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Former President Clinton’s Diet Transformation: Fast Food to Vegan

AARP magazine recently published a feature article on the vegan diet of former U.S. President Bill Clinton. The story displayed a photo of a trim, healthy, and boyish Clinton.

The last I had heard about Clinton and his diet, he was undergoing open-heart surgery to remedy problems associated with clogged arteries. Though he exercised, he had a poor diet that included fast food. An SNL skit depicted his love of high-cholesterol meals.

Though I don’t advocate a certain diet, I learn from other people’s transformations. If they have adopted specific measures and get results (not simply in terms of weight loss but better overall health, fitness, and endurance), then I am likely to try their recommendations.

Process of Transformation

There are key elements in transforming any aspect of your life, including one’s diet:

  • Motivation to change.

    To make the series of changes required for transformation, we must truly want things to be different in our lives. Such motivation is often triggered by a single event or revelation but can happen as the culmination of a life-long struggle.

    Clinton said he is motivated by the desire to be around to enjoy his grandchildren. Most likely, he modified his diet after his first heart surgery in 2004 but then realized that he needed to make dramatic changes after needing a second procedure in 2010.

  • Knowledge.

    You need to gain knowledge about the problems of your current approach plus have practical information about solutions.

    Clinton read Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., and The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.

  • Commitment to new habits.

    Many of us (okay, me) are not really sure that the new habits will truly make a difference in our lives. I think that most of us would commit to changes more readily if we could be assured of results.

    Clinton seemed to be confident that a vegan diet would be worthwhile, particularly after reading the books on nutrition and diet.

  • Ability to implement new habits.

    Having the motivation and commitment to change are critical but so are very practical aspects of change. The time needed to research recipes, shop for items, and prepare vegan meals that are hearty and delicious are most likely stumbling blocks for many people.

    Clinton has a huge advantage in this regard as he has tremendous wealth and discretionary time. His house manager prepares vegan meals for him and the restaurants he frequents typically have vegan menu options.

  • Resolve.

    Trying something new for a short period of time is hard but not insurmountable. Making habits stick over the long haul is much more difficult. However, if you experience success, then you are more likely to continue with the program.

    Clinton’s weight loss, combined with his understanding that previous changes weren’t enough to stave off heart disease, seemed to provide him with the resolve needed to maintain the vegan diet.

Practical Diet Changes

Having also read books on nutrition, I realize that I need to eat more vegetables. Vegan (and vegetarian) recipes can help with that process. For example, I have started to drink almond milk, rather than regular milk. I now include kale in smoothies that typically consist of yogurt, banana, another type of fruit, and orange juice. My next step is to develop a more comprehensive list of go-to plant-based recipes.

Here are sources of recipes:

Because I don’t have a personal chef, the process of changing my diet will be slower as I continue to learn to dispense of bad habits and replace them with better ones. I have persisted in this process for years and what I have found is that changes don’t have to happen all at once but can unfold over time. Slow transformation is transformation nonetheless.