This Forks Over Knives Patient Shares Her Journey From Junk Food to Whole Food
The film Forks Over Knives colorfully illustrates critical nutritional facts about a whole foods, plant-based diet. This eating plan can help you reverse just about any chronic illness, from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer. Yet it’s the patients in the film who bring these facts to life and give the movie its emotional impact and power to change lives. Their stories leave you cheering.
San’Dera Prude’s warm smile, articulate sharing, and heartfelt honesty moved me each of the three times I’ve seen Forks Over Knives. I wanted to find out how she became part of the film and learn more about her current success. San’Dera spoke with me recently and generously shared more about how she achieved and continues her new healthy life. (Note: since Forks Over Knives was made, San’Dera has celebrated her marriage and has her new last name of Prude instead of Nation.)
Before she met Dr. Esselstyn, San’Dera’s diabetes and hypertension were fueled by fast food three times a day. She would grab a fast food breakfast if she was running late in the morning. At work, everyone was eating McDonald’s. At night on the way home, she was tired and often just picked up some chicken for dinner. Sweets such as cookies, cake, and pie were snacks.
I asked San’Dera what she thought at that time would have been a healthy diet. “Salads, baked meat or chicken, imitation butter, and wheat bread – not even whole wheat,” San’Dera recalls. Yet her eating choices fell short of even that standard.
San’Dera decided to go on the Weight Watchers program. She lost 30 pounds, but her diabetes was still not controlled. San’Dera found herself falling off Weight Watchers and dreading regaining all the pounds she worked so hard to shed.
Not knowing what else to do, San’Dera laid in bed and prayed for help. That same day, San’Dera was given the opportunity to be
part of Forks Over Knives. She said yes before she even knew what she had to do or what the diet would be. She had prayed for help and was not about to turn down the answer to her prayers, no matter what it involved.
How had San’Dera, specifically, been selected when there are millions of diabetes patients in the U.S.? She explained that, since she worked at a hospital and is a “people person,” she frequently spoke with Sue Cotey, the hospital’s diabetes educator. Sue was part of a team with an endocrinologist there.
The hospital was a Cleveland Clinic satellite, so an obvious choice for the Cleveland Clinic to call when they needed a patient for the movie. And San’Dera immediately came to mind to the diabetes clinical staff to recommend because they all knew how much she wanted to be free of her illness. Why the Cleveland Clinic? Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, one of the main nutrition experts in Forks Over Knives, practices there. So San’Dera was in the right place at the right time, yet with her tireless search to help herself had created her own luck.
San’Dera worked with Dr. Esselstyn and learned about the whole foods, plant-based diet she chooses now. What kept her on the diet? “The most important thing is feeling good now and having more time
with my children. I don’t want my time with them to be cut short,” San’Dera shares.
At first, San’Dera was stuck on the concept of “no meat.” She did not understand the big picture of what Dr. Esselsyn’s eating plan involved until she really got into it. Trying it for herself was the trigger to really grasp that a whole foods, plant-based diet is about what you can eat, not what you can’t.
I asked San’Dera how Dr. Esselstyn’s diet of vegetables, fruit, beans, and whole grains, free of processed additives and oil, compared to the Weight Watchers diet she just had come off of. She found the whole foods diet easier to stick to because she did not have to weigh or measure her food. She did not have to stop eating when she got to a maximum number of points. Instead, she could eat whenever she was hungry.
San’Dera also pointed out that, on Weight Watchers, she still ate cake and all her preferred junk foods. It was okay as long as she stayed within the points. Now she was able to leave those addictive foods behind and step up to an optimal diet. She no longer is torn by the lingering guilt that follows eating a food she knew to be unhealthy.
Dr. Esselstyn asked San’Dera to keep a journal of what she was eating and her weight. The first three days on a whole foods diet, she was thrilled to lose three pounds. “I felt better instantly, from the first day. I gained so much energy in such a short time,” San’Dera tells me.
Now there is nothing she dislikes about her whole foods, plant-based diet. Her tastes have evolved, and now she enjoys the flavor
of real foods. Before, her taste for fat polluted her enjoyment of anything healthy.
For example, when San’Dera first tasted hummus, she found it “nasty.” She could barely force herself to eat it. Now she loves the taste. One of her favorite snacks is carrots dipped in hummus, which has now replaced caramel popcorn. The difference is that the carrots and hummus won’t make her gain weight or fuel her diabetes.
San’Dera is always looking to share her success with others. She is educating some seriously ill friends, trying to get them to make the food choices that could transform their lives. “It’s so hard to watch a loved one suffer when you know how easily they can get better,” San’Dera tells me.
I ask about her kids. San’Dera laughs. At home, they have no choice now except to eat the way she does. Outside the house, they can choose whatever they want. When she first changed her diet, San’Dera was worried about the advice she frequently heard that her food choices would be bad for her children. Being a devoted mom, she cooked meat for the kids but did not eat it herself. One night she looked down into a pan of chicken she was frying for them and thought “I’m going to kill my kids.” She realized the diet that’s best for her is the diet that’s best for them, and now keeps only whole plant foods in her house.
San’Dera always wanted to be an actress. In Forks Over Knives, she still has not achieved that dream, she observes, because she is “real.” Yet, in thinking about her down-to-earth, funny, likable style in the film, I would not be surprised to see San’Dera on the big screen again. She just has so much to share.
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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. This easy-to-follow eating plan is built on sustainable food choices that can prevent, and even reverse, most chronic disease.
Tags: diabetes, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Forks Over Knives, getting healthy, hummus, Janice Stanger, Plant-based nutrition, process of change, San'Dera Prude, Sue Cotey, whole foods, whole foods plant-based diet