What would you say if I told you that you could change your entire life for the better? What would you say if I told you that the change could happen quickly and could be permanent? Would you say that what I am describing sounds a lot like winning the lottery? Well as you may already know, I won the vegan lottery on the 28th of October 2013, when I became vegan.
Throughout the past several months, I have written a column in this magazine and have shared the story of how that one life change has changed every aspect of my life, and the lives of the people around me. I have been freed in a way that I never dreamed possible.
Since that faithful day in October 2013, I have released over 225 pounds of weight. Did you notice that I didn’t say that I lost weight? People lose weight all the time, using the current fad diet on the market. The problem is that most people find the weight that they lost, plus more. I’ve learned since switching to a whole food plant-based vegan diet that - unlike every other diet I have come across, the true nature of a vegan diet is that it’s not really a “diet” at all, at least not in the way that most people define the word. During my journey I never once counted calories, nor did I have to worry about portion control. In fact, I still eat about every three hours or so to this day. The difference is what I am eating.
Being vegan is not a diet; it’s a lifestyle. It’s the kind of lifestyle that has a profound effect on not only who we are as individuals, but everything and everyone we encounter. It’s good for people, great for the planet, and amazing for other earthlings we share the planet with too. And, when I say I won the vegan lottery, I am not just referring to the change I experienced with my physical health. I am also referring to the affect my new vegan lifestyle had on every aspect of my life.
Even if you are familiar with my story, you may not know that my entire journey began because of the vision of the co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. John Mackey’s decision to start the Immersion Program at Whole Foods Market has not only changed my life in ways I never imagined, it has literally changed the lives of thousands of other Whole Foods Market team members. The Immersion Program provided a way out to those of us who had long ago lost hope.
When I was morbidly obese, I thought that because I had spent years abusing my body that there was no way that I could ever hope to reverse all the damage I had done to myself. I also thought that even if I could fix things, it would take me the rest of my life to do it. This could not have been further from the truth. The Immersion Program I entered as a Whole Foods Market team member taught me that food is powerful. I could decide what kind of power I allowed food to have in my life. If I continued to eat meat and lots of processed foods, then food would continue to have a very negative affect on my life. When I switched to a whole food plant-based vegan diet, food literally became the medicine that healed my body and reversed diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetic neuropathy. I used to believe that all of these diseases were my burdens to bear, because of my family history.
Milan on the set of his new film “Eating You Alive”
Dr. Scott Stoll worked with me during my Immersion Program, and taught me that I was in control of my destiny. This very simple lesson ended up changing the trajectory of my entire life. Since beginning my journey a little over two years ago I have written a book entitled “The Change,” which is published by Square One Publishing out of New York. I have also launched a vegan food brand called Full Flavor Vegan in January 2016. The brand focuses on creating healthy, compassionate food products that are not only good for you – they are good to your taste buds. We believe that living a compassionate vegan lifestyle doesn’t mean bland and boring. We introduced four amazing organic spice blends that are free of oil, salt, and refined sugar. Anytime, Bold, Family Secret and Sweet and Savory will allow anyone who tries them to truly experience what it means to free your taste buds.
Finally, I was afforded the opportunity to share my vegan journey on the big screen in the highly anticipated documentary film “Eating You Alive.” The film features Hollywood heavy-hitters James Cameron (Avatar) and Samuel L. Jackson as well as just about every noted doctor in the field of whole food plant-based vegan nutrition. All of this has happened because Whole Foods Market chose to offer a program to its team members that truly provided a chance for sustainable change. I say to John Mackey and the entire Whole Foods Market company – Thank you! Thank you for the Immersion Program. Thank you for all the support after the Immersion Program ended. Thank you - for helping me to get my life back.
As I said at the beginning of this article – I have won the vegan lottery. The crazy thing is – so can you! Unlike most lotteries, the vegan lottery is a sure thing for everyone. If you commit fully to the lifestyle, you are truly guaranteed to see positive changes in your life and the lives of everyone and everything with whom you come in contact. I am not just talking about your physical health either; I am talking about every aspect of your life. From your career to your relationships, you will see just how powerful living a compassionate lifestyle can be. Free your mind, body and soul – Go vegan!
The Doctor’s Corner
by Dr. Scott Stoll
Milan and I first met at my Health Immersion in Naples, Florida. He was a bigger than life personality who received more than he ever expected during that week. The Immersion altered not only his weight, reversed his diseases, and restored energy and vitality, but it also brought emotional healing, changed his relationship with his wife and son, and through the change redirected his life.
The Health Immersion concept is not a new idea without solid scientific foundations. In 1975 an unlikely inventor opened the first four-week-long residential Immersion Program. Nathan Pritikin personally overcame severe heart disease that he was diagnosed with at age 41. Through diet and lifestyle he lowered his cholesterol from 300 to 120. His experience motivated him to help others. As he said in an interview, “All I am trying to do is wipe out heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.” Today more than 100 studies have been published on his results demonstrating that with diet and lifestyle intervention the most common and destructive diseases can be reversed. For example, 74-percent of type 2 diabetic patients were able to discontinue all their medications in just four weeks and 44-percent of those on insulin were off insulin in the same time period. (1) The immersion concept evolved under John Mackey, the co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. He developed one-week Immersions to help improve the health of the Whole Foods Team Members who were facing lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. While I was serving on the Whole Foods Scientific and Medical Advisory Board, I was asked to host one of the four week-long Total Health Immersions.
Do they work? A 2014 study examining 1703 participants found that blood pressure, total cholesterol, blood sugars, and cardiovascular risk improved significantly in just one week. Of the participants that entered the program on medications for high blood pressure and elevated blood sugars (Type 2 diabetes), 86.5-percent of those on high blood pressure medications and 90.7-percent on diabetic medications reduced or discontinued their medications at the conclusion of the 7-day Immersion. (2) If this were a medication, it would be touted as the greatest scientific discovery of the century and everyone would race to buy the stock before it skyrocketed to the top of Wall Street. There is no other comparable intervention that can consistently produce outcomes like those documented in these studies.
You may be wondering at this point, What is a health immersion? And, why are they so successful?
The one-week Health Immersion is a unique opportunity for people to step back from busy schedules, habits, food environments, and the stressors and pressures and life and re-capture perspective, vision, inspiration, and motivation. They learn how good it feels to take care of their bodies with the right foods. It is also a comprehensive health education program that includes the most up-to-date science on nutrition, achievable exercise (or as we like to say “movement,”) culinary re-education, encouragement, coaching, and vision casting. Food is the centerpiece. Delicious, healing food is prepared by a trained culinary team that not only satisfies the palate, but also fulfills the needs of the body. It is a fun and unique transformational week evidenced by the incredible stories of people who have altered the trajectory of their lives in just one week. Symptoms of diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, headaches, heart disease, sleep apnea, arthritic pain, chronic constipation, irritable bowel disease, and reflux, to name just a few ailments, frequently resolve after applying the principles taught during the week.
Milan is not unique, but he is a living testimony of the power that each of us has within us to make a different choice than the one we made yesterday. Like Milan, you too can choose a plant-based diet. You can release emotional burdens and find healing. You can move more each day. You can fire stress and hire gratitude, and live each day more joyfully.
1. Barnard RJ, Massey MR, Cherny S, O’Brien LT, Pritikin N:Long-term use of a high-complex-carbohydrate, high-fiber, low-fat diet and exercise in the treatment of NIDDM patients.Diabetes Care1983,6:268–273.
2. McDougall, John, and Laurie E. Thomas. "Effects of 7 days on an ad libitum low-fat vegan diet: the McDougall Program cohort." Nutrition journal 13.1 (2014): 1-7.