On Wednesday, September 14th, I was sitting in the hospital waiting to hear how my husband was doing. He was undergoing open heart surgery at the age of 49. In the time I had known him, he had suffered from obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. When we discovered that most of the arteries leading to his heart were blocked, he had reached a point he couldn’t climb a flight of stairs or walk a block without being out of breath, struggling for air. It was clear something had to change.
We’d tried all kinds of diets over the years. Whole 30, Keto, High Fat Low Carbs, and moderation. With each diet, he would indeed lose weight, but it would return…and then some. With each diet, his heart disease progressed and his ability to exercise decreased. At the time he had the heart catheterization that found the blockages, we were eating what most people would consider quite healthy. We ate a lot of vegetables and salads and lean meats. I used only “healthy” oils and those sparingly. We were not snacking on hamburgers and french fries.
And yet, my husband was only getting sicker and sicker.
The list of medications he took was so long we had to have it printed out for his appointments. Each medication also had a side effect. I struggled to know how to feed him and there was SO much conflicting information and so little guidance by his medical professionals. To top that off, we’re also kosher keeping Jews, so I was already somewhat limited in what I could feed him. His diabetes educators would lecture us on counting carbs and portion sizes. His cardiology team would stress whole grains and low fat. I looked at the conflicting advice…how can I feed him low fat if carbs are bad? How can we get weight off of him if we need to keep his blood sugar under control? How can I keep him full and satisfied so that he doesn’t binge? What about the Jewish Sabbath and all those foods that are culturally important, like carby challahs and kugels and wine?
I began to do my own research, trying to fill in the gaps where his doctors left off. I wanted to not just know what more half measures we could do. I wanted a diet that would actually help him be healthy and help the rest of our family avoid the same issues. I no longer cared if it meant a huge change and he was also ready for a drastic change. I found the following doctors and their books and websites.
And I also looked at other sources, but these are the four main sources that I found that seemed to make sense to me. Their approaches to diet were based on decades of research on disease outcomes, particularly heart disease and diabetes as well as cancer and other ailments. What I found was not trendy or fancy, but actually fit with what we’ve been told for a long time. The healthiest diet if you want to avoid the most common causes of death or a poor quality of life includes the most plants. If you want to really begin to heal the body after you’ve already begun to suffer these diseases, then cutting out animal products completely as well as most fats is the best thing you can do as well as eating a variety of vegetables and fruits.
I had eaten vegan years ago before meeting my husband, but I’d been young and my diet had also included a lot of convenience foods and fat. This was something else entirely, a diet based on only those things that promote health.
The surgeon returned, upbeat. My husband’s triple bypass had been completely successful, but he had a grim warning. It was uncommon for someone to have a bypass done at such a young age and if we didn’t make some drastic lifestyle changes, it wouldn’t be long before these bypasses also clogged. He stressed that we didn’t “need” to become vegetarians, but…
Tired of half measures, we began eating this way and within a week after my husband’s surgery, he had already dropped 24 pounds and was preparing to begin the process of reducing his blood pressure medication. As I began to learn more about how to prepare foods we loved and balance Sabbath and Jewish holiday observance with this lifestyle, I wanted to share what I was learning. I couldn’t be the only person struggling with how to feed someone with these diseases, which are becoming all too common in the US. I couldn’t be the only person balancing being an observant Jew with also wanting to be healthy. I couldn’t be the only person trying their best to feed their family without slowly killing them.
And so…the kosher carrot was born.