Former U.S. president Bill Clinton has lost 30 pounds and feels healthier than ever after switching to a mostly vegan diet in 2011. Clinton said undergoing heart surgery in 2010 gave him the wake-up call he needed to drastically overhaul his diet.
“I’ve stopped eating meat, cheese, milk … no dairy at all,” Clinton told AARP magazine. While most people diet to look better, Clinton was motivated a desire to live longer.
“I wanted to live to be a grandfather,” said Bill, whose daughter Chelsea married in 2010. “So I decided to pick the diet that I thought would maximize my chances of long-term survival.”
The 6-foot-2 Clinton said his vegan diet is responsible for his 30-pound weight loss and his boundless energy. He said eliminating animal protein from his diet was surprisingly easy.
The main thing that was hard for me actually — much harder than giving up meat, turkey, chicken and fish — was giving up yogurt and hard cheese. I love that stuff, but it really made a big difference when I did.”
Clinton, who has a family history of heart disease and was overweight since childhood, previously credited his vegan diet for saving his life. “I was lucky I did not die of a heart attack [in 2004],” he said in August 2012.
In 2004, Clinton underwent a quadruple heart bypass surgery and in 2010 had two stents placed in his coronary artery. The surgeries led to a dietary epiphany when the former president realized that his poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle had ruined his health.
Clinton isn’t a strict vegan because he has organic salmon or eggs once a week, but his daily diet is largely plant-based. After changing his diet, he also began exercising daily, and now walks two or three miles a day, lifts weights and plays golf.
Clinton’s veganism has inspired other celebrities to embrace a plant-based diet, including actress Michelle Pfeiffer and MSNBC host Al Sharpton, who has lost over 176 pounds.
The age-defying health and weight loss benefits of a vegan diet are no surprise to Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center.
“A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature — predominantly plants — is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention,” said Dr. Katz, author of Disease-Proof.
Dr. Neal Barnard agrees. “Studies suggest that free radicals [toxic molecules that form in the body] contribute to aging,” said Barnard, author of 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart.
A vegan diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, is full of antioxidants which help protect the body from damage by free radicals.”
Bill Clinton, who was addicted to fast food for years, said being healthy is a reward onto itself, but also a gift we give to those we love.
“A lot of people who are busy and stressed feel that eating and being comfortable is their reward, [but] you have a responsibility to try to be as healthy as possible [for your family],” said Clinton.