For the last five years, Maria Perez’s doctors have implored her repeatedly to lose weight in order to get control of her diabetes and to help deal with her rheumatoid arthritis.
After hearing one of Dr. Kevin Fullin’s presentations advocating a plant-based diet, Perez, 50, decided to heed his advice and embarked on the diet beginning Feb. 25. At the time, Perez, who is 5 feet tall, weighed 165 pounds. By May 17, less than two months later, she already had lost 19 pounds.
“You know what? I feel wonderful, and I don’t take medication for the pain anymore,” Perez said. “My diabetes and other numbers have improved. They are 10 times better. Sometimes, I don’t have to take medication all day. Sometimes, I take half a pill once a day. Before, I was taking one pill twice a day.”
After reviewing her diabetes-related blood sugar results, Perez said her endocrinologist told her, “These numbers are beautiful. What are you doing?”
Diabetes is prevalent in Perez’s family, as is obesity.
“My mother had a lot of complications. All her toes were amputated, then her left leg. She passed away 10 years ago at 67. To me, that’s young,” Perez said. “I used to tell her: ‘Mom, you’re too young. You have to fight this.’ She would say, ‘No, I’m too tired.’ I saw what my mom went through. She went through a lot of pain.”
Her father died from diabetes complications at 45 while still living in Mexico.
Perez was surprised when she heard Dr. Fullin say, “Just because your family had diabetes doesn’t mean you have to have diabetes.”
She and her husband have three adult children. She is determined to staying on the plant-based diet and is “pretty sure” she can do it, though the rest of her family continue eating meat and dairy products. “I still cook for them. I still cook meat for them,” she said with a little laugh.
On Mother’s Day, they looked up vegan recipes in her cookbook and prepared dinner for her.
“I loved my hamburgers. Oh my gosh, they call them ‘hamburgers,’ but they’re actually portabello mushroom caps,” Perez said. “To me, it’s been easy because I’m determined to do it. The taste is pretty much the same. I just do it without the oils and the cheese. I still make the rice, the beans, the tortillas and the hot sauce. That’s what I told Fullin: ‘I don’t think I’ll have a problem because I like to cook.’”
In January, when her blood work came back, and her doctors said she needed to go on cholestorol medication, she said she wanted to try the plant-based diet instead. Now, she says, those numbers are down, too.
The key that tells her this diet will be different than others she has tried?
“When I heard that (type II) diabetes is reversible,” Perez said. “The doctor said give it three weeks. I said, I can do three weeks.”
Feb. 19, 2013 (at the start of her plant-based diet):
— Blood triglycerides, 206
— Total cholesterol, 200
— Low-density lipoproteins (“bad” cholesterol), 118
— Hemoglobin A1C*, 7.2
April 15, 2013:
— Blood triclycerides, 171
— Total cholesterol, 172
— Low density lipoproteins, 96
— Hemoglobin A1C, 6.7
*The American Diabetes Association recommends a quarterly HbA1C reading below 7.0