Food Over Medicine: The Conversation That Could Save Your Life

4. SUCCESS STORIES

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GM: Pam, let’s discuss how the dietary program that you recommend has worked in practice, with specific individuals. I know that, in the view of science, every individual is just an anecdote, but after a while the anecdotes begin to add up.

PP: Okay, let’s start with a young lady by the name of Darcy (her name has been changed), who came to us after her condition caused her to drop out of college. She had started her menstrual period at about the average time for American girls, sometime around eleven or twelve, but from the very beginning this was just a torturous experience for her. Her periods were irregular and heavy, sometimes bleeding three weeks out of four. Then she developed severe acne and the beginnings of polycystic ovary syndrome, which is a horrific condition for a teenager to have. She graduated from high school and went off to college, but the condition worsened so much that she had to drop out of college and come back home.

Her parents found The Wellness Forum. They called and said their daughter was nineteen years old and effectively can’t do anything—can’t leave the house, go to school, get a job. This is quite a young age to essentially have your life be pretty much over with, so we started teaching her the diet. We cut the dairy out and got her on a low-fat, plant-based nutritional program. Within six weeks, her menstrual periods started to become regular, the horrible bleeding and the cramping started to go away, her skin cleared up, and she returned to school. She’s back in nursing school now and has had a complete and total recovery. She takes no medication. So, just diet—complete and total recovery using our diet.

GM: Did she experience any other changes? Did she lose weight?

PP: Yes. She lost fifteen or twenty pounds. It’s hard to know if her original weight gain had been caused by the fact that her life had come to a halt and she couldn’t do anything, but now she runs, she exercises, and her skin’s cleared up. She’s a normal college student.

GM: Now, do you suspect that dairy had been the main culprit, or do you think it was just somehow the overall diet, all the fat and everything in the standard American diet?

PP: I think it’s both. First of all, dairy foods are the worst for women with menstrual problems because dairy products by their very nature contain estrogen. Most women who have problems with hormones ranging from irregular periods to infertility are having those problems because their estrogen levels are too high. Taking in more estrogen metabolites in a glass of milk or a slice of cheese just makes the problem worse. In the case of this young lady, her entire dietary pattern was horrific. She lived on the typical college kid fare and, before that, the typical high school kid fare. The whole family, by the way, was in a similar condition. Her mother has also had a miraculous health recovery. After seeing what happened with her daughter, the mother adopted the diet and her health has turned around also. The whole family now eats this way. So a whole family of sick people became a whole family of active people eating a health-promoting diet all because their daughter had reached a crisis point.

GM: And was Darcy resistant at all, or did she immediately take to the diet?

PP: She was so anxious to have this behind her that if we had told her to graze on grass in the side yard of her house, she would have gone and done it. When people are really sick, they’re really compliant because they want to heal. Somehow we’ve got to reach people who aren’t so sick and get them to take it just as seriously. If you can make them see their choice, they’d much rather be well than become sick and have to recover.

DARCY IN HER OWN WORDS

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My story started at age eleven when I started my period. By the time I was thirteen years old, I started having severe pain. I thought it was normal, but then it kept getting worse and worse every month. I began to have cramps before, during, and after my period. Some months my menstrual period would last for two-and-a-half weeks.

I went to a gynecologist, and he gave me pain medicine, but it did not help very much. I had a laparoscopy, during which the surgeon found a cyst in my left tube and the beginning stages of endometriosis. The doctors gave me birth control pills, but I decided to stop taking them after two years because I was concerned about the health risks. All of my symptoms returned.

I began seeing a holistic health specialist, who prescribed compounded progesterone. It seemed to help for about six months, and then the symptoms returned. I tried lots of different holistic health alternatives, because I refused to go back to the doctors who never seemed to have a clear answer and always wanted to treat my symptoms instead of the actual cause. But the holistic professionals just ran tests and gave me pills and creams. Sometimes they worked for a period of time, but I usually ended up worse than when I started.

As if all of this was not bad enough, I started breaking out with acne all over my body. My face was pure red. I felt awful and tired, and at this point, the only time I got out of bed was to eat and visit doctors. I was sleeping about fourteen hours per day. I gained twenty pounds and even when I tried eating only lettuce, I could not lose the weight. My mood swings became more severe, my temper was out of control, and I began to develop sugar and thyroid problems. It seemed like I was very young to have all of these health issues.

Forced to go back to medical doctors, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome; I had cysts all over my ovaries. This time the doctors put me back on birth control and added an antidepressant and metformin for the sugar problem.

I was absolutely desperate at this point and I continued to pray and pray, until one day a miracle came. A wonderful lady shared with me her personal recovery story with Dr. Pam Popper and The Wellness Forum. I decided to get in touch with Dr. Popper and see what might happen. By this point, I was about seven years into my journey and I would have probably tried anything. Amazingly, with Dr. Popper’s diet and the exercise she asked me to do, in just six weeks my period returned——the first one in six months! I think I had the biggest smile on my face that I had had in the past three years. I was so thankful and joyful and I felt so much better. I truly felt relieved. My body was starting to work and fix itself, and, little by little, things started adjusting.

I have been on this diet for about two years and I am almost fully recovered from everything. Most of my pimples are gone, I lost the twenty pounds I had gained, and I have a lot more energy. I am able to function like a normal person. I will continue to stick to this diet for the rest of my life and I am so grateful for the transformation it has caused in my health. When things were the worst, I never thought I’d have a regular menstrual cycle or be able to get out of bed again. It is an amazing feeling to have my health restored.

GM: Now, most people come to The Wellness Forum only when they’re sick.

PP: Yes. Maureen Yatwa actually came to me through my work with Rip Esselstyn and Whole Foods Market. She showed up at one of the Immersion programs last fall.

GM: That’s the program that Whole Foods funds for employees with weight problems or health challenges, right?

PP: Right. Maureen, from Jacksonville, Florida, is in her forties and she had Crohn’s disease—that’s past tense. She qualified for the program because she also had high cholesterol and was overweight.

At the first night of Immersion, during the introductions, she stood up and said, “I’m overweight, I have high cholesterol, and I also have Crohn’s disease. My daughter, who’s a teenager, also has Crohn’s disease, and I want both of us to get better.” So I went up to her after the opening-night dinner, introduced myself, and said, “In order to fix the Crohn’s disease, you’ll have to accept a little bit more dietary restriction than the others because gluten is contraindicative for Crohn’s. So the oats and some of the other things we have here, you’re not going to be able to eat. But there’s plenty of food here; you’re not going to starve. There are just some things you can’t have.” Everybody at the Immersion is on a whole food, low-fat, plant-based diet, but she would have just a little bit more restriction.

There are all kinds of activities planned at the Immersion, canoeing and field trips and so forth. Maureen didn’t sign up for any of it because if you’re a Crohn’s patient, your disease is not under control. You can’t go anywhere because you have to be by the bathroom. It’s a debilitating disease. The forty-five-minute bus ride into town—you can’t do that. You can’t be out on a canoe. Life revolves around locating the nearest bathroom.

By the time the midweek came, she was well enough to do those things. She showed significant improvement within in a matter of days. Today, she not only doesn’t have Crohn’s disease but she doesn’t take medication for it, she’s lost the weight, and her cholesterol is down. And her daughter, who was on her way to duplicating mom at the age of seventeen or eighteen, also no longer has Crohn’s disease.

GM: So in just a few days the Crohn’s was gone? Crohn’s often stays with people for how long?

PP: Their whole lives. The trajectory of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis and these inflammatory bowel diseases is discouraging. There may be periods of some remission, where it gets a little bit better, but it always progresses, and the drugs get stronger. It’s not unusual to use Remicade infusions, which are immunosuppressants, very strong drugs. And when that fails, they start taking portions of the bowel out; they remove the inflamed portion. And obviously, there’s an end point to that; there’s only so much you can take out before you don’t have a GI tract or intestines anymore. That’s where Maureen was headed, and her situation was obviously pretty acute. If you’re afraid of a forty-five-minute bus ride because you’re not going to be near a bathroom, you’re pretty far down the road. So she totally recovered. She talks about it very openly, as she should since she can be a real inspiration to others who have this condition.

MAUREEN YATWA IN HER OWN WORDS

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I met Dr. Pam Popper while participating in a program sponsored by my employer. There were several reasons why I wanted to participate in this program, and one of them was that I had Crohn’s disease for nineteen years. During that time I was medicated with steroids, antibiotics, and other medications; would have flare-ups; and was even hospitalized a few times. In 1993 I had my gallbladder removed. My Crohn’s had advanced so much that I was hospitalized with toxic shock syndrome and had twelve inches of my intestines removed in an emergency surgery. The infection was so severe that the wound was left open to heal; I was left with a horrible scar. From that point, I routinely had visited the bathroom between six and fourteen times per day, and my stomach was always sore and bloated; I just accepted that this was my fate. I had to always be near a restroom. The anxiety I experienced would cause me to shake, sweat, and feel guilty because I was always making my family wait while I found a bathroom. A class trip with my children was a heinous experience.

Dr. Pam told me the very first time we met that I could get better and that she would help me figure out what to eat and what not to eat. The program I attended lasted for five days; by the end of this time, my Crohn’s disease was better. I maintained a plant-strong diet after the program and my Crohn’s disease completely went away!

For the first time in nineteen years, I am not running for the bathroom and I have the freedom to do anything I want to do. I can watch my daughter’s whole soccer game without running to a restroom. This has totally changed my life.

Getting rid of the Crohn’s disease is not the only positive change: I’ve lost nineteen pounds and my blood pressure and cholesterol dropped to ideal levels.

I wish I’d known about this earlier, but I’m grateful to have my life back.

GM: I take it that The Wellness Forum attracts a lot of people with digestive or bowel disorders?

PP: We do. Jill Collett is a yoga teacher at our studio who had ulcerative colitis. She’d been on and off medication for it. Her ulcerative colitis had progressed to the place where the inflammation in the bowel started to affect other parts of the body; she developed some inflammation in her eyes and her vision became a bit impaired, something that can’t be fixed. Jill had been a student at our yoga studio for a long time, but I didn’t know, until she started our yoga-training program and spoke with me about it, that she had been suffering for twenty years with ulcerative colitis.

Jill didn’t eat a terrible diet, but it wasn’t perfect. Remember the combination lock theory; you know, you’ve got to get all four numbers right. You can’t do 75 percent. We helped her make that additional 25 percent of dietary improvement; it took only three weeks for her stools to become solid and for her to stop suffering from ulcerative colitis—off the meds and everything’s fine. And she’s been fine ever since. She actually made the comment that her energy level was so high that she was starting to scare her husband. This had been a twenty-year problem for her; after only twenty-one days on the diet, she was in great shape. You could really see the difference, too. Her face, her complexion changed a lot after this period of time; now she just looks phenomenally great.

JILL COLLETT IN HER OWN WORDS

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When I talked with Pam Popper regarding my gut issues for the first time, I thought I was faring well with my ulcerative colitis. I thought I felt as good as possible given my condition. For nearly twenty years, I had accepted stomach cramps, bloating, and occasional sprints to the toilet as part of who I was. I learned to breathe through cramps, dress for the bloat, and I could tell you where the nearest restroom was in any public venue, including the Roman Colosseum (across the street in the train station). I also accepted the fact that once every few years, I would wake up in the morning and a bit more of my eyesight would be gone. All these symptoms were due to the disease diagnosed in my twenties as ulcerative proctitis and then the progression to ulcerative colitis as the years passed.

When I first mentioned something to Pam about my condition, I was taking a maintenance medication that I had been on for several years following my last vision loss. I took it to stave off any systemic inflammation and to preserve my remaining eyesight. I had been through all sorts of drugs beginning in my twenties with the sulfas, using suppositories for flares and muscle relaxants for cramps. I had had colonoscopies, MRIs, spinal taps, tons of blood work, flown to see top doctors, all with the same outcome: use the maintenance drugs, try to minimize stress and known triggers, and hope for the best. I ate fairly well, didn’t drink caffeine, had the occasional glass of wine, and exercised regularly. So why did I still wake with cramps, deal with the “food baby,” and have irregular BMs?

Through Pam and The Wellness Forum, I learned that I could soothe and even cure my inflamed system with just a few changes. She said, “You can get rid of this.” Those were the game-changing words; well, those and, “You can never let dairy or gluten pass your lips again.” I had minimized my direct dairy intake in the past, but never had I been told so bluntly that what I ate had such a profound effect. It wasn’t just minimize or try to avoid——it was an absolute. No gluten, no hidden dairy, nothing baked in, melted, sprinkled, etc. It makes perfect sense now. Stop annoying the intestines and they will stop annoying me. While I had always eaten what I thought was a “healthy” diet, I cleaned it up even further to become more plant-centered.

Since that first meeting, I have been careful to stick with the absolutes, and my system is functioning amazingly well. No more cramps, no more runs to the nearest bathroom, and, best of all, my energy level is through the roof. I find it easy to stick with the plan since I feel so much better as a result. I do not miss greasy cheese, ice cream, or the aftermath of indulging. Not worth it at all. Feeling good is an amazing motivator.

GM: So these have been examples of people who look better and feel better and get their lives back. Another bragging point you make for the diet is clarity of mind …

PP: Okay, I’ve got a story on the subject. I love this story. The man’s name is Barry Small, and I’ve been friends with his wife, Elisabeth, for twenty-two years. I met Barry because one of my best friends married him. I was at their wedding and I’m a frequent guest at their house. So over the years, their diet has changed some as a result of my influence; they never were McDonald’s-eating people or anything like that, but they also never ate optimally; I think they always looked at me as an extremist. They took the more moderate road to health and were able to do pretty well. They never were very sick or obese or anything. They never consulted with me much about health issues. When I was in their house, we always ate the low-fat vegan food, but I knew from what was in the freezer that they weren’t really on our diet. And these people, by the way, adopted a boy and a girl from Russia. Barry became a parent again at the age of sixty, which is a keen motivation to stay healthy.

One day I got a call from Barry and Elisabeth; they’re really worried. Barry’s concern was that a couple of times he was on a conference call for work and his mind went blank. He said, “I completely skipped out and I couldn’t even get words out of my mouth. It took a couple minutes for me to come back to the present and I’m very concerned because I felt like an idiot.” It also happened once when he was talking in front of a group. He told me he had been going to the Cleveland Clinic; Barry has good insurance and boy, will these high-end hospitals use it up. He explained that he’s got high cholesterol and blood pressure, so immediately it’s clear this is a cardiovascular issue. He overnights me his files; they were so extensive that they had to come in a box. I sat down one night and I read through the patient files; it was test after test and image after image. They spent $10,000 to $20,000 on all this imaging and testing and it all said the same thing: he had high cholesterol and high blood pressure, he had gained weight over the years, and he had cardiovascular disease that had been progressing for decades.

I got Barry and Elisabeth on the phone and told them what I thought. I said, “What’s wrong with you is very simple: you have high cholesterol and high blood pressure—it’s a marker for coronary artery disease. You’re having impaired oxygenation to the brain. These moments when you check out and it takes you two minutes to come back, I think it’s all vascular.”

We went through the low-fat vegan diet, and he listened hard because he was scared. He said, “I’ve got kids, I’ve got to get myself squared away.” Fear can be a really good motivator. He said, “I promise I will do everything starting with the next morsel I put into my mouth. You’ll get my complete cooperation; I’m going to do this thing.” It didn’t take very long. He went back to his doctor after about three months. He had lost twenty-five pounds. He said he had to go out and buy all new clothes. All of those thought and speech symptoms he was having totally disappeared. Within three months, he went back to the doctor at the Cleveland Clinic and went off all his blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering meds. His cholesterol dropped like a rock and his blood pressure was healthfully low to normal. The doctor did the brachial artery tourniquet test on him and told Barry, “I think there’s a mistake. Last time you were in here you had advancing coronary artery disease and now, my God, it’s like you have the arteries of an eighteen-year-old.” And so they did the test again and it was exactly the same result. Barry completely reversed his coronary artery disease.

And he tells me that every time people see him now, they say, “Oh my God, what did you do? What happened to you? You look fabulous!” And Elisabeth was never really overweight, but because the family converted to the diet, she’s also dropped a few pounds. They look like a Hollywood couple now. They’re just in phenomenal shape and, of course, they’ve got kids in high school and want to stay young and healthy and see their kids graduate from high school and college and get married and all of that good stuff. In fact, they’re thinking of adopting some more children now because they’re feeling so great. And his cholesterol is so low that he gets the usual response from the people in the medical field, “Oh my gosh, Barry, that cholesterol is so low it’s probably dangerous.” He laughs. He read Rip Esselstyn’s book and he trusts me. So he laughs. He says, “Yeah, yeah, four months ago my cholesterol was high like you think it ought to be. I was a candidate for bypass surgery. Now you’re telling me you want me to go back there?”

GM: He sounds like a good case of someone who’s seen too many doctors.

PP: Yeah. While I don’t discourage people from seeing doctors, many just need to be taught the diet. What Barry needed was not more doctors; he needed to get the salmon and the olive oil out of the house and to stop fooling himself. He just needed to stop all that stuff; it’s amazing how fast people get better if they do. One of the reasons why that’s a favorite story is because everybody in our field wants to help the people close to them, but it can be very frustrating when people who are complete strangers listen to you and heal, while the people who are closest to you are harder to reach. You’d like to say something, but you don’t want to lecture them every time you see them. I love these people. I’ve known Elisabeth for twenty-something years and I’ve known Barry for half that time; it would be devastating to me if something happened to either of them. So, you know, these are close, close friends. Now he’s better, and that makes me very happy. But sometimes you have to wait until the time is right.

BARRY SMALL IN HIS OWN WORDS

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I am sixty-three years old. I have had high cholesterol, hypertension, and weight problems for several years and they had been getting worse. In August 2010, my total cholesterol was 264, my LDL was 186, and my triglycerides were 147. I was being medicated for these conditions, but my health was continuing to deteriorate.

In September 2010, I was told that I was getting close to needing bypass surgery. This was not something I was willing to do; I have a great wife and two great kids who need their dad. My health risks had to be addressed, so I decided to look into other options.

My wife, Elisabeth, and I have known Dr. Pam Popper for many years; Pam’s a close family friend. She had influenced our eating habits over the years. We talked often about how powerful diet could be in preventing and treating disease. But we had never really made the great leap to being vegan or near-vegan. Now, though, faced with the prospect of worsening health and a surgery I did not want to have, I decided to talk to her about my health.

I sent her my blood tests and other medical information and on December 2, 2010, she called me to give her recommendations. I’ll never forget what Pam said to me: “Are you ready to do what it takes to get better?” I respected her opinion, so when she said, “Never let another bite of animal food, processed food, or oil pass your lips again,” that was when I immediately became an oil-free vegan.

Only ninety days later, I went to my family physician to get a lipid profile blood test. A few days later, he called me to come in and review the results. In his office, the first thing he said was, “Hippocrates was right! Food is your medicine.” My cholesterol went from 197 (on medication) to 157. He also did an arterial elasticity test, and it showed that I once again had flexible arteries. He said it was completely different from my test a few months earlier.

The weight loss was also impressive. After ninety days, I had trimmed down from a size 38-inch waist to a 33-inch waist. I am now the weight I was in college forty-five years ago. I now take no medications, and people constantly tell me I look twenty years younger than I used to.

It was amazing to me that a problem that I had been dealing with for twenty years vanished in only ninety days on a plant-based diet.

PP: I met Patty Yeager in Las Vegas a few years ago; when we first met, she was very overweight. After my visit, she became a Wellness Forum member and learned our eating plan. I was in Las Vegas the following year for a Forks Over Knives screening, and Patty was there. She had lost so much weight and changed so much I walked right by her and did not recognize her. Patty was always attractive, even when she was overweight, but when she lost the weight, she became drop-dead gorgeous.

PATTY YEAGER IN HER OWN WORDS

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I took the Wellness 101 class about a year and a half ago, and my eating habits started changing as soon as I started taking the classes. One of the first things I did was to get rid of all processed foods in my pantry. I had already stopped eating most meat, but after only two weeks, I decided to eliminate fish, too. The last thing I gave up was dairy. I was a frozen yogurt addict, but was really surprised when I decided to treat myself to it a few months after giving it up—it tasted awful! It was the same for so many things that were a part of my regular diet, like soda pop, cheese, yogurt, and other foods. I had heard over and over that your taste buds change, but I really didn’t believe it until it happened to me. I am now so attuned to my body that when I have that occasional treat, like a candy bar, I can immediately feel my body turning into a sugar-craving machine for the next few days. In fact, I used to feel that way ALL the time and I’m so glad I no longer live feeling that way! Usually after the sugar craving, a feeling of sluggishness would follow, and I found myself not wanting to do much of anything. I am SO happy not to be in that cycle anymore!

Probably the most surprising thing I learned in the Wellness 101 class was that I could eat a significantly larger quantity of the right foods and still lose weight. By learning the RIGHT things to eat, you never really overindulge and you feel satisfied. In fact, I feel like I eat all the time and I’ve never looked better or felt healthier.

I was fortunate that I did not have any pending “medical health problems” and that I was doing this for prevention purposes for my kids and for myself, but I was concerned about extra weight I had put on. I definitely have lost weight, I am never tired, and I feel good all the time. It is interesting that when you feel this way, you notice even more how many people around you are always tired, complaining, have a negative attitude, and are always running to their doctor to have prescriptions filled for every little ache and pain. I KNOW that a change in nutrition would turn ALL of that around. My mind feels clearer and my body feels healthy. I am never sick and I am never ever tired. I want everyone to feel the way I do, which is why I am headed down the path to share this lifestyle with as many people as I can! I feel very blessed to have learned this information before I was in the sick care system and I feel doubly blessed that my children will live their whole lives with these healthy habits!

When I was asked what is my favorite dish or food, I can definitely say it’s a tie between my morning smoothies and a big brown rice bowl, both of which are amazing and SO filling! Did I mention——I’m never hungry!

Being a single mom with four children, I do make an effort to get at least seven hours of sleep and I work out at least five to six times a week. I hike, bike, run (well more like a slow jog, but at least I try), attend yoga classes, and lift weights. The better you start to feel, the MORE you want to do physical activity and you actually see and feel the difference in your mind and body when you don’t get the workout in.

When asked how my family and friends have responded to my new habits, I can honestly say, “Some have and some have not.” Sometimes, as we know, the people who need the help the most are the most resistant. I have learned that strong-arming someone into this lifestyle, if they are not ready to hear the information, will never work. I have chosen instead to live by example. I think people who meet me and feel the energy and happiness that I exude——largely because of this plant-strong lifestyle——will get people who want a change to ask for the help and get educated and make the change. I know for sure that if I CAN DO IT, anyone can!

Finally, when I was asked what advice do I have for other people who are considering becoming Wellness Forum members, I can say without hesitation there is nothing to lose. Get the education, then decide, make small changes, make big changes, DO something. If you continue to do what you have always done you will continue to get the same results. Why not try something that WORKS?

I am very fortunate to have come in contact with The Wellness Forum and Dr. Popper. Everyone should take advantage of the opportunity and make a life-altering decision to not only “look” healthy but BE healthy!

PP: Martin (his name has been changed) is a restaurant manager in his fifties who lives in California. He has hepatitis C and was advised to undertake interferon therapy because his viral load was very, very high and escalating. His liver enzymes were up. If you look at the track record for interferon therapy for hepatitis C, it’s effective about 40 percent of the time, and the side effects are horrible. So you’ve got a 60 percent failure rate and you’re stuck with the side effects. Martin decided that he didn’t want to do it and called me.

We put him on a low-fat vegan diet, to which he has been faithfully compliant. Martin’s really good about it. Long story short, even his traditional docs leave him alone now because nothing’s changed; his disease hasn’t progressed at all. This is an instructive story not only because the diet worked so well but also because it reminds you that the disease can kill you only if it progresses. Even if your enzymes are still elevated and your viral load is a little high, it’s not going anywhere; you’ll probably live to ninety-five and die of something else. Martin will not die from liver failure.

GM: I didn’t know that hepatitis C isn’t as much of a threat if you’re on this diet because—

PP: Because it doesn’t progress. A major problem in the health care business is the tendency to want to get rid of disease at almost any cost. Sometimes in the process of getting rid of it we kill the patient; this is often the case with cancer. Many times it’s better to just keep the disease at bay because if it doesn’t progress, it can’t kill you.

GM: And that’s a lesson that many are learning with prostate cancer.

PP: Yeah. I’ve seen a lot of people who are not cured, but they’re not dying, either. Martin’s a good example of that. His HCV RNA, a measure of his hepatitis viral load, actually declined between 2006 and 2011, from 6.74 to 6.21, respectively. His ALT (alanine transaminase), a liver enzyme whose increased levels mirror worsening disease, similarly declined from 87 to 75 in the same period. As aggressive as his hepatitis was, he could have been either on interferon therapy or dead by now, and he’s neither of those things. The failure rate for the usual drug treatment is quite high, around 60 percent, and there are serious side effects; there are good reasons to avoid this treatment. Instead of fighting that losing battle, he’s out surfing and living life—and loving it. His doctors used to nag him to try new medications, but he stuck with the program. Since it’s now clear that the condition is not worsening, his doctors have learned to leave him alone.

MARTIN IN HIS OWN WORDS

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I contracted hepatitis C many years ago from intravenous drug use. I have been clean for many years, but, of course, I am still concerned about this illness. My traditional doctors recommended a one-year treatment program with interferon, but I was reluctant to do this because of the side effects and the fact that the treatment is often not very effective.

I decided to look for alternatives and, shortly after, I met Dr. Pam Popper at a health conference. After listening to her speak, I was convinced that diet was a big influence on health and decided to consult with her. After doing so, I adopted the plant-based diet she recommended with a few additional suggestions to address the hepatitis C. The results have been amazing. The hepatitis C has been arrested (my viral load decreased and then has remained constant ever since), my cholesterol went from 182 to 151, and my homocysteine was lowered to 8. At the age of sixty-five, I am healthier than I was at twenty-five. I also followed Dr. Pam’s advice about exercise——I do aerobic exercise, lift weights, and practice yoga for flexibility.

I’m glad I did not subject myself to drug treatment——the results from the diet are much better, and there were no risks involved.

PP: Ellen Seigel is an interesting story. There are two reasons I wanted to talk about her. The first is that, unlike most members of The Wellness Forum who join because they have health issues, Ellen really had no diseases or conditions. She did want to lose some weight, but mainly she just decided she wanted to stay healthy. Her story is also interesting because her husband, by contrast, did have some health issues and he initially chose not to adopt the diet. I think this is a situation many people face; they are ready for change, but their spouse or significant other is not, which can make life more difficult.

I met Ellen when she moved to Columbus from New York. Some mutual friends suggested that she come to my yoga studio and get to know me. She did, we became friends, and as a result, she joined The Wellness Forum. She adopted the plant-based diet, started working out with me at our gym, and continued to come to yoga.

Her husband, however, was not ready to change his eating habits or to exercise.

Over a period of about a year, Ellen’s physical appearance changed a lot—she lost a lot of weight and developed that bright-eyed, energetic “I’m a plant eater” look we’ve all seen. Her husband continued to eat animal foods and stay on his meds.

Ellen is a therapist and has been married for forty years, so she knew better than to try to tell Gary what to do. Eventually, her patience paid off. Gary started eating more plant food, he lost weight, and his cholesterol and blood pressure went down; now the plant-based diet is one more thing they share.

ELLEN SEIGEL IN HER OWN WORDS

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I had been practicing yoga off and on for a year or so. When my son went away to college, I searched for studios in Columbus so I could take a class when visiting. I discovered The Wellness Forum hot yoga; those classes are what eventually led me to meeting Dr. Popper.

My previous health/fitness background can be summed up in one word: inconsistency. I had been a vegetarian on and off for years and I never exercised regularly. I joined The Wellness Forum and took the Wellness 101 class with the tender attitude of, “I’ll let this information wash through me and I’ll see what sticks.” I had schooled myself on “so-called” nutrition over the years and now was ready to take in new information. I was pleasantly surprised; I felt the new ideas were registering. I was making changes gradually. All of a sudden, the idea hit me that I couldn’t go on weighing 165 pounds. Gradual was no longer enough. I retook the Wellness 101 class and started to strictly follow the program. I also began to train with Pam. I participated in yoga regularly and lost twenty to twenty-five pounds within a short time. I never in my life felt “athletic,” so I was delighted and surprised when I was awarded with “yoga student of the month”!

I worked hard during yoga to see and embrace the benefits of working with my body while relaxing my mind. It’s always wise to keep your spirits up and look for ways to turn challenges you’ve undertaken (changing to dietary excellence and exercise) into fun, enjoyment, and gratification.

While I continue to remain consistent with this dietary excellence, I still eat a little too much——it all tastes so good. I am continuing to improve both my eating and yoga practice. My family is amazed and impressed with the consistency of my eating right and exercising. The key to this, I believe, is keeping my active connection with “everything” Wellness Forum.

My husband, Gary, was not one to be a vegetarian or to exercise. Gary had three stents put in fifteen years ago and never felt the need to drastically modify his eating or his relaxed, sedentary lifestyle. At my invitation, he agreed to take the Wellness 101 class with me. I was happily surprised that he agreed. He also heard Pam talk at a few of the WF dinners and then, after we saw Forks Over Knives, I witnessed the most amazing transformation in him. He started to take brisk walks for an hour daily, significantly reduced his consumption of animal foods, lost fifteen pounds, and reduced his medications significantly. He even orders pizza without the cheese … and finds it satisfactory. I’m impressed!

While Gary had good reasons to change, I never thought he’d ever change. So I worked on myself. One of the things that tickles me the most is Gary saying, “I’m fixing salad. Can I cut some up for you?” I have a new closeness with my husband in an area I least expected. Sharing the food preparation and dietary excellence is amazing and wonderful.

My advice to anyone who is considering this type of change is to take yourself seriously and get moving on it——the sooner the better. A healthy and happy life awaits you. I was fortunate enough to change my ways when my only problem was being overweight——I did not have other serious diseases. And don’t make your plans based on others, even those close to you. In my case, my husband was not interested at all and eventually joined me because he saw the wisdom in it for himself. Sometimes someone has to go first, and maybe that someone needs to be you.

PP: Cat Timmons has an inspiring story. This one goes back a long time; we’ve been following her for a while. She joined The Wellness Forum in her early thirties when she was battling leukemia. She was receiving chemotherapy, which was making her worse. The leukemia was also getting worse; the situation had progressed to the place where she had a lot of infection in her mouth (cancer patients often get infections because of the chemotherapy). As a result of the infection of her mouth, her teeth were starting to break off at the root. She couldn’t chew. She was in devastatingly poor health and went to the doctor, who told her it was worse than ever. Cat went home, got on her knees on the floor of her house, and prayed to God, “I’m going to die unless something else happens and if I’m destined to live, please send something my way because I really do want to live, God. And if you’re up there, hearing me, send something.”

She went to a networking meeting the next day and met somebody who works for The Wellness Forum. She came to The Wellness Forum, adopted the low-fat, plant-based diet, while continuing her chemotherapy treatments, and made remarkable progress. She had to puree all her food because her teeth were so compromised that she couldn’t chew. In six weeks, the situation turned around enough that she wanted to stop the chemotherapy treatment. Her husband was concerned and her doctors were hysterical because they believed that chemotherapy was her only hope; they attributed the success she’d had to the chemo, not the diet. She got them to agree that she could stay off the drugs for a week and see what happened; she promised to go back on chemo if her condition deteriorated. But her condition continued to improve, so she never went back on the chemo.

In time, she made a complete recovery from the leukemia. She eventually had implants; now her whole mouth is fully restored. But when a woman undergoes chemotherapy, she undergoes early menopause. Cat was only in her thirties when this happened, and was clearly never going to have any children. Well, she stayed with the low-fat, plant-based diet and eventually the menopause reversed itself. She now has a four-year-old. We call these kids who weren’t supposed to be born Wellness Forum babies; we all feel like they’re our own. Every time Cat comes into the office with this kid, he’s fawned over by all our people because he really is a miracle baby. So that’s Cat’s story; she’s just living her life now. This is all really behind her. She even testified in front of an Ohio legislative committee about allowing nondieticians to talk about nutrition. She testified the day after she had surgery for the implants and said, “I want to tell you something. Two years ago I was almost dead and yesterday I underwent all this surgery and yet today I can stand up and tell you my story. So you need to pay attention.”

CAT TIMMONS IN HER OWN WORDS

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Things were going well in my life. I had money, success, an expanding business, family, friends, a decent home, plus time to play and enjoy life.

Then, in 2002, I contracted a viral infection in my sinuses. My doctors began treating me for a sinus infection. I consumed several rounds of antibiotics. X-rays and CAT scans showed that the infection was spreading throughout my facial features, specifically my jawbones. The infection was causing deterioration of my jaw and teeth. A biopsy of the infected area soon revealed cancerous cells.

At this point, the doctors did not want to perform surgery to remove the infection because of the fear of exposing the cancerous cells to other parts of my body. They wanted to try to find a medicine that would eliminate the infection. But none worked. So ultimately, the infection mutated and spread throughout my body: a cancer called acute lymphatic leukemia.

This diagnosis changed the treatment plan altogether. Now my new doctors wanted to treat me with chemotherapy. Soon after, I became physically unable to keep up with my daily routine. I was tired, sick to my stomach, feverish, and mentally confused. I was told that these symptoms were normal in my condition.

I began to lose jobs because I could not keep up with the work. My medical bills began to pile up because my insurance would pay only a portion of the actual cost. My prescription co-pays rose to $3,000 each for a four- to six-week supply of medicine. And I was feeling worse instead of better. That’s when the depression began to set in.

My heart was in turmoil. I was a good person, and yet my life was being dismantled and taken away. Everything I had worked so hard for was being stripped from me. My life savings, my clients, my possessions, my mental stability, my health——all gone.

A business associate introduced me to someone who worked at The Wellness Forum who became my “wellness coach” and talked to me about how important diet was in regaining my health, and that I had to work on my mind, body, and spirit if I wanted to get well. I made a personal choice to begin changing my eating habits and attempted to begin healing through nutrition and herbal therapy.

During the next several weeks, I implemented a powerful blend of natural plant foods into my diet. And I stuck to it. Every day, for every meal, I blended these foods into a smoothie. I had already been on a liquid diet for months, so this was easy for me to implement. Six weeks to the day, I woke up and I actually felt better. I began to feel new hope and excitement.

Now I had to make a decision whether to continue chemotherapy or to stop this treatment and rely completely on food, herbs, and faith. My family begged me not to stop the doctor’s treatment plan because they were concerned for my health. So I made a deal with them——give me just one week. I will do what I want to do for one week. If my blood tests were worse, then I would continue with the chemotherapy. If my blood tests were the same or better, then they were to leave me alone and let me continue with alternatives. Agreed.

The doctor said, with anger, that if I were to stop treatment now, I would certainly die. Since I was so sick, so broke, and three days from losing my home, death did not seem like a bad alternative to me.

One week later, my blood tests were just slightly better. Not worse, though! I received my family’s blessing to continue my own treatment plan. A couple of months later, my blood tests showed great improvements. My infection and my cancer cells were beginning to dissolve.

One year later, I was infection free and cancer free! Not only that but my allergies were going away, my arthritis was improving, and many other ailments were nonexistent.

But the story doesn’t end there. When I was a teenager, I had many surgeries to eliminate cysts in my uterus and ovaries. I was left with 90 percent scar tissue. I was told that having children would be impossible. Well, with just six months of healing from my last surgery, I found out that I was pregnant. I was in shock. When I told my husband, there was silence. He then said that whatever decision I make, he would support me. I told my husband that the decision has already been made. God would not put me through all this only to let me and my unborn child die now. So, as my doctors explained the serious dangers of this pregnancy and the case for terminating it, my faith just became stronger.

As part of the high-risk pregnancy, we had an opportunity to evaluate my uterus. To our amazement, the doctors could find no scar tissue. They even had my old X-rays showing the scar tissue. Now there was none. As we began to try to explain this, we realized that some herbs I was taking had actually healed the scarring and enhanced my fertility.

At thirty-nine years of age, after eighteen years of marriage, I delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy. My son is now four years old. Along with us, he eats all natural, organic foods, and he likes it.

I am now working part-time from home and raising my son. I always look forward to sharing with him how to be healthy and happy.

PP: Janet Triner is a schoolteacher in Chicago. I chose this story because as a teacher, she really cared about paying it forward. She had a gastrointestinal disorder—lots of diarrhea, gas, discomfort, nausea, and that sort of thing. We attract a lot of members who have GI disorders because so many have been helped after adopting our diet. Fortunately, Janet had not progressed to the point where she had had surgeries or been hospitalized, but she was plenty miserable.

And so it was just a nice clean deal. When Janet learned how to eat right, she found that she didn’t have these problems anymore. But Janet teaches in this elementary school and felt that the kids should have a different view of nutrition than they have. In the past when she’d raise the subject, her colleagues would make fun of her. All the same, she began to talk about nutrition to her kids and was willing to take the flak. I told her that what often helps us in the schools is somebody with some staying power who keeps pressing for nutritional changes until he or she gets a chance to have some influence. So she got herself appointed the wellness coordinator for her school. She called me and said, “Pam, now everybody has to listen to me.” She’s managed to train a lot of teachers; she’s teaching them about plant-based nutrition and is getting them to talk about it in the classroom. Janet has converted her own success story into one that has really influenced countless kids. They’re all experiencing a different view of nutrition now because Janet got well and became passionate.

JANET TRINER IN HER OWN WORDS

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I was a person who was very much caught in the medical mill that Dr. Popper talks about. I had a lot of GI problems and I had a lot of allergy problems. Doctors were always doing all kinds of tests; I would have CT scans and other tests to see what was going on in my abdomen. From about the age of twenty, I was having irritable bowel symptoms, and they just kept giving me medicine.

I heard Dr. Popper speak at a conference and I was just fascinated. Soon after that, I was diagnosed with asthma and I was put on inhalers and medicine and I was having abdominal pain. My OB/GYN thought it was endometriosis and she wanted to do surgery, and another doctor thought it was a hernia and he couldn’t see it on the test but he was sure if he could get in there he could find it. I called Dr. Popper’s Wellness Forum and set up an appointment and she talked to me on the phone. I thought I was eating a healthy diet, but she said, “I can see why you’re so sick.” I was eating tons of dairy and I was eating tons of sugar because I’m very thin and was able to eat stuff like that and not gain weight. She said, “You have to cut out sugar. You have to cut out dairy. You have to cut out gluten.” She described the diet I had to eat to heal my gut, and I changed my diet that day. I stopped that night and then I started eating the healing diet and taking a probiotic.

My asthma symptoms disappeared and then my abdominal issues eventually completely disappeared. I have not had to have more tests; I have not had to go back on medicine. I have a much better body. I am healthy, I am educated, I have been able to educate my family, and we’ve all gotten healthier because of that.

In addition to my own health issues, I’m a teacher concerned about children. I had received training on brain function through my school district, which included only a passing mention that protein was needed for brain function. But after taking classes from The Wellness Forum, I was convinced that children needed to eat a better diet in order for their brains to function well. I decided to attend The Wellness Forum’s conference on children’s nutrition and at that conference I met so many people who had made a difference in their school district and I realized that I wanted to do that, too.

I returned home and talked to someone in our central office who told me that we’d need to organize a committee to change school lunches. I am very shy, so I surprised myself when I said I would head that committee. During my tenure, we changed school meals, which meant changing food service providers.

Lunches definitely improved——kids were offered whole wheat products, rice, vegetables, and fruit. The food service provider even agreed to do food-tasting events for the kids.

We instituted a wellness class for kids and provided a training program for parents. I’ve given presentations to our teachers at teacher meetings. I, of course, use information on healthy diets in my own classroom and now teachers come to me for information on what to do in their classrooms.

I tell everyone who will listen that we are educators——we teach kids how to read, how to write, and how to do math; we should be teaching them how to make good food choices, too.

PP: Some of the work we do is in employer settings. Employers pay for employees to take our classes in order to improve their health and lower their insurance costs. For example, the city of Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, is a client of The Wellness Forum. As with our other employer clients, we have had some incredible successes. One of those people is Larry Nicol. Larry decided to take our Wellness 101 class at work, and here’s what happened to him.

LARRY NICOL IN HIS OWN WORDS

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When I heard Dr. Pam Popper’s talk to our employees in early 2012, I thought she was talking directly to me. My numbers were barely good enough to pass the “Healthy by Choice” criteria at work, so it was time to make a change. Although my wife and I had tried other diets without much success, we thought this was worth a try.

When I told my wife I wanted to do this, her response was, “What are we going to eat?” Meat, dairy, and oil were staples of our diet. For a while, it seemed like all we ate was beans and rice. But gradually, we learned through the classes to make substitutions and how to shop for healthier options. We increased our consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, and we decreased our intake of animal foods. We now eat meat only once or twice per week instead of every day.

We’ve found that plant-based recipes are easy to find and we’ve actually enjoyed experimenting with new meals and foods. The biggest challenge for my wife was eliminating dairy, but we’ve both learned to focus on what we can have, instead of what we can’t. And there are plenty of good choices.

Just eight weeks into the program, I felt better than I have in a very long time and I was fitting into clothes I had not worn for twenty years. I am not taking any medications and now food is my medicine. I will never go back to my previous diet——for one thing, I’m in control of my food instead of any food controlling me. And also I feel so good now and I never want to go back to feeling bad again.

Some people have told me they think the diet is drastic, but I tell them that everyone should look in the mirror and say to themselves, “No one cares as much about me as I do.” If you do that, then this program is worth it, and the benefits far outweigh the efforts.

GM: Did the other participants in the Dublin program do as well?

PP: Yes, they did. The compliance rate was over 90 percent for the group. After only eight weeks, eight individuals reduced or eliminated their medications for conditions like type 2 diabetes and hypertension, and two had scheduled appointments with their docs to discuss their meds. All of the overweight participants lost weight, and one person lost more than twenty-seven pounds. The city scheduled more classes for employees who became interested after seeing their peers get such incredible results. Just think if every employer in America offered this program—we could make employer-sponsored health care plans affordable really quickly!

GM: What’s your best weight-loss story?

PP: That would be Del, our Chef Del Sroufe. Del’s story is still unfolding.

GM: I saw him on YouTube.

PP: Well, now he’s even thinner. He’s down to 250 from 475.

GM: In how much time?

PP: In five years.

GM: How tall is he?

PP: About six-three. So at 210 or 215, he’ll be gorgeous. There are so many aspects of Del’s story that are interesting. Let’s start with the fact that he was a 475-pound vegan, living proof that you can be vegan and still be profoundly unhealthy. Being vegan doesn’t mean anything if you don’t do it right. Then there’s the fact that he was an emotional eater; his weight problems started when he was eight. It’s possible, after all, to overeat even healthy foods; he used to overeat both the right and wrong stuff because he was distressed. He just hated exercise; he wouldn’t mind me telling you this, but he used to cry at the gym and would call me the Daughter of Satan for pushing him to exercise.

Del had all of the typical struggles that obese people have. He had lost weight and gained it back, plateaued, gone back to emotional eating, eaten in secret, battled all of the demons associated with eating, and then set himself right again. But he never went back to animal foods. In all these years that he’s been dealing with his weight, he never picked up a piece of cheese and he never had a chicken wing. He tended to overeat pretzels and beer and potato chips.

GM: So since he’s been on your program, has he had these relapses?

PP: Oh, yeah. It’s never a straight line to success. I think Del typifies a lot of people who struggle with food because their reasons for eating are different than yours and mine. I mean, I love food and I love to eat, but if I’m not hungry, I’m not going to go gorge on something. And if you make me angry, I’m more likely to skip lunch than eat two lunches. Del, on the other hand, has always anesthetized himself with food; he’s had to learn new behaviors to not do it. And he’s also had to learn to prioritize because when you don’t like to exercise, it’s the first thing that goes when you’re busy. All your best habits go out the window. In the last year, he’s gotten to the place where he disciplines himself all the more to stay with the right behaviors the busier he is.

I’ve told Del that an alcoholic always has to get up every morning and remember how to avoid alcohol, but you can’t do that with food. That complicates the matter. An alcoholic is one drink away from disaster, and a drug addict is one pill away from disaster, but you can’t say that a food addict is one calorie away from disaster. So every day you’ve got to get up and remember your strategies for not abusing food and not anesthetizing yourself with food. You always have to be mindful because that’s the first place the demons inside you want to go. For an anorexic, the first place they want to go is starvation. For a food addict, the first place they want to go is overeating; that’s how they deal with life, so every day you’ve got to be mindful. He’s finally gotten to the place where it’s not such a struggle. It will always be more of a struggle for him than for me, but it’s not going to be like it used to be. So he’s overcome, and I have a lot of respect for him. Plus, as a chef, he works with food and has it in front of him all day long.

GM: Has Del had other problems with his health that have gone away since he’s lost weight?

PP: Yeah, he had gastroparesis. Del was a person who could eat breakfast at five in the morning and it would still be making him sick at eight in the morning—he might even throw it up. That completely went away.

GM: And does he still hate exercise?

PP: Not as much. He bitches and moans about it, but he basically enjoys the gym. He likes being fit and he likes the way it makes him feel. He now notices that you feel better when you do it than when you don’t. And sometimes you dread it the most when you need it the most. I’ve dragged my butt into yoga sometimes when I think I’m going to die, but that’s when I need to go more than ever.

GM: I’m still trying to picture the scene when this guy comes in at 475 pounds and you decide to make him a partner in Wellness Forum Foods.

PP: With two caveats. The two rules when he joined us were: One, he had to lose the weight. Two, he had to take the oils out of the food.

GM: And his response?

PP: He agreed, but he said, “Pammy, I’ll do a lot of things but I’m not giving up taste.” I said, “Well, you don’t have to give up the taste; just figure out how to do it without the fat.” And his food is amazing. This guy is amazing.

Now, Del already had a business. He had a large clientele of people for whom he was making food on a regular basis.

GM: A meal-delivery service?

PP: Right. We bought the delivery service and moved Del into the building. And he was nervous about one thing. He said, “Well, Pammy, what are we going to tell all these people I’ve been cooking for all these years when the oil comes out of the food?” I said, “Well, how about this: Why don’t we just not say anything? And then if someone complains, we’ll explain the health benefits of eating without oil.” This was back in 2005. And not one person ever said anything about the missing oil. Well, actually no, I shouldn’t say that. One person said, “Hey, Del, since you got hooked up with Wellness Forum, your food isn’t as greasy anymore!” The other three hundred people never noticed anything at all; they’ve never commented about it.

GM: So he kept the same clients and they didn’t even notice the changes?

PP: Exactly. So there’s another reason to get the oil out of the diet: not only is it high in fat and calories and contributory to cardiovascular disease but it’s also completely unnecessary; there is absolutely no reason to include it. We’ve never shown somebody how to make food without oil who three months later was saying, “Gosh, I really miss the oil. If only I could have some oil on my pasta dish, life would be fine.” None of them say that; they just don’t care about it. If you don’t miss it when it’s gone, if it doesn’t change how fabulous the food is, and if it’s detrimental to your health, then why include it? Del has become a master at showing people how to cook without added fat.

DEL SROUFE IN HIS OWN WORDS

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My weight problems started as a child. I remember being put on a diet of only eight hundred calories per day when I was only eight years old. I overate and my mother dealt with that by helping me to control portion size. It didn’t work; my weight problems carried over into adulthood.

Several years ago, I started my own business, a vegan bakery, and converted to vegan eating at that time. I had previously worked in a “health food” restaurant, which I later learned was not so healthy after all. That is where my consumption of vegan junk food really began.

Believe it or not, I gained one hundred pounds within one year of starting my bakery, and the weight gain continued until I peaked at 475 pounds. You might be wondering how an individual consuming a vegan diet could accomplish this. Here’s how I did it.

Every day I started my day with two fresh scones and coffee. Then, I proceeded to eat a cashew bar and muffin for lunch, or cake, or whatever was handy——I was working very hard and rarely sat down to eat a full meal. I continued to munch on sugary foods and drink caffeine-filled beverages throughout the day and for “real meals,” I would eat vegetarian foods prepared with lots of oil and fat. In the evenings, to relax, I’d eat potato chips and drink beer. All vegan, but certainly not healthy.

In the summer of 2005, I reached my wit’s end. I was exhausted. My body ached, my knees ached. I fell and my injured ankle would not heal. I needed help.

I went to my good friend Dr. Pam Popper and told her I was ready to change my life! I immediately converted to a well-structured plant-based diet; instead of scones and coffee for breakfast, I started having fruit smoothies and whole-grain cereal. I replaced my constant snacking with meals comprised of beans, whole grains, potatoes, and salads. And the weight started coming off right away.

I lost fifty pounds in the first six months and hit a plateau, at which time Dr. Pam told me I had to start moving. I started walking, since that was the least painful thing I could do. The weight started dropping again.

At seventy-five pounds, I hit another plateau, and the advice was to step up the exercise. This is when I started working out with Dr. Pam and taking Wellness Forum hot yoga classes. And that is when the weight started dropping like crazy. People started telling me I looked different almost from day to day. I must confess that stepping up the exercise program was the most miserable thing I have ever done in my life. I used to hiss at Dr. Pam in the gym, and lay on my yoga mat praying for death. Fortunately, this did not last long, and although I hated to admit it, I started to enjoy getting into shape. I actually missed working out when my schedule caused me to miss a day.

I still have another thirty pounds to lose, but it’s getting easier and easier every day. I don’t even have to think about things most days. I just eat the way I’ve formed the habit of eating, do the required exercise, and the weight comes off.

Here’s the best part——I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life and I’m less tired as a result of doing it. My ankle is finally healing. I’m wearing clothes that I haven’t worn for years. I feel great about myself. I may even run a marathon with Dr. Pam now that I have all of this energy.

So, let me emphasize a couple of things. First, conversion to a vegan diet does not, in and of itself, lead to health. You have to convert to a well-structured vegan diet. I have quit sabotaging myself——the wrong foods are like drugs for me——and when I think about not eating healthfully, I remember my goals and I don’t eat them. I am learning to make self-care a priority; no matter how busy I am, I make time to eat good food and to exercise. And I try to be around like-minded people who reinforce my good habits.

I have no desire to return to the way I used to be.

PAM’S NOTE: Del will never return to the way he used to be because he now understands and follows the dietary principles that will prevent a slide back into obesity. Meanwhile, his recipes have helped thousands of others enjoy meals created according to those same guidelines, especially now through his bestselling Forks Over Knives——The Cookbook and his forthcoming Better Than Vegan. The insert section in this book contains a never-before-published sampling of some of Del’s favorite recipes that we use here at The Wellness Forum, and that everyone loves.

Hummus

SERVES 8

4 cups cooked garbanzo beans, warmed

3 cloves garlic

¼ cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons cumin powder

Sea salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Add water as needed to make a smooth paste. Serve with pita bread, crackers, or fresh vegetables.

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Miso Almond Spread

SERVES 6

1 pound extra-firm tofu

6 tablespoons toasted almond butter

3 tablespoons mellow white miso

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh dill

½ medium red onion, minced

Place tofu, almond butter, miso, and garlic into a food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy. Remove the tofu mixture to a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.

Del’s Big Green Salad

SERVES 4

8 ounces mixed greens

1 cup garbanzo beans

1 cup red cabbage, grated

½ cup raisins

½ cup sunflower seeds, toasted

1 carrot, grated

Sweet and Spicy Mustard Dressing, recipe follows

Divide the mixed greens between four dinner plates. Arrange the remaining ingredients on top of the greens and serve with Sweet and Spicy Mustard Dressing on the side.

Sweet and Spicy Mustard Dressing

MAKES 2½ CUPS

1 package silken tofu

½ cup prepared mustard

½ cup maple syrup

2 tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth and creamy.

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Potato Leek Soup

SERVES 6

3 large leeks (about 1 pound), thinly sliced

6 cups vegetable stock

4 or 5 medium russet potatoes (1 pound), peeled and chopped

¼ cup parsley, minced

¼ cup chives, minced

Sea salt and white pepper to taste

Sauté the leeks over medium heat in a large stockpot, stirring occasionally, until the leeks have begun to soften and brown slightly, about eight minutes. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time, as needed, to prevent the leeks from sticking.

Add the vegetable stock and potatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 35 minutes.

Blend the soup until smooth using either an immersion blender or by carefully transferring the soup to a blender in batches.

Return the soup to the pot and add the parsley and chives. Cook five more minutes and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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Tomato Vegetable Soup

SERVES 8 TO 10

2 large yellow onions, diced ½ inch

3 large carrots, diced ½ inch

3 stalks celery, diced ½ inch

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced

2 bay leaves

4 cups tomatoes, diced

1½ cups corn

1½ cups frozen green beans

1½ cups frozen peas

6 cups vegetable stock

1 cup basil, finely chopped

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until the onions are translucent, about seven to eight minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaves; cook another minute. Add the tomatoes, corn, green beans, peas, and vegetable stock. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, and cook another five minutes.

Black Bean Chili

SERVES 6 TO 8

2 medium yellow onions, diced

2 tablespoons garlic, minced

1½ tablespoons cumin

½ tablespoon dried sage

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons oregano

2 green peppers, diced

4 cups cooked black beans

4 cups tomatoes, diced

3 cups vegetable broth

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Sauté the onions in a large stockpot for eight minutes over medium heat. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep the onions from sticking. Add the garlic, cumin, dried sage, chili powder, and oregano; cook one minute.

Add the remaining ingredients and cook, covered, for 20 minutes over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper; cook another five minutes.

Millet Loaf

SERVES 4

3½ cups water

1¾ cups millet

2 large leeks, diced small and rinsed

3 celery stalks, diced small

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup fresh basil, minced

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced

1 cup tomato sauce, divided

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the millet and cook covered for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat and add the leek and celery. Sauté for eight or nine minutes, or until the leeks start to brown. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time, as needed, to keep the vegetables from sticking.

Add the garlic, basil, and thyme; cook another minute. Add half of the tomato sauce and the cooked millet. Mix well and spoon the mixture into a nonstick loaf pan. Top with the remaining tomato sauce and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes before slicing.

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North African Chickpeas

SERVES 4

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons cumin

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 cups tomatoes, diced

3 cups cooked chickpeas

1 cup vegetable broth

1 pinch saffron steeped in hot water for 15 minutes

Sea salt to taste

½ cup cilantro, chopped

Sauté the onion and green bell pepper in a large skillet over medium heat for seven to eight minutes. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep the vegetables from sticking. Add the garlic, cumin, and turmeric. Cook another minute. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, vegetable broth, and saffron, and cook 10 to 12 minutes. Season with sea salt to taste and cook another five minutes.

Serve garnished with the chopped cilantro.

Spring Vegetable Stir Fry

SERVES 2 TO 3

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 carrot, cut into matchsticks

½ bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut in half

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

¼ cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

¼ cup cilantro, chopped

¼ cup chives, chopped

Sea salt to taste

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the onion and carrot; stir fry three minutes. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep the vegetables from sticking. Add the asparagus and sugar snap peas; cook two minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook three minutes longer.

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Quinoa Pilaf

SERVES 4

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 medium green bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh sage, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 cup vegetable broth

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Sauté the onion, celery, and green bell pepper in a large saucepan for five minutes. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep them from sticking. Add the garlic, sage, and thyme; cook another minute. Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth, and quinoa; bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and cook the pilaf until the quinoa is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.

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Lentil Cakes

SERVES 6

3½ cups vegetable stock

1½ cups green lentils

2 medium leeks, diced small and cleaned

Combine the vegetable stock and lentils in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium, and cook the lentils until tender, about 45 to 50 minutes.

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1 large carrot, diced small

2 celery stalks, diced small

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Sea salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon arrowroot powder

2 cups whole grain bread crumbs, divided

While the lentils are cooking, sauté the leeks, carrot, and celery in a large saucepan over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep the vegetables from sticking. Add the thyme and garlic; cook another minute. Set aside until the lentils are finished cooking.

When the lentils are tender, drain any excess liquid from the pan and let the lentils cool to room temperature. Mash the lentils just enough so that some of the texture remains in them. Add them to a bowl with the vegetable mixture, arrowroot powder, one cup of the bread crumbs, and salt and black pepper to taste. Mix well.

Divide the lentil mixture into 12 parts and shape each part into a half-inch-thick cake. Dredge each cake in the remaining bread crumbs and place each on a nonstick baking sheet. Bake the cakes for 20 minutes, turn them over, and bake another 20 minutes, or until browned.

Pierogies

SERVES 4

Dough

2 cups semolina flour

1 teaspoon salt

¾ to 1 cup cold water

Filling

2 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and diced

1 teaspoon granulated onion

Sea salt to taste

Caramelized Onions

2 large yellow onions, diced small

Horseradish Sauce

1 package silken tofu

1 tablespoon, more or less to taste, prepared horseradish

Sea salt to taste

Combine the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add three-fourths cup water and mix it into the flour. Knead the dough. If it is dry, add more water—you should have a firm but pliable dough. Continue kneading for five minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Set the dough aside while you make the filling.

Add the potatoes to a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the pan to a boil over high heat. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook the potatoes until tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Drain off all but one-fourth cup of the cooking liquid, add the granulated onion and sea salt to taste, and mash the potatoes.

Add the onions to a large saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until the onions are well browned. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep the onions from sticking. Set the cooked onions aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth and creamy.

TO ASSEMBLE AND COOK THE PIEROGIES

Divide the dough into two parts. Roll one half of the dough until one-eighth-inch thick. Cut circles with a three-inch cookie cutter. Add a teaspoon or so of filling to the center of each circle. Fold the circles in half over the filling and pinch closed. Make sure the seams are airtight so they don’t burst open when cooking. Set each pierogi on a flour-dusted cookie sheet while you prepare the rest of them. Roll out the other half of the dough, then cut, fill, and seal.

To cook the pierogies, bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the pierogies one at a time and boil them for four minutes, or until they float.

Add the cooked pierogies to the pan with the caramelized onions, season with salt and pepper, and serve with horseradish sauce.

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Sweet and Sour Tofu

SERVES 4

1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained

¼ cup Bragg Liquid Aminos

¼ cup maple syrup

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

Black pepper to taste

1 cup Sweet and Sour Sauce, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the tofu into three-fourths-inch cubes. Place the cubes on a small baking sheet (the smaller the better so all of the marinade will absorb into the tofu). Set aside while you prepare the marinade.

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and pour over the tofu mixture. Let sit for one hour.

Bake for 20 minutes. Turn and bake another 20 minutes. Remove the tofu from the baking sheet into a bowl and add the sauce. Toss to mix well.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

1½ cups apple cider or apple juice

¼ cup cider vinegar

¼ cup Bragg Liquid Aminos

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder

Combine everything in a saucepan and whisk to mix well. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and let cook one minute until thickened.

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Barbecue Tofu

SERVES 4

1 pound of extra-firm tofu, drained, rinsed, and patted dry

3 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk mixed with 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder

3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1½ tablespoons granulated garlic

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cups Barbecue Sauce, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the tofu into three-fourths-inch cubes. Place cubes in a large bowl and toss with the almond milk mixture. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add to the bowl with the tofu and toss gently to coat the tofu.

Place on a nonstick baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the tofu and bake another 20 minutes.

To assemble, combine the prepared oven-fried tofu and one cup sauce in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine well.

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Barbecue Sauce

MAKES 3 CUPS

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups tomato sauce

Zest and juice of 1 orange

½ cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon molasses

½ cup prepared mustard

1 teaspoon allspice

1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos

Sauté the onion in a large saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep the onion from sticking. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 20 minutes.

Caribbean “Chicken” and Olives

SERVES 4

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 clove garlic, minced

One 18-ounce package “Chicken”-style seitan, minced

4 green onions, sliced

¼ cup seedless raisins, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes and drained

Crushed red pepper

¼ cup vegetable stock

4 cups cooked brown rice

Sauté the onion over medium heat for eight minutes. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep the onion from sticking. Add the thyme and garlic; cook another minute. Add the seitan, green onion, raisins, crushed red pepper to taste, and one-fourth cup vegetable stock. Cook for five minutes. Serve over the brown rice.

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Vegetable Chow Mein

SERVES 2

8 ounces brown rice noodles, cooked according to package instructions

¼ cup Bragg Liquid Aminos

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ginger, minced

1 small yellow onion, cut into thin slices

1 carrot, julienned

2 cups small broccoli florets

Cook the brown rice noodles. While the pasta cooks, combine the Bragg Liquid Aminos, maple syrup, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the onion and carrot; stir-fry for three to four minutes. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep the vegetables from sticking. Add the broccoli and cook for five minutes, adding more water as needed.

When the vegetables are tender, add the Bragg Liquid Aminos mixture and cook another minute. Add the cooked noodles and mix well.

Spinach Enchiladas

SERVES 4 TO 6

½ pound extra-firm tofu

1 package silken tofu

2 tablespoons nut yeast

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

One 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed, wrung dry, and chopped

12 corn tortillas

2 cups Enchilada Sauce, recipe follows

Mash the extra-firm tofu and silken tofu in a mixing bowl using a potato masher. Add the nutritional yeast and set aside.

Sauté the onion over medium heat in a large skillet for eight minutes. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep the onion from sticking. Add the garlic, cumin, and chili powder; cook another minute.

Add the onion mixture and spinach to the mashed tofu and set aside.

Heat the corn tortillas until softened, a few at a time, in a large skillet over medium heat. Place each on a flat surface and put three to four tablespoons of the spinach filling down the middle of the tortilla. Roll up the tortilla around the filling and place it seam side down in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Repeat until all of the tortillas are used up.

Pour the sauce over the enchiladas and bake for 20 minutes.

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Enchilada Sauce

MAKES 2 CUPS

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons oregano

2 garlic cloves, minced

One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes

2 ancho chiles in adobo sauce

Saute the onion over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep the onion from sticking. Add the cumin, oregano, and garlic; cook another minute.

Puree the tomatoes with the ancho chiles in adobo sauce; add puree to the pan.

Cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Taste for salt.

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Twice-Baked Potatoes

SERVES 6

6 large russet potatoes

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

Corn cut from 4 ears (about 3 cups)

1 large head broccoli, cut into small florets

1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 package silken tofu, pureed

½ cup nutritional yeast

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Scrub the potatoes and wrap them individually in aluminum foil. Place them on a nonstick baking sheet and cook for one hour, or until tender. Remove potatoes from the oven and set aside while you prepare the filling.

Sauté the onion, red bell pepper, and corn in a large skillet over medium-high heat for six to eight minutes, or until the vegetables start to turn brown. Add water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep the vegetables from sticking. Add the broccoli and cook, covered, for another five minutes. Add the zucchini and cook until tender, about three to four minutes. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper, and add the pureed tofu and nutritional yeast.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut a slit lengthwise down the middle of each potato. Squeeze it open and scoop out most of the innards, leaving a half-inch wall. Coarsely chop the scooped potato and add it to the cooked vegetable filling.

Divide the filling evenly between each of the potatoes and return to the baking sheet. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are hot.

Stir Fry Pasta with Vegetables

SERVES 4

12 ounces whole grain penne pasta, cooked according to package instructions

½ medium yellow onion, julienned

1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks

1 large head broccoli, cut into florets

1 cup sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and cut in half

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

3 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos, more or less to taste

Black pepper to taste

Cook the pasta. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and broccoli. Stir-fry for four minutes, adding water one to two tablespoons at a time to keep the vegetables from sticking. Add the sugar snap peas and cook for two minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, Bragg Liquid Aminos, and cooked pasta. Cook another minute and season with black pepper.

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Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles

SERVES 4 TO 6

12 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup fresh ginger, minced

1 jalapeño pepper, minced

1 tablespoon ground ginger

½ tablespoon cayenne pepper

½ cup Bragg Liquid Aminos

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cane sugar

¾ cup water

1 cup peanut butter

1 pound linguine, cooked according to package instructions

½ bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1 medium cucumber, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced

For the peanut sauce, combine the garlic, ginger, jalapeño pepper, ground ginger, cayenne pepper, Bragg Liquid Aminos, vinegar, sugar, and water in a large pot; bring the mixture to a boil. Let cook one minute and remove the pot from heat. Add the peanut butter and whisk to combine well.

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the pasta.

Drain the pasta and add it to a bowl with the sauce. Mix well. Serve garnished with green onions and cucumber slices.

Thai Pizza

MAKES ONE 12-INCH PIZZA

One prebaked, 12-inch whole grain pizza crust

½ cup peanut sauce (see Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles)

1 cup snow peas, sliced on a diagonal

1 cup green onion, sliced

1 medium tomato, diced

1 cup mung bean sprouts

¼ cup toasted peanuts

½ cup basil, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Spread the peanut sauce over the crust and top with snow peas, green onion, and tomato. Place the pizza on a baking sheet and cook for 12 to 13 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with the sprouts, basil, and peanuts.

Del’s Favorite Pizza

MAKES ONE 12-INCH PIZZA

One prebaked, 12-inch whole grain pizza crust

½ cup tomato sauce, more or less to taste

½ green bell pepper, diced

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

½ cup red onion, diced

½ batch oven-fried tofu (use recipe for Barbecue Tofu, without sauce)

Fresh basil for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the pizza crust on a baking sheet and spread the tomato sauce over it. Top with the remaining ingredients and bake for 13 to 14 minutes. Garnish with the fresh basil.

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Pesto Pasta

SERVES 4 TO 6

1 pound whole grain linguine

1 cup Creamy Basil Pesto, recipe follows

Cook the pasta according to package instructions, then drain it, reserving one-fourth cup of the liquid.

Add the cooked pasta and pesto to a large bowl and mix well.

Creamy Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

½ package silken tofu

¼ cup nutritional yeast

¼ cup walnuts, toasted

2 cloves garlic, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Combine everything in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth and creamy.

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Stuffed Baked Squash

SERVES 4

2 acorn squash, halved and seeded

Sea salt to taste

1½ cups vegetable broth

¾ cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

1 medium onion, diced small

1 stalk celery, diced small

1 medium carrot, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

1 teaspoon sage, minced

Salt and black pepper to taste

¾ cup pecans, toasted 7 to 8 minutes in a 350-degree oven

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut both acorn squash in half crosswise; remove seeds and fibers. Sprinkle salt over cut halves. Place halves in a shallow nonstick baking pan. Add one cup water to the pan. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until tender.

While the squash bakes, prepare the stuffing.

In heavy saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Add the quinoa and cover the pan. Bring it to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to medium low. Let simmer for 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender.

Sauté the onion, celery, and carrot for seven minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper; cook another minute. Remove from heat; fold in the pecans and cooked quinoa.

Spoon the quinoa mixture into the baked squash. Cover with foil, return to the oven, and bake another 20 minutes.

Dr. Pam’s Vanilla Ice “Cream”

SERVES 1

2 whole bananas, peeled, sliced, and frozen

¼ cup unsweetened almond milk

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 packet stevia or more to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender with a powerful motor, and process until the ice cream is smooth and creamy.

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Fruit Crisp

SERVES 6 TO 8

9 cups (about 2 pounds) pears, cored, peeled, and sliced

¼ cup organic cane sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Topping

1 cup rolled oats, regular or quick-cooking

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

½ cup organic cane sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the pears, sugar, lemon juice, one teaspoon cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well and transfer the mixture into a 9x13-inch nonstick baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, and one teaspoon cinnamon. Add the applesauce and mix well.

Sprinkle topping over pear mixture. Bake for 50 minutes, or until topping is nicely browned on top.

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