Bariatric Surgeon Garth Davis, M.D. prescribes fruits and vegetables to his patients. He has even set up a vegetable stand he calls a “Farmacy” in the lobby of the Houston, Texas hospital where he works, which makes it fun and draws attention to his message. YouTube star “Naturally Raw Kristina” has even gotten in on the fun, providing recipes for patients.
VHF: When and why did you go vegan?
GD: I went vegetarian about nine years ago. At the time I had gone to the optometrist who noted that I had cholesterol deposits in my eyes. Around the same time, I got a physical because I just had a child and wanted to get life insurance. I found out that my cholesterol was actually high, I was hypertensive and had elevated liver function, signifying fatty liver (they asked if I was an alcoholic). This was all a shock. I thought I ate a healthy diet and thought I was too young to develop these beginnings of chronic disease. So I started researching diet. Then I experimented with eating more plant-based foods and checked my labs again. I started seeing improvements as I gradually removed all animal products. At the same time, I was learning more about the cruelty of the dairy industry and was glad to not be a part of that anymore. It was a gradual process as I slowly evolved to veganism. I just felt better the more vegan I became— partly because the science kept telling me that eating plant-based was healthier, partly because I had become exposed to the incredible atrocity that animal agriculture has become. For the past two years I have been eating completely plant-based and have been an advocate for this diet in my practice because of the results I have seen in myself and my patients.
VHF: What drew you into the medical profession?
GD: My father was a surgeon and I respected his work immensely. He seemed so comfortable and fulfilled by being a doctor.
VHF: Why did you choose your specialty?
GD: I guess I chose surgery because I enjoy working with my hands. It is an intense profession, but profoundly rewarding to have such a direct impact in someone’s life. Interacting with people drew me to want to help them more. Knowing that I could help them overcome many health problems beyond obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease, by educating them about diet has been very gratifying.
VHF: What has it been like seeking answers to health problems using nutrition?
GD: When I first started studying nutrition in response to my ill health I was frankly shocked at the wealth of information I was never taught in medical school. I was also shocked by the amount of industry-funded and biased research that was serving to cloud the public’s notion about what was, and what was not, healthy. Now that I have so immersed myself in the science, it has become easy to discuss the findings with patients, and they seem to respect my views on the science.
VHF: How has your personal fitness and health been affected by applying the knowledge you have gained on using nutrition to heal?
GD: My life has completely changed. My blood pressure and cholesterol are perfect. I always feel great. I was able to complete an Ironman Triathlon and have gotten faster and stronger as I age, which is incredible. I have also seen a huge benefit in my patients as they adopt a more plant-based diet.
VHF: Speaking of that Ironman, what are your fitness endeavors, accomplishments, and goals?
GD: I started with sprint triathlon and built up to Olympic and then half Iron-man and then full Ironman. Before I really started getting into health and changing my lifestyle (before 2007), I could barely run a mile. I started thinking “practicing physician heal thyself.” I figured that if I could change the way I eat, I could change the way I exercise. This is when I went vegan. I have become a triathlete in the process.
As for future goals, I really want to get to the Boston Marathon. I ran a 3:35 in Chicago, but I need a 3:25. I would also like to be even more competitive in triathlon.
VHF: What compelled you to write your critically-acclaimed book, Proteinaholic?
GD: It was the vast lack of sound reasoning in the discussions that I have seen online about nutrition. I also specifically wanted to address this erroneous adoration of protein.
VHF: What are you working on next?
GD: I want to develop the Farmacy concept further. Doctors will prescribe fruits and veggies for patients, and the prescriptions are worth discounts at Whole Foods Market or other grocery stores. I want to get doctors and patients involved in learning that food is medicine.
VHF: What are the most common questions people ask about health when you make public appearances?
GD: “Where do you get your protein?”
VHF: What is it like raising your kids vegetarian?
GD: I just made the journey to become completely vegan about two years ago. I have told the kids that they can eat whatever they want and have not tried to push anything on them. But when you explain to them that the chicken on the plate is the same as the chicken on the farm, they don’t want to eat it anymore. Just explaining it to them and introducing them to the animals got them to not want to eat them. I took them to Rowdy Girl Farms here in Texas and I look for opportunities to help them build attachment to animals. I think any child would make that choice if they knew where their food comes from.
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