It all started as a personal challenge for Tom Leighter.
Four years ago, after returning from vacation, Leighter took on a 90-day plant-based diet challenge from the book “Eat to Live.”
At 68 years old, he was having severe knee aches prohibiting him from simple tasks like walking his dog. Or thumb aches that stopped him from gripping a can of beans.
He was taking 20-minute to half-hour naps at work. He was simply exhausted.
“I thought it was because of my age,” Leighter said.
But on the third week of the challenge, he noticed an immediate change.
From 207 pounds, he dropped down to 182. His lunchtime naps ended.
“I no longer have those lifestyle issues,” Leighter said.
Within that three-week mark, Leighter’s cholesterol went from 213 with medication to 156. His blood pressure normalized.
At 72 years old, Leighter is on no medications and currently weighs 171 pounds.
He credits cutting processed foods and anything with a head, so to speak, out of his diet.
The protein and vitamins his body needs come from fresh fruits and vegetables.
Instead of having two meaty sandwiches and chips for lunch every day, Leighter has a salad with romaine lettuce, celery, carrots, radishes, pepper, beans and tomatoes, drizzled with a Mediterranean dressing and topped with half an avocado.
“The amount of nutrition you get out this, you don’t get hungry,” he said. “You get full because your body is getting the nutrition it needs.”
Leighter said before this lifestyle change, he was constantly hungry. He could eat an entire family size bag of chips and was a firm believer of always having meat for every meal.
“The less nutritious food you eat, the more you have to eat to get full,” he added.
A perk of cooking with veggies is the amount of flavor you can add to make it as delicious as your taste buds are used to.
It gives the cook the chance to load up on spices like cumin, ground ginger, turmeric, chili powder and others to add layers of flavors to simple vegetables like roasted Brussels sprouts.
When he looks back at photos of what he used to look like, Leighter sees it as a reminder of what he doesn’t want to go back to.
He doesn’t want to be the guy who had trouble getting out of a chair.
“I don’t want an old man to live in my body,” Leighter said.
And since his lifestyle change, Leighter and his wife, Cheryl, have been enjoying time cooking at home and cycling.
He will be taking on his first 100-mile cycling race at the end of the month.
“For me, it’s a lifestyle, not a diet,” Leighter said. “It’s a way of living that allows me to do everything that I want to do, as often as I want to do it, and not have side effects.” ￼