"When I played football at U Michigan, I was 305 pounds. Today, at 51 years old, I weigh 210 pounds, so I'm almost 100 pounds lighter, and I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life at this point. I feel great."
Big Ten, University of Michigan football players are tough characters who run on grit and determination, they are accustomed to managing pain while still finding a way to succeed. These qualities served former University of Michigan guard, Marc Ramirez well as he went from life-threatening health conditions to the best shape of his life.
Marc Ramirez in 1989 when he played right guard for the Michigan Wolverines, weighing in at 305 pounds. (Courtesy photo)
In the years after he graduated from U-M in 1990, and no longer a college athlete, Marc gained weight, was diagnosed as diabetic and taking a drawer full of medications to manage his health problems. His days of charging out of the Michigan University tunnel to take the field behind him and a life of increasing medical complications ahead.
Marc Ramirez in 1997, about seven years out of college. He was out of shape and weighed about 280 pounds. (Courtesy photo)
By 2005 Marc started taking Metformin for diabetes and Simvastatin for high cholesterol. In 2011 he had to start injecting himself with insulin twice a day, which he despised. Then his mom passed away from complications related to diabetes and his brother had recently undergone a kidney and pancreas transplant as well as an amputation because of it.
Marc Ramirez University of Michigan (Courtesy photo)
Convinced the health path he was on was only getting worse, Marc, searched for better way to manage diabetes and his weight. He was determined to reverse his diabetes. After watching the documentary Forks over Knives he and his wife Kim followed the recommendations to eat a whole food plant-based diet--and it worked.
Marc is no longer diabetic. He no longer has high cholesterol. He takes no medications and his glucose levels are normal.
Marc Ramirez after turning 48 in January 2016, weighing 210 pounds. He said he's in the best shape he's been in his life. (Courtesy photo)
"I grew up at the tip of southern Texas with four brothers and three sisters. When I was eight years old, my father abandoned our family and my mother struggled to raise eight children on her own. In search of better employment, she decided to move us to the Chicago area in 1982. In high school I thrived as a healthy athlete and earned a football scholarship to The University of Michigan. In those days I could eat whatever I wanted and did not have health or weight issues because I was so physically active.
After fighting diabetes for over 33 years, my mother passed in April 2002. (She was the family rock and I miss her dearly.) If that were not bad enough, my oldest brother David passed in June 2002 due to pancreatic cancer, just two months after my mother.
Growing up I witnessed my mother’s battle with diabetes and its complications. She suffered from kidney failure, blindness, and heart disease. She underwent a kidney transplant donated by my sister Jill. She is my only sibling who has not been diagnosed with diabetes, but she too felt its impact as she bravely donated a kidney to our mother.
My oldest sister, Carol, struggled with diabetes too, but she started eating mostly plant-based and eliminated her medications. My twin brother, Joe, has battled diabetes for over 20 years and suffered a heart attack. Sandra, my youngest sister, has been type 2 diabetic for over 18 years. Martin, our youngest sibling, suffers greatly from this terrible disease. He has had a pancreas transplant, two kidney transplants, is legally blind, had his right leg amputated, went to dialysis three times a week for a decade, and takes 20 medications every day.
Medications that Marc Ramirez says he was taking in 2011, including two insulin shots per day, two diabetes medications daily, plus medication for high cholesterol and high blood pressure. (Courtesy photo)
As the years progressed, I also found myself having high Hemoglobin A1C levels. The Hemoglobin A1C test is a blood result that diabetics are familiar with. It measures the average glucose levels in your blood over a two to three month time-frame. It indicates how much glucose remains in your blood and ultimately determines if doctors will consider you diabetic and begin prescribing medications. The current A1C range for a non-diabetic is between 4 and 5.6. I began taking the diabetes medication Metformin in 2002. My A1C level back then was 8.8 and ultimately rose to as high as 10.5 in September 2011. I was on insulin injections (Lantus) and I had already been taking four oral medications for years — Metformin (for diabetes), Januvia (for diabetes), Simvastatin (for high cholesterol), and Lisinopril (for high blood pressure).
As my A1C levels gradually rose over the years, I tried to improve my health by dieting, exercising more, and cutting carbs. Unfortunately, these strategies did not stop the progression of diabetes. (Later I learned that carbs are not the enemy—fat is.) Eventually my doctor told me that I had to begin injecting insulin daily. I found myself feeling frustrated and helpless. For years I witnessed the suffering diabetes caused in my family, and I saw myself as destined to walk down the same path.
It seemed like there was no hope and that diabetes was just something my family had to battle because it is in our genes. I remember asking my doctor if I would ever stop taking insulin injections and his response was “No, you’ll be on insulin the rest of your life.” This really pissed me off. But was I surprised? No. I am Hispanic and belong to a culture that has a high percentage of diabetics. And my family was filled with diabetics, so I fell into the trap of believing there was nothing I could do.
Marc and Kim Ramirez college days and wedding (Courtesy photos)
From Hopeless to HopefulIn autumn of 2011 my in-laws gave my wife Kim and I a copy of the dvd Forks Over Knives. It sat on the shelf, unopened, for a few months before we watched it. One day, feeling hopeless about my diabetes, Kim and I decided to watch it. The documentary was well done and based on sound scientific evidence. It introduced us to Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes. Between watching Forks Over Knives and reading Dr. Neal Barnard’s book, Kim and I decided to try this way of eating.
Marc and Kim Rameriz founders Chickpea and Bean (Courtesy Photo)
On December 3, 2011 we both began our whole food, plant-based lifestyle and my life and health has not been the same since. I follow three basic guidelines for eating: I eat no animal products, I eat low fat foods, and I avoid high glycemic foods. I enjoy foods such as oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins, pasta prima vera with marinara sauce, bean burritos with jalapeño peppers, veggie subs, black bean burgers, and plenty of fruits and vegetables such as strawberries and sweet potatoes. (Notice that this is not a low carb diet. I enjoy a lot of complex carbs. Carbs are not the enemy. High fat foods are. Fat gets in cells and prevents insulin and glucose from working properly.)
In less than two months I was off of all my medications and have been medication free for over nine years. I am no longer diabetic. When I began this journey I weighed 260 pounds and today I weigh what I weighed in fifth grade–197 pounds.
I have learned that it is not because I am Mexican or because my family is predisposed to diabetes that I had this disease. It all comes down to the daily choices I make on how to nourish my body with the food I eat. By cutting out the foods that are nutrient poor and replacing them with foods that are nutrient rich, my body has responded positively.
I am very lucky to have the Kim factor (as my friends say) as Kim is the chef in the house and makes sure we always have delicious foods on our table. Kim and I feel empowered and liberated by our new whole foods, plant-based lifestyle. We feel strong, healthy, and in charge of our lives. This lifestyle improved our health, helps prevent cruelty to animals, fights world hunger issues, and is better for the environment. We want to help others learn about our successes and see if this type of lifestyle will work for them."
Former University of Michigan football player Marc Ramirez poses in front of the Big House on March 8, 2016. (Ryan Stanton | The Ann Arbor News)
Health improvements I have experienced since adopting a whole food, plant-based lifestyle:
- Off all medications since 1-30-2012, approximately two months after beginning my new lifestyle
- Saved thousands of dollars on medications, as I no longer need them
- No more pricking my finger multiple times a day for blood readings
- A1C levels (blood sugar) in the normal range
- Cholesterol levels normal (no more statin)
- Blood pressure normal (no more Lisinopril)
- Energy levels improved drastically
- Psoriasis eliminated, I used to have red patches and scaly dandruff on my scalp
- BMs are normal and easier (if you are curious about what a normal stool looks like, search Bristol Stool Chart on the internet)
- Heartburn gone – I used to get heartburn a few times per week and always had Zantac, Pepcid AC, or Tums close by, even on my nightstand. Since I changed my eating I have not had heartburn once.
- Weight Loss – When I began this lifestyle I weighed 260 pounds and as of January 2021 I weigh 197 pounds. I now weigh what I weighed in fifth grade. I have been at this weight consistently for nine years. I eat frequently and am never hungry.
- Fewer aches and pains — because of eating anti-inflammatory foods and losing the weight
- No more after meal crash or lightheaded feeling
- I feel GREAT the majority of the time whereas before I would have mood swings due to my diabetes
Want to feel as good as Marc? Try a Chickpea and Bean Bundle today, powered by MamaSezz.
Chickpea and Bean teamed up with MamaSezz to design this low-fat bundle of our favorite foods. By eating foods just like this Marc conquered his health issues. And, they’re delicious!
Chickpea and Bean teamed up with MamaSezz to create foods filled with delicious Mexican flavors. These recipes remind Marc of the meals his mom used to make. Keep your food culture strong while eating plant based!
Marc Ramirez and his wife Kim Ramirez are the founders of Chickpea and Bean.
Chickpea and Bean is non-profit that helps all people achieve health through the healing power of plants.
As a minority run nonprofit, Chickpea and Bean to spread awareness about the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle to people of all colors. For years they have had free and low cost events in challenged areas including Detroit and rural areas with large minority populations. They are grateful for such opportunities and will continue to educate themselves about how to improve their efforts.
BONUS INSPIRATION FROM MARC- Never lose the love of the game!
Upper image: Former University of Michigan football player Marc Ramirez competing in a 1987 game against Notre Dame. (Courtesy photo)
Lower image: Former University of Michigan football player Marc Ramirez runs the ball during the alumni game in April 2014. (File photo | The Ann Arbor News)