My name is Carey Palmer
What was your diagnosis and which health problems did you face?
I initially thought to myself I didn’t face any health problems. It was so long ago when I decided to eat healthier, and eventually stopped eating meat. I was living in rural Alaska at the time, and with the long winters, and lack of sunlight, I was beginning to feel very run down. Raising three children and working full-time it was getting very difficult to keep up with my life. I was drained of energy and knew I needed to make some changes. I made an appointment with my Doctor, and it was discovered I had Rheumatoid arthritis. I decided to make some positive changes immediately, and set out to change the course of my health. I was simultaneously getting my registry in Ultrasound. I had already been in health-care for years doing EKG and stress testing, but now I was taking my career further and learning Vascular Ultrasound. The first testing I had to learn was carotid scanning. A carotid ultrasound is a test to image the carotid artery in the neck to look for plaque build up. As part of my clinical practice I was asked to attend a surgical procedure called a carotid endarterectomy. This is a surgical procedure that removes the plaque build up in the artery. The procedure was over in about 20 minutes and as part of the surgery they biopsy the plaque. The surgical nurse showed me the plaque and I was horrified when I looked at what looked exactly like chicken fat. I left work that day, and that image was burned in my mind. I just couldn’t get it out of my head. After that, I really never wanted to eat meat again.
I began to learn more about vegetarian cooking, and really started to reduce the amount of meat my family was consuming. I would still cook a few meat meals for them, but mostly would not eat it myself. I noticed almost immediately I started to feel better than I had in a very long time. I lost weight, began exercising, and kept educating myself about the benefits of not eating meat.
While I was living in Alaska I was approached by one of the Doctors to see if I would be willing to help collect data for a study conducted by Cornell University. I would travel to remote areas of Alaska to find out why some many Alaska Natives were getting diabetes and heart disease. This was in early 2000 and I basically traveled all over Alaska scanning the carotids of entire Villages. I was looking at the intima, or inside of their arteries to see if they were at risk for coronary artery disease. I learned so much over that time period. I traveled out in a small plane with a Bush Pilot, my Ultrasound machine, and loads of cargo. The cargo was from the Anchorage area flown in from Costco. About that time the internet was becoming very popular in rural areas and the villagers were able to order treats that they were never before able to buy. I would watch as the pilot would unload my machine along with many processed foods such as cookies, cakes, soda, that the Villagers looked forward to receiving. It didn’t take long to discover the reason why we were seeing such an increase in disease in rural Alaska.
It was pretty obvious why we were seeing this rapid increase. I felt like the study was so in vain, when all anyone had to do was fly out with me on one of these trips to really see what was going on.
Many years before this, I remembered My Mom having chest pain when I was in my teens. By the time I was an Adult and working in the cardiology department she was already a Patient. We discovered she herself had heart disease and diabetes in her early fifties. By the time she was in her late fifties, she had already had a bypass. I knew that if I didn’t do something very different, I was headed for the same fate. With this knowledge in my head and having seen the plaque up close and personal in the Operating room and on the screen of the Ultrasound Machine, I was even more convinced that a meatless life was the way to go. I really didn’t know, or I guess didn’t think about dairy products in those days as liquid meat.
How did you come to know about the plant-based diet?
Fast forward many years later after a difficult divorce, peer pressure and financial problems, I found myself in poor health again. Overweight, eating meat again, and headed in the wrong direction. I had fallen into the daily grind of working in cardiology offices where most of the staff were morbidly obese, and stuck in their lives. You would think being in cardiology that most of the employees would be healthy, but it was far from the truth. There was the occasional healthy Doctor or healthcare professional, but for the most part they were becoming just as unhealthy as the patients. They were lured in by the drug companies who would provide these elaborate lunches in return for a chance to tell the doctors about the latest drugs.
Over time I found Myself again needing change. It was about that time that I got out of health care entirely. I went back to my vegetarian lifestyle and lost weight. Not long after that I met my soon to be Husband, Mario. He had explained to me how He had lost over 100 pounds by juicing and eating a natural plant based diet. It wasn’t hard to talk me into not eating meat but I had no idea about giving up dairy products. Together we embarked on a whole food plant based diet. I never felt better, and actually started to look younger. We have been eating WFPB for most of our now five years of marriage. Together we have faced the strange looks from family and friends, and just carried on. It wasn’t always easy, but I knew we had to support each other in order for him to maintain his weight loss, and for me to keep myself free from arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. It has gotten easier for us over the years and we really enjoy our meals, and especially the way it makes us feel. We are able to maintain our weight so much better, and look and feel younger.
What would you say to people that are facing similar health problems as you have?
I would definitely encourage others to at least try a few months on a WFPB diet, just to see how they feel. Anyone who has given it a real chance simply cannot deny it benefits. Those who are not willing to give it a chance are usually the People who are are not willing to take responsibility for their own health.
Are there any web resources you would suggest, that helped you the most when transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle?
One of the best resources for someone trying to transition into a plant based life is You-tube. There is a wealth of knowledge from Ted Talks to Scientific evidence to the everyday person who is willing to give testimony to how great they feel living a plant based lifestyle.
I am currently going through the program at eCornell University getting my certification in plant based nutrition. It seems so strange coming full circle because I was involved in gathering some of the data that I am actually learning in the program.
Anything you would like to add?
I feel it is my duty to educate Myself and others about why we need to eat a plant based diet, not only for our health, but also for the planet.
I am in healthcare at the present time, back to scanning patients and trying to implement talks for our staff and Patients on the benefits of a Plant based diet. My dream is to start a Health Retreat along with My Husband Mario, as we are both very passionate about this topic and want to share it with others.
Thank you so very much for the opportunity to share my story.
Carey Palmer RVT, RDCS
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