“Look, Mommy! A giant!” The little girl in the shopping cart gawked as she passed Eric O’Grey in the grocery store. At 350 pounds — with a 52-inch waist on his 5-foot-10 frame — he was used to his appearance scaring or surprising children.
It was just one more reason for Eric’s increasingly isolated life. He writes early in Walking with Peety:
“Everything outside of my apartment was too much for me. I’d set myself up so I could do most of my work from home… Personal sales calls and business travel were just about the only reasons I ever stepped foot into the outside world, and I only did that because I had to.”
Then, on a business trip he couldn’t avoid, Eric held up a flight for 45 minutes while the attendants located a seat-belt extender for him.
When the irate passenger next to him said loudly, “Great. I’m going to miss my connection because you’re so fat,” he wanted to die.
During a job-related physical a year before this humiliating episode, in fact, the doctor advised Eric to purchase a cemetery plot because he had about five years to live.
He’d also recommended stomach-stapling surgery as a last-ditch weight loss remedy. Eric had reluctantly agreed and was preparing for the procedure later in the month.
But the morning after his disastrous flight, fate intervened. Eric recalls watching a TV interview with former President Bill Clinton:
“He looked fit and full of energy, about half his former size. He said he’d been under the care of a doctor who put him on a whole-food, plant-based diet. That was all it took.”
Determined to learn whatever he could about eating a whole-food, plant-based diet, Eric immediately sought help from naturopathic doctor Preeti Kulkarni. And that’s how Peety entered his life.
When he first saw Dr. Kukarni, Eric was on 15 different medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type II diabetes. She prescribed a diet of 50-percent fruits and vegetables and 50-percent other plant-based foods.
She also suggested he get 20 minutes of light exercise twice per day, such as walking — and that he adopt a shelter dog to help him stick with the program. Eric followed her advice and transformed his life!
When I had the chance to talk with Eric before hearing his story at a recent plant-based conference, I would never have guessed he’d been devastatingly overweight 10 years ago.
Peety went vegan as well, dropping from 75 to 50 pounds. This remarkably refreshing book is as much a tribute to his resilient spirit as it is to his owner’s.
It gave me more empathy for all who struggle with obesity — and a renewed appreciation for our loving four-footed companions like Peety!