Ruth Heidrich, Ph.D. is an internationally acclaimed speaker and authority in health, nutrition, and fitness. Known as the “other Dr. Ruth”, this six-time Ironman Triathlon finisher has held age-group records in every distance from 100-meter dashes to 5K road races to ultramarathons, the pentathlon, and triathlons, including 8 golds in the Senior Olympics. She has completed more than 60 marathons all over the world, including Boston, New York, Honolulu, Moscow, and has held 3 world fitness records in her age group at the famed Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas. She has also been named one of the “Top Ten Fittest Women in North America”.
She is the author of Senior Fitness, A Race For Life, an e-book, The CHEF Cook/Rawbook, and Lifelong Running, and has an “Ask Dr. Ruth” column on her website, www.RuthHeidrich.com. A graduate of UCLA, she holds a Master’s degree in Psychology and a doctorate in Health Education. She has also lectured in this field at the University of Hawaii, Stanford University, and Cornell University.
As of the year 2018, she has been vegan for 36 years and a daily runner for 50 years.
Here is her amazing story:
Cancer Caused Me To Step Out of My Comfort Zone
It’s been said that it’s harder for folks to change their diet than change their religion. Talk about comfort zones! If you, dear reader, are eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) or the more common Western diet, what follows should illustrate this quite well.
I grew up eating the SAD diet and in college studied nutrition. I was taught that we needed lots of protein with the “best” and “complete” sources being lean meat, especially chicken and fish. For strong bones, I was told that dairy products were required as the “best” source of calcium. As a result, I ate this way for the first 47 years of my life, confident that I was providing the best possible nutrition for my body. Confidence was bolstered by the fact that I’d taken up daily running fourteen years before and had worked up to running marathons. Since I was lean and fit, and, I thought, healthy, you can imagine the shock I felt when told by the surgeon that the golf-ball-sized tumor he’d just carved out of my breast was cancer — in fact, a 5 cm infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC), a moderately fast metastasizing form of breast cancer. This explained the severe bone pain I was having which not even narcotics could dull. It explained my sky-high liver enzymes.
Then they found a tumor in my right lung. This made it Stage 4! My life as I knew it had just been dumped on its ear! My burgeoning, exciting career as a fast-rising female management-type in the U. S. Air Force suddenly lost all importance to me.
Comfort zone? What comfort zone! For the next few days, I walked around numb, alternating between tears and anger at the betrayal of my body. After all, hadn’t I done everything right? When I asked my doctor why I got cancer when I was doing everything right, he said nobody knows why we get cancer. Somebody must know, I thought. I got a second opinion. When that agreed with the first, I got a third and even a fourth. All said, “We don’t know why we get cancer and, yes, yours is definitely advanced cancer.” I went to the library and checked out every single book they had on cancer and searched through them all – and still, no answers.
Since I hadn’t yet gone back to work, I happened to see an item in the local paper and the words, “breast cancer” jumped out at me. It read: “Wanted: Women with breast cancer to participate in diet-related research. Call Dr. McDougall…” with his phone number. I found myself talking to the doctor himself. I was so surprised I sputtered the words, “I’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer.” I barely heard his response, “Get your medical records. I need to talk to you.”
As he was going through my records, I heard “Hmmm. Y’know, with a cholesterol of 236, you have as great a risk of dying of a heart attack as the breast cancer.” As this information sank in, I was thinking, first, breast cancer, and now, heart attack? I was stunned! Wait just a darn minute — I am running marathons, I eat a good diet, but then the thought occurred to me. I’ll show him that my diet has nothing to do with cancer and heart disease.
My next surprise came when I was told the conditions of entering the study. First, no chemotherapy or radiation because there had to be only one variable – the diet. Then came the conditions of the diet. “No meat…” I interrupted, saying I only eat chicken and fish. He explained that the muscle that moves a hoof is the same as the one that moves a wing or a fin, so, meat is gone. Going on, he said, “No dairy” I interrupted again. “Oh, I only drink instant powdered milk”, thinking that because it was so low-fat, it had to be okay. Turns out that animal protein, and dairy protein, in particular, are cancer promoters, he told me.
My comfort zone shrank further. What was I going to eat, thinking that there wasn’t much left. He and his wife, Mary, gave me all the bad/good news. I could eat all I wanted of whole grains, potatoes, yams, vegetables, and fruit. Then, another surprise, no oil – not even olive or coconut oil. More comfort zone shrinkage!
A full two hours later, I left the office full of a mixture of hope and despair. My whole dietary world was turned upside down. I was told that animal products both initiated and promoted cancer and that by eliminating these from my diet, my immune system could start doing what it should have been doing all along. He pulled open a file cabinet drawer, saying “Here are the epidemiological studies and also the results of the animal research. You are welcome to spend as much time as you want to go through these files.”
The next attack on my comfort zone came when I broke the news to my husband. His reaction was a shocker. “You’ve fallen into the hands of a quack!” I countered with “No, I’ve seen the research.” Then, scoffing, he said, “I gave you credit for having more intelligence than this.” This was really insulting because I was a graduate of UCLA, had a master’s degree, and at that time, had all but the dissertation for my Ph.D. I knew at that moment that I was going to do this but that it was going to be without his support.
A few days later I was transferred from Surgery to Oncology and met the oncologist who would be in charge next. When he talked about scheduling me for chemotherapy and radiation, I told him that my only treatment was going to be a low-fat vegan diet. I imagined what was going through his mind, probably even having to suppress some laughter as he heard what he must’ve thought was the most ridiculous treatment for advanced breast cancer he’d ever heard. He said, “Diet has nothing to do with breast cancer, and besides, you can’t possibly get enough protein without meat. And there’s no way you’ll get enough calcium for your bones without dairy.”
Back I went to Dr. McDougall who pulled out the USDA food analysis graphs showing how all my dietary needs would be met. I’d also started feeling the results of the new diet in the form of bone pain disappearing, liver enzymes normalizing, chronic constipation is gone, no more need for the prescription for my disappearing arthritis, and, a wonderful surprise, my running got faster and I took 17 minutes off my next marathon! I was totally convinced!
Then I heard about the Ironman Triathlon, a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and then you run a 26.2-mile marathon! I thought this would be a great challenge and a chance to prove that Dr. McDougall was on the right track, that if I could do the Ironman on this diet AND reverse cancer, that the whole world would soon take notice and change their diets as well.
Cancer is gone and Ironman completed. That’s when I discovered how hard it is for most people, husbands, and doctors included, to step outside their comfort zones.
I’m still waiting…
Dr. Ruth is joining us for a GLOW Heartfulness Webinar on 14th July 2018. She would answer your questions live.
In this webinar, you’ll learn how Dr. Ruth reversed a shocking diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer, changed her diet and went on to win hundreds of gold medals in races ranging from the Ironman Triathlon, dozens of marathons, to eight gold medals in the Senior Olympics. She will cover the benefits of daily exercise, how it helps the heart, lungs, muscles, bones, and even the brain. She’ll describe the ideal human diet, and how easy it can be, to implement. You’ll also learn the importance of eating a whole food, a plant-based diet which gives the body the carbohydrates it needs, the right amount of protein and fat. She will also discuss how money drives most diet decisions and how that causes the most common health threats we face today: obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, and dementia.
Overview & Takeaway
- What the ideal human diet looks like and how it provides all our nutritional needs.
- How the right diet supports your goals and sets the stage for better meditation.
- Why daily exercise is important, the best time to exercise, and the best exercise to do.
- How to reverse the most common conditions causing the need to be put on medication.
- An experiential session of Heartfulness Relaxation and Meditation.