A former self-described 'cheese addict' has revealed how he transformed his health and physique by following a plant-based diet.
David Gwyn, 55, from Philadelphia, says 'overindulging' in American beef while traveling around the country with a European friend at the end of 2017 had left him feeling at his worst.
At the beginning of 2018, he decided to go vegetarian, but noted that he wasn't feeling any better or dropping any pounds - which he now links to foods like eggs, cream, cheese, and milk chocolate, which he was still eating in sizeable amounts.
It was only when he started working with plant-based personal trainer Ben Raue (@plantbasedben) and following an animal-free diet that Gwyn managed to make significant changes.
He was inspired to ditch all animal products after reading some plant-based literature. "I read a book called The Cheese Trap, by Dr. Neil Barnard, and it really spoke to me," he told Plant Based News.
"The symptoms that are related to dairy consumption, were exactly what I was experiencing. And so that, on top of the fact that I was taking blood pressure medicine, and wanted to get off of that, were the two drivers that turned me on to a plant-based diet."
Gwyn added: "I was taking 20 milligrams of Lisinopril, a blood pressure medicine, at that point. And I still had a blood pressure of 132 over 85, with the medication."
Between October 2018 - when he went plant-based - and October 2019, he made some major strides forward when it comes to his health - including ditching his meds.
"Today, I take nothing, except some ground flaxseed every once in a while," he said. "And my blood pressure is down to one 112 over 72.
"On the other side of the scale, cholesterol wise, I went from 210 down to a heart attack-proof as [plant-based physician] Dr. Esselstyn would say, of 134. And my resting heart rate, now that I've gotten active and so forth, went from 72 down to 51."
Gwyn also experienced some significant changes to his physique. "I lost 50lb, went from a size 52 suit size, to now, a size 44, and lost 10-inches off my waist going from a 44-inch waist down to 34. So the exciting part is, I need a whole brand new wardrobe," he said.
For Gwyn, his transformation really started when he began working with his trainer Ben Raue in December 2018 - saying the partnership made him 'accountable'.
"The support he provided in terms of directing me to [useful resources] and helping me understand how I should be eating really got me going," he says.
Throughout the last year, Gwyn has also discovered a new-found love for cycling after he discovered that riding a bike was the best way to increase his heart rate to the target set by his trainer.
He says: "I ended up buying a new bicycle last year, and doing 2,700 miles on that bike in 2019, including my First Century, which is a 100-mile ride in one day. So that's a very big change in my athletic ability, and it's been great in the community because now I'm part of a riding club.
"I'm going to a ride leader training course on Saturday, to be a ride leader to help others, and have scheduled four or five more century rides, among other charity rides this year. So it's become my go-to activity, and one that I just love to do. I did, in fact, about 55 miles this weekend."
Following his own health journey, Gwyn has advice for others who want to look at transforming their own health. He says: "There are a couple of things that I have shared with people over the last year and a half, that have worked for me. And a couple of phrases come to mind. The first thing is, it's not a sprint, it's a marathon.
"I started this journey when I was 54. I can't expect to undo 54 years of bad eating and bad exercise, and so forth, in even 90 days. It's going to take longer than that. And for me, it did take longer. And so, give yourself time, and to do that transition.
"Secondly, absorb all the data you can. What I found is, I latched on to several of the authors out there, like Dr. Dean Ornish and Neil Barnard, and Dr. Esselstyn, and others who are doing evidence-based nutrition, evidence-based consulting and advice.
"And so, Dr. Michael Greger, of nutritionfacts.org, is a site that I use on a routine basis. And it's what helped, I think, significantly, in my case, with blood pressure, where I learned about the benefits of brown flaxseed, which I still use today. There's a a wealth of very good information out there. It helps us filter through the bad information. And that's what I've turned to. So, Plant Based News, as an example, and other magazines, Forks Over Knives."
You can find out more about David Gwyn by following him on Instagram here, and find out more about how to work with Ben Raue here