Charlie and Melody Fish Find A Plant-Based Diet Beats the Perfect Health Storm
Charlie Fish used to gasp for breath after walking a few feet. Now he can walk a couple of miles with no problem. Charlie shared his remarkable recovery story with me when I met him and his wife Melody at a Wellness Forum Conference in November 2013.
I asked Charlie how he used to eat before finding health on a whole foods, plant-based diet. “I grew up in Toledo, Ohio. My father had three restaurants, and let’s just say the family was well-fed. I was raised on meat, potatoes, gravy, and Hungarian food. I ate meat three times a day for my whole life, and saw nothing wrong with it. I was a ticking time bomb, and then it exploded.”
He continued “I was supposed to have foot surgery so was getting a pre-surgery EKG. The nurse mumbled something and left the room for 90 minutes. She came back and apologized. Something was very wrong with my EKG but even the cardiologist she had look at it did not know exactly what. I had a heart catheterization the same day. During the procedure I was drugged but still conscious. I heard one doctor say to another “What do you think about stents?” The other doctor just laughed. I knew then I was in big trouble.”
Just as he feared, Charlie got open heart bypass surgery for 90 percent blockage in five arteries. He shared the aftermath. “The surgery was good but my recovery was a disaster. My life was a living hell for the next two and a half years. It took me that long to get back half my energy. I couldn’t get up or even tie my shoes. I lived in a chair for two and a half years, and was very angry.”
Although his ability to function gradually got better, Charlie was left with a long list of health problems,
including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, right ventricular heart failure, and chronic kidney disease. It was during this period that he could not even make it all the way across a room without severe shortness of breath. His cardiologist in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he lived, referred him to a top cardiologist at University of Indianapolis in early 2012.
“This doctor told me “you are the perfect storm.” I said thank you, and got up with Melody and left,” Charlie told me. “I knew what “the perfect storm” meant. I was dead. The doctor came after us and tracked us down 20 minutes later. I did continue seeing him, but was in denial and not willing to make any changes in my life. All I did was take meds, 14 or 15 kinds a day. I kept them in a shoebox, and made a ritual of taking them. I was on 160 units of insulin a day, with my glucose still out-of-control.”
The break in this perfect health storm came by chance, when Melody read a magazine article in which Dr. Oz recommended Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat To Live. She continued the story. “I weighed 240 pounds at the time and had no energy. I decided I was going to follow the diet in that book. I didn’t really like the recipes, though. They were made with lots of lettuce and mushrooms, which are not my favorite foods, but I choked them down. Charlie totally refused this food. He bought his own refrigerator and placed it in the bedroom. He kept his meat, chicken, and milk in it, and made his own meals. This all happened in September 2012.”
Melody shared the next step, the one that saved Charlie’s life. “There was a vegan restaurant in Fort Wayne and I wanted Charlie to eat there with me. He was angry and agreed to go under protest. But he loved the food. When we were there, we saw a flyer for a plant-based weight loss class taught by Darla Sherman in a nearby town. We took her weight loss class and health class at the same time in February 2013. Darla brought in recipes I really liked and were convenient – I could get the ingredients in any supermarket. The food was tasty, and we had new recipes every week so I never got bored. Each week was a new adventure in cooking.”
Melody revels in success. “I lost 55 pounds so far this year. I shared the recipes with my sister in Utah, and she has lost 50 pounds since March. I still don’t exercise much, but now I have more energy and want to exercise more.”
I asked Charlie what made him agree to go on the plant-based diet with Melody. “My doctor’s remark about me being the perfect storm made me think “You’re dead anyway. What do you have to lose? Try it
for three months and then make a decision.””
The experiment was a blockbuster winner for him. “Everything changed in a hurry, within weeks I saw dramatic improvements. I could hardly believe it myself. I was dropping weight, feeling great, and getting off meds. I’m now down to 2 or 3 kinds of pills, instead of 14 or 15. My weight is down 55 pounds of fat. I take no insulin, and my waking glucose level is usually in the 90 to 110 range. My cholesterol used to be up to 330, and my doctor told me it was hereditary and needed to be treated with drugs. Now it’s down to 198 without meds. My kidneys are working much better again. I love my doctor, but I am responsible for my own health. Doctors don’t know anything about nutrition. This is frightening. I’m very good at saying “no” to doctors. I ask them for proof that a drug works, and usually they don’t have any. My cardiologist even shared my story on his blog, but he never said how I changed my diet. He probably thinks no one else would do it.”
Charlie enjoys his nourishing eating choices. “Melody does great things with vegan recipes. I especially love soups and Thai food made with tofu.” A weekly potluck support group at Darla Sherman’s house keeps the couple on track.
Charlie and Melody’s family and friends are respectful of their whole foods, plant-based diet, but most have not followed in their path. Charlie understands their reluctance and skepticism, and does not push them. “They watch and see how good we are doing,” he concludes. “If we plant one seed to help someone else, it’s all worth it.”
If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read about why a whole foods, plant-based diet leads to successful weight loss.
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Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet: How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy Now With Six Kinds of Whole Foods. The book outlines a plant-based eating plan that can get you to the kind of health and weight improvements that Charlie and Melody achieved.