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T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
From 400 lbs & Disabled to Thriving Plant-Based Ironman & Ultrarunner

Walking out of the doctor’s office, reality had finally sunk in. I was not going to be around for another year. My wife and kids would very likely not have a husband or father within the year. My blood pressure was 255/115, and I was on three medications to bring it down. My cholesterol (300) and triglycerides (279) were off the charts. Aside from a heavy load of prescribed medications, I was also self-medicating and struggling with addictions of all kinds. My weight became so out of control that the doctor could no longer weigh me in his office. I had trouble breathing and suffered from severe sleep apnea. I was born with a genetic disorder called Elhers-Danlos syndrome, and my joints are very loose and hypermobile. The excess weight was too much for my already destroyed joints to handle. I was constantly on crutches, canes, and immobilizers. I was cast and fitted for very expensive leg braces that would hold my legs from buckling. My wife was actually putting my socks and shoes on for me in the morning. Nothing was working, and my life was spiraling out of control. I was going to die, and I don’t know if I really cared. Through a series of diets, I would cycle between losing some weight and then gaining it all back again. It was a vicious cycle. The more I hurt, the more I medicated; the more I medicated, the more I hurt, and as a result, I had lost my passion for life. I was just surviving, hoping I would wake up the next morning. I was committing a sort of slow suicide.

My weight became so out of control that the doctor could no longer weigh me in his office.

Every day I could see the hurt in my wife’s eyes as I grew more and more unhealthy. We were in the process of dealing with my father and her mother both being diagnosed with aggressive cancer. It was very hard to see the pain she was going through. One night I realized that she would soon have to deal with the same pain as a result of the choices I was making. I had become an expert on excuses and reasoning why I had become who I was. In the back of my head I think I knew that at least some of what I was going through was self-induced. I finally decided that if I had even a chance to save my wife from more pain, I was determined to try. Although I really didn’t care about myself, I realized it was pretty selfish to put her through another death. When you watch someone cling to life and struggle to stay alive, you can’t help but appreciate life no matter how bad you think you have it. While I complained about how bad my knees hurt, I watched as my loved ones struggled to just breathe. Perspective is an amazing thing!

Just do a little more than you did yesterday.

I made some phone calls and started the process to get a gastric sleeve. I had done the research and this sounded like the best option. I was scheduled for the meetings and pre-op tests. I had to get clearance from my primary doctor. This was just a formality, or so I thought. My wife was skeptical, but as an addict, I had become a master at manipulation. I thought by taking her to my doctor, he would assure her of what a good decision this was. She and I sat down with my doctor, and I told him my plan. He explained that he had ok’d everyone that had ever asked for the surgery. He said many people have had success with it. However, he would not sign off on the surgery for me. I was enraged, to put it mildly. I was not healthy enough and he thought that my joints would become worse if I had the surgery.

Ironman & ultrarunner Tim Kaufman before and after losing weight on a plant-based diet

So there I was, my last hope had dwindled. I have no idea what transpired in my head that night, but I am convinced it was Divine intervention. I opened a notebook, wrote tomorrow’s date at the top of the page, and directly underneath wrote “this is the first day of the rest of your life.” I got on my knees and asked the Lord to give me enough strength to change just one small thing a day. Underneath that I wrote my first goal for the day: “Get up from chair 2x.” It felt strange to be writing things down like this, but I did it anyway. I figured if I could get up from a chair once, I could do it twice and the next day, I made that goal happen. Every day, I added just one small change. Sometimes it was to just to walk up four extra stairs, but it was always a little more than I did the day before.

I started to log my food, but I really had no idea what real food was. In time my food choices started changing. I started to eat things that made me feel better instead of putting me into a food coma. After many hours of research, including documentaries like Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, and The Gerson Miracle, I gained an entirely new perspective on food. In fact, that new perspective on food soon led to a new perspective on every single aspect of my life. Since I started to focus on change my life has completely flipped upside down. I now hate going to sleep because I’m afraid I’m going to miss something. I’ve had so many opportunities that sometimes I think it’s all a dream. I’ve climbed mountains, hiked on the Appalachian Trail, cycled 100 mile centuries, run 5Ks, 10Ks, a bunch of half marathons, and a couple full marathons. I eventually completed an Ironman 70.3 and believe it or not, I completed a 50K, and a 50 mile ultra marathon on some crazy trails. Imagine, I am supposed to be in a wheelchair, and my doctor now refers patients to me for advice! How cool is that?

The best part of this whole thing is this: My wife has been by my side every step of the way. She has done nothing but support me, and she has been my rock. She too has had some major changes in her life. As I changed my lifestyle, she changed hers as well. She has lost 80 pounds by eating plants too! We love life together and are making memory after memory. I thank the Lord for my health and happiness every day. I am truly grateful for the second chance He’s given me, and I am on a mission to not only appreciate it but to pass it on to anyone that will listen. It’s not magic, but it is quite simple: Just do a little more than you did yesterday.

Ironman & ultrarunner Tim Kaufman before and after losing weight on a plant-based diet

My wife and I are now thriving on a plant-based diet free of meat, dairy, and oil, with starch, vegetables, and fruit as our main fuel source. My cholesterol is 117, and my triglycerides are 74. I eat more now than I did when I weighed 400 pounds, yet I am never hungry, and I never count calories. If you are even thinking about changing your diet, please watch the movie Forks Over Knives. Read The Starch Solution and The China Study. Also, check out Nutrition

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