Central Florida mom sees life-changing results from plant-based diet

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Karene Bejarano grew up in the country living a vegetarian lifestyle and only rarely eating meat. As a substitute, she ate a lot of cheese, eggs and processed foods. Shortly after getting married, however, she started having health issues that eventually escalated with her first pregnancy.

Karene Bejarano, RN, one of six individuals featured in the film “PlantWise."

“At the 27-week mark in the pregnancy, the doctor ordered a glucose tolerance test. I failed the test quite significantly,” said Bejarano, a registered nurse who lives in Lake County. “They told me I had gestational diabetes and I was going to have to see an endocrinologist and do food counseling. They said, ‘But don't worry; it will go away. You'll just have to be careful. If you exercise and keep yourself healthy, you'll be just fine.’”

But after giving birth, Bejarano experienced terrible muscle weakness, intermittent blurred vision and high blood sugar levels, leading to a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes.

Movie poster for Plantwise documentary

“It was very disheartening, and I went through a lot of denial,” she said. “I was truly grieving a loss. I was losing my health, which is part of what all of us have the right to enjoy in life.”

Bejarano is one of six people who share their health transformation stories in the recently released film “PlantWise.” (Also among the group is newly elected New York Mayor Eric Adams.) In the documentary, the six showcase their struggles with debilitating health conditions often caused by poor nutrition due to the “standard American diet,” which is full of heavily processed foods.

The turning point for Bejarano and the others was the decision to change what she put on her plate by embracing a whole-food, plant-based diet. While she couldn’t completely eliminate her medication for Type 1 diabetes (an irreversible condition), her improved lifestyle allowed her to lower the amount she needed to take.

“When I made the switch to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle, I started experiencing significant changes rather quickly,” Bejarano recounted. “Within six months, I had lost 40 pounds. My doctor said my blood pressure was quite low and that they were going to take me off my blood pressure medication. My cholesterol was dropping too, so he said I wouldn’t need my cholesterol medication anymore. In fact, I was able to get off the majority of my medications."

Bejarano recalled how adopting this healthy eating approach made her feel so much more alive.

“I thought I was free, but I didn't really understand what freedom was until I changed my lifestyle,” she said. “You have more energy, you're more vibrant and you're happier. When you really decide you’re going to change your lifestyle and you stand firm with that decision, it radically changes your life for the better, and you'll never want to go back.”

Bejarano shared her wellness journey recently with WKMG-Channel 6 reporter and anchor Kirstin O’Connor. The WKMG story can be found here.

To view the film, visit PlantWiseFilm.com.

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