My Journey & Why I want to Help You!



After the traumatic loss of both parents to chronic  cardiovascular related diseases; dad first in 2019 and then mum in 2022, I came to the realisation that perhaps I wasn't immune to risk of injury and illness and wondered whether, and how, I could mitigate my risk of suffering the same.


Supporting my parents dealing with severe and enduring chronic pain and suffering left me feeling pretty stressed and helpless. I did what I could emotionally and practically, but the damage had already been done and couldn't be reversed, or so I thought! 


In 2022 I ventured to the local library on my lunch break from teaching hypnotherapy & NLP. I wasn't sure what I was looking for but I came across a book, sat down, and started to read.  


The book was called Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease; The Revolutionary, scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD. Wow! I had never read or come across anything like it!


After taking it home and spending a few days reading it, I felt compelled to buy my own copy. So Paul, my partner, bought it for me along with a Kindle cookbook by Dr Esselstyn's wife and daughter which was full of recipes based on a no/low fat whole food plant based diet. 

 

I was blown away by the work and science that had gone into this and wondered why I didn't know about this stuff before! 


From there it opened up a pandoras box. I was all over the research journals and bought more recommended books based on the same theme of preventing and reversing all manner of diseases including diabetes, obesity, cancer, hypertention...the list went on. This 'new' wave of science got me so excited at the endless possibilities of how we can mitigate our risk of suffering so many serious, life threatening and prematurely life ending, conditions including mental ones. 

 

This was just what I needed. I already knew a lot about promoting health and preventing disease from my health psychology post-grad training, but reversing it too?! This was never something I had come across before.


You see, I was brought up in the 1970's in a working family in the north of England. Our diet was pretty varied considering, and for the most part full of veggies, fruit, meat, fish, and dairy but tended to consist of a lot of salt, oil and sugar (SOS) and we ate too much! 


I remember being at my friend's house one day after school, with her parents and sisters all sat at the dining table eating a lovely meal her mum had cooked. I was pre-teen perhaps 9 or 10 and doing the thing I'd always been taught by mum; to eat all the veggies before the main i.e., meat.


My friend's mum noticed this and inquired politely "is there something wrong with your meat Karen?". "No", I replied, feeling very embarrassed feeling 10 pairs of eyes all all staring at me "we leave that 'til last as it's the most important thing on our plate".


That was the first time I had ever had to analyse it because that was the first time I had ever been away from home for a meal without my family. It had challenged a commonly held discourse we held in our family.


It makes sense as to why and how we were all overeaters in my family. Having to endure a plate full of other stuff, nice though some of it was, before getting the prized meat meant we were overfull by the end of the meal whether we liked it or not since we couldn't leave any of it!

 

This, compounded with the fact both parents were brought up during the War where food was scarce and wasting food was frowned upon, meant we were very  strongly discouraged from wasting anything. We would have out of date foods in the fridge, freezer and cupboards! Mum was a great environmental embassador for her recycling, reusing and repurposing; she would never throw anything away!


I never thought of myself as overweight growing up, it had never crossed my mind but when I look back at my photos, I was definitely affected by overeating and was a chubby kid. Not that my folks would have agreed! 


The belly fat I had as a kid stayed with me for over 50 years as did the cellutlite on my thighs for most of my adult life! I thought it was normal, what people used to call puppy fat.  Despite over the years doing millions of hours of exercises supposed to shift fat from those areas, I never could. I just thought it must be my norm.


My parents conflated  thinness with illness, and although we didn't have much of anything materially really, food was prized as a privilige when so many people were starving in the world. 


We didn't have a table and rarely had deserts, but we did have to eat everything on our plate before we could finish with it. On the rare occasions we had takeout or ate out at restaurants my mum's adage was "we've paid for it so we'll eat it". Back then there were no such thing as 'left-overs-to go' or 'doggie bags' so we spent a long while over our meals to ensure we didn't lose any of it! 


In the early noughties Paul and I became vegetarian, and in 2013/14 after settling in Australia following 9 month stint backpacking around the world, we transitioned to a plant based animal free diet. We thought we were being healthy but little did we know that our diet was so ultraprocessed and high in salt, fats and sugar that we were doing ourselves harm!  

Not long after starting our new life downunder in Australia, my parents' health started to decline and I was feeling more and more stressed and started to have my own health worries. I saw an eye specialist after 4 years of dealing with severe dry eye and trichiasis, and instead of getting prescribed a procedure to epilate my lashes as I expected and had planned for, I came away numbed and confused with a diagnosis of a rare, chronic and permanently life changing autoimmune blistering disease called mucous membrane pemphigoid.

 

My eye specialist spent quite some time with me sensitively trying to explain a very complex condition to a total neophyte. I had an out of body experience (dissociated) at one point as I switched off with information and shock overload, it felt so surreal that someone like me from where I came from, to be diagnosed with a 1 in a million incurable disease. None of it made sense to me, I simply wanted the eyelashes out to stop them irritating my eyes!


I left his space with sore eyes from the biopsies he'd taken, a referral to see an immunologist at my local hospital and an appointment to see him again in a few weeks time. 


On meeting my partner afterwards, barely able to see,  I simply said "I could go blind" and broke down in tears.
The emotion of it all had finally got to me and I couldn't really explain what had just happened. What do you say to your long-term partner when you've just been given a life sentence of living with an incurable and potentially refractory life threatening or debilitating disease that you've never heard of?

 

Just weeks later, on seeing my immonologist for the first appointment I was started on a power dose of steroids and  immuno- suppressant treatment to remove my B cells and mop up the inflmmation that was causing scarring and damage  to my eye.


Over the next year and a half things were pretty bleak with my health. I was unable to get anything satisfactory done for my eyes until the disease was better managed as it could cause more trauma and scarring. I developed a couple of skin cancers on my scalp and temple which had to be removed. Apparently having treatment for one autoimmune condition can bring out other conditions.

 

I was doing 3 day fasts to achieve autophagy to try and reduce my symptoms and the high blood pressure which I developed. I was literally fed up of overeating on animal free 'junk' aka calorie dense highly processed food containing significant amounts of SOS!

 

After the revelation at the library, and spending all our spare time with our heads in the research trying to find some resolve for my condition, with nothing to lose, and desperate to get my health back in check, we decided we had to do something about it. We agreed to make the committment to transition to a whole food plant based lifestyle.


However what we didn't agree on was how quick it should happen. I wanted to take my time over the transition, whereas Paul pointed out quite rightly, that our procrastination had gone on for long enough, and if we wanted it to happen, we had to commit right there and then.


We'd 
talked about our discontent at eating so much frozen and ultra-processed foods some weeks/months earlier.  I was worried about my salt intake with my blood pressure being as high as it was and my doctors were also concerned and put me on some light medication to regulate it.


This committment came at the right time. We weren’t sure what the reason was that we couldn’t commit to it before. It needed something to instigate it and my health was it. It provided a clear scientific rational as to why we should be changing our lifestyle and there were recipes to help us out and get us started. 


So the day before my 51st birthday we did it, and the the next chapter of our plant based lifestyle journey had begun!  

The first thing we eliinated was oil. Over the last couple of years we had only heard good things about olive oil and started adding more and more to our cooking. We clearly had not been reading the unbiased research on how all oil is damaging no matter how plant based it is. Processed is processed and free oils are harmful to the endothelium, the innermost lining of the arteries, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease. It doesn’t matter whether it’s olive oil, corn oil, coconut oil, canola oil, or any other kind. Avoid all oil was Dr Esselstyn's advice and some many others corroborated so.


So knowing that no oil is the healthiest option for eliminating  damage and disease to the linings of our arteries and contributing to inflammation, it was an important first step for change.

The second goal was to eliminate crisps and hummus which were high in SOS! we were gorging on them at supper time and had an ever growing collection in our cupboard. We had been reducing already by checking for healthier options, but of course we again realised that no crisps were the only option!


The more we could get out of some of these unhealthy and harmful eating habits, the more mindful we became about other foods we were harming ourselves on. The healthier we started to notice ourselves feeling and looking, the more we wanted to do aka 'The Spill Over effect'!


Without trying, and simply by cutting out oil and junky snacks, I started to lose weight, especially my belly fat and cellulite at the top of my thighs. I became leaner, dropped 4 kg's in weight, had more energy, reversed my hypertention, felt more emotionally regulated, eliminated mind fog, became more resilient, and saw significant improvements in the libido, memory and motivation departments!


It's still very early days, and whilst I can't reverse the scarring in my eye that's already been done, I do feel on the right path to  doing the right thing to be kinder to my body and the planet. The disease will always be work in progress towards remission and hopefully we will get there one day.  We're so looking forward to the potential rewards the next few years will bring by us changing our lifestyle for good! 


To journey with us on our next life chapters, and learn more about what you can do to improve yours, please check out our blog & Podcast