Look at him – isn’t he gorgeous. And if that smiley face wasn’t enough to give you all the feels, the fact that his owner, Eric O’Grey, says he owes his life to him should work. His name was Peety and this is their story.
It begins in 2010 when Eric was told by his doctor that he was going to die if he didn’t do something about his weight.
At the time, Eric was 51. He weighed 340lb, had a 52-inch waist. He had Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
His doctor had recommended bariatric surgery to try and get his weight down, but Eric wasn’t sure, and so he sought a second opinion from a naturopathic doctor called Dr Kulkami who recommended two things to him – a plant-based diet and a dog.
At this point, I’ll let Eric take over for a bit as he was nice enough to answer a few of my questions by email.
NYNHB: What made you visit Dr Kulkami? And, when she gave you her suggestion what did you think?
Eric: ‘I sought a second option after a medical doctor told me that I needed to either undergo bariatric surgery or purchase a cemetery plot because, without the surgery, I would likely need the cemetery plot within the next five years.
My first consultation with Dr Kulkarni, who was a licensed naturopathic doctor, was very different from my lifetime of prior visits to regular medical doctors.
Instead of just spending five minutes with me and handing me a prescription, Dr Kulkarni spent over one hour with me, and rather than prescribing more medication, prescribed a plant-based diet and a shelter dog.
I had never owned a pet before, but as she explained, the dog would force me to get outside for walks, and would also provide a relationship with someone, which I needed because I had no friends and had stopped going outside.
I was uncertain at first about her advice but decided to follow it, if for no other reason to avoid bariatric surgery because nothing else had ever worked for me.’
How Eric and Peety first met…
Eric describes his first meeting Peety at the shelter in his book Walking With Peety as a bit of a surprise. The shelter coordinator brought out a seven-year-old overweight pooch with skin problems who just looked like he had the weight of the world on his furry shoulders.
At first, Eric didn’t get why he was being offered this dog – and then the shelter coordinator basically said to him this dog needs to lose weight and get outside and so do you – this is the perfect dog for you. He took him home and they went on their first walk..
NYNHB: Can you remember how you felt during that first walk with Peety?
Eric: ‘It was painful. We made it outside but were only able to walk about 100 yards before we turned around. After returning home, we both had to lie down and rest. But we kept trying, and we made it a little bit farther each day.
Within two months, we were walking 2 to 3 miles, twice each day. And that’s when we really started to feel much better and see great weight loss and health improvement results.’
NYNHB: What advice would you give to anyone else in the same situation?
Eric: ‘As I often tell people who are morbidly obese, it is easier to do what I did – to lose 140 lbs in ten months – than it is to quit smoking or overcome addiction to alcohol or a controlled substance.
The hardest thing for the human mind to attempt is a radical change, especially when the change appears to be monumental in nature, but is very achievable once attempted.
There are two sides to every sacrifice – in the case of obesity, you can choose to be overweight, in pain, uncomfortable and unhealthy, or you can choose to take simple, sustainable actions that will start you on your path to happiness and health. The hard part isn’t doing what I did – it’s taking the first step.
NYNHB: How did you stay motivated?
It was surprisingly easy and felt almost effortless after the first two months – during that time I experienced cravings for the unhealthy foods I previously ate.
But once I learned how to cook, and how to prepare tasty meals using herbs and spices and whole plants without processed oils, I soon realized that I enjoyed my new foods much better than my old foods.
And the rewards I received from my new plant-based lifestyle – including a consistent 4-5 pound per week weight loss and the best I had ever felt physically and mentally – made me want to continue all the way until I reached my optimal weight.
After a few months plant-based, it was clear that I loved my new life so much that I never wanted to go back to my old one.
NYNHB: Did you find anything hard about adopting a vegan diet?
Let’s clarify terms – a “vegan” diet can include highly processed, unhealthy junk foods that will not result in weight loss. Just because a food is vegan does not mean you want to eat it.
The diet I followed, and what worked for me, was the “whole-food-plant-based-no-oil lifestyle,” which is vegan, but healthy vegan. It means starting with whole plants, fruits and vegetables, and not using oil to cook.
Once I learned how to cook from scratch using whole plants, I found that I could make foods that looked and tasted very much like the unhealthy, animal-based foods I previously ate, but were much healthier and made me feel great.
My new foods reversed all my chronic lifestyle diseases – for example, I was able to normalize my glucose and A1C and get off insulin within four months, and my total cholesterol was reduced from about 400 to 120 within six months.
NYNHB: What did you like best about eating this way?
Within two weeks on my new diet, I felt better than I ever remembered feeling in my entire life.
My energy was through the roof, I wasn’t exhausted and in pain all the time and my mental clarity was extraordinary. It felt as if I had emerged from a mental fog or awakened from The Matrix.
I felt so good, I felt like I was “high.”
Eventually, I realized that these newfound feelings of energy, happiness and health embodied what it felt like to feel “normal,” and could be achieved by almost anyone with healthy nutrition and light exercise in the form of walking for a half an hour, twice each day.
Walking Turns to Running
As with so many people who adopt a healthy lifestyle, Eric loved the way he was feeling and didn’t just keep up his new habits, he accelerated them. He started running – a lot!
He now runs 5-6 marathons a year, although he wants to point out you don’t have to go that far to get results or maintain optimal weight, health and happiness. ‘I lost all my weight by doing nothing more than transitioning to a whole-food-plant-based-no-oil diet and walking my dog for a half an hour, twice each day,’ he told me. ‘But after I lost my weight, I found I had so much excess energy that I was bouncing off the walls. So, I took up long-distance running and found I really enjoyed it, especially after I joined a few local running clubs and began to meet so many happy, healthy, positive other runners who showed me all of the local running trails in my community.
Within two months after losing my weight and starting to run, I ran my first half marathon, and within six months, I ran my first full marathon. Crossing the finish line in my first marathon felt like buying a full years’ worth of achievement and self-respect.’
The Sad Part
Sadly, as you might have worked out when I used the past tense at the beginning of this piece, Peety is no longer with us. He died in March 2015 after many happy years with Eric.
In August 2015 however,. Eric says he felt ‘the call of another dog looking for me’ and at the shelter he found Jake – a four-year-old Labrador retriever mix who’d just arrived. He loves to run and just like Peety, they go everywhere together. Apparently, this is his death stare!
Eric feels he owes his life to Peety so I had one last question for him;
NYNHB: Why do you think dogs have the power to change us in this way?
When you adopt a dog from a local shelter, you are the last hope to a creature that has often been mistreated and surrendered for euthanasia and is out of luck.
That dog will know that you saved him or her and will treat you as the best person who has ever walked on Earth.
The dog will believe in you until you believe in yourself.
The bond I formed with my dog, Peety, was the first bond of brotherhood and unconditional love I had ever experienced. That bond forever changed my life, and I will remember Peety with love and appreciation every day for the rest of my life.
Read More About Eric and Peety
If you’re not welling up by now you have no heart. If like me, however, you’re sniffing a bit a need to know more about Eric, Peety and the fantastic looking Jake, their story has been made into a book that’s out now.
If you want to read more, then you can buy Walking With Peety now on Amazon.
While you are there, you might also want to give some of the recipes that transformed Eric’s weight a try yourself – here are some of his favourite recipe books. You’ll find some others and other books and resources that he recommends listed on his website. Here are a couple to get you started though.
If you’re interested in getting a dog of your own, please don’t go to a pet store. Please adopt from a shelter and give an unloved doggo a new lease of life just like Peety did for Eric. If you’re considering adopting visit The Dog’s Trust for more details of what’s involved in rehoming. You can also sponsor dogs there and get advice on volunteering.
All images in this post belong to Eric O’Grey and have been used with permission
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