Finding (and Sharing) the Fountain of Youth with Doug Schmidt: PYP 185

doug-schmidtDoug Schmidt is an enrichment teacher and health and wellness coordinator for his upstate New York school district. Now, health and wellness coordinators generally focus on stress reduction in the workplace, smoking cessation, and getting teachers to increase their physical activity by taking the stairs and parking farther away from the front entrance.

All laudable and noble goals, to be sure, but far from what we in the plant-based community know is possible and powerful.

When Doug suffered a heart attack in his backyard on Memorial Day 2008, at the age of 49, all the stress reduction, abstinence from cigarettes and daily steps could not have overcome the effects of half a century of the standard American diet.

He and his wife were active – a month before the heart attack, they were hiking across the peaks of the Adirondacks. And while he was carrying an extra 6o pounds, that hardly categorized him as high risk.

His penchant for loose-fitting clothing hid his girth, and frankly, he wasn't nearly as big as a lot of others in his life.

Despite an active lifestyle and a fat-camouflaging wardrobe, Doug received a stent in his left anterior descending artery, was incredible grateful to be alive, and decided then and there that he didn't want to spend the rest of his life on medications.

While Googling alternatives to a life of statins and beta blockers, Doug stumbled across Caldwell Esselstyn's Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, as well as evidence from the extremely low-fat Ornish program. He dabbled in clean eating, but found the diet too extreme and restrictive.

Until some blockages a year later scared him away from moderation.

In our conversation, Doug and I discussed:

  • why Esselstyn's approach made sense to him
  • on being a chicken (“I didn't want to get cut open again”)
  • the nasty (and entirely predictable) side effects of totally unnecessary statins
  • dropping the oil and white flour (“it all came down to me”)
  • on being at his high school weight in his 50s
  • having his wife on the journey from the get-go
  • sourcing tasty recipes from everywhere (Pinterest, cookbooks, websites)
  • starting a 10-day PlantPure Jumpstart at his school district
  • how to play politics and get your way
  • emphasizing the medical soundness of the diet (“not a fad”)
  • working with health insurance administrators
  • communication strategies that worked during the Jumpstart
  • the incredible biometric before and after stories
  • the really stupid government regulations on school lunches
  • why we're serving class 1 carcinogens to our children
  • spreading the message to children
  • taking up running in his late 50s
  • 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

Community Health article on Doug's Plant-based Challenge

PlantPure Pods

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Thanks also to Will Ridenour for allowing me to use his beautiful song, Sabali Don (Dance of Peace). You can find more of Will’s music at his website, 


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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.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website,


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