My Healthy 2020

After My Cancer Diagnosis, a Plant-Based Diet Helped Me Feel Stronger

updated Apr 14, 2020
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Credit: Design: The Kitchn; Photo: Shamika Pandit

“I’ve had so much more energy since I changed my diet, so much more clarity in my choices, and I’m really following my intuition. I honestly feel the best I’ve ever felt in my whole life.” Elisa Gorman works in public relations in Connecticut and has been plant-based for one year. It all started when she was diagnosed with cancer a year ago. “All the choices I’ve made have gotten me to the point of being cancer-free.” Certainly, her healthy is about being free of the disease but it also became something else. Elisa explains why feeling vital and living with integrity is also now very important to her. 

20 people, 20 stories of what healthy means for them in 2020.

My Healthy: Plant-Based Diet

What does “healthy” mean to you?
For me, healthy means being vital, strong in mind and body, and living with integrity. I think if we live a life in vitality, we’re doing the best we can. I feel vital. I feel like I’ve taken my power back. This time has given me the ability to make choices that benefit me as a person. I have such a bigger voice. I’m so confident in who I am right now.

So health for you is defined in relation to vitality and integrity? You explained what vitality means to you. Can you tell me why integrity is also so important to you?
My best friend passed away last year very suddenly. It was the saddest point in my life. I was getting divorced and grieving the loss of my friend, who always used the word integrity. Then, a month later, I was diagnosed with cancer. 

Through this journey, I’ve learned to honor myself and my time. I try to live with integrity. For example, if I make a commitment to someone, I usually meditate on it to see if it’s the right choice for me and if I can give the energy to the situation. That’s living with integrity. It’s about being thoughtful with the choices that we make. I also try to use vocabulary that’s more about me without projecting on others. That’s been very important to me and that is also living with integrity. 

What eating style helps you feel your healthiest?
I am plant-based, sugar-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free. I start my day with green juices made up of ingredients like avocado, cilantro, spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, ginger, turmeric, cacao powder, mushroom extract, blueberries, and green apples. I focus on less sugary fruits. For lunch, I have another green juice and a huge salad or soup. I eat dinner if I’m hungry. I listen to my body and may roast vegetables or a head of cauliflower. I have a very simple diet of plants. I also take 70 supplements per day. 

What were your goals when you made this change?
I wanted to heal my body from the inside out because I knew that I didn’t want to suffer. At 37, I felt in my prime but I was not at all healthy. I was overweight, overworked, and deep in the rat race of life. I just knew that cancer was my wake up call. Instead of living in fear, I decided to learn everything I could about cancer. I felt the potential was there for me to heal myself from the inside out. 

How did you make the change to plant-based eating? What motivation pushed you on?
When I was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer (BRCA positive) last year, I went cold turkey and tossed out everything. And three weeks ago, I found out that I’m cancer free. I’m living the dream and trying to absorb it all.

What are you most proud of?
I am proud that I took action in a very difficult time by changing my diet. Having a health scare is never an easy thing. I am most grateful that I was able to take control of my cancer diagnosis with my diet by figuring out exactly what my body needed for nourishment. Going completely plant-based instantly made me feel better, reduced inflammation, and allowed my body the ability to heal from the inside out. This way of eating provided my immune system with the support it needed. 

So what does keep you going? Lifestyle and habit changes are famously hard to make and keep. Do you have a secret?
I hope by sharing my story, others won’t wait until their own health is compromised to make a change. My driving force to stay on track is the results. Truthfully, it didn’t take long after changing my diet to see the change in my body, not just on the outside, but internally through blood tests. Also, my energy levels heightened. Being diagnosed with cancer was the fuel to fire my desire to live well, long, and healthy. This lifestyle takes commitment but it also makes things so simple. I eat all of the plants all of the time, raw or cooked! 

Credit: Elisa Gorman

What’s the one food you love the most?
Blueberries and raw almonds. 

If you were to recommend a plant-based lifestyle to someone else, what is the most important piece of advice you would give them?
The most important piece of advice I would give is to love yourself enough to be honest with yourself. Ask yourself the hard questions like: How do you feel in your body? How much energy do you have in your day? What are you eating that causes discomfort? When you look in the mirror, who do you see looking back? And most importantly, are you providing your body enough nutrients to last a lifetime? If you know in your heart that your answers are less than satisfying, this is the first step to making a big change. Love yourself enough to commit to yourself, so that you can be the best possible you. I promise you are worth it.

Thank you, Elisa! Follow her at @elisagorman and

What’s a Plant-Based Diet? Start Here.

My Healthy 2020: 20 People, 20 Healthy Choices

Every January people make changes to improve their health. But which ones actually make a difference? We’re sharing the stories of 20 people who changed their lives for the better and stuck — thanks to choices that are individual, diverse, and sometimes wildly different from each other. Read their stories here throughout January. We hope they inspire your own journey to finding your own, unique, individual healthiest 2020.