At age 55, Paul Chatlin was a few minutes away from surgery on a 100% blockage in his right coronary artery when his cardiologist asked him out of the blue, “Would you consider a nutritional change instead of bypass surgery?”
Turns out the cardiologist's mentor was a dude named Caldwell Esselstyn, which is the only way this story makes any sense.
Paul, tired of his severe angina, terrified of the life that followed bypass surgery that he witnessed in his father and three uncles, and in agony from the “elephant sitting on his chest,” agreed.
“I'll do anything.”
He left the hospital at 3 in the morning; by 8am his phone is ringing. “This is Caldwell Esselstyn. I want you to read my book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, and I'll call you again in two days.”
And Paul has been whole food, plant-based ever since.
Two months of bed rest, during which time he devoured every plant-based book, documentary, YouTube video that he could get his hands on. A terrible cook, he took a course with Ann Esselstyn, Caldwell's wife, on preparing healthy food.
And he got better. Much better. So much better that he made a promise to himself and the world: “I will take the rest of my life and make a difference.” He wasn't sure how, but he would.
His mission clarified after his $700 receipt for the cooking class was rejected for reimbursal by Blue Cross Blue Shield. The same insurance company that was ready to fork over 130 grand for bypass surgery wouldn't consider paying 1/186th of that amount on a life skill that could prevent heart disease before it even started.
Their hands were tied, they explained to him. You'll have to take that up with the state legislature.
This, he decided, was his calling: to change the culture, to shift the conversation from medical management of disease to true prevention and healing.
Before tackling the political machine, Paul needed allies. He needed to know that he wasn't all alone, that he wasn't the only plant-based person in the entire Detroit region. He took out a $25 ad in a local paper, saying that he had lost 50 pounds, got off all his meds, dropped his cholesterol, and never felt better. Who wants to know what I've learned in the past four months?
Twenty people responded, and Paul was up and running. Fast forward a few years, Paul founded and runs the world's largest plant-based community, 3200 members strong and counting. He and his staff and volunteers have utterly transformed the culinary landscape around Detroit, and are now taking on the entrenched behemoth that is medical education.
I met Paul when I was invited to speak for his Plant-Based Nutrition Support Group (PBNSG) in July, 2016. They got me onto a live morning TV show (luckily, I had brought a clean shirt), put me up in a very classy hotel, shuttled me here and there, served me dinner at Dr. Joel Kahn's Greenspace Café, and got several hundred people in an audience to hear me talk about how to change bad habits.
Paul and I talked about his journey, his mission, the obstacles, and the goals. I hope it uplifts you as much as it has me. We covered:
- what Paul thought was a healthy diet pre-Essy
- “I'd rather be healthy than full”
- the broken medical system, and the responsibility of doctors to take care of us in a better way
- the 150 doctors who had no interest in being involved in PBNSG: “we didn't learn this in school”
- how come the veterinarian asks about diet, but the primary care physician doesn't?
- that part of the Hippocratic oath where prevention is preferable to treatment
- how to get doctors to prescribe nutrition rather than pills
- getting PBNSG kicked out of Beaumont hospital for challenging their business model
- meeting Dr Joel Kahn
- the plan that can be replicated anywhere
- if it can happen in Detroit, it can happen anywhere
- inspired by Rosa Parks: “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”
- 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
My talk at PBNSG (video)
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