Friday, July 6, 2018

Was My Heart Surgery Really Necessary?

In July of 2015 I had a quintuple bypass...Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).

Was it necessary?

Well, yes and no... let me explain...

Back in 2014 I was about 380 lbs, I was on a lot of prescription medications, high BP, cholesterol, PRE-diabetes... more stuff I forget. My doctors had me convinced I needed to lose weight...I did... so I worked really hard at it for most of the year.

I was living in the Green Bay, WI area and I started having chest pains and difficulty breathing. I saw my doctor and had an EKG...which looked abnormal (my doctor thought there might be blockages or something more serious) and made him refer me to a cardiologist. At my cardiology appointment the doctor looked me over and (without any testing) told me, "I have no idea who told you you have blockages. Your heart is fine. You're just fat and out of shape"... yeah that happened.

So, now properly humiliated and motivated (thinking I was a total hypochondriac) I started off on a new diet...Atkins! I did pretty good, then I moved to Appleton, WI got a new doctor and a new diet...the Mediterranean Diet (something my new doctor really liked) and lost about 40-45 lbs. HOWEVER, I was having more and more trouble breathing and eventually started getting chest pains. But I was losing weight! One thing I learned after going on a plant based diet/lifestyle is that you can lose weight in a number of ways. Some are healthy, some are not. Some diets will help you to look good on the outside, but not help you on the inside. Yes, I was losing weight on my high protein diets but I was still clogging my arteries! Wow.

I thought maybe I wasn't trying hard enough so I started exercising more, trying to walk faster, swim more... but the breathing and chest pains kept getting worse. BUT I KNEW THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH MY HEART, a doctor told me so...just my weight! HOWEVER...it got to the point I couldn't do stairs or walk down the hall without stopping and holding on until the pain went away. But I was sure it wasn't my heart.

I visited the doctor and they treated me for possible asthma, bronchitis...other pulmonary problems. My heart was fine! I tried to hide how bad it was from my family, but I think they knew. Then one day I had a show (I'm a professional guitar player and singer) at a library with my son (he plays drums) and I couldn't breathe... wheezing...dizzy, chest pains....he told me to go to the emergency room. Instead I made a doctors appointment...  for the NEXT DAY... I did the gig (barely) and went to the doctor the next day...

Guess what? I had several blockages and needed bypass surgery ASAP! So I did. Cracked me open, used my leg veins to bypass five blockages. Put me out of work for a year and pretty much destroyed my life and messed up my family forever. But I wan't dead.

Now, did I need, really NEED heart surgery? ... again, yes and no...

Yes, because I did not die. I probably would have unless I made all the changes I LATER made right then and there. The problem: I was not ready to make those changes. I wish I had. Some people tried to tell me. But I was all in with the doctors. They do a great job of selling you on this procedure, explaining how there is NO OTHER OPTION.

If I had thought there were any other options...other than surgical options... the answer would have been no, I really would not have needed the surgery (or most of the prescription medications I ended up on for the next year or two) if I made changes like the ones outlined by Dr. Esselstyn in his book PREVENT AND REVERSE HEART DISEASE 

My heart surgery was an expensive, horrific, terrifying experience that caused great strain on my family, friends, career and my personal relationships. It still messes with my health. My legs and chest still have problems (most likely they always will).

Heart bypass surgery can save your life...your lifestyle can save your life too. But you have to be ready for it. You may have a choice. Please check into all options before jumping off this cliff...it's not fun. I can't speak for anyone else, but knowing what I know now, I would rather give up some foods and just eat vegetables for the rest of my life if it will save me from another round of "chest cracking" heart surgery.




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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Eat Food You Like

One of the most important keys to success when you’re trying to lose weight is eating food you like, this does not mean eating food that is bad for you, but it does mean it’s finding foods that you like… foods that you love... that can support you on your weight-loss journey.

There are probably foods you are eating right now that are perfectly fine and healthy (you might not even know it!) and other foods that aren't. There may be foods and recipes that just need to be tweaked to make them perfect for your new plant based weight loss program.

Sometimes you may have to get creative, learn to like a new flavor, texture or taste, but you can usually come close to finding a plant based equivalent to some of your favorite foods! For instance, I love sandwiches, subs and potato salad. Once I found bread that was free of ingredients I didn’t want to eat, the rest just fell into place. I eat sandwiches and subs anytime I want. The ingredients might be a little different but the experience is the same...at least for me. Maybe you might miss an ingredient or two, but you never know until you try, right?

I also LOVE potato salad. As far a potato salad goes, eggs are the big problem for everyone and oil is another problem for those of us trying to avoid oil too... but I’ve had a few plant based and vegan potato salad recipes that work just fine for me! One of them is green. (made with avocado) Guess I'll be ready for the next St. Patrick's Day pot luck!

If you think you can’t do a plant based diet because there is nothing you’re going to like, you are probably wrong. Ever eat at Olive Garden? The bread sticks and minestrone soup are vegan!
Speaking of eating out, many burger joints serve veggie and black bean burgers... just watch the oil, salt and any sneaky non plant based extras like mayo, cheese and other sauces that pop up here and there.

Are you an ice cream freak? Well, there is a simple plant based "ice cream" alternative... "nice cream" made with frozen bananas!

I love pasta! So I eat it... sometimes it’s made with zoodles, butternut squash, or sometimes it’s whole grain spaghetti... if I really want "meatballs" I can get vegan meat-less balls or toss in some small mushroom caps (they give me a meatball look and they are pretty tasty too).

Try to find as many foods as you can that you already eat  and when you’re ready...try new versions of your old favorites. Don’t make your transition to a plant based lifestyle feel like a punishment or think of it as a short term solution. If you like everything you eat, you won’t be missing anything, and the more likely you will be to stick with this for the long haul.

If I thought all I could eat was raw food like kale and celery I would fail. There is nothing wrong with kale or celery, except I don’t like either of them.

Eat food you like.




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Friday, June 29, 2018

Never Good Enough?

Do you think you eat bad?

I know I did. For years and years. It wasn’t just what I ate...but where I ate...when I ate...and how much I ate.

I’m pretty sure that for decades  I ate out way more than I ate at home. Lots of the local eateries knew me by name and the "all you can eat" buffet joints started counting their losses as I walked in.

I didn’t read labels. I didn't have to... no labels to read on a menu! Didn’t worry about things like GMOs or gluten. I just stuffed myself, got fat and sick!

As the years passed while I ate whatever I wanted, no one ever seemed interested about what was in the food I was eating, where it came from or how scientists messed with it. As I got bigger and sicker, friends and family would sometimes suggest I eat less, diet... get healthier... whatever. No one ever seemed concerned about my protein intake.  I’m sure I ate a lot of protein...covered in fat and cheese and oil and all kinds of high fructose sauces. Nobody seemed to know much about nutrition or care. I was just another fat guy living the American dream.

And then one day I walked away from the SAD (Standard American Diet) and suddenly everyone became an expert in nutrition! Who knew? Where were all these people for the last 40 years of my SAD life? Now when people see me passing up steaks, chicken, fries, milkshakes and all, they shake their heads and tell me how worried they are about my health.

Whenever an average American finds out I’m not eating animal products the "protein inquisition" begins! WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN??? You at least eat fish right??? Heaven help me if I turned down olive oil or nuts or avocado.... cries of "YOU NEED HEALTHY OIL!" still echo between my ears.

You are just never good enough for some people. 

Sadly it’s not just the masses eating the SAD that torture people that follow the plant based lifestyle... there are also the WFPB snobs and WFPB NO GMO ORGANIC OR DIE NAZI’s. If you eat anything non-organic or genetically modified you might as well wash down your Big Mac with a Shamrock Shake... no difference. We are never good enough.

I have made amazing changes, lost weight, reversed diabetes and more on a plant based diet that includes canned, frozen, non organic and GMO foods. I’m doing pretty good. Maybe not good enough, but I’m learning. Maybe someday I’ll eat more organic or grow my own, but please, don’t make me and all the others that are making amazing changes feel bad because we are not perfect.

To be honest many of the people trying to give me advice these days look fatter and sicker than I do.

To all the people making little changes every day, keep it up. Do the best you can. That is always good enough.



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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Big Shirt, Brain Damage and Clown Pants

I don’t know what you do for a living, but me? I play guitar in a band called BIG and TALL.

It’s not a hobby, it’s my full time job. There are only two people in my band... me and my son Wil. Wil plays the drums and he is a bit taller than me. So, since I was pretty short and fat, BIG and TALL sounded like a great name with a little visual gimmick.

A while back we had shirts made. My shirt said ‘BIG’, his said ‘TALL’. I got them for a photo shoot. They look cool, but the place that made custom shirts only went to 3XL... I wore a 5XL... but I squeezed into it and put it away in my closet (and forgot about it).

Yesterday we had a big theater gig. I wanted us to wear something cool, and I remembered we had these shirts. This is where my brain damage comes into the story...

I think I have some kind of brain damage now when it comes to my body image. Like, I know I’ve lost almost 100 lbs and INTELLECTUALLY I know I’m a size 3XL, not a 5XL, but... I still think I’m a 400 pound, 5XL hulk.

So when I tried on my "BIG" shirt, I totally expected it to be tight. But it wasn’t... brain damage.
Then I was deciding which pants to wear...

Again, I wanted us to look good, so I thought I’d wear my "good" black dress pants, which I haven’t worn in a while. These are the same pants that barely fit me at 400 pounds (thanks to the comfort fit stretch waist). See where I’m going with this? Brain damage.

So I packed up my trusty old dress pants, (without trying them on) my (not so) BIG shirt, and headed to upper Michigan for a big theater show!

So, I’m in the motel room before the show, I put on my BIG shirt and then.... MY CLOWN PANTS!
Yep... they were big... not just in the waist, (which I expected) but the legs, thighs, butt... all I needed was a red nose, maybe big matching shoes and a little tiny car for me and thirty of my friends to jump out of! I brought a belt... thought the waist might be a little loose... a little loose... brain damage.
I did bring a back up pair of black pants that worked ok, but here is the point: If you have been really big like me for any length of time, it might take your damaged brain a while to catch up to your real, actual weight loss. You can probably do more things: walk farther, sit in the booth, and wear smaller sizes than you think.

I think eventually my brain will heal itself like the rest of my body, but until it does I need to remember to try on clothes before I pack them!


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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Why Don't I Eat Meat?

It is true... I don’t eat meat.

No beef, poultry, fish... nothing that has a face or mother.

Am I a vegan?

Well, technically I guess I am, but I’m more then that... or different... than what most people think of when you hear the word vegan. I guess the real question is why don’t I eat meat... or dairy products... and why am I trying to quit eating oil?

I’m not trying to save the planet, end animal suffering or make a statement. I’m just trying not to end up having my chest cracked open again, being chronically sick taking dozens of prescription drugs and being treated for diabetes with insulin shots. Like the title of Dr. Michael Greger's book, I'm trying to learn “How Not to Die”.

However, if During the process I help the save planet, reduce animal suffering or make some kind of a positive statement... great! It’s a bonus. Just like my continued weight loss.

MASSIVE CONFESSION - I did not start eating this way to lose weight!

Losing weight was a happy side effect (unlike the unhappy side effects typically associated with prescription drugs) of my new no meat, no dairy lifestyle. I just wanted to get healthy enough to stop taking insulin and hopefully reverse and prevent any further instance of heart disease. It all started with a book...


Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. This book changed my life and opened the doors to a world of wonder. A world where people were getting better, healing themselves... not getting sicker and sicker, like I was, with every passing year. The book lead me to videos, more books, other doctors, documentaries, websites, apps, Facebook groups that all shared the same message...

DON’T EAT MEAT, DAIRY or OIL... live longer and live healthier. Oh... and apparently lose a lot of weight.

Since I stopped eating a few things, I feel better and look better... INSIDE AND OUT. I’m not here to argue about ethics or protein deficiencies... you can (and should) have your opinions... don’t take health and medical advice from me... I’m a guitar player! BUT... not eating meat and a few other things really works for me.

Would it work for you? Maybe... maybe not... I do not know.

I do know that if you are having health problems or you are concerned about heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, etc., you can alway grab a copy of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and see what you think. Can't hurt, right?

So back to the question, why don’t I eat meat?

That's not really the question.

I guess the real question for me is, why would I want to?

Friday, June 22, 2018

I Have Never Been a Blog Person

Here I am doing something I never thought I would do... starting a blog.

I have never been a blog kind of guy. Podcast? Yeah! YouTube? Sure! Photos and graphics? I’m there.... but blogging? IDK.

However... I guess I blog everyday now... on Facebook, that’s kinda what blogging has become? Maybe?

Anyway, what do I spend all this time everyday blogging, posting, tweeting, writing about? Is it my 40 plus years in the music business or passing along music business and music marketing advice to my peers and the next wave of working and recording musicians? Am I talking about my previous podcasts, writing songs, recording music, touring or doing shows for kids and families?

None of the above?

So what is this all about?

Somehow I now post several times a day on Facebook and elsewhere about eating a plant based diet, getting healthy and dropping pounds.

I never thought I would be this guy.

My name is Billy, and I’m losing it.