OMD: Change the World by Changing One Meal a DayMarch 2019
By Suzy Amis Cameron
The world’s complex problems may seem overwhelming, but author Suzy Amis Cameron offers a surprisingly simple solution:
“Switch one meat- or dairy-based meal every day for a plant-based meal.”
Making this one change, Cameron says, has ripple effects that begin at a cellular level and expand from there. With this one dietary change, you can slash your disease risk, and lessen the environmental damage caused by large-scale animal agriculture.
And if you’re willing to go further and live a fully plant-based diet, you will cut your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, sexual dysfunction, and obesity. Better yet, according to Cameron, there’s no deprivation involved in making this one change.
As the founder of MUSE School (the nation’s only plant-based school) and author of OMD (One Meal a Day), she offers dozens of delicious recipes, tips for shopping, and strategies to live with a plant-based, healthy diet.
In this exclusive interview with Life Extension Magazine®, Cameron talks about how she developed this idea, how it changed her life, and how it can change yours.
What you need to know
Suzi Amis Cameron is the author of OMD (Change the World by Changing One Meal a Day) where she offers dozens of delicious recipes, tips for shopping and strategies for eating a healthy, plant-based diet. The unique philosophy of her book is how one simple meal a day can save your health, your waistline and the planet.
LE: How did you develop OMD?
SAC: I got into organic, whole foods after I had my son, Jasper, to give him the healthiest diet possible, but I was still eating meat and dairy products. Then, when he was six, I met my second husband, Jim Cameron. We started out on opposite ends of the food spectrum. I’d go to his house and stand in front of his pantry and stare at the cans of meat chili and sardines and say to myself, “There is not one thing I can bring myself to eat here.” After we got married, I slowly shifted the composition to an organic pantry. So by the spring of 2012, I thought we were doing really well on the food front—our family ate organic, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, omega-3-packed eggs and a ton of vegetables. But at the same time, I had just turned 50, and Jim was heading toward 60. We were starting to see some of our siblings and friends develop health concerns. I began wondering if we were next.
One day I was heading to the gym and I picked up a DVD of the documentary Forks Over Knives. Ten minutes later, I had to get off the treadmill and just sit down and watch the film. I felt like my entire world was falling apart. I felt betrayed. The film is a documentary based on the works of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemist from Cornell University, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a former surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. It traces the experiences of a group of people who used plant-based eating to reverse degenerative disease. Watching that film, I felt like I had been lied to my whole life. I knew I had to have Jim watch it with me. The very next day, I sat there and watched him as he watched it, but he didn’t say a word. The second the film ended, he stood up, walked right out of the room, and by the time we got to the kitchen, he said, “We can’t have any animal products in our house anymore.” Twenty-four hours later, we had cleared everything out.
The idea for OMD itself came from my school, MUSE. We brought the idea of a plant-based diet to our school and transitioned the whole school. But because it was a school, we started with just lunch and had a series of talks to reassure parents it was just that one meal a day. Still, many heels were dug in. They were worried their kids weren’t getting enough protein. Then one day, my sister and co-founder Rebecca’s husband, Jeff King, who is head of the school, said, “OMG, people, it’s just OMD.” And OMD, one meal a day, was born.
LE: The film Forks Over Knives must have made quite an impression! What was it that really got your attention?
SAC: After we cleaned out our house, we gobbled up as much information as we could. I found out that the gorgeous glow people always talk about is because plant-based eaters literally age more slowly, on a cellular level. Plant-based eating increases the body’s own antiaging activity by raising levels of telomerase, the enzyme that makes it possible for our genes to repair themselves. Plant-based bodies have less inflammation. In fact, for every extra 3% of plant protein we eat, we cut our risk of death by 10%. Overall, plant-based people live longer, have a 24% lower risk of developing heart disease, a 25% lower risk of developing diabetes, a 43% lower risk of developing cancer, and a 57% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Six years after we started living a plant-based lifestyle, we’re both healthier than we’ve ever been. Almost no illness. Jim has lost 30-plus pounds and can work out harder and longer than ever. He has aged in reverse. For myself, I find that I can work out harder than ever and my recovery is better than ever. I’m in better shape now than I was in my 20s.
LE: Between your own home and your school, you’ve had the opportunity to convert many people to a plant-based diet. What are some of the things you’ve seen along the way?
SAC: We have kids cutting down on allergy medications. Kids dropping pounds and getting active. Kids who have been on medication for ADD and ADHD feeling calmer and more focused, even able to get off their meds completely. We saw the same transition happen among staff members. The assistant head of the school, 40 pounds gone, ditched his medications; PR manager, 30 pounds. These days, rather than resistance and pushback, we have families who seek us out because we are plant-based. Parents want to have their children on a dye-free, toxin-free, pesticide-free campus, and they want to know where the food their children are eating is coming from.
LE: It’s safe to say that most people have been raised with the idea that eating animal products, especially meat, is necessary for health. How could we have gotten this so wrong?
SAC: Let’s be clear: our current diet isn’t the historical norm. For all but the last 70 years, today’s average American diet—high in saturated fat, sugar, and refined foods and low in fiber—would have been an unaffordable luxury for most humans. We now consume a whopping 180 pounds of meat per person per year. We eat like bloated, overindulgent kings and queens at every meal. And as a result, we’re staggering under the burden of diseases like gout, heart disease, hypertension, type II diabetes, and obesity. For the first time in history, we are seeing a generation of children who will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. By contrast, whole-food, plant-based diets have been linked to better weight management, reduced blood sugar, reduced risk of cancer, lower cholesterol, reduced blood pressure, reduced obesity, reduced risk of heart attack, and lower overall mortality, less need for medication, and reversal of coronary artery disease and type II diabetes. Plant-based eating also increases our virility, improving our sex lives.
LE: Let’s talk specifically about heart disease, the leading killer of both men and women. How can switching to a plant-based diet help the heart?
SAC: When we eat too much animal fat, we raise the level of dangerous LDL cholesterol in our blood. Those LDL molecules burrow into the tiny gaps between the endothelial cells in our arteries. This disruption triggers our immune system to release inflammatory macrophage cells that suck up all that LDL, oxidizing it into stiff globs of plaque. If we keep eating lots of saturated fats from animal products, those globs get bigger and bigger, eventually slowing blood flow. Now consider this: just a single meal of animal products can spike inflammation and cause your arteries to stiffen.
On the flip side, the more vegetables we eat, the higher our blood levels of powerful plant chemicals called polyphenols that lower the risk of heart disease. The Nurses’ Health Study, one of the largest and longest epidemiological studies in U.S. history, found that those who ate the most fruits and vegetables had the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease. Indeed, every extra serving of leafy greens they ate a day decreased their risk by 11%. With OMD, you’re increasing the amount of vegetables in your diet, but you don’t have to give up your favorite foods.
LE: In your book, you write about how going to a plant-based diet can improve sex lives, especially for men. Tell us a little more about that.
SAC: We know that erectile dysfunction is one of the classic early warning signs of clogged arteries. Men who have heart disease and diabetes—which are both associated with heavy meat and dairy consumption—have much higher rates of erectile dysfunction. A guy in his forties who’s having trouble getting an erection has a 50-fold increased chance of a cardiac event—that’s a 5,000% greater risk! And a whopping 40% of men over age 40 suffer from erectile dysfunction. Here’s something a lot of guys just haven’t caught onto yet: plant-based eating is the new Viagra! Going green is studly. And it’s not just men. Women with arterial plaque also have significantly decreased arousal and ability to orgasm.
LE: One of the threads that runs through the stories in your book is consistent weight loss after going plant-based. How does switching to a plant-based diet help someone lose weight?
SAC: If weight loss was your only metric, of all the possible “weight-loss” diets out there, plant-based eating appears to top every single one. In a study of over 70,000 people published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers examined the eating patterns of five groups: meat eaters, semi-vegetarians, vegetarians who eat fish only, vegetarians who consume dairy, and vegans. Surprise: vegans had the lowest average BMI, while meat eaters had the highest. They had a whopping 33% obesity rate, while vegans had a rate of only 9.4%. In fact, the obesity rate seems directly proportional to the amount of animal products in a person’s diet. And that’s not even the best part! The best part about losing weight by going plant-based is the total, utter simplicity of it. There’s no calorie counting, no nutrient ratios. Just switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet will automatically give you more fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and a whole lot less fat.
LE: What’s the best way people can make this type of change in their lives?
SAC: It’s easy. Remember: it’s just one meal a day. OMD. Start small, start right where you are, and plan your first meal. Don’t overthink it!
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
Adapted from OMD: Change the World by Changing One Meal a Day, by Suzy Amis Cameron© 2018 Simon & Schuster, Inc.
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