"Threat of diabetes and heart disease steers couple to great
you ever tried to lift a five-gallon jug of water? It isn't
easy. If someone handed you one and asked you to carry it around
24 hours a day, could you do it? How about two
jugs? Well, that's what I was carrying around with me in extra
weight. But after following the McDougall Program for over a
year now, I am happy to say that I am no longer carrying those
two jugs (a total of 80 pounds).
Our journey to this point started the day my lovely wife
Norma came home from a visit to her internist with fear in her
voice: "The doctor told me that I will need to start insulin
injections very soon if my blood sugars don't improve." We both
needed to lose weight at that point, and the internist told us
the only chance we had was to go on the South Beach Diet. But I
knew enough to know that there must be a better way.
In our search for a better way, we attended an American
College of Lifestyle Medicine meeting in Ontario, California.
Fortunately for us, Dr. John McDougall was one of the many
excellent speakers that day. Norma listened carefully as he
explained to the audience of health professionals that many
diabetics can lose weight, avoid insulin injections, and even
get off medication if they eat the right food. That sounded good
to us; we both knew it was time to make some major changes.
Dr. McDougall's talk, we approached him and mentioned that we
were considering attending one of his 10-Day Programs in the
future. He said, "Why wait? We have a program starting next
week." We were in Santa Rosa the following Friday, the first day
of the 10-day program.
As a retired physician, I thought I was already following a
healthy lifestyle and eating the correct foods. Medical school
had taught me the biochemistry of how nutrients are metabolized,
but not much more. I knew it was wise to avoid saturated fats
and to get enough protein and fiber, but as I listened to Dr.
McDougall's talks throughout the 10 days, I knew that I had been
wrong all these years about what constitutes healthy eating. I
was most surprised upon learning that egg whites, skim milk, and
isolated soy protein were not health-promoting. Norma and I had
followed a modified Pritikin program for quite some time, which
had allowed these items, and we had thought they were fine.
I find it hard to describe the 10-Day Program to those who
have not experienced it. It is a total immersion into eating
delicious low-fat, plant-based foods, along with exercise,
education, medical care and much more. We also felt great
camaraderie with our fellow attendees. The 10-Day Program seemed
like a big financial investment at the time, but there is no
question that we got our money's worth. I asked Norma at one
point, "Wouldn't you trade anything you had for good health?" We
both agreed that we would.
of us have had several medical problems in recent years. Norma's
diabetes gave her the most concern. Her fasting blood sugars
were running about 200 while she was taking maximum doses of
oral medications (which had significant side effects). She was
beginning to experience increasing neuropathic pain in her feet.
Could other complications be far behind? On the first day of the
10-Day Program Dr. McDougall took her off of all of her diabetic
pills. Within a few short weeks her fasting sugars were down
below 150. They have continued to improve even more since then.
The neuropathy has certainly not progressed and may have even
improved a little. She no longer fears other complications.
Yes, we have the usual stories of lowered cholesterol, no
more heartburn, improved elimination, more energy, better sleep,
reduction of blood pressure and so forth, but the one thing that
really surprised me was that I now wear a full size smaller hat.
(Please, no fathead jokes.) My cholesterol was high enough (261)
that the internist had started me on statin drugs to lower it.
The numbers improved a little, but the muscle pains and tingling
in my fingers convinced me to stop taking them. Now, without
medication, my cholesterol is less than 150, and my
triglycerides dropped from above 400 to 68.
I have struggled with my weight ever since I was in high
school. I was 6'1" and weighed 240 pounds before I graduated,
and the weight seemed to inch up almost every year after that.
In 1965 I was in an airplane accident that left my legs
partially paralyzed. That limited my activity and made any kind
of exercise program very difficult. I became so fat that my belt
could no longer keep my pants from sliding down past my ample
belly, so I resorted to suspenders. As my weight topped out well
above 300 I found it very difficult to walk 20 feet to the end
of the driveway and back. Now that I weigh in the low 230s, I
enjoy walking about two-tenths of a mile every day; and Norma
walks more than half an hour every day.
In the past year, we have read a few dozen books and watched
many hours of videos to add to our understanding of good health.
We found a couple of books to be especially helpful and
informative. After returning home from the McDougall 10-Day
Program, we read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. This
easy-to-read and well-documented book cemented our belief that
what Dr. McDougall had taught us was valid. Campbell makes his
points so clearly that it would be difficult to read his book
and not believe his statements linking the foods we eat with our
In addition, the book McDougall's Medicine is long out of
print, but one can usually find used copies on the Internet. Dr.
McDougall had a clear understanding of the concepts long before
the excellent reports of Campbell, Esselstyn, Ornish, and
others. Even though Dr. McDougall wrote the book more than 25
years ago, physicians and other health professionals could (and
should) use it as a textbook of medicine. If I had read it when
I was still practicing medicine, I would have known how to
actually help my patients.
I try to share my experience with other physicians I see
around the hospital, but it disappoints me that most of them
believe that eliminating animal foods could not possibly be
healthy, for themselves or for their patients. In addition,
physicians often lack the time to thoroughly study the materials
that would convince them otherwise. It's unfortunate that even
when a physician does believe that lifestyle changes benefit
patients, finding time for individual counseling in a busy
practice can be very tricky.
Norma and I realize that eating and other lifestyle habits
are very personal, and we do not expect anyone to make drastic
changes based solely on our beliefs and experiences. However, we
want people that we care about to have enough information to
make informed decisions about their health, and we hope they see
that traditional medical interventions may not be the most
effective path to good health. Many factors make a person decide
to change. Fear is certainly motivating, but is not sufficient
alone: a person needs a passion for life in order to change.
Our newfound health excites us, and we wonder why we had not
learned about these principles before. We find it difficult to
understand the reluctance that most people have in accepting the
concepts that are so clear to us now. Most people believe they
could not give up meat and other animal foods, or they think it
is too late for them to make changes. We often hear, "I am
already eating a healthy diet," even though their diet still
includes animal foods.
Information is readily available through books, videos,
lectures, live-in programs, etc. There are programs that cost
money (the best money we have ever spent), or you can obtain the
information on your own for very little investment. There is so
much convincing information available that it is simply
Ten days is a good start for regaining health, but we have
much more to learn. We will continue to attend lectures, read
books, and watch videos. We are happy to have found a way of
eating that reduces our chances of developing heart disease,
diabetes, many cancers, and that improves a host of other
medical problems. From this point forward, we are life-long
Darrell Woodruff, MD
Dr. McDougall's Comments
Medical doctors, dietitians, nurses, chiropractors, and all
other allied health professionals should be the first ones to
change their diets and lifestyles. They are on the frontlines,
having daily encounters with patients with heart attacks,
strokes, cancer, and diabetes. The physical, emotional, family
and financial burdens are painfully real for them. No matter how
hard these educated experts try, no matter how much money is
invested, these dedicated professionals witness the downward
clinical courses for their patients—none regain their health.
Something is seriously not working and they should admit it, at
least to themselves. So why don't they change the way they
practice? Or at least change their own diets so they can save
themselves? The obstacles that keep health professionals from
making long overdue changes range from ego to legal.
Here are some of the reasons for their inertia:
1) Recognizing that the root of most illnesses is diet and
lifestyle runs counter to everything they learn in school. No
surprise; training nurses, dietitians, and doctors receive their
education from industry—to be specific, the food, device, and
drug industries. These companies pay for the scientific research
these health professionals rely on and they also pay for their
ongoing education. Otherwise highly intelligent, these experts
are too naive to believe they could be fooled, and lied to for
2) Recognizing diet as the cause of common health problems
forces health professionals to make personal changes, and most
are not ready to give up their cheese omelets and pepperoni
pizzas. Every medical meeting I have ever attended serves high
fat and/or high cholesterol foods to the attendees—and they eat
it. Observe the physical appearance of these health experts—fat
3) The fear of malpractice suits keeps most professionals
from doing the right thing—even after they know better. The
ultimate judgment given out in a medical malpractice suit is
based on the "community standard of practice." As long as you
harm the patient in a manner similar to your fellow doctors, you
are vindicated in the eyes of the law. Many doctors have
confided in me that they would be afraid to recommend dietary
changes and to eliminate medications because of the criticisms
from their colleagues and the sanctions by the courts that might
follow if something went wrong.
4) When doctors, who are the "ultimate deciders," finally
recognize the truth, they are faced with the painful admission
that their prior practice has been wrong and they have often
caused serious harm to their patients. That's a powerful
confession too few people can make to themselves or to others.
5) Patients, also known as the customers, usually want pills,
surgery, and other quick fixes—they know no better options.
Health professionals offering effort-requiring diet and
lifestyle changes are not welcomed by the majority of customers.
6) Education takes hours of interaction between the health
professional and the patient. Insurance companies pay a standard
fee for a "visit"—whether 7 minutes is spent writing a
prescription or an hour is spent teach something life-changing.
Under the current system, lifestyle medicine does not promote
financial success. (However, there are methods of practice that
will allow energetic experts to build highly successful
businesses around doing the right things for people.)
Darrell Woodruff, MD is a notable exception in healthcare—he
changed his diet with resulting medical miracles for himself,
and he admits that if he were still in practice he would change
the kind of care he would deliver to his patients. Most students
entered the health professions with a sincere desire to help
others. But along the way their missions were diverted by big
money and big egos—and by a failure to have effective tools that
really help their patients—drugs don't cure dietary diseases.
With dissemination of the truth these days, many students,
medical doctors, dietitians, nurses, chiropractors, and other
allied health workers are realizing the powerful benefits of
lifestyle medicine and moving on to far more rewarding careers.