Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"The best way to change the world, is to change yourself."

It's Father's Day, and though he's been gone for a few years now, Jack Ryan continues to live in my life.  I think about him often and how he would have loved this life I'm leading.  He'd be downright envious of being in the mountains, the idea of writing for a living, the books I'm reading, and mostly he would love the quiet, peaceful, and genuine existence I now have.

As Jack aged, his years of neglect took their toll on his body. I often wonder how he lived as long as he did for he became like an old car that falls apart more each year.  The smoking, the diet, the stress he created for himself - it all added up to disease after disease. 

As I've aged - I'm now fifty-one - I find myself considering his choices and it has helped me make better choices for myself.  His failing health was only one of the reasons I decided nearly ten weeks ago to change to a vegan, plant-based diet.  My main reason is my love of animals and my desire to stop eating them.  The switch was easier than I thought it would be and I found a new love of cooking lay in the details of this change in direction.  Once I started giving more thought to what I was eating I lost 27 pounds in that short time. It is interesting to note that I was never hungry after giving up meat, dairy, and processed foods.

Then I saw something that would change my life even more.  I watched the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, a documentary made by Joe Cross, an Australian who comes to the U.S. on a quest to reclaim his own life. 

Inspired by Cross, six days ago I started my own juice fast and the change has been incredible.  I now have a spring in my step I haven't had in years.  I feel healthier from the inside out.  And even though I'm ingesting 1,500 to 1,800 calories of fruits and vegetables a day, I've lost an additional 9.8 pounds.

Jack wouldn't have liked either decision. His manhood would have been threatened by the idea of going vegan.  "Men just don't eat that way.  You need red meat!" (Strangely, some friends in my life - both men and women - have been threatened by my switch - some have even seemed angry about it. Even stranger is that none of these same people really cared when my main diet consisted of McDonald's, Burger King, Coke, pizza, and Ben and Jerry's.)  The idea of a juice fast would have made no sense to him whatsoever and he would have had more negative things to say about that.  But in the end he would have noted the results, and more importantly, my resolve, and he would have respected what he saw. 

Of course, he wouldn't have said that.  But that's okay, some things don't need to be said to be understood in the dance between father and son. 

Anyway, here I am, inspired by my love of animals, my father's lessons of fading health, and my own determination to make the most of my life that I've started on a new journey of healthier living.  It's a grand adventure and I find the juice fast no different than climbing a mountain.  It's not easy, but most worthwhile changes in my life haven't been.  It's a marathon and I will be tested along the way. I'm only on day seven of sixty so the bulk of the quest lays ahead of me. 

I like the idea that the fast will take me right up to the week the paperback version of Following Atticus is released.  After all, much of following Atticus has led me to the same conclusion that Joe Cross came to in his movie, "And I learned that the best way to change the world, is to change yourself."
 

16 comments:

Penni Glenz said...

Congratulations on starting to live the healthy life style....You have a lot of influence and this choice will undoubtedly help others to see the benefits. Vegan is THE only way to go...Go Tom.......

Teri Lynn said...

Proud of you for your new lifestyle changes Tom! You are going to feel better than you ever have!!

Silvia Soos-Kazel said...

Good for you Tom Ryan and a Happy Dad's Day to you also. You are the best Doggie Dad around and I'm sure Atticus and William do agree. One should be respected for taking charge of their lives for any betterment. This shows that one wants to be the best they can be within society. No one should look negatively upon another just because it's not their choice or style of living. If one's choices in life does not hurt or causes problems to others, then it is their God given freedom to live and enjoy their lives as such. You are an inspiration to many; and you help some of us to also commit to making our lives better. You are that supporting friend and voice of encouragement that a times is needed to remain on the right path to success. With much appreciation, Silvia

Sue said...

wow...great trailer. good luck to you....hope you feel as good as Joe!!

Edna in PA said...

Congratulations Tom - you and Atticus continue to be an inspiration to me personally and to fill me with gratitude and awe. Fasting? Rock on.

TheBookFetish said...

Congratulations! Going vegan isn't for me, but I've added more and more fruits and vegetables to my diet over the last year, and eating better really does make you feel better. I love the Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead documentary- the change it made for Joe and the man that he helped was incredible. Congratulations on doing the fast, and do keep us posted on how it's going. Hope all continues to be well with you and Atticus and Will.

Magic said...

Congratulations and look forward to hearing how your new way of living your life progresses. You and Atticus are an inspiration.

Teresa Rhyne said...

I went vegan 8 weeks ago. When I tell people that I get a lot of negativity as well. But when I tell them I switched to a cancer-fighting diet (I'm a breast cancer survivor) everybody goes "good for you!!"--then I tell them that means "plant-based diet." It's all in the pitch, I suppose. But I don't actually care what they think. Like you, I know this is what's right for me.
One question--what do you feed the dogs? My beagle is also a cancer survivor, so I've looked into giving him the best diet I can. That seems perhaps not vegan, but unprocessed whole foods (and many of the same fruits and vegetables). Impressed with your success!

Gretchen said...

Thanks for writing on Father's Day. I too remember my dad today-his intelligence, sense of humor, the consummate teacher...
Glad you are having such wild success with your eating plan. I have found that by making choices that lead to physical, emotional and spiritual health, not only do we feel personally empowered, but I think it often translates to having more to offer to others. Press on!

Helenann Mesmer said...

Tom, Atticus and William,
You have changed my life. When I read your posts a week ago about, "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead," I watched the movie. I figured "contempt prior to investigation" isn't something I wanted to live by, LOL.
Thank you. While I can't afford a juicer right now, I have completely switched my diet to raw veggies and fruits with low fat protein. I've lost 6 pounds so far, and I am about to say goodbye to the 300 mark!
Where I really noticed the difference, though, was when I got on my knees at night to say, "thank you for another day," when I get up now, IT DOESN'T HURT. No groaning, either :)
I know Kirby (my late schnauzer) is looking down on you three and saying, "thank you, gentlemen" for giving me a wake-up call. Bless your endeavors!

Mollie said...

Dear Tom,
That movie trailer was very powerful--I need to watch the movie. And I was one of the ones who may have given you unsolicited advice--which was to not do 60 days right off the bat. But it wasn't meant to be advice as much as being concerned about someone who I've become acquainted with over the wonderful world of the web. You ARE an inspiration. And the naysayers--it's more about them than you--fear of change. Fear of them having to look at THEIR lives. Much easier to judge another. Hang in there and enjoy that spring in your step! And yes, Happy Father's Day to one of the best doggy dads around.

Jules Dolly said...

I'm so inspired by your post. I have only just discovered you and then you go and tell me about your switch to vegan (and juicing) I have been vegetarian and contemplate removing dairy/cheese etc .... could you write more about what you eat?

Love your writing : )

Zolismom said...

Happy Fathers Day, Tom! Your a wonderful dad to your two boys, and that little furry one that Atti and Will let live with you! Have a wonderful day!

Anonymous said...

Great job on the new Life plan. I've juice fasted before, but only for a week at a time. I'll have to watch the movie you saw. Kudos to you, and I'm sure you'll make it all the way. I'm not Vegan and suppose I never will be, as I need to wear leather shoes..so that alone deletes me out..but regarding diet, I am eating a lot more healthy, even though I never really neglected things too badly. Getting a divorce from the world's biggest junk food junkie is making it much easier ;) I do still have my 30 year old Champion juicer...so it's available for me here and am growing my own organic garden now in the back yard...and am loving that! All in all...just to say good luck with it. My Schnauzers are loving tasting lots of my fruits and veggies I'm growing....bet yours do too! Take care~

Diane Elsner said...

You are such an insiration to so many people,especially to me. I envy how you are trying to better yourself, your life and the lives of Atticus, Max & Will. I wish I could follow my dreams without worrying what everyone will say about me. You are living your life as God intended you to do. Be happy, healthy and peaceful!Keep writing!!!

Pam Hicks said...

Great post! I have juice fasted in the past. Several 3 week fasts & one for 8 weeks. I always found them to be intense physical & spiritual journeys - well worth the trip because I welcome the intense stuff!!! For me, at a certain point, I had to look at how juice fasting was feeding into a binge/purge pattern - I'm certain this wouldn't affect everyone in the same way. Now, I'm interested in what is referred to as "intermittant fasting" - one day a week, one day on/one day off, etc. All the best on your journey :-)