Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

December 15, 2012

Doctor writes about veg-based diet

Cholesterol drops, blood sugar normalizes

TRAVERSE CITY-- Mary Clifton doesn't just offer her patients advice on how to live healthier lives.

She models it.

Now she's written a book about it with her daughter, Chelsea M. Clinton, M.D.

Around seven years ago, Clifton was diagnosed with prediabetes. It came as a surprise because she was physically active and, she thought, followed a healthy diet.

"I ate cereal for breakfast and yogurt and cheese for snacks in the morning, cherry chicken salad for lunch and meat and two veggies for dinner," she said. "I was following a great diet.

"I perceived myself to be exceedingly healthy."

At the time, many physicians online were recommending vegetarian and vegan diets, which she initially decided were not for her.

"I thought then, there's no way I would ever compromise my health by limiting my exposure to meat and dairy because of course, you need meat and dairy," she said. "So of course, I didn't do it."

Then came what she described as an "accidental veg" day. She ran out of yogurt, had no milk at home, ended up having only vegetables at lunch, some pasta for dinner, and next thing she knew, her sugar was down for the first time.

That got her attention. The more she leaned that way, her allergies disappeared. Her cholesterol dropped by 70 points. And Clifton realized that in spite of all of her medical training, she didn't really know how to counsel her patients on nutrition.

So she made it her mission to learn — from medical and nutrition experts, and from her own patients. What she took away was a philosophy that she's been using to counsel her patients since. That formed the basis for the book, "Waist Away: How to Joyfully Lose Weight and Supercharge Your Life." It offers a combination of advice, success stories, recipes and more.

"I've gotten a lot of people off their diabetes meds or I've taken people who are on three or four blood pressure pills down to one or two," she said. "I tell people to eat more plant and less animal "¦ to push down and replace (meat) with whole grains, or beans."

Clifton said many of her patients have been successful at losing weight and reducing medications.

"I had one woman in her early 50s, her mom died of a heart attack, her dad died of a heart attack, her brother had a stent," Clifton said. "She felt like she had no control, like it was her genetics.

"I gave her the research I know on diet and talked to her about changing her diet and I saw her three months later. She had dropped her cholesterol by 50 points, had normalized her blood sugar and she was crying. She said, 'For the first time in a decade, I have hope.'"

And that, Clifton said, is why she became a physician in the first place.

"I'm not just shuffling pills and checking labs," she said. "I'm healing people, and that's what I wanted to do."

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