinence for some, inability to swallow normally resulting in slurred speech and the need for pureed foods and thickened liquids, multiple medications, therapy, lack of independence and freedom; just to name a few.

Lifestyle change. 


Lifestyle change is the very reason why most continue to choose to eat the standard American diet; or worse yet, follow a quick weight-loss gimmick. It takes time, resources, focus, and energy to switch over to eating high-nutrient, plant based foods. 

  • One has to routinely wash and cut up lettuce leaves, fresh vegetables and fruits.
  • One has to cook a pot of soup instead of order take-out. 
  • Many have to suffer through a period of withdrawal to overcome toxic cravings for sugar, fat, processed foods, and salt.
  • Some feel socially isolated in a culture that’s fixated with eating for disease.
  • Some are even ridiculed for eating for health!
  • Many have to pack their own food if they eat away from home.
  • Most have to become serious students of nutrition to understand the science behind dietary recommendations, because knowledge is the motivation behind their changes.  

No doubt about it, there’s a radical price to pay to successfully switch over to thoroughly enjoy eating plant based nutrition. However, once the toxic cravings are gone, and the taste buds have changed, one never wants to return to SAD. In fact, the psychological trappings of food addiction and eating disorders disappear! It’s a small price to pay for a lifetime of freedom and wonderful health benefits for the rest of one’s life! 

As the old adage goes, “Pay the grocer or pay the doctor.”


Have you made the lifestyle change, or are you dragging your feet; waiting for a debilitating disease to radically change your life and make you its prisoner?


Let’s all continue to choose high nutrient foods that will reap the benefits of great health today and for years to come! It’s a small price to pay. 


What price are you willing to pay to enjoy great health?   


image credit:  flickr by taberandrew


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Comments (38) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
shels - May 28, 2011 10:01 AM

Thank you, so true, but why do I find it so hard to put a plan into action. Everynight, I say I will do better, yet find myself the next morning wanting a soda to start my day. I just feel like I can't beat this, I have such a difficult time trying to do what I know I should be doing.

Emily Boller - May 28, 2011 12:19 PM

Can you join a local Y and start your day working out first thing every morning instead? It sounds like it's just a matter of logistics; replacing an unhealthy habit with a healthy one.

Cheering for you!

CJ - May 28, 2011 12:34 PM

I am not willing to replace my good health with chronic illness - keeping that in mind, thinking of the way my parents suffered many long years of doctors and misery, keeps me motivated.

MIke Rubino - May 28, 2011 4:42 PM

Good post Emily . I was at the H today visiting my MIL who at 92 has had a good run.She went in with chest pains and a swollen leg. So far they havent found anything seriuously wrong with her , but just being in the H gives me the creeps , especially the cardiac wing.The meds everyone seems tobe given are never ending and the ologists walk around acting like they control life and death. It reminded me when I was in the precardiac section of the H and how much I hated it.

Give me kale and collards anyday for I can NEVER DO THAT again !

Annette Chambers - May 28, 2011 4:58 PM

Whenever I slip up and eat something that hurts me, (bad food hurts me) I remember quickly that this is an investment for my future. I have seen family members suffer with health issues. I am breaking the chain. With years and years of eating incorrectly, I have to remind myself morning and night of why I am committed to high nutrient dense eating.

I go to bed with a picture in my mind of what my future looks like. I wake up and read a "Disease Proof" article. I am motivated! I am on my way!

Suz Zencka - May 28, 2011 5:15 PM

Someone just said that to me today, "I could never do that..." as they looked at my groceries: spinach, oranges, blueberries, soymilk, etc. I said, "Oh, I just love my life so I want it to be long and healthy. And I like feeling good." She said, "I should try that." Such an odd exchange.

DebbieSLP - May 28, 2011 7:31 PM

Me too. Just yesterday a colleague bemoaned the migraine she felt coming on at the end of the day. I sympathized, as I used to suffer from migraines too. She recognized that the headaches were connected to caffeine. I shared that mine disappeared entirely after switching to a high nutrient, plant based diet and giving up coffee and chocolate. "I could never do that!" she promptly said! Then she defended her migraines by saying that they were hereditary, as her mother had them too. I used to think the same way, never making the connection that my mother had the same poor diet habits that I used to have.

I could never go back to having migraines. I am nearing the end of seven years following Dr. Fuhrman's diet style and I see no reason why I would ever go back to SAD and all the suffering it brings.

shels, keep at it. You have the information now, which is the key. Keep reading and learning and trying. Baby steps are better than no steps. And try to be really kind to yourself along the way. :)

Dinneen Viggiano - May 28, 2011 8:32 PM

I loved your first blog post about "I could never do that". I liked it so much I then blogged about your blog post and included the link in my blog! I'm sorry to hear about your mother. I've been there and I empathize.
For many people, the big picture of "eating well and exercising" is just too overwhelming in addition to work, family, bills, life. I've watched people I love suffer and thought, "they need help, they can't do this by themselves" and it motivated me to become a Holistic Health Coach. I help others identify their goals, be accountable for their actions and succeed in looking better, feeling better and living longer. For those of you trying to make changes, don't be too hard on yourself, try one thing at a time and ask for support.

StephenMarkTurner - May 28, 2011 8:56 PM

"What price are you willing to pay to enjoy great health?"

Hi Emily. Well, I have left my profession of 25 years as a software developer (it turned me into a stressed out skinny/fat cubicle rat).

I am selling my house to finance my life for a couple of years. I am currently taking a course to be a personal trainer, and when the primary training for that is finished (very soon), I intend to enroll in Dr Fuhrman's Nutritional Education Institute to get a nutrition certification.

Then I will really have the tools to begin a new career that I can be passionate about, that will keep me very healthy, that I can use to really help people gain their health (rather than just getting them to run on a treadmill in a vain effort to lose weight or something like that).


Thankful - May 29, 2011 5:36 AM

Dr. Fuhrman makes it so simple! -Beans, veggies, fruits, whole grains,seeds/nuts, water. Variety and simplicity at its' best! It makes you really appreciate the food God gave us for our own good. I've never felt so good. As far as I'm concerned, I could say, "I could never NOT do that!". I want to live a vibrant life to keep up with my five young children. I love my family so much that I want to keep them healthy. I am especially convinced that it is my job to keep healthy foods in the house for my kids....otherwise I am the one who is responsible for the disease they get later in life that could have easily been prevented now. Thank you Dr. Fuhrman.

StephenMarkTurner - May 29, 2011 7:15 AM

Emily I forgot to mention, all the best to your mother, and yourself to deal with this.


Ruth Grant - May 29, 2011 8:53 AM

This resonates with me as when I am on my own, it's very easy to follow the Eat to Live path. However, when I 'm with the whole family especially at the cabin or at get togethers, it's hard to stay on it. Some bring junk food that eventually wears down my initial resistance. Also, I usually end up being the main cook, which I enjoy, and although everyone loves salads and veggies, it isn't Memorial Day without burgers that type of thing. Also I don't want to become the food police.

Christy - May 29, 2011 9:53 AM

This article was so good. I want to read part one, but am having trouble finding it. Help!

Emily Boller - May 29, 2011 10:46 AM


Click on "I could never do that!" in the first sentence and that is the link to the previous article.

Dorothy Pollock - May 29, 2011 6:05 PM

Wonderful and inspirational work as ever Emily. Sorry about Mom, I am dealing with similar issues right now and will keep you both in my prayers.

I get that all the time as well when folks hear I lost so much weight.
Everyone focuses on the what you "cannot eat" vs all the great foods you can that end the cravings and make you feel well and whole again.

I was at the beach today and there was an air show. They were selling all sorts of food. I saw a sign that said sausage and peppers $7.25. I thought it's too bad there isn't a sign under it saying: Cardiovascular surgery $100,000 + or whatever it costs today or NOT eating this ---> $$$ - priceless!

My Mom has diabetes which led to terrible vascular disease. She has dementia and 2 weeks ago finally had an above the knee amputation due to arterial ulcers on her foot that would not heal because of several blockages in the leg. She is in rehab now. I'm sure if Mom knew then what I know now and could see where her lifestyle would lead, she would have had a more plant based diet.
People need to hear this message and look to the future which may be filled with so much pain and suffering.

She lives with me now and I look forward to getting her home as soon as possible, away from the horrid foods they serve in the healthcare industry, and back on a more sensible diet. She actually prefers the foods I cook and her diabetes is more stable on a plant based diet. The vascular disease and dementia were too advanced for me to help appreciably before but I plan to nourish her
properly to heal.

Mary - May 29, 2011 6:17 PM

It's only been five months since I started eating a plant based nutrient dense diet but I don't even remember it being difficult. The only part that challenges me is living in a SAD world. Your post was a good boost to my resolve. Thanks for the reminders!

Ginger - May 29, 2011 6:40 PM

FIL died in January from cancer.

MIL died Friday from cancer.

Last Tuesday I learned two of my aunts have cancer.

And these are just the cancer cases. This doesn't include Hep C, heart disease, diabetes, joint replacements, arthritis, dementia, and so on.

Three weeks ago I spent several days at a resort as a lecturer. I had no car. The hotel had no food I could eat and live. Starved for two days eating at the hotel 'salad bar' and searching for vegan friendly food at the dozens of restaurants along hotel row. Taxi to the health food store was $20, but I ate well the last two days. I'm doing all I can to avoid taking after my family.

Emily Boller - May 29, 2011 8:49 PM

Thanks to all for the kind words, and congratulations to many of you for not only making the necessary lifestyle changes, but are now helping others make those changes also!

My deepest sympathies go out to all who have lost loved ones to death from SAD related illnesses; and those who are currently in the midst of watching the pain and suffering, and caring for the daily needs of loved ones.

May we all continue the commitment to eat for health so that in 20 to 40 years from now we are not another disease tragedy.

A preventable tragedy that lands me in ongoing, long-term nursing care . . . ."I could never do that!"



Barbara Whitney - May 29, 2011 9:33 PM

Excellent post Emily. Thank you.

Ashley - May 31, 2011 8:42 AM

Thanks for this! I am sure it won't change my parents' perspective, since nothing seems to, but it does solidify a lot for me!

I am vegetarian, was vegan for two years, and haven't been eating the 'healthiest' diet for awhile. Mostly just Boca burgers & whatever is convenient due to a heavy workload. This really inspires me to sit down, make a schedule, and create time for my future health and vitality.

And as to the first commenter and their issue with things like soda, just grin and bear it. Have a water instead. Find something to do rather than drink soda when you have the craving. Crochet another row onto a hat or take a walk rather than picking up a soda. Who has control of your life? You do. Take it back.

Every action is deliberate and we control who and what we are and what we are to become. You will beat that craving!

Cher - May 31, 2011 9:02 AM

Emily, I know just how you feel! I've tried for 25 years to get my parents to eat more healthily - moving towards vegan, high nutrient foods. They would stick with it for a few weeks then back to the same old SAD stuff. Mom had her first stroke 10 years ago - and I've watched her decline steadily ever since then. Strokes, heart disease, HBP, etc. My dad thinks his health is fine because his BP and cholesterol are okay - although his arthritis is so bad he can hardly get around and walks with a walker. Only in their early 80's I moved them into assisted living 2 years ago. It is sad to watch them live with such poor quality of life. They remain my role model for what not to do and my reason for living and teaching the high nutrient diet.

Sue DiBacco - May 31, 2011 2:02 PM

A great and timely article, Emily. My mother tried to eat healthfully, and I remember her juicing cabbage and beets, and warning us about the dangers of sugar and processed stuff. She never really got the care she needed and so struggled with high blood pressure. She had a hemorrphagic stroke, and vascular dementia ensued. At age 73, she hardly speaks, wears diapers, is in a wheelchair. She is not involved in the lives of her 18 eighteen grandchildren whom she dearly loves. This, ultimately, was what finally got me taking things more seriously regarding the health of my husband and children. My husband and I attended the Health Getaway in January and that really helped to get my husband on board, and the two of us on the same wavelength. I have to take care of my mother, now, in the nearby nursing home, but I don't want my children taking care of me in this way

LB - May 31, 2011 2:14 PM

I have heard/read similar thought processes like this before, but for some reason this really resonated with me today. I have a choice to make a lifestyle change now versus having an unwanted lifestyle change thrust upon me in the future as a consequence of my old habits. Thanks Emily. I needed that timely reminder.

Megan - May 31, 2011 4:35 PM

I have people turn to me and say "I'm sorry" and kind of laugh as they're talking about enjoying oysters on the half shell or grass fed ground beef - thinking these are quality meats and I'm silly for avoiding them. My response is always, why? It's not as though I can't have those things if I wanted to... I'm choosing not too. I don't understand the mock pitty and condencension. I've found it so surprising how judgemental people have been of my choice to focus on a plant based diet. I've been challenged as to why I made the choice, whether I'm getting enough protien, B-12, or all those other nutrients (frequently they don't actually mention which ones), why I would betray my ancesters (this was my favorite) who worked so hard to enable us to be carnivores. I've had people refuse to let me bring a dish to dinner only to serve me something unpallatable or insubstantial and say "that's as vegan as I can get." I have actually moved away from some relationships because of their negativity and narrow mindedness. I don't understand it. My choice doesn't reflect on you. Just because you "can't" doesn't mean I shouldn't.

Emily Boller - May 31, 2011 6:46 PM

I want to clarify that my parents have been misguided by the conventional healthcare system's dietary recommendations over the years. They have faithfully and carefully followed their physicians' dietary recommendations; and "low-fat" animal products, grains, and processed diet foods & beverages are a huge part of those diets.

Mylea - May 31, 2011 8:20 PM

if you're having trouble getting started, read Beck Diet Solution. it helped me get onto ETL once and for all!

Daniel - May 31, 2011 8:20 PM

I think it's a wonderful thing to encourage others to eat for health and to avoid SAD foods, but I think there are a few guidelines on the food pyramid that can use some revision. It is certainly true that we should have plenty of vegetables, but 30-60% of total daily calories from vegetables seems a little odd. The least number of calories that anyone would have to consume in one day is about 1200 to be healthy. This would mean that on a 1200 calorie diet, one would have to consume about 400 calories of green leafy and non-starchy solid vegetables just to meet the minimum 30%. That's already more than two pounds of vegetables. On a 2000 calorie diet, this would be a minimum of about 600 calories. Many others who are younger or very athletic need 2500 + calories a day, which would mean 800 calories of vegetables just to meet the minimum 30%. I personally find it very hard to eat more than 200-300 calories of vegetables a day. Eating 600 calories or more is certainly unrealistic, and I'm sure no one eats like this. Here are some guidelines which I think are much more realistic and make a lot more sense. :
Vegetables(raw and cooked): 10-30% of total calories
fresh fruit : 10-30% of calories
beans and legumes: 10-35% of calories
nuts, seeds, avocados: 10-35% of calories
Whole grains (brown rice, barley, millet, etc.) Whole grain pastas, Whole grain cereals (hot and cold, with very little or no sugar like oatmeal and shredded wheat, etc.) whole grain breads (without sugar and bad ingredients as many conventional brands have), corn, potatoes (nothing bad on it): 20-65% of calories, depending on calorie needs and activity level
white meat (not smoked or processed), non-fat dairy, fish (low in pollutants), eggs 0-7 servings a week
olive and other healthier extracted oils: 0-several servings a week, preferably not more than one tablespoon a day

Russ Martin - May 31, 2011 9:33 PM

Here's the rank truth. You may not want to hear it but here it is. You start your day with a soda - you're going to die. If you want to stop kidding around, that's your business but please don't whine to the rest of us.
This may sound harsh but either put up or shut up! We're all making a solid commitment and don't need "I Cannot do this" posts.

Nigel Purchase - May 31, 2011 9:48 PM

My lady has for years (without knowing it)followed the Fuhrman nutrition paln and she is slim and beautiful. She and I and our kids are all vegetarian. I love the diet we eat. Veggies for supper. Fruit all day. Salads as often as possible. Lentil burgers for breakfast.

Alas, though I have normal blood pressure, LGL's and HGL's and blood sugar, I'm still struggling to lose weight.

Ah well. It's not like I'm on diet! The food is so delicious, and I feel so good eating it, it's not a problem. Eating out is a problem, because most meat restos have no idea about vegetarian food. But there are some superb vegetarian restos in my city, and it's wonderful to be able to eat a thoroughly delicious meal, filled with nutrients, and know it's healthy.

Dr. Fuhrman - June 1, 2011 6:15 PM

Please let people express themselves without such harsh judgment or getting frustrated. I am sure you can handle people not agreeing or complying with what you believe to be right. We are all going to die one day, but luckily we have an opportunity to make choices to maintain better health, extend our enjoyment of life and our healthy life expectancy . I think adults have the right to voluntarily shorten their lives with smoking, cocaine, junk food and alcoholism, but many of them have been caught up in a vortex of addiction with bad information and bad influence of modern society and their peers. Hopefully with good information, motivation, and support, many of them will make changes to improve their health and will realized the crutch of addictions are destructive to their pleasure in life. It is painful and difficult to conquer addictions. It is difficult to change ingrained habits and create new food preferences. Some of them will never see this, others will fail a few times and then succeed too. Let’s not give up on people struggling, but continue to improve our ability and efforts to help them.

Daniel - June 1, 2011 9:03 PM

Are you responding to me Russ? What did I say that was so upsetting? Did I say to drink soda or eat anything bad? What I'm basically saying is that it's not very realistic to eat 400 or more calories of non-starchy vegetables. To give some examples: 1 pound of broccoli is about 150 calories. A pound of spinach is about 120 calories. So 270 calories of broccoli and spinach is already 2 pounds of vegetables. This already seems like enough for one day. So if 2 pounds of vegetables is already close to 300 calories, how can anyone realistically consume enough vegetables to meet this 30-60% requirement? For 1200 calories a day, this would mean a minimum of about 400 calories of vegetables a day, a lot more than 2 pounds of vegetables. That's why I'm saying that 10-30% of calories from vegetables makes much more sense. The whole grains and potatoes should also be 20% or more, not less.

Emily Boller - June 2, 2011 7:59 AM

Russ was referring to the very first comment by shels.

Donna Crombie - June 2, 2011 8:53 AM

I have been toying with being vegan off and on for years. I joined Dr. Fuhrman's member center and started seriously following ETL on March 30, 2011 because I was terrified of some physical problems I was having. I am 52 and have already had double bypass surgery and am overweight with type 2 diabetes, HBP and high cholesterol. My husband is 16 years older than me and I have no children. I am going to have to take care of myself and possibly my husband, and I want some quality in my life. I have lost some weight and reduced my BP medicine. It is taking some time because of how much my body has to heal, but some days I feel a lot better. I hope I haven't waited too long to avoid dementia and long term care. Thank you so much Emily for all your writings and encouragement. Thank you Dr. Fuhrman for sharing your knowledge this way. Thank you to everyone for your posts. I hope I never go back to where I was.

Deana Ferreri, Ph.D. - June 2, 2011 10:28 AM


The 30-60% of calories per day from vegetables is not just non-starchy vegetables - it includes starchy vegetables as well. So the volume of vegetables is not as difficult to consume as you said in your comment.

Michael - June 2, 2011 12:48 PM


thank you for clarifying that. I get confused sometimes because the pyramid groups potatoes and grains together in a different section. I would assume this refers only to white potatoes, correct? I would think sweet potatoes would be in the base.

Joel Fuhrman, M.D. - June 2, 2011 3:26 PM

Correct Michael, just white potatoes.

Daniel - June 2, 2011 6:39 PM

Thats does make it much easier. I would still say something like 20-50% is a little better than 30-60%. I would also change the grains category to 20% or more instead of less, especially for those who are more active and have no weight problems. Other than that, I think everything else is great.

Claudia Bullock - June 3, 2011 8:16 AM

Hi Daniel,

Personally, I think the 30-60% range is good to shoot for, while limiting the grains and potatoes to 20% or less of the total calories. This is basically because the colorful starchy vegetables, while comparable calorically to the grains and white potatoes, are much more nutrient dense. Also, I generally have found these colorful foods to be more flavorful and less bland than grains and white potatoes. Interestingly, when I was following a more grain-based diet, not only was my food more colorless, I also found that my complexion was rather pale and colorless. Now, with the more vegetable based diet, I think I've got great color.

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