Mark Ramirez Lost 50 lbs Eating a Plant-Based Diet
Hometown: Clinton Township, Michigan
Secret to Success: Eating a plant-based diet
Marc Ramirez thought there was nothing he could do to avoid developing diabetes. He grew up in a large Latino family, and his grandparents, mother, and all but one of his seven brothers and sisters had type 2 diabetes. He thought his days as a college football player might have shielded him somewhat, but when he was diagnosed in 2002, he wasn’t shocked. “It’s in my genes,” Ramirez thought at the time. “I can’t do anything about this.”
In the decade that followed, he went into a sort of denial, allowing his condition to go largely unchecked. Although he took medication to help manage his blood glucose, he rarely exercised and followed a mostly fast-food diet of breakfast sandwiches and hamburgers. He developed a number of chronic conditions over the 10-year period, including diabetes-related erectile dysfunction.
In 2011, Ramirez had a wake-up call. His younger brother, who’d had diabetes for 25 years, developed foot ulcers that required the amputation of his right leg below the knee.
Ramirez had witnessed the devastating effect of diabetes on his family, but seeing this happen to a sibling five years his junior made him reconsider his own health. “I’m looking at my health and looking at my children and wondering if this is going to be my future,” he says. Adding to Ramirez’s worry: His A1C was higher than it had ever been. Inspired by a gift from his in-laws—a copy of the documentary Forks Over Knives—he decided to make a change.
The film explores the benefits of a plant-based diet, which focuses on whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, while limiting animal-based foods. For someone who hadn’t gone a day without getting his fast-food fix, this was a radical switch. But Ramirez quickly found new favorites, such as black bean chili, veggie fajitas, and minestrone soup.
The payoff was quick. He lost 50 pounds in three months. His erectile dysfunction went away, and both his energy and mental health improved. But most important, Ramirez’s A1C dropped close to goal range. He’s stuck with his new lifestyle for seven years now.
Ramirez has been so pleased with his results that he and his wife, Kim, founded Chickpea and Bean, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading awareness about plant-based diets. They teach classes on healthy cooking skills, host a speaker series in the Michigan area, and highlight a range of vegan recipes.
While Ramirez hasn’t been able to convince all of his siblings to adopt a plant-based diet, his oldest sister has followed in his footsteps and seen similar results. He hopes she’ll avoid the complications he’s watched his family deal with. It’s certainly worked for him. “My glucose levels and A1C are always in check,” he says. “I’m in the best shape of my life.”