Dr. McDougall's Comments
“Why doesn’t everyone do this?” is a question I have pondered
for 30 years. The results are consistently
excellent. The food is delicious. I believe the largest
stumbling blocks are: people do not believe they can regain
their lost health and appearance, and they believe they are
incapable of changing. Amazing, how much life is lost for
Yesterday, Mary and I were enjoying vegan tamales with black
beans at a bayside table at Guaymas Mexican/Seafood restaurant
in Tiburon (north of San Francisco). To my right sat three
plump women (upper arms as big as my thighs), eating fried
clams, fried shrimp, and fried vegetables. The odors from their
spoiled our meal. I watched all three hobble with great effort
to their table. They appeared well-dressed and sounded
well-educated. I kept looking at Mary and thinking these women
are at least a decade younger than you are and they are disabled
because of their health and appearance. For what? Grease,
salt, and sea-animal proteins? It was all I could do to keep
from asking them to try some of my tamale, or at least a bite of
black beans, and hand them a business card. As I looked across
our table, and I whispered to young- and fit-looking Mary,
“Thank you,” she had no idea what I was talking about.
Where have all the pretty women and handsome men gone? Over to
the dark side of dining. They have sacrificed central parts of
their life for yellow and brown food that tastes oily and salty,
and smells repugnant. However, these potentially beautiful
people are not in this state of unsightliness for a lack of
interest in themselves. They care enough about their appearance
to spend thousands of dollars on clothes, cars, makeup and
perfumes in hopes of enhancing their attractiveness. They simply
fail to see the connection of good health to good eating.
and do not share your e-mail address with anyone except as
needed for the newsletter production process.
I was five years old my aunt died of breast cancer in our home.
My mother and sister also had breast cancer. My mother later
died of Alzheimer’s, but she also had diabetes, osteoporosis,
and had had several open-heart procedures. Both of my sisters
have heart disease, and my sister who hasn’t had cancer has
diabetes. In addition, both of my parents and their parents had
Given my history, shock and awe transform my doctors’ faces when
they discover that I am 54 and am on no medications. All of
these diseases, they told me, are genetic and there is nothing I
can do about them. But they are wrong.
This is my story of how I found great health and
beat the genetic odds that were working against me.
In 1981 when I
was 28 and working as a TV reporter, I suffered a
life-threatening colon blockage; the fast food of a fast-paced
career had caught up with me. I became
so doubled over in excruciating pain that two of my co-workers
had to carry me to the car and drive me to the emergency room.
The doctors said they had never seen a colon blockage that large
in someone so young. They said I could avoid surgery this
time but I would need to be on medication for the rest of my
life (they had to manually remove the blockage, a pain that was
worse than going through natural childbirth).
I felt I was too
young to be on medication for the rest of my life, so I began
reading every book I could find on fiber, including Don’t
Forget Fibre in Your Diet by Denis Burkitt and Diet for a
Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe. The relief was almost
immediate. I started out by adding bran to my food and then
slowly revamped my diet completely. I ate an almost completely
plant-based, macrobiotic diet for a year, and when my busy
lifestyle began to overwhelm me, I discovered The McDougall
During my first pregnancy I was told that I needed more protein,
so I started eating dairy again. When my daughter (who was
breastfed) had screaming colic at six weeks old, and nothing
else worked, I decided to stop the dairy. As a result, the colic
I also noticed that when I gave up dairy, my sinus issues
resolved (I often couldn’t get through a news story without
sniffing or clearing my throat).
Looking back over the years, my cholesterol numbers tell me
exactly how well I was adhering to a good diet (I saved all my
test records). From 1999 to 2000, my cholesterol climbed from
to 203, which
reflected my straying: that was the year the Atkins Diet was in
high fashion (for a second time). I foolishly thought maybe the
science had changed; that’s what the news stories were saying
(the only thing that had changed, however, was the marketing of
high-protein diets). I was now working as a financial consultant
for a Wall Street brokerage firm. When I saw that people in the
office were losing lots of weight, I thought to myself, “All
these Wall Street brains couldn’t be wrong, could they?”
Blood Lipid Summary (mg/dL)
Timeline of Lifetime
Low-fat vegan. No more
So, I started eating fish again and found myself in the
emergency room for the second time in my life. I was
hemorrhaging with painful fibroid tumors that needed to come
out, said the ER doctors, who were also recommending a
hysterectomy and ovary removal (to
stop estrogen production, thereby putting an end to my
menopausal symptoms and hopefully future fibroid growth).
At this point my weight was at its peak: 147 pounds,
which was not pretty on a 5’3” frame. My attitude was to just
get it over with, but when I called my gynecologist that day she
said to just sit tight until she could meet with me.
When we met, she said, “Why don’t you go back to a low-fat,
I took her
advice, and within a month all my symptoms (painful fibroids,
headaches, symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease, and even hot
flashes) were gone. Previously,
my husband would often remark (as I broke out in profuse
sweating), “You’re flashing again, dear, aren’t you?” He was
amazed that the flashes ended almost overnight and that
menopause became a breeze for me.
This return to a low-fat vegan diet also resulted in a 25-pound
weight loss. I wasn’t trying to lose weight, I was just trying
to keep my uterus. I was never hungry and never counted
calories; just sticking to the McDougall Maximum Weight Loss
it. I ate only sweet potatoes as my main starch,
along with lots of raw and cooked green and yellow vegetables
until I reached my goal weight of 122.
Timeline of Lifetime
Begin low-fat vegan
Running and MWL Program
Running injury, limits
also began running again, but only after I took off enough
weight to decrease the inflammation in my joints, and the pain
in my back and knees. In the past year I have placed 2nd
and 3rd in my age group running in 5K races. I used
to run in my twenties and thirties, but never placed in a race.
When I started running again, about two years ago, my goal was
simply to finish, so placing has been a real thrill.
During the last
visit to my
laughed and said, “Look at your tiny waistline!” I had never
before thought to put “tiny waistline” and me in the same
sentence. She tells her overweight patients who say they have no
money to buy healthy foods, “Either you pay the money to buy
fruits and veggies now or you’ll pay later when disease
how to beat cancer and other diseases while maintaining a
healthy weight has become the investigative reporting job of my
life. However, one
of the saddest things for me is to see others who suffer so much
yet refuse to look at new ideas that might save their lives.
friends are amazed at how much weight I’ve lost and how in shape
I’ve become. I’m always loaning out books and being supportive
when I can. As for my relatives, they often tell me their
diseases are genetic and are a natural part of aging. (My
family warned me of the varicose veins I would succumb to, but
they have not appeared, not a one.)
have learned that information about better health cannot be
forced or preached. Listeners have to be receptive and ready.
All I can do is lead my life by example.
It is so true what Dr. McDougall says: People choose
a steak over life. When I hear people say, “But eating that way
is difficult,” I wonder if they realize that having their chest
cracked open during surgery would be far more difficult.
for my doctors, this
is a gradual learning process for them. I now greet them with,
“Hi, I’m the broccoli rep.” A 300-pound cardiologist I saw last
year remarked to me, “You have the heart of a 21-year-old. That
diet and exercise thing is really paying off!” I now seek out
doctors who better understand the pathways to true health.
addition to working full-time with my husband in his
media-training business, I also teach free nutrition classes
(through the Cancer Project) at hospitals, community centers,
and condo associations. The class evaluations people write are
better than any paycheck or Emmy. The marketing director of a
hospital where I held classes recently wrote,
definitely work together again. What you are teaching is so
critical to our population.”
When you can change lives and improve health
through such simple steps, there is nothing like it.
Please take a look at this story and online video of me talking
about the Cancer Project on Tampa Bay's 10 News on September 10,
Ellen Jaffe Jones
We encourage you to pass
this Star McDougaller along to friends.