WB man aims to change the world one bite at a time

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 27, 2017

 Paul Chatlin is fit and staying healthy through the whole foods that he eats.

Paul Chatlin is fit and staying healthy through the whole foods that he eats.

Photo provided by Paul Chatlin

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WEST BLOOMFIELD/BEVERLY HILLS — He was on a gurney headed for the operating room for heart surgery, but he was given a choice: Have quadruple bypass surgery — and possibly face more surgery a decade or so later  — or change his eating habits.

Longtime West Bloomfield resident Paul Chatlin, 59, chose the latter option and hasn’t looked back in four years.

“My energy level is pretty high now,” Chatlin said, adding that it is a “great feeling” to wake up and be energized.

Chatlin, the founder and president of the West Bloomfield-based Plant Based Nutrition Support Group, said whole-food, plant-based nutrition is what his body needed. Since he started the group three years ago, thousands of others have joined and have started keeping their foods whole and healthy.

The PBNSG meets in 18 small groups around metro Detroit, from Windsor, Ontario, to Saginaw. A host person can invite 10-20 people to the support-group-style meetings, where they discuss nutrition, health and more.

Chatlin said two students are starting a small subgroup, the Healthy Eating Club, at Seaholm High School in Birmingham; there are 16 members.

“They’ve seen the virtues of whole-food, plant-based eating. The challenge is we need to get our community involved,” Chatlin said. “I don’t judge. I just want to educate.”

Chatlin said his health food journey was based on the work of Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. They advocate preventing and reversing heart disease through nutrition.

Before his journey began, Chatlin went to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where he learned of his heart disease in May 2013; symptoms had manifested months earlier, starting in February.

Chatlin, who was used to what is often called the standard American diet — which includes red meat, sugary desserts and high-fat foods — said that food was clogging the narrow arteries in his body.

At age 56, Chatlin was among the approximately 300,000 Americans in need of bypass heart surgery due to heart disease, which is the No. 1 killer in America. Heart disease occurs when the arteries can no longer supply blood to the heart.

When Chatlin went to the Cleveland Clinic, a heart catheter revealed that he had blocked arteries. That is when the decision was made.

While Chatlin was on that gurney, partially sedated, his cardiologist called his mentor, Esselstyn Jr., told the other doctor, “I got one for you,” and handed Chatlin the phone.

Now Chatlin’s entire diet comes from plant-based nutrition. He has learned how to cook meals with fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. 

Plant-based nutrition is similar to veganism, but Chatlin does not consume oil or peanuts, and he is limited to water and soymilk. Also excluded from his diet are avocados, dairy and meat.

But this journey isn’t one you walk alone, Chatlin said. 

The PBNSG will have a third anniversary celebration featuring Esselstyn’s son Rip, the best-selling author of “The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet” and “Plant-Strong,” according to a press release. 

He will speak at a 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 27 PBNSG event in the cafeteria of Groves High School, 20500 W. 13 Mile Road in Beverly Hills; the dinner begins at 5 p.m., and the meeting will be held in the main auditorium at 6:30 p.m.

Esselstyn’s “The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet” was released in December.

Chatlin said the PBNSG has grown to 3,200 members in three years, and the event will be a birthday celebration dinner catered by Amber Poupore, of the Shelby Township-based The Clean Plate Restaurant, along with its sister restaurant, the Royal Oak-based Cacao Tree Café. 

“I’m really proud of the fact that we have the biggest whole-food, plant-based food group in the world (in) Detroit,” Chatlin said recently. “It tells me that so many people in Michigan are just not happy with how they feel every day.”

He added that people just want answers as to why they are feeling so badly.

Chatlin said doctors need more education on investigating patients’ eating habits to head off surgery and prescriptions. He added that his doctor of 30 years never once asked him what he eats, while his dog’s veterinarian asks at yearly checkups what his dog eats.

“That has to end,” he said. “All I had to do is change what I ate and did it for three weeks, and all my symptoms went away.”

Chatlin said that he hopes future doctors learn about nutrition so they can educate their patients. Chatlin has spoken to over 1,200 first- and second-year medical students at several local universities.

“We might have an influence over billions of lives,” Chatlin said. “That is kind of rewarding.”

Rip Esselstyn, based in Austin, Texas, said during a phone interview while on a book tour last week that he met Chatlin several years ago after being invited to speak at a PBNSG event.

Esselstyn said that his upcoming presentation will be focused on the work that he has done over the last six years helping “sick, overweight people” regain their health.

“What I’ve discovered is that in seven days you can accomplish things that you never dreamed possible when it comes to changing your internal biochemistry,” he said.

Chatlin said that while the journey has been rewarding, it was not always easy.

At his journey’s start, his cholesterol was 347. Today it is at 127. The former athlete weighed 220 pounds, but he is now 180 — with 20 pounds of new muscle.

“I know this is not easy. I love steak. I love pizza. I love food,” he said, adding that the lifestyle is doable and taste buds can change in 10-14 days. Now he doesn’t mind health foods — and the benefits outweigh it all: “I am alive.”

For more information about the group and plant-based nutrition, contact Chatlin at paul@pbnsg.org. 

For more information on the Engine 2 Diet, go to engine2.com.

Dinner event tickets are available in advance only while supplies last, and will not be available at the door; dinner event ticket sales will end Feb. 20, according to the website. 

People may purchase meeting-only tickets — without the dinner — separately online or at the door.

For more information or to register, go to www.pbnsg.org and scroll down to “3rd Birthday Celebration Dinner.”

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