Going to the doctor is hardly an option for me. It hasn't been since I left my last full-time job -- and the health insurance it offered -- about a year and a half ago, when I decided to pursue my writing career.
As a freelancer, I'm lucky to enjoy a steady stream of work and a lot of creative freedom. But independent contracting has some pretty obvious drawbacks as well. The best way I've found to pacify my worry is to do everything I can to avoid getting sick.
To this end, I exercise five to six times a week. I don't drink, smoke, or do drugs, period. Adequate sleep is a priority, and when I see people sneezing or exhibiting some other sort of facial drizzle or pallor, I give them plenty of space. All of these things are incredibly important to my admittedly not fool-proof plan. Then there's food.
What I'm really banking on is the holy power of greens. I believe that organic produce like spinach, kale, bok choy, collard greens, romaine lettuce, celery, cucumber, arugula, carrots, mushrooms, onions, and apples renders me more or less immune to most communicable diseases and staves off metabolic, genetic, and degenerative illnesses as well.
Legumes like sprouted organic mung beans and red lentils, chick peas, black beans, pinto beans, and bean curd (tofu), plus grains like organic quinoa, millet, and brown rice provide clean and light fuel for all the things I require of my body and brain each day.
My mind has become progressively clearer and sharper as I've cut out processed foods (like Boca burgers) over the course of the last two years. I make better decisions in my relationships and have better stamina in my work. I'm a week into my second attempt at cutting out extracted oils, and I find myself enjoying waves of physical energy that I can only compare to those I experienced as a ten-year-old running around the neighborhood during my summer vacation.
I didn't come up with my eating theories in a vacuum. I've done a lot of reading on the benefits of plant-based diets, especially the works of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esseylstyn, and Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Though I'd read some of Dr. Fuhrman's Nutritarian Handbook before, my interest in all three of these doctors was ignited when I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives, in which many sick people are cured or greatly improve their lots by moving to plant-based diets. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, a documentary about the curative powers of juice-fasting, also played an integral role in growing my passion for plant-based nutrition.
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Since I've opened my eyes, I've seen evidence that diets rich in fruits and vegetables and devoid of meat and animal products can bring people back to life. A close friend's mother beat cancer through a macrobiotic diet alone. A few other tough ladies I know did so with a combination of juicing and Western medicine. And I've seen living examples of people who have committed to plant-based diets for decades, thereby essentially halting the aging process and avoiding illnesses that many would have called "inevitable" based on their family histories. (For more on this, read my column next week, when I interview Annette Larkins, a raw vegan in Miami who looks, moves, and speaks like a foxy 35-year-old at 70).
On a smaller scale, I've personally put these principles to the test. A few months ago, I woke up with the slightest sore throat. I immediately stopped eating solid food and began a short vegetable juice fast, with the intent of letting my body redirect the energy it would have used for digestion toward fighting off the pathogens I suspected were gaining ground in my system. Meanwhile, I was saturating myself with an intense wash of micro- and phyto-nutrients with each sip of green juice I drank.
The result? I had cold-like symptoms for exactly one day. One day. Who do you know who has a cold for a day? Beyond that, I don't remember the last time I was ill. I recently came out clean after my roommate suffered with a nasty stomach flu for several days. In late January, I received a week-long visit from a close friend with a vicious cold. I came out unscathed and ran a marathon the next week.