When Ken Lander disembarked from a plane on December 16, 2016, he lost his breath, stumbled, and couldn't make to baggage claim. When the 430-pound Lander was examined in the emergency room, it was determined that it was a very sick heart that had nearly cost him his life that day.
Further tests revealed a 90% blockage in the left descending artery, and severely compromised heart efficiency (“ejection fraction” in cardio lingo).
On December 17, 2016, Ken googled “books on heart disease and diet.” Of the hundreds of options, he chose the one with the most hopeful title: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell Esselstyn, MD.
Downloaded at 5am, completed at 10am. And at 11am, Ken informed his wife that he was no longer eating meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or anything with added oil or sugar. Oh, and hold the salt too.
From that day to the present, Ken hasn't broken his commitment once. He's down 138 pounds in 8 months, and is now preparing to run his first 5k. His cardiologist is so amazed that he's trying to get Dr Esselstyn to present in Costa Rica, where Ken lives. And Ken's ejection fraction is now up 86%.
Here's how Ken puts it: “I have a new heart.”
Our conversation started with the nuts and bolts of diet and habit change, but quickly deepened into an examination of faith, love, God, community, purpose, and coincidence (which Albert Einstein is said to have called “God's way of remaining anonymous,” a definition that Ken no doubt applauds).
Funny, because I reached out to Ken after having an intense conversation with him at Plantstock in which faith didn't make a single appearance. Instead, we talked about how to market the plant-based message, and I wanted to explore the persuasion lessons from his background as a trial lawyer.
In this conversation (which you can watch, below, as well as listen to), we cover:
- the series of coincidences that told Ken he was on the right path
- “I was lying to myself” – that the way he was eating wasn't going to affect his life
- growing up in the American South and worshipping fried meat
- celebratory eating as a child
- all the diets he tried, and why they weren't sustainable
- “we don't live in a moderate society”
- pizza with cheese on the inside, the outside, around, and extra on the side – and health means looking like a runway model
- “we intrinsically know that a beet is healthier than bacon”
- the first few days were easier than the first few months
- the blessing of gout two weeks in – huh?
- what Ken learned in his conversations with God
- getting a call out of the blue from Ann Esselstyn: “Essy wants to talk with you.”
- returning to the same scale in the hospital in San Jose for each monthly weighing
- “If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
- the hardest things to do are the simplest to understand: patience, listening, eating plants for health
- the simple lever of transformation: “my physical outer appearance had a lot to do with the fact that I wasn't willing to love myself in the way that I could be loved”
- how to get to self-love: gratitude
- roadmap your life, and find five things to be grateful for in each decade
- eating plants is just the beginning
- coming full circle and speaking at Plantstock
- me trying to strong-arm Ken into starting a website, podcast, or YouTube channel (please comment below and show him the groundswell)
- and much more…
Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell Esselstyn, MD
Plantstock, by Engine 2
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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.
It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
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