Are Vegans Aliens? A Jamaican’s Perspective

When I decided that being a Vegan offered me the best chance of stopping and overcoming heart disease, I had no idea of the personal and practical challenges I would have encountered.

I decided to go cold turkey. No gradual phasing out of the old, but went straight into the new. I considered my situation desperate.

During the first three weeks I felt as if I was a man eating grass. I hated the taste of vegetables. I longed for meat, dairy and all the unhealthy food I loved so dearly.  In following the diet prescribed by Dr. C. Esselstyn, in his book entitled “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”, I first understood that I had to stop eating food cooked in oil. I needed to stop eating meat, including chicken and fish, which I ate mostly. Cashew nuts which I loved so much, was a no no, and so were all other nuts, because I was diagnosed with Heart disease.

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Book on Amazon

The food industry in Jamaica, is not really geared to assist FAT free vegetarians. Packaged and processed food became a challenge. Only food having little or no fat content was recommended, leaving me very little choice. I felt like an Alien. When I told people about my new diet, they looked at me in a strange way. I remember sitting at lunch with some friends in a hotel. The table was well decorated with food including some attractive looking pastries. As I shared about my diet and the positive effects it was having on me, a colleague interrupted my sharing and asked someone to pass him a slice of cake, before I converted him.

At family Christmas dinners, I often felt out of place, because vegetarian meals were prepared specially for me as the odd one out. Whenever I stayed at hotels, I had to meet with the Chefs and ask for specially prepared meals which met my specifications. What is even worse is that sometimes I was told that all food items met my requirements, only to discover otherwise. Recently I spent three nights in a hotel, during which I was reassured that the stipulated Fat free vegetarian requirements were all met. About three days later I did a blood test, the results of which showed that my LDL cholesterol level had gone up.

Often when leaving home, I have to carry snacks and other food preparations to ensure that I have healthy food available for the day.

Despite the challenges I am committed to stay the course. As far as I am concerned I have no alternative. For my life to be sustained in a healthy way, I must continue to eat healthy. My wife has discovered many tasty vegetarian recipes and has created some herself. While admitting it is always good to enjoy what you eat, the bottom line is that I am eating for health, and I am not going to allow tasty unhealthy food to cause my health to deteriorate any further.  Phillipians 4:13 declares, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength. With God’s help I will succeed.



Shocked and Frightened  

In September 2011, it was officially confirmed that I had heart disease. Results of tests conducted indicated that I had an ejection fraction of 25%, indicative of blockages being present in my cardiovascular system. All of a sudden it seemed as if I was facing death, because the end seemed near. As a Christian my faith was challenged. I cried out to God.

I did not expect such results. All my life I had been active athletically, and in my latter years I had taken up bicycle riding and walked regularly with my wife. Furthermore, my body weight was 140 pounds, a reasonable weight for someone 5 feet eight inches tall.

I thought I was eating in a fairly healthy way. I ate mostly chicken, and to a lesser extent fish. All my meals at home were prepared with olive oil, when cooked with oil, but I often preferred to have meat that had been grilled or barbequed. However, I had an insatiable appetite for sweets. This included juices, cakes, chocolates, and other deserts, a      lifestyle that was encouraged by the fact that I did not easily put on weight.

Medical Solutions not very positive

Medical options, such as stents and bypass surgery did not offer much hope. They were very expensive and represented temporary solutions, as they did not guarantee that these procedures would not need to be repeated in the future. My research findings suggested that unless there was a radical change in lifestyle, heart disease would continue to develop with catastrophic consequences.

Lifestyle Change   

My wife brought my attention to a CNN documentary, in which President Bill Clinton was sharing his experience of having undergone quadruple bypass surgery, because of blockages which developed in his heart due to his previous diet which included an insatiable appetite for hot dogs. He further shared that he had since adopted a vegetarian diet in which he followed the recommendations of Dr Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., who wrote the book; “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”.

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Book on Amazon

I quickly purchased a copy of this book, and as I read it, I was greatly encouraged to read that lifestyle dietary changes, can actually stop and in some cases reverse heart disease. By eating vegetables, beans and starchy vegetables in pursuance of a fat free diet, one could stop the development of heart disease, and in many cases reverse it. It required my total abstinence from meat, fish and dairy products. Candidly put, anything that came from anything having a face was to be avoided.

Psychological Challenges   

During my first three weeks of having embarked on a “Fat Free” vegetarian diet, I felt like a cow learning to eat grass after having eaten meat all its life. My wife decided to join me in this new diet, although she was not diagnosed with “Heart Disease”, a gesture which encourageded me on a journey which I had found to be very lonely.

There were moments when I felt psychologically terrified at the thought that I would never again be able to eat chicken or to have dairy ice cream again. However I also found that the more I read and understood my condition, and how my diet can contribute positively to my healing and restoration, the more encouraged I was to sacrifice the lifestyle I once lived. To me, it became more important to live, and to live a quality life, than to “enjoy” food that was eroding my health and would eventually destroy my life.

Currently, I am four months into my new diet. I am still visiting my Cardiologist, who while monitoring my condition and prescribing medications, is very supportive of my new diet, and is optimistic of the changes which it can bring. By changing to a “Fat Free” diet my LDL was reduced from 3.9 to 2.8 in two months, without taking Statins.

Since changing to this new diet, I have found that my body has more energy, I am less sleepy during the days and in general I am feeling much healthier. In the Bible, Psalm 103:5 tells us of God’s provision of healing through good food: “who satisfies our mouths with good things, so that our youth is renewed like the eagles. With God’s help and a resolve to eat right, I believe I will overcome.


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