Hi. I’m Ellen Batchelor, and I’m Whole.
For much of my career I have worked in the health industry. Since I’ve never been much of a “blood and guts” girl, I loved each of my administrative roles supporting leading medical researchers and nationally known quality improvement teams. My work allowed me to be in the thick of interesting and cutting-edge healthcare without being a doctor myself.
Yet, the longer I worked in the field, the more disillusioned I became. It seemed that diseases like diabetes and heart disease were getting more prevalent, not less. People have been living longer, but have they been healthier during the journey?
For example, from the time I started in the field (1989) to 2016, the number of people in the United States who reported they had diabetes rose from about 6.7 million (2.7 percent of the population) to more than 29 million, or nearly 10 percent of the population. Another 86 million have prediabetes, a serious health condition that increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
I yearned to make a difference in individual lives, to see people get better. And when I was diagnosed with prediabetes, things got personal. I began to dig deeper into what I could do to make a difference.
How have so many Americans become so sick, so quickly? Personally, I thought I was healthy. I was always a normal weight. I have always been active. From a statistical perspective, I ate a lot more fruits and vegetables than the average American.
My first question was: What could I do to help myself? But when I learned the answer to that question, I knew what my next career stop in healthcare would be -- to help others avoid every health pitfall and consequence they can, just as I have done.
I have always been interested in health. When I was 16, I moved out on my own and began exploring vegetarianism. By the time I got to college, a year later, I took a nutrition course, and ate a vegetarian diet full time. Unfortunately, these experiences did more to turn me off nutrition and vegetarianism than to sustain me.
The vegetarian fare offered in the cafeteria at that time was low in nutrition. For example, one evening the vegetarian option for dinner was apple fritters, with maple syrup. While yummy, deep-fried white-flour dough balls with sparse amounts of apple and copious amounts of sugar and syrup doesn’t comprise a nutritious meal.
The nutrition class itself was interesting, but it didn’t provide enough practical information to change my life. (See information above on apple fritters.)
So I turned back to meat and dairy, although I also ate at least two servings of vegetables or fruits every day (and strived for five). The problem was I also consumed a lot of butter in many forms, including in cookies (I could eat a dozen at a time, no weight gain) and many other fats in many other forms.
I wasn’t the only one who was convinced I ate a healthy diet. My friends and family also thought I did, even when I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic.
At that time I thought I ate a low-fat diet. Processed foods (with added fats) were a rarity. I didn’t like lots of cream or other high-fat foods (except butter). All I could think to do was cut out cookies and replace them with high-protein foods, like nuts, cheese, yogurt or meat. In fact, that’s what I was told to do, especially when I felt my blood sugar was off.
So that’s what I did. Because I was already at a normal weight and active, there didn’t seem much more I could do, except, “call the doctor” when my blood sugars went up. The endocrinologist I saw then assumed it would happen.
At the same time, my cholesterol and blood pressure were creeping up. I was told those were normal signs of aging and usually accompied prediabetes.
During this time I was working for a healthcare Quality Improvement Organization (QIO). I had access to all the answers, or so I thought.
Through that work I connected with a doctor who taught me something new. He was a traditional doctor, doling out medications and following all the guidelines and peer-reviewed best practices. He was an active participant in our quality improvement programs. I trusted his word.
When I visited him one day, he told me that his practice had recently changed focus, all because a patient encouraged him to watch the "Forks Over Knives" documentary and read The China Study book. He’s a real skeptic, so even those things weren’t enough. But the book has more than 1,000 references, which he looked into. The more he read and studied, the more he saw that the plant-based perspective was worth exploring.
First, he switched his own diet to a plant-based one, and then he started switching others. The health improvement results were better than anything he tried before. Several of his patients became well enough to decrease their use of medications, and some came off their medications altogether. As a result, he began to change the focus of his entire practice.
His enthusiasm was enough for me to read the book and watch the video for myself. After doing so, my husband and I decided to try the diet, too. That was in 2013, and our own results have been so stunning we haven’t gone back.
Today my three-month blood sugar level, or HbA1C, is now considered normal (down from 5.9); my fasting blood sugars are consistently well below 100; my blood pressure is consistently well below 120/80; my cholesterol level is as low as it was when I was 20 and I have as much energy as I did when I was in my 20s.
The hardest part for me was switching my perspective to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle. I loved to cook and was well versed in how to prepare dishes based on meat, cheese, eggs and oils. I was even working on a cookbook with a friend -- all meat-based. It took me months to work out a system and feel comfortable with a plant-based kitchen, something that is effortless for me now.
That’s why I developed the Whole Blue Eating course. My goal is to help people who want to make the switch learn to do it with much less effort and far fewer tears than I did. The program includes a community of support and everything you need to get started, except the food.
To keep class sizes manageable, I offer it only a couple of times a year. If you’re interested in the course, sign up here and I’ll let you know when the next enrollment periods opens. Meanwhile, I'll send you the free newsletter so you can learn more about the whole-food, plant-based lifestyle. Twice a month I pull together research, recipes, comments and more that I think you’ll love reading. Sign up for the newsletter here.
I would also love to hear about your journey. The best place to do that is in the comments section of my blog here or my posts on Twitter or Instagram.
However you connect, let’s get stronger together!