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Benjamin Eksouzian

Benjamin Eksouzian

Posted November 24, 2011

Published in Food, Health, Lifestyle

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How I Reversed My Diabetes Eating Potatoes

Read More: diabetes, vegan, weight-loss

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IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS AN ARMENIAN AND A PIZZA...

I have been in the food business since I can remember. My first stab at it was at Rico's pizza in San Jose, California when I was 14. As an Armenian kid I was told that I qualified for a job there just by being Armenian. I was super nervous when I approached the owner for a job. "I heard that if you are Armenian you can get a job here." The response? "When can you start?" Thus a life long career in the food business was born.

 

The last 15 years have been spent in the natural foods industry and of the last 11 they have been almost obsessively focused on selling cheese, wine, beer, chocolate...you know, the good stuff that everybody wants and nobody needs!

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Halloween with cheese
 
After many years of climbing the company ladder in the world of cheese and living a somewhat sedentary lifestyle of VERY rich food indulgence I found myself extremely obese (by medical definition), with the triple threat of lifestyle induced diseases. Diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
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Eating Fondue in London 2010

I tried to follow the doctors orders...kind of... and after about 7 years of getting progressively worse I was on the verge of being prescribed daily insulin injections. Mind you I was already on 4 drugs at this point. For me that was a wake up call. I ain't stickin' needles in me! 

My employer offered a health immersion program for those of us that qualified. The way it works is that you go live at a facility for a week, eat healthy food, exercise, and learn about proper nutrition. More on that in a minute. Being the stubborn person that I am I decided I could do this on my own. I bought a vegan diet based book on how to reverse diabetes and I followed the plan for a month. My numbers drastically improved. I lost a little weight but my month long experiment ended on my birthday on a trans-atlantic flight to Zurich for a cheese buying trip.

 All of my progressive reversed and quite frankly I got worse. 

Fast forward 9 months and I apply for the aforementioned health immersion and find myself in Santa Rosa at Dr. John McDougall's program. I learned his system of how as humans we thrive on a low fat starch based diet. I also learn the danger of consuming other mammal's milk products. It was incredible the amount of information I absorbed in one week. It was also challenging everything I knew and believed about food.

 WHO'S IN CHARGE AROUND HERE?

Up until that point my main basic decision on weather a food was worth eating was solely left to my palette and my brain. My stomach and other organs whom have to process everything that goes into my mouth had absolutely no say in what I ate and very poor representation up in the brain. This 30 second experience in my mouth determined weather a food was good, average, bad, or mind blowing-ly phenomenal. I was never concerned about what the effects of that food would be on my system or my long-term health. For most of us this decision making process is the only process we have. Most of us have ideas about what is healthy and what is not but rarely does that guide us to make better decisions. We like pleasure. its natural. Its a normal human drive. The only interruption in this process for me was getting better information. This is precisely what happened when I got McDougalled.

 

A CHOICE AND A CHANCE

Now I was presented with a choice and a chance. The choice was what to eat on a daily basis and how that food would either cause my body harm or it would heal it. The chance I was given was on the one hand-to spend the rest of my life on drugs, a regular customer of the medical profession, severely overweight, with low self-esteem, and most likely a limited amount of time with my wife and kids or choose the foods that the human body thrives on, heal my body and my mind and get to see my kids grow up and maybe even live into old age. The decision was relatively easy to make on the surface. The changes I would need to enact not so much. 

THE MCDOUGALL WAY

In one week on this new way of eating and exercising I was able to kick all of my medications, lose 3 pounds, and begin a journey of self-healing. My total cholesterol dropped from 185 to 124. My fasting blood sugar went from 250 down to 110. I suffered from nightly heartburn that required me to take 3-4 tums a night just to sleep. This was also completely reversed with the elimination of dairy products.  

CHA-CHA-CHANGES

When I got home I changed just about everything. I started to cook like a madman! I planned every meal I would eat for the entire week-3 meals a day 7 days a week. I started doing a daily power/fitness walk. I was eating ton of starches and was feeling incredibly full and never deprived. The pounds started to melt away. At work I was afforded the opportunity to lead a team that was focused on service rather than products. I would be lying if I said that I leaped at the opportunity. It was more a nudging on the part of some co-workers and one of my bosses. The changes were having an amazing affect on me and everyone who knew me could see the difference. The best part is that no one really knew the most significant changes. They were all in my brain. I was feeling so much better about myself. It is amazing what it feels like to make good decisions for ones well being even when they are difficult. You feel good about yourself and for me I quickly started to feel more and more positive about life in general. That isn't really that hard to understand. The crazy part is how I got better at work. My mind was awake! I became more organized, sharp,  and thoughtful. My energy level both physically and mentally was off the charts. My boss said I looked like I was glowing. I felt like I was on fire!

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THE FOOD

As a type 2 diabetic I was counseled to stay away from potatoes, pasta, rice, wheat and other forms of carbohydrate. What I have learned is that if I choose "whole" unprocessed versions of these items and cook them without added fats my body and my blood love me for it!  

That being said you will notice that my meals are all centered on starchy foods. They keep me full, give me energy, and quite frankly are so satisfying to my pallet that I never feel deprived. I start each day with hot or cold cereal and hashbrowns. Almost every day I eat hashbrowns. Does that sound like a diet to you? I eat a lot of soup, beans, potatoes, corn, rye bavarian bread, homemade veggie burgers, polenta with greens and beans, enchiladas, tacos, and burritos. The list goes on. I don't eat a lot of tofu and soy as it is generally pretty high in fat and calories. I don't eat the isolated soy protein products because while most are low in fat they are some of the most industrially processed foods on the market.

 

Living in California I have the opportunity to buy a lot of seasonal fresh produce. That will influence many of the posts. I will also show you how I ensure my success by planning ahead and leaving very little to chance. 

This diet is incredible simple in structure and concept. Its very difficult to execute. We are surrounded by incredibly convenient really unhealthy food. When you make a decision to eat real food and limit your fat intake you will quickly realize that for the most part its a D.I.Y. endeavor. 

If you have read this far then you must be related to me or have insomnia. At any rate that is the back story. The hardest part for you the reader is over. From here on out I will be focusing on the really exciting part... 

THE FOOD!!!!

 

-benjamin  

 

For recipes and more stories about taking charge of my health through a low fat vegan diet check out my blog here-

eat food. as much as you like. all plants

http://eatfoodasmuchasyoulikeallplants.blogspot.com/2011/11/eat-tons-of-food-at-thanksgiving-with.html

Eat food, as much as you like.jpg

 


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7 Comments | Leave a comment

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Congrats, Benjamin! Inspiring!

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Benjamin, I am so glad you are sharing your story. You will inspire and teach many others. Great blog.

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Way to go! Are you on the McDougall forum?

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Awesome Benjamin! I love hearing stories like this. It's an inspiration to many. And I love the fact that at least one American corporation cares enough to do the right thing for people. So my hats off to Whole Foods.

I've posted my article on Type 2 Diabetes before on Vegsource blog but for those who missed it and want more specifics on plant-based nutrition and diabetes feel free to check it out - http://pursueahealthyyou.blogspot.com/2011/03/type-2-diabetes-squash-it-in-its-tracks.html

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Congratulations, Benjamin!

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I am not regularly on the McDougall forum. Probably should though. Thanks for all the encouragement y'all.

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Thank you for sharing the story. Personally I love all the details. I'm on the verge of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes based on my fasting blood sugars being near the 126 range regularly, and my history of having gestational diabetes (as well as family history). I started eating a mostly vegan diet about a year ago, however when my blood work came in a couple months ago, my blood sugar and triglycerides had gone up quite a bit. Near the worrisome range. I think it was at that moment I realized that eating a vegan diet (mostly bought at whole foods because I can barely stand to go into a regular grocery store with all the junk they sell) that was not low in fat wasn't benefitting my health much. So I've switched to focus on cutting the fat out too. I appreciate the honesty when you say this is not an easy transition to make, because I agree whole heartedly. As much as I believe in all the programs, the fact that I have a husband and two elemenatary school aged children who don't care to follow the same diet makes it very difficult on me. And I don't care much for cooking (even though I've really TRIED to find some good recipes even my husband and kids will like - I've only found about two over the last year), and I work full time. I do the best I can. So I found this story very inspirational. The other recurring theme I find with diabetes is many people start out overweight. I'm not overweight and never have been (although I'd still be thrilled to lose ten pounds). I have Dr. Barnard's book about reversing diabetes through a low fat vegan diet, but he also mentions being careful on eating high GI foods (like white potatoes!!). So thanks for this-- it's given me another resource while I try to figure it all out, and attempt to stay off lifelong drugs. And congratulations on your success!

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