Updated August 29, 2013
I feel like I’ve been a “Starchivore” and a “Star McDougaller” far longer than Dr. McDougall has been using these terms. Prior to hearing about Dr. McDougall’s Diet and Program, I was fat and obese, from early childhood, through my thirties. I was born in 1951, and by the time I went to first grade the Four Food Groups had just arrived in our classroom. I was a product of the Baby Boomer generation, and our family’s ability to eat meat and eggs every day at our dining table was a sign of our success. As a result of this attitude and eating the “proper” foods, as a kid, I can’t remember a time when I was not fat. There was plenty of ridicule and rejection, which I‘m certain, had an impact on my psyche that carried on for many years, affecting many aspects of my life.
At about age ten I remember being talked to about “going on a diet.” When my Mother died three years ago, my brother, sister, and I were looking through her valuables, and came across a birthday card that my grandmother had sent to me for my 12th birthday. After writing “Happy Birthday,” the next sentence asked how I was doing on my diet. At age 13 our family doctor gave me a 1200-calorie diet plan to follow. Back then a diet plate consisted of a small meat patty, a scoop of cottage cheese, and half of a canned peach. The fact that I was always hungry sealed the deal for my failure with this approach.
Lack of activity was not my problem. I played Little League, seasonal sports, and was always out with the neighborhood kids in suburban southern California. I worked from 8th grade on, assembling, lifting, and moving the Los Angeles Times newspaper. When I entered high school I was on the golf team, playing three times a week, and walking about 18 miles a week while carrying 40 pounds of clubs on my back. Still, I gained more weight and continued to be the fattest kid in each of my grade levels in school. I was 280 pounds when I graduated high school.
After two years of junior college, I got sick of myself and went to a “diet” doctor. This was a small office with a desk where the doctor took my blood pressure, and then gave me a shot of vitamin B-12, along with three boxes of Dexedrine (amphetamine) pills. This routine was repeated every two weeks. Fortunately, this time I was really motivated, lost 100 pounds in six months, and I set the office record! This was will power in action. Even though I was a success I couldn’t wait to get back to “normal” eating. I was starving! Food was the only thing on my mind: When will I get to eat again? What will I get to eat? When I finally reached a weight of 175 pounds, nobody I went to high school with recognized me. My “really thin days” were short lived.
Two years later, I graduated from UCLA, got married, went into the Air Force and served as a navigator on a B-52 for six years. After having a couple of children and over two decades of married life, I had slowly regained most of my weight and tipped the scales at 255 pounds. Over this time, I had tried a variety of diets. Some of them were just cutting down on calories; others had more specific approaches, including the Atkins diet. The “make yourself sick” Atkins diet went against my common sense: How could an apple be bad and a whole jar of mayonnaise good? But for weight loss, I was willing to try it.
At age 40, I received a disturbing wake-up phone call. A very good friend of mine, also at my same age of 40 and from the Air Force, had just died from a heart attack, leaving behind a wife and three young daughters. I was devastated. And I weighed more than he did! My father had also died of a heart attack at the age of 48. I felt I was close to the end and was not ready to go. Once again, I was seriously motivated!
Around this time, Dr. McDougall and his plan first entered my life via a noontime radio talk show in Sacramento, CA (KSTE). His daily message spoke of the powerful health benefits of a low-fat vegan diet. Food could arrest atherosclerosis, and prevent many of the degenerative diseases caused by the standard Western diet. I purchased The McDougall Plan, a six-cassette audio program, and The McDougall Program book. I also attended a one-day seminar by Dr. and Mary McDougall at the Sacramento airport hotel. After many hours of reading and listening I was convinced it was worth a try. The scientific research seemed solid. The simplicity of the program and its common sense appealed to me. And I especially liked the promise that the program could work without me feeling hungry all the time. I could eat all I wanted! For all of my life I had heard, “You eat too much.” Now, I was hearing that it was not how much I ate, but what I ate. I knew I could do this. The challenge for me to adapt and create McDougall food just added to my excitement – I took the plunge.
About five years ago my current wife also became a starchivore. Before changing her diet, she was deeply involved in the standard medical businesses. She was taking cholesterol-lowering medication, blood pressure medicine, arthritis medicine, and visiting the doctor monthly. Then she was told that her kidneys were failing and dialysis was possible, so she started the McDougall Program (against the wishes of her doctor). She saw improvements almost immediately. In six months she was off all medication and her kidneys were operating normally. After one year, she had also lost 47 pounds and has since been an outspoken advocate of the Program.
I am now 62 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, weigh 145 pounds, and take no medications. I do not feel deprived or guilty by eating, ever. I no longer suffer with headaches or stomach problems. I have only been to the doctor once in the last 20 years for a minor issue, and one other time for blood work; I wanted to compare my numbers with the numbers Dr. McDougall recommends for blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Needless to say, they were all great! I feel that I am doing all that I can for my health, and it has been overwhelmingly effective. My weight is easily controlled and my “feast days” are when I allow myself to have avocado or peanut butter, or the occasional traditional Christmas cookie. This is the extent of my deviations for the past 22 years. No sacrifice here.
John D. Staley