We all remember Bill Clinton as the carnivorous, fast food-loving president. He lived on hamburgers, steaks, chicken enchiladas, barbecue and french fries. CNN reports that at one campaign stop in New Hampshire, he bought a dozen doughnuts and was working his way through the box until an aide stopped him.
Former President Clinton now considers himself a vegan (consuming a diet that excludes anything of animal origin). He’s dropped more than 20 pounds, and he says he’s healthier than ever. His dramatic dietary transformation took almost two decades and came about after a pair of heart procedures and the desire to “be around for his grandchildren.”
In 1993, first lady Hillary Clinton decided to institute a new, healthier diet for her husband. In a meeting she asked trusted doctor, Dr. Dean Ornish, to work with the White House chefs, who were accustomed to high fat, French cuisine. New menu items included such healthy fare as stir-fry vegetables with tofu, and salmon with vegetables.
Even with the revamped White House menu, Clinton battled his weight throughout his two terms as president. At his annual physical in 1999, the White House physician noted the president had put on 18 pounds since a checkup two years earlier. The prescription: refocus on exercise and a low-calorie diet. At the time, Clinton didn’t know that weight was not his biggest health concern. He has a family history of heart disease, and unbeknownst to White House doctors, plaque was building up in the coronary arteries leading to his heart.
In 2004, less than four years after leaving office, 58-year-old Clinton felt what he described as a tightness in his chest. Days later, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery to restore blood flow to his heart. Six years later, in 2010, Clinton needed another heart procedure: two stents to open one of the veins from his bypass surgery, which had become, in his own words, “pretty bent and ugly.”
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 adopted the vegan diet, although he isn’t a strict vegan because he occasionally has organic salmon and eggs, 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 credits his vegan diet for his 30-pound weight loss and boundless energy. Not only that, he’s finally winning the war against cardiovascular disease. His daughter, Chelsea, told ABC News, “His doctor told him that his heart today is much younger than it was even 10 years ago.”