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Oklahoma man loses more than 40 pounds by leaving meat, dairy behind

Santa Claus look-a-like Randy Hale prefers sweet potatoes and water to cookies and milk. He's gone vegan and has the waistline and blood sugar count to prove it.
BY SONYA COLBERG Published: December 17, 2011

Randy Hale could hardly believe his ears when he learned the name of his friend's diet.

“My knees just went weak. I said, ‘Bacon? A bacon diet? Count me in!'” Hale said.

The 55-year-old Elgin man imagined gobbling down bacon-wrapped burgers, bacon a la mode and other bacon-laden dishes, while losing weight and getting his blood glucose levels under control.

“No, Randy. I didn't say bacon. Vegan. It's a vegan diet,” Steve Ryan said.

Hale had to reconsider.

Vegan — as in eating beans instead of beef, carrots instead of cheese, and whole grains instead of whole milk.

“I kept thinking, ‘No more cheeseburgers,'” said Hale, who wears a white beard and, at the time, a belly like Santa Claus.

Ryan had lost weight and eliminated his diabetes medication by following a vegan diet recommended by New York Times best-selling author Dr. Neal Barnard, after finding another diet too tough to handle. A few weeks later, the friends got to see the effects of the diet in action as the slim Ryan eased his kayak through a lake in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Oklahoma, while his buddies puffed along. Again, Ryan encouraged Hale to try the diet to try to help control his diabetes and get into shape.

Hale has worked for two decades as an environmental education specialist who gets paid to hike the trails and give medicinal and edible plants talks in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. So he didn't have a really good excuse for not staying in shape in a beautiful setting. But what he needed was motivation. After that weekend, he found that motivation in his first grandchild, Cailin.

“I was thinking, ‘When she's old enough to drive, maybe she'll be driving me to dialysis or maybe I'll be an amputee. Or maybe I could chase the kids around in my motorized scooter,” Hale said.

The 5-foot, 6-inch arthritic, diabetic man weighed 185 pounds the first day of his diet on July 28. Today, he's an energetic, nonmedicated, 140-pound feel-good guy on a mission.

If he hurts anyplace, he eats sweet potatoes with barbecue sauce and spices up almost everything with turmeric.

“Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory nuclear bomb,” Hale said.

“My dog has arthritis, and I'm thinking of trying to get sweet potatoes and turmeric in her. Maybe she'd walk better,” he said.

Celebrities and contraband

Hale took on a diet like that adopted by celebs like Bill Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres and Alicia Silverstone, said Neal Barnard, a nutrition researcher, author, medical doctor and former tobacco user.

Barnard gave up what he calls “contraband” because of his job before medical school of helping a pathologist with autopsies. As they clipped out the ribs and exposed the heart of a massive heart attack victim one day, they found a miserable looking, oxygen-starved heart. Throughout his body, petrified chewing gum-like substance clogged virtually every artery.

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At a glance

Vegan on the go

Breakfast: Boil up oatmeal and combine it with fresh or dried fruit. Or try pancakes made with soy or almond milk. Try dry cereal.

Lunch: If you go to a restaurant such as Subway, order a sandwich without the meat and cheese. For a Mexican fast-food restaurant, order a bean burrito but hold the cheese.

Dinner: Try angel hair pasta topped with wild mushrooms and chunky tomatoes but not meat or cream sauce from an Italian restaurant.

Randy Hale's favorites

Dry cereal without milk.

Baked sweet potato topped with a mixture of barbecue sauce, mustard, liquid smoke, walnuts and a dash of turmeric.

Tortillas filled with pasta, steamed vegetables and sweet potato.

Winter squash soup.

Pumpernickel, whole grain or sour dough bread, occasionally spread with peanut butter.

Good foods to eat

Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens and kale containing lutein can eliminate excess estrogen and carcinogens or build healthy cells.

Onions, chives and asparagus fight cancer cells.

Blueberries, purple grapes and plums destroy free radicals.

Red-purple grapes, berries and plums may decrease estrogen production.

Carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, mangoes and pumpkins support immune system and are antioxidants.

Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, papayas and peaches inhibit tumor cell growth.

Whole grains and legumes contain fiber to help carcinogen removal.

Tomatoes, watermelon and guava contain antioxidants and cut prostate cancer risk.

Health tip

Both vegetarians and meat eaters should take a vitamin B-12 supplement.


After three or four weeks, if you go back to that double bacon cheeseburger, you'll find it wasn't the joyful experience that you once associated it with.”

Dr. Neal



Washington University

School of

Medicine adjunct associate



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