Eric O’Grey did two things–adopted a rescue dog and switched to a plant-based lifestyle– and in the process saved his own life.
By: Eric O’Grey
Facing death at age 50
At age 50, during a physical exam required by my employer, my doctor told me that I either needed to schedule bariatric surgery or purchase a cemetery plot. He said that without the surgery, I would likely die within the next five years.
I weighed 340 pounds at the time, and my waist was 52-inches. I had been morbidly obese since my twenties. My cholesterol was about 400, my blood pressure was high, and I was taking daily insulin injections for type 2 diabetes, along with 15 other prescriptions.
Like many obese Americans, I had tried and failed just about every fad diet and weight loss plan I had ever heard about. I failed on each of those diets after finding them unsustainable, requiring such things as extreme exercise, food deprivation, or eating almost all meat and no carbohydrates.
I seemed to be eating the same foods as everyone else, but my weight kept increasing, and my health kept declining.
Seeking answers for healing
I didn’t want bariatric surgery, and I didn’t want to die. So I began an intensive search for a doctor who might be able to prescribe an alternative to those things. The search eventually led me to a doctor who practiced lifestyle medicine, which saved my life.
My new doctor spent over an hour with me during our first meeting, rather than the 5 minutes I was accustomed to for medical appointments. She convinced me to commit to weekly visits with her for the next six months.
She asked questions about my personal history and lifestyle and did not prescribe more drugs. Instead, she prescribed a plant-based diet and told me to adopt a dog from my local animal shelter.
“What?” I said, taken aback by her advice. I’d never owned a pet before. How could a dog help me lose weight and improve my health?
She explained that the underlying cause of my obesity and health problems was poor diet and lack of any exercise. Her words hit home.
Facing the truth
It was difficult and painful for me to travel and even to walk. The undisguised judgment of others who looked at me on the street felt shameful and humiliating. For these reasons, I had stopped going outside, lost contact with all my friends, and hadn’t been on a date in 15 years.
At the end of our first meeting, my new doctor told me that if I simply walked my new dog for 30 minutes twice each day and strictly transitioned to a whole food, plant-based diet, I had a good chance of getting off all my medications, normalizing my health stats, and achieving a healthy weight in just one year.
Really? I thought. How could that be possible? But, since I had tried and failed on all previous diet plans and this new advice seemed much less extreme than surgery, I decided to give it a go. Why not just try what she is telling me to do and see if it works?
While getting used to my new plant-based diet, I called a local pet shelter and told the nice person who answered the phone that I wanted to adopt an obese middle-aged dog, so we would have something in common.
After answering questions about my home and lifestyle, she told me to come in, because she thought she had the perfect match for me.
And that’s how I met Peety–a scruffy mixed-breed dog who had survived two shelters and seen better days. He was seven years old, at least 25 pounds overweight and, like me, appeared to be depressed and to have given up on life.
After first looking at each other with disappointment, we decided to go home and give each other a try.
Peety and I quickly overcame our mutual skepticism and formed a bond of unconditional love that grew more powerful than any relationship I had ever experienced.
Seeing how sick and depressed he was, I felt sorry for him and stopped feeling sorry for myself. I resolved to help him enjoy the rest of his life with happiness and health.
After a short time, Peety began looking at me as if I was the greatest person on earth. He believed in me until I was able to believe in myself.
His faith in me restored my self-confidence and caused me to experience happiness and a sense of purpose.
Because of his love for me, I decided to become the person who Peety thought I was.
Eric & Peety’s plant-based diet weight loss success
Over the next year, simply by following my doctor’s advice–switching to a plant-based diet, and walking Peety twice each day–I lost 150 pounds, and Peety lost 25 pounds.
I looked like a new man, and Peety looked like a new dog.
Better yet, I felt like a new person. I was able to get off all my medications and reverse my type 2 diabetes.
I started dating again, and eventually reconnected with and married my high school sweetheart. I became the person I always wanted to be, all because I found the right doctor, adopted a dog, and made simple changes in my diet and lifestyle.
I got off the fad-diet roller-coaster once and for all. And I’ve been able to effortlessly maintain my optimal weight for more than eight years now, medication-free. Now, I’m even running marathons and just time-qualified for the Boston Marathon!
The miracle cure
I often wonder why other doctors aren’t prescribing the “miracle cure” that worked for me as a primary course of care, rather than medication and surgery.
According to the CDC, 71 percent of Americans are obese or overweight. At the same time, millions of healthy but unwanted dogs are euthanized each year. The best solution to both problems is not surgery or medication, but healthy nutrition and daily exercise with a canine partner.
The health benefits of plant-based diets and dog ownership are well established. If you are home alone, in poor health, and your life feels like it is spiraling downward, please consider adopting a dog from your local pet shelter.
The prescription that worked for me, in partnership with an informed healthcare professional, can work for you also.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to my favorite products. If you purchase via my links, I may make a small percentage at no cost to you. Thank you!
For a descriptive guide about how to help yourself, a friend or a family member in my previous condition, please look up my new book Walking with Peety, the Dog Who Saved My Life.
Video interview with Eric O’Grey
To follow Eric and Peety:
Other Great Success Stories
- I Was Going to Die, and I Don’t Know if I Really Cared–FatMan’s Rant
- From Diabetes and Stroke to Healthy & Medication-Free
- Learning to Find Happiness in Things Other Than Food–Kasse Harrington
- From Obese Junk Food Vegetarian to Healthy Fit Vegan