You won’t believe it at first.
I didn’t. The book was a gift. A weird one, I thought. For starters, what’s with the name?
But my friend insisted I give it a go. ‘Just read the first few pages. Surely you could do that for me?’ he asked with a cute smile.
Maybe he thinks it’ll make me stop smoking, I giggled inside. ‘Alrite’, I grinned back. Later that week, on a rainy Thursday, I sat down with some cookies, and brought along the heavy paperback.
I examined the cover with a sceptical smirk. I totally judged it. But when I finally opened the book, the smirk was soon replaced with puzzled amazement.
How Not To Die, by Michael Greger, M.D.
In the preface, Dr. Greger talks about his grandma. She was diagnosed with end-stage heart disease, aged only 65. Following multiple bypass surgeries, the doctors ran out of options. She was sent back home in a wheelchair, in pain, and unable to stand up.
As a last desperate attempt to cling on to her life, she joined a live-in program at a health center newly founded by Nathan Pritikin. A few weeks later, she walked out.
She lived on to 96.
It sounds like a miracle, or a lucky escape. But it wasn’t. The health center put her on a specific regime, which cleared up her clogged arteries in just a few weeks. And in doing so, it reversed her heart disease.
The method they used was natural. No drugs, no nasty side-effects. What’s more, this method is readily available to most people today.
But it goes against everything we’ve been made to believe.
133 pages of backup science
Dr. Greger wrote How Not To Die in 2015. At the time, the top 15 killer diseases in the US were:
- Heart Disease
- Lung Diseases
- Brain Diseases
- Digestive Cancers
- High Blood Pressure
- Liver Diseases
- Blood Cancers
- Kidney Disease
- Breast Cancer
- Suicidal Depression
- Prostate Cancer
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Iatrogenic Causes
In the book, each disease has its own chapter. Dr. Greger describes the causes, and clearly explains how and why this method can significantly slow down their progress.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Until I stumbled upon the countless research studies referenced at the back of the book. Everything is backed with independent scientific research (unbiased by industry sponsorhips). In fact, no less than a whopping 133 pages are filled with supportive scientific evidence.
So what exactly did they do at Pritikin’s to not only cure, but reverse Grandma Greger’s heart disease?
They put her on a whole food, plant-based diet.
When she felt better, they added daily exercise.
If you want to roll your eyes, feel free to do it now. But make sure to read on after. Even if it’s only to make an informed opinion.
The most overlooked way to influence health
Dr. Greger decided to study medicine because of his grandma. Seeing her healthy again after she was basically given a death sentence affected his entire family profoundly. And the whole experience made him want to help other people like her.
But knowing all about how she got better, one thing was bothering him.
Healthy eating is a seriously powerful way to influence your health. And yet, it tends to be the most overlooked.
According to Dr. Greger, the nutrition lessons he had at medical school were extremely insufficient. He also discovered that only a quarter of all medical schools in the US offer as much as a single course in nutrition.
Meanwhile, people are sick of pills. They take pills to keep their diseases at bay, while also taking pills to deal with the side effects of those first pills.
And nobody talks about the extraordinary help we could give ourselves if we opened our minds just enough to start eating healthy food.
The true healthcare reform starts in your kitchen.
Currently, the trend is the exact opposite. The term ‘healthy food’ puts people off. They laugh when someone orders a salad. Say no to a greasy burger, and you are ‘missing out’. And let’s not forget about the triggering effect of the V-word.
And yet, if I got sick, I wonder what would sound better to me — switching to whole plant-based food, or undergoing a bypass surgery?
Do you have a chapter?
A lot of people come across ‘their own’ chapter in the book. I, too, found mine pretty early on. Lung Disease. The second biggest of killers.
At that point, I was a smoker. I liked cigarettes. Regardless of the dangers and the warnings, I kept enjoying every drag. On nights out, on lunch breaks, after work. For years.
It’s what addictions do — they kill all your rational thinking. And if you don’t get a kick that personally resonates, you might never manage to get out. Luckily, How Not To Die gave me that kick.
It describes the human body’s extraordinary ability to heal. Whatever the issue, big or small, your body always does everything it possibly can to fight for you. Every minute of every day. Your body works while you sleep. It works while you have fun. It works while you work.
When you fall and get a purple bruise, your body heals it in just a few days. But what happens if you keep hitting that bruise, again and again? Although your body tries hard, it can’t compete with continuous damage forever. So the bruise never heals.
There I was, thinking I loved my body. And yet I was knocking it to the floor with every cigarette. Every bit of smoke jeopardized the effort my body was making to keep me breathing. I realized I’d been continuously hitting a bruise that was now at least 10 years old.
I read ‘my’ chapter three times. I teared up, felt stupid, got angry. Then, I rummaged through my bag, grabbed the half-full packet of cigarettes, and threw them in the thrash.
I’ve never smoked since.
Discover how to help yourself
The hard truth is, many people are punching their own painful bruises, and they don’t even know it.
Yes, we get hints, but there is a serious lack of emphasis on how whole plant foods can help prevent, or even slow down the progress of diseases.
When was the last time you watched a broccoli advert on tv, or saw a banner telling you to turn around because you just missed the fresh fruit and vegetable drive-thru?
People get annoyed with the constant 5-a-day reminders, because they’re too vague. Noone tells us how to put these recommendations in practice and more importantly, why.
There’s a serious lack of pressure to fully inform the public about the harmful effects of processed and junk foods.
Most people now frown upon smoking, yet still buy processed meat. They don’t know the WHO labels bacon and sausages as group 1 carcinogens (the same as cigarette smoke). And so they feed them to their kids.
Overall, we’re also heavily misinformed about the need to eat animal products and what they truly do in our body.
Serious health conditions and deadly diseases are devastating and heartbreaking. They also require complex, and extensive medical care. But there is another crucial part to that package, and it seems we as a society have been missing it. Food should be fuel, not a burden.
How Not To Die explores all of these topics. You learn more facts about healthy and unhealthy foods than you’ve probably heard in your entire life. And as you make your way through the book, it becomes clear that when facing health issues, the food you consume is critical.
Sounds dramatic? I’m glad, because it should.
But it doesn’t have to be daunting.
The bottom line is, there’s no need for deprivation. Everyone loves some kind of unhealthy comfort food. You don’t always have to completely exclude it. Just minimize it.
More importantly, learn all you can about the foods that can help. Learn about the many ways you can use these foods in practice, and how to incorporate them strategically to offer targeted support.
In today’s societal mindset, it’s a brave move to stand up for the positive life effects of a healthy diet. This book breaks down the misconceptions by focusing on hard facts and scientific evidence. It gives everyone a new option, and new hope. You can learn how to give your body the best possible support in a health crisis.
Once you’re finished reading, there’s no going back. You’ll never look at disease the same way again.
Because now you know you don’t have to sit back and wait, feeling helpless, anymore.
You have the power to support your body in its effort to pull through, instead of adding even more work to its agenda.
Start right now.