The fall of 2016 will always be a life changing time for me. It was during my annual doctor visit that I received news that frightened me to my core. A little family history – my father died at an early age from heart disease and diabetes and I had always sworn that I wouldn’t ‘go out like the old man’. But here I was at age 40 facing hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and an overall poor health grade. What did I do wrong? I mean I thought I ate healthy, I worked out regularly, and felt pretty good. The truth was I wasn’t living my best life. I had gotten pretty out of shape. It’s a strange thing that we humans do…this denial behavior, and trust me, I was leading the pack when it came to denial. I just chalked it up to my age and this is just what happens, I mean c’mon I am 40 now, right? Wrong! I was denying my dharma, my flow, my best life, and I was doing it by making extremely poor food choices. Me, a chef, a fitness professional, a person that should absolutely know better, no excuse! The truth was, I had gained over 35 lbs. of body fat and was 250 lbs. All my clothes were busting at the seams, I couldn’t walk up or down the stairs without feeling completely winded, and I had severe back pain, I mean laying on the ground and staring at the ceiling begging for relief type of back pain.

The time for change was now!

The solution didn’t come to me right away, I did the whole ride my bike and get a gym membership thing for a few months, but the results were inconsistent at best. I would lose 10 lbs. here, gain 5 lbs. back there, it wasn’t a real change, and I needed a real change or else I was repeating my father’s mistakes. That’s when I discovered the plant-based lifestyle. Mind you, I was a chef and I had always prided my chef skills by the wide variety of meat, poultry and seafood dishes that I could prepare. How could I cook without those ‘staples’…where would I get my protein, and how would I get enough B12? Learning comes to us in all sorts of forms – mine hit me through a few awakening documentaries which spawned into extensive studying and a new way of living.

It started with eliminating dairy and only consuming chicken and pork, no red meat. The impact was noticeable in a couple of weeks. Inflammation that I didn’t even realize was negatively impacting me went away. So, I decided to go all in and eliminate all meats. And after a few months, it was working. I mean really working! I had not consumed a single animal product for 8 months and I now weighed 205 lbs. and felt better than ever! I was riding my mountain bike through trails with some of the best local riders and keeping up, my back pain was completely gone and my clothes, well I needed new clothes because nothing fit anymore, they were all too big!

But the question still remained, was what I was doing from a food perspective actually healthy or was I robbing my body of nutrients? I had pretty much known from my own research, and quite frankly how great I felt, that what I was doing was indeed very healthy but the numbers don’t lie. So after one year, I went back in for my annual physical and had my blood work done – a full lab; cholesterol, glucose, everything. Not to my surprise, everything checked out, and not only did it check out, it drastically improved. I went from all of the aforementioned health issues to all of them no longer even remotely a concern. Cholesterol was perfect, even better than perfect, hypertension and diabetes, no trace!

I walked out of the doctor’s office that day smiling from ear to ear and what felt like a green glow (you know, plants) surrounding me – that day the Phytogenic Chef™ was born! It is my calling, my purpose, my dharma to share this story and help others that are in the same place I once was. I wasn’t living a bad life, I just wasn’t living my best life and now I am, and so can you!

Marco – The Phytogenic Chef™