Get Started Search Icon

Lars P. Lidberg: Painful Arthritis, Cholesterol

The fundamentals of the McDougall Program are simple yet often difficult to implement. Star McDougallers have either adopted the Program themselves by learning from our website and books or joining one of our programs. For personalized help, learn more about the 12-Day McDougall Program. For questions on whether a change in diet can help your ailment, learn more about our consultations.
Learn more

lars_lidberg01-6344249A few weeks ago, I discovered your dehydrated soups in a local store. They are wonderful, but that is not the purpose of my letter. Seeing your name reminded me of my past, and how far I have come.

Approximately 12-13 years ago, I became extremely dissatisfied with my physical life. I had painful arthritis in my knees and hands, certain types of moderate effort would bring chest pains, and my cholesterol was around 215. Also, illnesses like colds, flu, and sore throats were too frequent and too long in duration.

Fortunately, my arthritis was only moderate. It was in no way debilitating, but my knees did ache pretty much all the time. My hands would ache and joints click whenever it was cold. However, doctors never really offered a cause or treatment. My chest would tighten up and ache whenever I expended a fair amount of physical effort, particularly when using my arms. My doctor did not think my chest pain was heart related, but did not suggest an alternative cause. My cholesterol count climbed steadily for years. At least once, and frequently twice, each year, I would get a sore throat so severe that it was not unusual to miss work for four or five days.

Today, I have no doubt that diet was the primary cause of my problems, with lack of exercise a close second. I was only slightly overweight, because I controlled my weight by eating a moderate quantity of food. However, the quality and content of my diet was terrible. For dinner, I would sometimes have a bag of potato chips and sour cream dip. I was raised on meat, butter, mayonnaise, and cream sauces. Looking back on those days, I find it hard to believe I am a relatively smart, educated person.

I started looking for solutions, and came across a tape/book program by you. I found other resources, but your information was my first major guide for change. I took particular note of your experience with the Asian population of the Hawaiian Islands, and the vast difference in health between those still on a traditional Asian diet and those who had become “Americanized.” With this information in hand, I went on a virtually zero-fat vegetarian diet, and began to get more exercise. Since then, after reading various studies and theories, I have added a small amount of natural fat (nuts, etc.) back into my diet, as I may have been too extreme. However, I am still a vegetarian, and probably consume less total fat daily then contained in one hamburger.

In addition to changing my diet, I decided to become more active. My wife (who also became a vegetarian – 95% of the time) and I bought bicycles, and we started walking and working-out more. I still remember my first bike ride. It was no more than ½ mile, and I was exhausted. My health changes did not come quite as quickly as you suggested, but they did come.

Today, I am closing on 59. I have no arthritis, none. My cholesterol is 155, and my blood pressure is typically 105-110 / 65-70. I rarely get sick anymore, and when I do, the illness is generally mild and short in duration. I ride my bike 1500 – 1900 miles per year, with a typical ride being between 15 and 50 miles. If I didn’t live in Minnesota, where we are hermits for six months each year, I would probably ride more like 3000 miles per year. I am 5′ 10 ½” and weigh 165 pounds. I am probably in my best physical condition since college.

Given my personal experience, and from observations of friends, family, and co-workers, I am convinced that a high percentage of health problems are self-inflicted. I wish more people would realize the terrific benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

I am very grateful that your diet program was available when I needed it. Thank you.



“If I would have known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” So say many of the people I meet now passing their half century mark in life. Making better decisions everyday is as simple as “making better decisions everyday.” The most frequent question I get from people is, “How do I stop doing bad things to myself (like eating the wrong foods)?” The best answer is to follow Nancy Reagan’s advice. “JUST SAY NO!” Try it sometime. Like in the morning when you are ready for that eye-opener, double-strength espresso – just say no, and say “I’ll have the herbal tea instead” – and skip the indigestion, anxiety, and constant trips to the bathroom. Or at lunch today, when your favorite mayonnaise-drenched chicken sandwich jumps out at you from the menu – say, “No, I’ll have the vegetable soup and a veggie burger instead.” You will be just as satisfied and you won’t have to taste your lunch for the rest of the afternoon, caused by regurgitation of partially chewed chicken parts and fat.

My favorite line for a commitment to start living again came from my father several years ago. Our family was out to eat at a Mexican restaurant, and even though all members were vegetarian, some of the dishes passed around the table were topped with cheese and swimming in oil. As a plate of especially inviting nachos passed under my father’s nose, I asked him. “Isn’t it hard for you to pass these up?” His answer was simple and to the point, “Son, I have feasted enough for a lifetime. I have had enough rich food. I’ve eaten more steaks and ribs then 99.99% of people who ever walked this Earth. Remember, I almost died from a heart attack. I’ve had my good times at the dinner table – now it is time to get on with living. And one more ‘filet whatever’ isn’t worth dying for.” How many of us can say the same, “I have feasted enough for a lifetime, I want more out of life than obesity, arthritis, pain, immobility and a shortened lifespan?”

We all should have the choice of the quality of life we will live. When it comes to health, people who read the McDougall books and newsletters do have control over their future. If you haven’t made the commitment to live an easier, healthier life, then spend the next 3 weeks thinking about the choices you are making and decide if they are really worth the suffering and the risk. If you put some sincere mental effort into this project and do some genuine soul-searching, then by New Years Day, 2003 you will be ready to quote Nancy Reagan, and then you can have the future health and appearance you deserve – just like the Lidbergs and others of us have done (and are still doing) in order to get the most out of this too-short-lifetime.