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An Interview with Plant-Based Athlete Dr. Ruth Heidrich

Written by Meg Donahue
Dr Ruth Heidrich phd mamasezz foods interview

As we at MamaSezz well know, changing to a plant-based diet can change your life in ways you never expected. Some try a plant based diet for weight loss, others for disease reversal. In this series, we talk with some of the world’s most soulful, dedicated (and often funny) individuals. We get to hear their stories of suffering, transformation, and service — and we learn how food is an essential part of their journey.

This week, we're bringing you Dr. Ruth Heidrich, a vibrant woman in her 80s who overcame cancer and a severe auto accident on her way to winning 8 Senior Olympic game medals.
Here's her story: 

In 1982, at age 47 Dr. Ruth Heidrich was introduced to a plant-based diet after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Fast forward to 2022 where, at 86 years young, she is a seasoned whole food plant based vegan, cancer survivor, a plant-based athlete (Ironman triathlete!), 8 time Olympic Gold medalist and author of four books.

We sat down with Ruth to hear her story and ask her about plant-based living.

Q: Tell us why you first started to consider changing your diet. What inspired the change? 

Dr Ruth:
"At 47, I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. I was determined not to let cancer slow me down and kept running, even after surgery to remove the tumor.
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!"

Ruth's determination and persistence paid off again when in her 60's she encountered another significant obstacle to living an active healthy life.

"My ability to exercise was tested again at age 63—this time more severely. I was hit by a truck while cycling. I sustained multiple fractures in my left leg and right hip, and doctors told me I'd never run again. When I left the hospital, I did physical therapy 5 days a week."

Ruth went on to compete in several races and win gold medals in the Senior Olympic Games.

Q: A number of our customers struggle with a transition to a plant-based diet - what advice do you have for them?

Dr Ruth: "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!"  

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. What advice can you give to someone who wants to try a plant-based diet?

Dr Ruth: "Dive in and see for yourself how powerful this diet can be. People ask how long it took to see results. I say, “The next morning—no more constipation!” As with any lifestyle change, it takes self-discipline to establish new patterns but once it becomes habit, it’s easy."

Q: What surprised you the most after you started eating this way?

Dr Ruth: "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.

People ask how long it took to see results. I say, “The next morning—no more constipation!”


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?

Dr Ruth: "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? 

Dr Ruth: "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?

Dr Ruth: "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!"


We are grateful to you Dr. Ruth and all that you do to inspire us everyday!

If you'd like to kick start the next chapter of your life, try the MamaSezz

GET ME STARTED BUNDLE: Get the food and guidance to eat healthier and power your dreams with clean healthy food:

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

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