Deborah Pageau Hit Rock Bottom On Health and Found a Simple Way Out
In spreading the message that fish contains worm larvae, I posted my blog on this topic on VegSource. Deborah Pageau replied from Canada with her story of witnessing live worm larvae wriggling in a fried fish on a Friday “fish and chip”night.
I immediately wanted to know more and share Deborah’s experience. Here she generously shares how she, her husband, and her daughter eliminated a range of health problems by eating a whole foods, plant-based diet. Yes, whole – vegan junk foods are rarely in their kitchen. The transformation of her family’s health was so wonderful, she even won the approval of school authorities!
What kinds of foods did you grow up eating?
I grew up in the 1950s & 60s. My parents, similar to most in that era, believed eating animal products were essential for good health. Processed foods, such as white bread, high fat snack foods, soft drinks, sugar cereals, etc, were also part of our diet. There were very few fruits, veggies, whole grains or legumes in my diet back then.
What kinds of foods do you eat now?
I eat a vegan diet of fruits, veggies, gluten-free grains, and a wide assortment of legumes, nuts, and seeds. Most of my foods are prepared from scratch at home, without oil, sugar or salt. I drink herbal teas & a lot of water, sparkling juice for festive occasions. I also take supplemental vitamin B12 and D.
When did you change your diet?
The transformation of my diet has been a process, beginning in childhood. When I was 7, I discovered to my horror that
meat came from animals; and I wondered about the roots of health as I lay in bed with repeated illness.
When I was 12, my dear father died suddenly of a heart attack. When I was told that elevated cholesterol from eating meat had been a factor, I struggled to figure out how something that was supposed to be good for him, killed him. I began to cook in high school and to experiment with whole grains and legumes, but also went on jags of eating a high protein, low carb diet.
My university years provided me with many food adventures. During my three years of eating in residence, I avoided the worst items such as the “Dreaded Breaded”: a veal cutlet – so fatty that pressing down on it forced fat to ooze out, then soak back in when the pressure was released; and the deep fried fish, after a friend cut his piping hot serving open to cool, and discovered wiggling worm larvae.
During my fourth year at the university, I shared an apartment with a girl whose family had eclectic culinary tastes. She introduced me to the delights of international cuisine, along with lessons on such points as the difference between North American Chili Powder (mild!), and Powdered Chili spice (hot!). Although I was still eating animal products, exploring the foods of other cultures opened up my edible world.
When I married, I immersed myself in back-to-basics style homemaking, baking our own bread, even making our own sausage… all fodder for my dietary research. It all became very focused for me while nursing our daughter in 1983. Out of desperation to relieve her of “colic”, I gave up dairy products. While that helped, I confused the effect by continuing to consume volumes of sugar, white flour, meat, and processed foods.
What made you change your diet?
By the time our daughter was 2, I was severely depressed and 30 pounds overweight, with chronic bronchitis and pain in my hip joints so severe that I could barely climb a flight of stairs. I had trouble sleeping and was tired during day.
On top of that, our daughter was suffering chronic ear infections for which her doctor recommended surgical implantation of drainage tubes. General anesthetic for such a young child was a terrifying prospect. My husband had always had a “nervous stomach”; at this point, he was throwing up every day. After several GI investigations, his doctor recommended “exploratory surgery”.
This was rock bottom for our family’s health. I knew that drugs and surgery were only bandage solutions, so I was receptive when my former roommate told me about dramatic improvements to her health from giving up all refined sugar and white flour. That was 1985 and the turning point for me.
What changes have you seen in your health and weight after you changed your diet?
Thankfully, the very day we stopped eating sugar and white flour, my husband stopped throwing up. I started sleeping and embraced a whole foods diet with enthusiasm. Within 6 weeks, the bronchitis & pain in my hips were gone; bounding up stairs was once more one of my joys. Our daughter’s ears cleared up all by themselves.
I was so inspired by our improvements, I read everything I could about healthy diet. “Fit for Life” encouraged me to cut down on animal products. By the time we were eating meat only once per week, “The McDougall Plan” helped me to cut it out all together. It was such a relief … emotionally & physically… to finally be eating a fully vegan diet!
The most surprising discovery was finding out that I had lived all my life with a low grade headache; I only found out about it after it stopped! Colors were clearer & brighter. I had a whole new attitude, enjoying keeping up to our busy toddler. We ate MORE food than we had ever eaten in our lives yet my husband and I both lost excess weight. Our daughter’s little friends loved to come over to our house because we fed them the simple plant foods that their alert, youthful instincts recognized as desirable.
How much do you enjoy a diet based on whole plant foods?
Looking back on it, I can see that I had been struggling towards a whole foods vegan diet most of my life. My initial motivation was love for animals, although ultimately, it was many years of experience and research on nurturing human health that made the difference.
It’s been a long road for me personally, just as it has been for society. Back when we began eating a vegan diet in the 1980s, we were seen as “radical”. The Public Health nurse at our daughter’s school instigated an investigation of our “unusual” feeding habits out of concern for her welfare. Over a period of several weeks, she repeatedly interviewed me with the intention of teaching me the error of our ways. I did my best to remain calm and presented her with McDougall’s recommendations, our experiences, and detailed daily food journals. Gradually, she backed down and admitted that she was uncertain how to proceed.
Eventually, she turned the matter over to her superiors who paid us a surprise visit early one winter morning on a school day. They were two massive ladies who had to squeeze to get their morbid obesity into our chairs. Thankfully at least, they were willing to acknowledge our daughter’s glowing good health and calm intelligence as sufficient proof of our fitness to be her parents.
Since that time, we have continued to refine the details of our diet. For example, we tried eating 100% raw for a couple of years, but found we needed warm food in winter. Subsequently, we discovered benefit in avoiding gluten, dried corn products, and soy. Recently, I have discovered I need to avoid guar & xanthan gum, which are common ingredients in many packaged foods.
What keeps you going with your current food choices?
After over 25 years of eating this way, I think we can say that success speaks for itself. I am going strong, with the same height & weight I had in my 20s, even though at my age, my father was already dead and my mother was deformed by osteoporosis. My husband’s doctor told him “If all my patients health was so excellent, I would be out of a job!”
Initially, I felt rather isolated by our food choices, so we created a social network by offering monthly vegan pot lucks to our community. As society has caught up with us, I am feeling increasingly part of a growing global community with similar interests. One of the most wonderful aspects of our diet/lifestyle is when sharing information with others has helped relieve suffering & save lives.
Plant foods are the roots … literally and figuratively… of human health, happiness & prosperity.
Any other thoughts?
Meals can be quick and simple most of the time; fancy recipes are great for when you have the time and/or special occasions. It helps to identify and avoid personal food allergens. Anyone on a plant-based diet needs to supplement with Vitamin B12. It makes life easier to access nutritionists and doctors who understand plant-based eating. In general, the ongoing pleasures of good health are greater than the fleeting sensations of recreational foods.
I’m pushing 60, some people say I look 40; and quite often, I feel 23.
Deborah, thanks for your inspirational 25 years of vegan choices.
If you want to learn more about how a whole foods, plant-based diet gets you the omega-3s you need in a healthy package, check out the post Five Ways You Thrive with Flax Seeds for Pennies a Day.
Intrigued? Now you can use our Whole Foods Blog Finder to target informative, fun postings on whole foods, plant-based nutrition. Quick information at no cost!
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. This easy-to-follow eating plan is built on whole foods, plant-based diet that can prevent, and even reverse, most chronic disease as well as get you to your perfect weight. And this book does not advise you to eat worm larvae.