I became very interested in heart health after losing my father to a sudden heart attack. It was devasting for my close family to have our dad here
one day and gone the next. He had been a 3-pack a day chain smoker for many years; it seemed unless he was eating or sleeping, he was
smoking. Then, during a short period in his 60's, he experienced the loss of three men close to him, a couple fishing buddies and a brother-in-law.
To make a long story short, he quit smoking COLD TURKEY! To quit, he was hypnotized, and I can tell you if it hadn't been my own father, I would
have never believed it would work. He was very addicted to tobacco, but he went from smoking 3 packs a day to none! We were so proud of him.
This one brave and determined decision by my father gave us another 17 years with him. He had been winded by just crossing the room, and after
he quit, he could breathe more easily. He was on oxygen for his last few years. It bothered him when he could no longer be as active as he
wished. But he quit smoking, and only by doing that did our children get to have a close relationship to him for about 11 years.
Sometime after he passed, and while I was still grieving, I came across a CNN Sanjay Gupta special called, "The Last Heart Attack." The premise
of the show was that nearly all the heart disease we have in this country is preventable with lifestyle. All the stents, all the heart attacks, bypass
surgeries, stents, and all cardiac deaths like my father's. All the expense and the impact to loved ones are to a large extent due to the foods we eat.
It was my first look at the Standard American Diet (SAD), heavy in meat and dairy and all of its fat and cholesterol, as a factor responsible for most
heart disease. This included not just fried foods, junk foods and processed foods, but animal foods. I quit eating meat that very day. Soon after I
gave up dairy, eggs and fish, basically all animal foods. The CNN special introduced me to the nutritional heroes I still admire and follow today.
Those heroes include Dr. Cardwell Esselstyn, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Michael Gregor, and Dr. Dean Ornish. I went plant-based
while feeding my family fairly standard diets. I knew this was not something I could force on anyone. I started reading everything I could on this
topic, watched the documentary Forks Over Knives and others, devoured books by these and other doctors, and reviewed some of the vast research supporting their claims that the more fully people move to a whole foods, plant-based diet, the better their immediate and long-term health.
Two years after losing my dad, after a beautiful post-Christmas week with my husband's close family, my father-in-law went into the hospital and
was also gone within 24 hours. He had very similar health to my dad's; bad heart and lungs. He had a case of pneumonia before Christmas and
apparently had not fully recovered. He basically died of sepsis. Another devastating and sudden loss that really ripped the rug out from under us
again. I was still studying about the benefits of a plant-based diet, learning together with a couple other friends who were eating the same way,
and spending most of my leisure reading time digging into medical studies in the most prestigious medical and research journals.
Fast forward another two years. This time it was my mom. We were traveling home from a family vacation in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. In the
car, I was reading Dr. Esselstyn's book, "Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease." I was literally thinking of how I could encourage my mom to eat
better. You see, after two years of mourning my father's passing, she made a decision that she was going to live the rest of her life enjoying her
kids and grandkids. And she did. She was so much fun! She went parasailing and on hayrack rides with her grandkids. She was always thrilled to
be asked to go anywhere like a Broadway show or shopping outing. My sister called while I was reading that book, and through her tears, I
learned my mom was in the hospital, but was still alive and it was something to do with her heart. We were four hours from home. The way I tried
to cope with that long ride home was to read Dr. Esselstyn's book aloud.
While visiting her sister a couple hours away, my mom's aorta burst. This is what John Ritter of Three's Company died from. Most people don't
even make it to the hospital, but my mother, being of strong German stock and raised on the farm, did survive the surgery. However, there had
been a lot of damage and her organs never recovered. She left us within two days. After losing three out of our four parents, my husband said he
would join me in a whole foods plant-based lifestyle.
Losing both my parents to heart events set me on a path to research the healthiest diet for preventing heart disease. But what I learned is that eating
for heart health also provided prevention of most other chronic diseases, or at least dramatically reduces risk. Everything I do is in memory of my
parents and father-in-law, and for our kids.
It is commonly estimated that at 75% - 85% of our healthcare costs are for preventable, chronic disease. In this country, there are many amazing
things about our medical system, especially for acute care. But we are not good at prevention, we take pills to treat symptoms rather than the true
causes of disease. People get sick and stay sick; they stay on medication for the rest of their lives. We are now living shorter lives and living many
years in illness. I do have a desire to live a long full life, but only if my body and mind are healthy. I want to thrive into old age, to stay active,
to have energy and vitality. And, I have a passion to have some small part in turning around the health care situation in this country, one person at
a time. Over the past almost ten years, I’ve continued my education in Lifestyle Medicine and gotten more involved:
A Certificate in Plant-based Nutrition from T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies through eCornell. Dr. T. Colin Campbell is the author of The China Study, which represents 40 years of his research studying the relationship between diet and disease, and was the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted. The New York Times says "The study can be considered the Grand Prix of Epidemiology. It has life-saving information and I believe it has, with no doubt, saved lives.
Graduate Certificate in Lifestyle Medicine from Creighton University. Omahans are very proud of our prestigious Creighton University. I was very happy to be in the very first class of a new and innovative graduate program at Creighton University called Lifestyle Medicine. One of things I like about it the most is that it was spearheaded by Dr. Thomas Lenz, who was was in charge of the school of Pharmacology! Yes, a pharmacology guy who understood that there is a better way than only treating disease with pills; that we must get to the causes, which are our lifestyle habits and choices, and that Creighton needed to provide education in this area. I was seeking programs online when a tennis friend who works at Creighton told me they are beginning a new program that might be what I was looking for. By the time I could investigate, I had only two weeks to decide whether to dive into an accelerated, online, 2-yr program. Modules began on Monday with homework being due by midnight on Sunday, with hardly a break, for two years. I was working at the time, and I can say that as an adult learner going back to school, it was one of the hardest things I've done. It also was one that provided huge personal and academic growth for me.
Certification, Food for Life instructor through Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in Washington, D.C. The goal of the Food for Life program is to educate people on the power of nutrition for disease prevention and survival. PCRM is the only nonprofit organization in the country providing nutrition and cooking classes that focus on disease prevention and survival. They reach more than 10,000 people a year. I truly find my happy place in teaching people how to prepare delicious, plant-based foods that will help them maintain a healthy weight, have energy, and fight off cognitive decline and chronic illness. I want everyone to know how fantastic it is; that it opens up a whole new world of delicious eating! You can be a foodie and be plant-based! I am, and as I love to tell people, even after almost 10 years, I'm still excited about my food every day! I teach in the community and corporations doing Lunch & Learns to full class series, and I also coach people wanting more individualized help to improve their lifestyle. I'm a proud instructor for this organization.
Affiliate Member, The American College of Lifestyle Medicine.
"ACLM members work at treating the underlying cause of disease and not just the disease markers and risk factors. Technology cannot solve our chronic disease problem. Pills alone do not restore health. What will maximize healing is the application of scientifically sound lifestyle principles to both individual and community practice—thereby preventing or reversing the worst of our chronic disease burden.”– ACLM President, George Guthrie, MD, MPH, CDE, FACLM, FAAFP
Vice President, Lifestyle Health Alliance. Lifestyle Health Alliance is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity, a non-profit Nebraska corporation operated entirely on a volunteer basis, that promotes awareness of lifestyle approaches to prevent and reverse chronic disease and improve health to the community. The events produced by Lifestyle Health Alliance include Healthy for a Lifetime, a one day informational event at the CHI Health Center Omaha located at 455 N. 10th Street in Omaha, Nebraska on Saturday, October 19, 2019, featuring internationally recognized physicians and researchers in the area of chronic disease reversal and nutrition-based, lifestyle medicine and people who will describe how they used food as medicine to reverse serious health conditions. Melissa serves as Secretary of this organization, and volunteers at the conference by providing practical information and a demonstration of how to incorporate plant-based foods into daily life. For more information, go to https://www.healthyforalifetime.org/index.html
Co-Organizer, Plant Powered Omaha Plant Pure Community Meetup Group This group was formed as one of hundreds of community groups after the documentary PlantPure Nation. Meetings are held monthly to learn together about all the benefits of a whole food plant-based lifestyle and have a sense of community. Join the Meetup to be notified of meetings. https://www.meetup.com/Plant-Powered-Omaha/
A final word about me. I am passionate about nutrition and its strong and convincing connection to long-term health. I also love cooking and teaching preparation of delicious, nutrient-dense, health-promoting food! I like creatively encouraging restaurants to include plant-based options, and finding places that already provide it. I love traveling and the challenges and opportunities of eating plant-based in other places in the country and around the world. I enjoy gardening, reading, yoga, bicycling and being outdoors every minute possible. I love my two big families on both sides and watching our two find their way as young adults. We have hosted fifteen exchange students from other countries who are now considered our kids. And I can't leave out our two special dogs, Oreo the 14-year old Cockapoo, and Radar the 19-year old Rat Terrier who keep us walking.
You can find me as Melissa Sherlock on LinkedIn, and as Sherlock TruHealth on Facebook and sherlocktruhealth on Instagram