A teacher who suffered a heart attack at 49 is now off his heart medication after switching from a diet of steaks and cheeses to a plant-based diet.
In a bizarre turn of events, Doug Schmidt, now 59, has also been dubbed the ‘sexiest vegan over 50’ – something his wife finds amusing – and inspired 1,300 students to follow his example.
Schmidt, a former professional baker with a ‘pretty good sweet tooth’, had what is called a ‘widowmaker’ heart attack in 2008 due to his poor diet that included ice cream before bed. He was put on heart medication that doctors said he would have to take for the rest of his life.
Desperate to turn his life around, he switched to eating only vegetables and grains which has left him 60 pounds lighter within months, with energy to run marathons – and he was soon off all heart medications.
Now the father-of-six has launched a 10-day challenge in his school district of Rochester, New York, that has inspired students and faculty to try the diet that has made Doug feel like he is in his 20s.
He told Daily Mail Online: ‘It’s like I wish I had the heart attack earlier because now I feel great and just want more time with this body.’
Doug Schmidt, 59, was 60 pounds heavier (left) and on heart medication before switching to a plant-based diet after suffering a heart attack a decade ago
He has been dubbed the ‘Sexiest Vegan over 50’ for his advocacy of the lifestyle change
Doug has been off heart medications for the last two and half year thanks to his whole-food plant based diet.
‘I feel like a young guy trapped in an older guy’s body…but the older body is doing great!’ Doug told Daily Mail Online.
The change in diet began in 2008 when Doug weighed 225 pounds and suffered a near-fatal ‘widowmaker’ heart attack.
It gets its name because the left main coronary artery is abruptly and completely closed, causing a massive heart attack that typically leads to sudden death.
Doug said before his heart attack, ‘I considered myself the typical American male in his 40s with a couple extra pounds.’
After being put on a cocktail of heart medications, Doug said he learned they would only prevent another heart attack but did nothing to heal him and strengthen the heart itself.
BEFORE AND AFTER SWITCHING TO A PLANT-BASED DIET – A HEART ATTACK SURVIVOR’S FAVORITE FOODS
Doug Schmidt, 59, suffered a near-fatal heart attack 10 years ago prompting him to switch to a plant-based diet.
Since then he has lost 60 pounds, runs marathons and is off all heart medications.
- Smoked brie
- Country cheddar
- Pork chops
- ‘A nice chicken breast’
- Vegetables on the side
‘I have a pretty good sweet tooth’
- An apple
- Hummus and carrots
- Guacamole with tortilla chips
- Mexican bean burrito
- Buddha bowl
- Brown rice pasta
- Smoked paprika
- Roasted garlic powder
He turned to a book on plant-based diets which he considered ‘extreme’, therefore only cut out red meats.
However, a heart scare the following year kicked the diet into overdrive prompting he and his wife Shari to adopt those ‘extreme’ eating habits.
The man who ate ice cream before bed, indulged in smoked brie and cheddar and always had a slab of meat for dinner traded those foods for vegetables and said, ‘now I put sweet potato in everything.’
Doug said: ‘I was a bakery trainer for Wegman’s so I can bake anything from croissants to cakes and I would have that on a day-to-day basis.’
Now the couple’s favorite meals are Buddha Bowls with rice, quinoa and vegetables and Mexican bean burritos.
Since becoming vegan Doug lost 60 pounds that he attributes little to physical activity.
However, last year he was inspired to start exercising, running two half-marathons in 2016 and then finishing his first full marathon in September.
‘I had a lot of energy that I couldn’t burn off, I couldn’t even sleep,’ Doug said.
Now the teacher has launched a whole food-plant based challenge in his school district.
The challenge, now in its fourth day, has gotten 1,300 students, teachers and administrators from 36 schools to take the pledge to eat a plant-based diet for 10 days.
Now the teacher from Rochester, New York, has launched a challenge in his school district that has had 1,300 students and teachers pledge to go vegan for 10 days
Doug and his wife Sheri have made the change together and both feel as if they have more energy than ever before
Doug’s lifestyle change and advocacy for plant-based diets has dubbed him PETA’s ‘Sexiest Vegan over 50’ and he has won a ‘vegan cruise’ to the Caribbean with his wife next month.
He has two children of his own and four step-children, three of who have slowly began adopting their parents’ lifestyle.
I feel like a young guy trapped in an older guy’s body…but the older body is doing great!
Though Doug and Sheri’s transition was drastic, it was not gradual by any means.
‘When we first started transitioning we gravitated to things that were similar to your old food, like veggie burgers or fake cheese,’ he said.
He has since gotten away from those foods, sticking to whole foods that he said makes he and his wife feel better.
The last thing to go from the diet was oil two years ago.
‘Changing a lifetime of eating habits is extremely hard,’ Doug said.
For those taking the challenge and anyone else thinking about switching diets he said to remember that with plant-based you can eat as much food as you like.
‘It’s nutrient dense but not calorie dense so you can eat a lot more food and still lose weight,’ he said.
He added that if you’re hungry on a plant-based diet, you’re doing it wrong.
For those who argue that going green is more expensive, Doug said it is a common misconception and buying rice and beans can cost under three dollars.
‘Any plant food is typically cheaper than a pound of sirloin,’ he said.
His favorite snacks include roasted potatoes dipped in mustard and roasted fingerling potatoes.
Doug considers his heart attack a blessing and only wishes he had made this lifestyle change earlier.