In 1982, Dr. Ruth Heidrich was introduced to a plant-based diet after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Fast forward to 2017 where now, at 81 years young, she is a seasoned raw vegan, cancer survivor, a plant-based athlete (Ironman triathlete!), and author of four books.
We sat down with Ruth this week to hear her story and pick her brain about plant-based living.
Q: A number of our customers struggle with a transition to a plant-based diet - what advice do you have for them?
A: First, you have to look at your motivation. What is it you are trying to accomplish? Because this transition is considered so "radical" by so many, it does take some determination to "take the road less traveled." Health is frequently the instigator for making the change. In my case, it was easy because when you're diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, you'll do anything to save your life. So when Dr. John McDougall told me that it was my diet that caused the cancer and that by getting rid of the cause, I could save my life. I was strongly and powerfully motivated. My response was "Tell me what to do and I'll do it!" When I saw results the very next morning, there was no struggle, just confirmation that I was doing the right thing. Hopefully, everyone who makes the change can see immediate results!
Q: Tell us why you first started to consider changing your diet. What inspired the change?
A: Because I'd studied nutrition in college, I thought I knew all I needed to know about nutrition. After spending two hours with Dr. McDougall who showed me the science, I was excited about the possibility and in those two hours, became, what is the simplest way to describe it, a plant-based, no-oil, no refined, processed food vegan!
Q: What surprised you the most after you started eating this way?
A: The biggest surprise was how quickly my chronic constipation disappeared. I love it when people ask me how long before I saw results because I break into a wide grin and say, "The next morning!" And the wonderful surprises kept on coming, too. My bone pain disappeared. My liver enzymes normalized. My osteoarthritis, for which I was taking prescribed medication disappeared. My adult acne and dandruff disappeared. I had more energy and my running got faster, and when I decided I was going to train for the Ironman Triathlon, I added swimming and biking -- all with more energy than I had ever experienced before! I had faster recovery times and all my training became fun! Then when I started winning trophies, I had more pleasant surprises!
Q: What challenges did you have to overcome to change your diet?
A: The main challenges came from other people, not the least of which were from my oncologist, my family, and my friends. Thank goodness for those early "surprises" because I knew then that I knew what they did not!
Q: What is your biggest fear?
A: My biggest fear is that enough people will not make the change in time. Those who have heart disease, cancer, COPD, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, kidney disease, and more, either will not be told how to reverse it or those who don't yet have all those diseases or more, will get them for lack of this vital information. I also fear for the environment. What factory farms and factory fishing are doing to the only place we have to call home is devastating and criminal. The same can be said for the lives of all those fellow sentient beings, those animals others call "food." Billions are mistreated and killed every minute, hour, day, and year.
Q: Do you have a philosophy by which you live?
My main philosophy is gratitude! Having been so long exposed to what is wrong has motivated me to now look at what is right. Having started the nightly routine of coming up with all my gratitudes has really changed how I see the world. One of my main gratitudes comes whenever someone reaches out to me and wants more information about how to do this. So my philosophy is to share and the most efficient and effective way is to share my books, videos, and my "Ask Dr. Ruth" column. I feel gratitude then which leads to hope, hope that we all will change in time to lead happy, healthy lives -- and that includes every one of us, even all the animals!
To learn more about Ruth's story, visit her website.
You can also check out her latest book, Lifelong Running: How to Overcome the 11 Myths About Running and Live A Healthier Life at Lantern Books.