So I knew who he was but he didn’t know me other than he probably thought I was a super smiley perhaps overly creepy excited person who randomly walks up to people like Dr. Garth Davis, Josh LaJaunie and Rich Roll with a super dopey grin. 🙂
Anyway, Howard and I chatted and he took my contact info. Fast forward he emails me and asks me to do his podcast! WHAT?! My initial thought was, “Tell him you’re a nobody. Tell him you don’t have some mega crazy transformation story.” But then, I thought it about it and realized, I DO have a story.
I am me and I do what I do, every day. Some days I inspire people. Some days maybe I don’t. I know I have helped people along the way. I know I have people who “lurk” but are inspired none the less by the things that I post on social media or say on my blog or even the things that do in my day to day activities like running crazy ultra trail runs. We all touch someone.
I am just a girl who wants to share the plant-based message world wide and help as many people as I possibly can while at the same time, feeling stuck in an office job that is wonderful, but not fulfilling the true burning passion inside of me. Ah, if I could only make a living on doing what I am doing (blogging, running, photo-taking, recipe testing, laughing, loving, living) … aaaaaannnnd that’s a story for another day. 😉
The point is, we ALL have a story. We do and Howard captured mine on his Podcast. So, if you have some time and care to listen, you can click HERE or you can search The Plant Yourself Podcast on iTunes and find it there. Just keep in mind, this was my first time ever doing something like this … but, it is what it is and I am kind of proud of it. Enjoy!
This past Saturday I did something I have always wanted to do, yet always stopped from myself from attempting ….
I hosted a Plant-Based 101 workshop out of my kitchen. For a while now I have had people tell me that I should do this. A few times I attempted to try and pull something together but for some reason or another, it just never happened.
One of the biggest road blocks I guess is that I am not a huge fan of having to talk in front of other people, even if it is something I am passionate about. The other reasons were time, lack of interest or more or less, just never the gusto to get.it.done.
A few months ago I decided that I had to make this happen. I told Stonegate who was immediately supportive and encouraged me 100% to just do it.
Over the past year or so, I have helped Vans’s Debbie the Great Aunt and Uncle transition into an almost meatless diet with great success. My boss at work has been mostly meat free for almost a month now and recently has taken up running after a 30 year hiatus! Stonegate herself transitioned about a year ago and has had stellar running results that she attributes to her plant-based diet. I like to think that in a small way, I helped encouraged their improvement (they did all the hard work though).
So sucking up my fear and seeing if there was an interest for people to learn more about a plant-based diet was something I had to find out for myself.
So I posted something on Facebook asking who would be interested in attending a class. The initial reaction was pretty dismal to be honest. I almost gave up then and there but I stuck with it. A few emails later and I had a date on the calendar and about 9 or 10 people who were planning to show up at my house! EEEK! Game on!
In my head I had already drawn out a rough run down of what I wanted to cover. It involved (gulp) a lot of talking.
So many times I hear that people cannot eat this way because it is too hard to maintain. So I basically tried to teach everyone how someone who is as busy as I am with my full-time job, long commute, two kids, ultra-running hobby and overall life-gets-in-the-way-in-a moment’s- notice lifestyle tackles, conquers and lives a plant-based diet.
First I talked about my background, my certifications and my reason for doing this. Then, I introduced the logical side of things like our body and its inability to digest meat. I brought up science and the fact that meat has been proven to cause Cancer, Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes.
Next I showed them tips and tricks to make meals happen and to not leave anything to the last minute. And if they do, it’s okay. I showed them a way around those hurdles. That old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” could not ring truer in the plant-based meal prep world.
In the end, I showed them one of the easiest plant-based meals to prepare that would surprise their taste buds (and I think it did!).
Cooking plant-based doesn’t have to involve 100 steps. I don’t have time for that. I want 30 minutes or less, as few dirty pots and pans as possible and a 100% nutritious whole food meal on the table for my family.
The whole thing lasted just over two hours. I had people ask questions before, during and after. I welcomed the questions especially during the demo because it put me at ease and got my mind off of my set timeline and agenda.
Everyone seemed interested and it seemed like they appreciated the info I had to share. For some, it was not entirely new information as they may already be eating this way so I hoped that some of the cooking tricks I showed them or talked about made the night worth it in their eyes. Others, I think were just curious and are not entirely sure how to even get started. For them, I hoped I gave them motivation.
I told them, much like the Standard American Diet, you’ll repeat some meals and find the ones you like and that’s OK … eventually you will get brave and you will branch out and try new things but if the difference is between the same meal and good health versus starting a downward spiral of bad food and illness, go with the repeat meals every time! Your body will thank you.
Since hosting this, I have heard from a few people on Facebook and on Instagram that they too would love to attend my next one. I have people at work who have said the same. I guess the interest is there after all. Maybe people needed it to happen and materialize as much as I did to get the ball rolling.
I will be forever grateful to my test participants. They were super kind in letting me do this for them and for myself.
I want to say thank you to Vans for all his support, patience and criticisms 🙂 . Thank you to Stonegate and Burning Girl for all their motivation and encouragement – most of the photos in this post are from Burning Girl by the way. Thanks to TiggerT who gave me many pep talks on our runs together over the years and thank you to those who are actually still reading this! 🙂
For you, I leave you with a recipe actually created by me – which is rare. I am great at adapting recipes but not so much at creating them from scratch. 🙂
Enjoy & Happy Trails!
Kitchen Sink Soup
This soup is a great way to use up all the “almost done / never going to survive the week” vegetables in your fridge.
I sautéed (in homemade veggie broth) onions, celery, carrots, bell pepper, garlic and a jalapeño (yup didn’t want to waste it). I added 2 Bay Leaves, Italian Seasonings and a pinch of Cumin while sautéing.
Then I added a frozen precooked bag of homemade chickpeas (about 2 cups) and all the homemade veggie broth I had on hand until it looked soupy enough.
I tested the veggies and beans to make sure they were cooked or on their way and then added some left over pre-cooked rice that I had in the fridge, some Braggs liquid aminos and some nutritional yeast followed by heaping handfuls of spinach (NOTE I would advise removing bay leaves BEFORE adding spinach otherwise you will be searching for them 🙂 trust me).
The Rosemary and Thyme Oat Biscuits
Pre-heat oven to 450
Take 1 cup of #glutenfree oat flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
Some dried Rosemary, Thyme and Nutritional Yeast – whisk together.
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup almond milk
Mix together until a dough ball forms
Drop by spoonfuls onto a pan covered in parchment paper (I was able to get about 6 biscuits) and bake for 10-13 minutes. Voila.
I have been waiting for some time to sit down and write this post. I left you all hanging with my last post and I apologize about that. I also apologize for the length of this one. 🙂
So about a week ago today, I flew back east to attend Engine 2 Diet’s Plant-Stock in upstate New York. My dream come true if you will. Plant-Stock is basically a conference of sorts, for those interested in living, learning and loving a plant-based (including no-oil) lifestyle. That is me 100%.
As some of you may know, I have been plant-based for over 20 years. Early on I avoided oils and the like as I knew in my heart they were not good for you. Over the course of time, I added them back in because of all the coconut oil/hemp oil/namewhateveroil hype going in the news and on the blogosphere.
It took my dad having a heart attack, followed by another blockage and consequently 3 stents for me to really get serious. My mother suddenly passed away when she was 47 of a massive heart attack. My dad was in his 60s when he had his. I have zero grand-parents left. My future was not looking very bright if continued living the same life-style as every other American on the planet (despite my activity level).
Anyway, back to Plant-Stock. I decided that I was going. I had to go. Vans agreed knowing how much this movement and way of life means to me.
During the course of my planning, Engine 2 and Dr. Esselstyn’s group reached out to me and asked me if I would be interested volunteering at their merchandise booth. Would I?! Of course I was stoked.
So, I flew out Thursday evening after work on a red-eye. I flew to Newark, NJ by way of Boston where my dad picked me up. I rented a car, spent a few hours with Jersey Dad and then drove the 2.5 hours to upstate New York.
I booked myself a room at the St. Charles Hotel in Hudson New York. If you recall from my last post, Plant-Stock was being held at the Esselstyn Family Farm in Claverack New York. There isn’t much around Claverack and most of the hotels were 30 minutes away.
I found Hudson and then found The St. Charles. The rates were “ok” the reviews were not but hey, I figured that I was only sleeping there for two nights and I was by myself, I could handle it.
The town was quaint albeit a bit on the older side. The hotel seemed to sit on the side of town that was borderline near the sketchier areas but nothing terrible.
I walked around town a little bit after arriving trying to find a place to eat. I finally ended up at BaBa Louie’s where I ordered a gluten free vegan pizza. When I walked in the door wearing my Engine 2 Kale shirt someone shouted “Engine 2!” and gave me a thumbs up. I knew then that I was in the right place. 🙂
With my pizza in hand, I went back to my room to relax and eat. I was excited to get to sleep and have the next day begin! Plus the time change and flying had really tired me out.
Saturday morning bright and early I woke up and left to find Plant-Stock and the Esselstyn Family Farm. When I spoke to the volunteer co-ordinator the previous week, she told me to arrive about 30 minutes early so that I could also help work the registration table.
I pulled onto the property and was immediately in awe of its beauty. The place was gorgeous. Coming from draught stricken California, the east coast is just so green and lush!
But this farm, this farm was beyond words.
I made my way to the registration table and was introduced to a few really nice volunteers.
Working the registration booth was great because I was able to meet almost everyone that was arriving and get them squared away.
While I was working the booth I saw Dr. Esselstyn driving around on his Kawasaki cart picking up attendees who were struggling to walk or who didn’t want to get their feet wet (the grass was very wet)! It was SO cool and super cute. He would zip back and forth just picking up people and loading up the cart.
How amazing is that?! I mean he is a “celebrity” in the realm of plant-based living and for anyone who has had to suffer with heart disease … and here he is giving you a ride. Class act.
I also was introduced to Rip Esselstyn (author, fire-fighter and pro-triathlete) briefly while working the registration booth.
The only down side of working the booth was that I missed breakfast and I also missed out on getting a super close seat for all the lectures. Still, it was no big deal because it would pay off in many other ways later.
Plant-Stock consisted of full two days, Saturday and Sunday with a dinner on Saturday evening (that cost extra).
The first talk of the day was by Rip Esselstyn. He talked about Strong Food vs Weak Food. He then would introduce T. Colin Campbell who talked about Rethinking the Science of Nutrition.
In between all the talks they would have a break and I would go to the merchandise tent to work. After Dr. Campbell’s talk, they had him come to the booth to sign books.
I have to say, this was an unexpected bonus for me. Working the booth meant that I was able to be near all the speakers and listen to to their discussions and how they answer the questions asked by all the patrons getting their books autographed. It was GREAT!
After Dr. Campbell it was time for Part 1 of Dr. Esselstyn’s talk on Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease.
His talk was great, as was Dr. Campbell’s. Even though I was supposed to work the merchandise booth on the next break, I made sure to grab my book and race to get in line because I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have Dr. Esselstyn sign my book.
Poor guy wore a suit and tie for his talk and it was sweltering outside so when it came time to autograph books and take photos, he was all sweaty. But he was still so present and interested in everyone that came up to him.
Watching Dr. Esselstyn sign books was truly a treat because he really engaged every single person that came up to him. Not only did he answer their questions, he ASKED questions. He truly listened, eyes focused, soaking it all in. This man is truly a gem in this world. He honestly cares 100% about those he affects and the lives of others. It blew me away. I knew he was a great guy from the stories I have heard, but to witness this, just made my heart melt in appreciation.
After Dr. Esselstyn’s talk it was time for Doug Lisle’s The Pleasure Trap. I have read The Pleasure Trap but I have never heard Dr. Lisle talk. He is one heck of a presenter. He is funny, engaging and he really can drive home a point and make you think! His second talk on Sunday truly was my favorite, it was called Getting Along Without Going Along.
Following Dr. Lisle was Neal Barnard, another person who I follow on social media but whose books I have not read nor have I heard him speak. He gave an amazing talk about Power Food for the Brain and also signed books. Now I would like to read one of his many books.
After Dr. Barnard was Dr. Tom Campbell, one of T. Colin Campbell’s sons and co-author of The China Study book. His talk was about The Simple Way to Lose Weight and Reduce Illness. Dr. Tom Campbell is a new father to an adorable little girl and a beautiful wife, both were present at the event.
After Dr. Tom Campbell came Dr. Ron Weiss, MD – a physician in New Jersey and the first physician ever to work with organic farmers and open his medical practice ON a farm prescribing vegetables instead of pharmaceuticals.
Following Dr. Weiss came the surprise of the evening (for me), Howard Lyman. I have never heard him talk nor did I know much about him. He has authored a book called, The Mad Cowboy and his talk was called The Cattle Rancher Who Gave Up Eating the Ranch. His story was amazing and his talk SO motivating. He truly was the perfect way to end the evening because he is so passionate about what cattle ranching is doing to our environment. He is also hilarious in his delivery.
Dinner was next. To have dinner at this event it cost extra but it is 100% worth it because there are no “VIP tables” or sectioned off areas where all the speakers would typically eat. Nope, they ate dinner right along side you.
During dinner it started to rain, hard. It also thundered and we had lightning. It was pretty intense for a while but no one got up and left. We all just sat and ate and talked.
Dinner was lasagna with a side of steamed kale, a salad and bruschetta all plant-based and gluten free if required.
I sat with some very nice people all of whom had different reasons for being there this weekend.
After dinner we watched The Plant-Pure Nation under the big tent (it had stopped raining). Here is where I was so happy that I picked The St. Charles Hotel … because we didn’t leave until almost 9 pm that night.
Sunday morning I was dead set on getting there bright and early so that I could get a spot super close to the stage. However I did re-think this because of the previous day’s events.
Even though first I was bummed I had to sit in the way back on Saturday, it had its bonuses! Like when I turned to my left at one point during Neal Barnard’s talk and realized I was sitting right next to T. Colin Campbell and family as well as Dr. Esselstyn! What!?
Yes he had dozed off. It was hot. He’d probably been up and running around for hours and had given a great talk AND conversed with every single person who came up to him.
But here is what I love most ….
Dr. Esselstyn wears HOKAS! 🙂 As a trail runner, I just love this. They are a pretty cushiony shoe so I don’t blame him one bit. This man works HARD and may I remind you, he is over 80!
No matter where he was, he would give everyone the time that he had to answer questions, hear stories and give his pieces of advice.
Sunday was filled with breakfast and more talks. We heard lectures by Dr. Esselstyn again (part 2 of his Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease).
Dr. E’s wife Ann Esselstyn also gave a talk on What to Eat, Where to Buy It and How to Cook It. I need to stop and talk about Ann Esselstyn for a minute here.
Okay, Ann just turned 80 years old. Not only did I see her running around, she also helped set up all the place setting and center pieces at the dinner tables!
Ann also runs for an hour around the farm property and does yoga. She is in amazing shape and has the energy of my 7 year old! Seriously. She is incredible and she runs on veggies, not caffeine!
After Ann was Dr. Robert Ostfeld who talked about why he prescribes food as medicine. I have heard Dr. Ostfeld on Rich Roll before.
His talk was very good as well. You can tell his life has been impacted by this lifestyle and how much he looks up to Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn.
After him was Dr. Lisle’s second talk (my favorite one mentioned above) and followed by him was a Plant-Strong Cooking Demonstration by Jane Esselstyn (Rip’s sister and Ann and Dr. Esselstyn’s daughter).
The cooking demo was all recipes from their cookbook which is one of my favorites. It was nice to see how they just throw stuff together. It was also really nice to see the interaction between Ann and Jane. They are actually neighbors back in Ohio and they said as they were writing their cook book they’d run across the path that connects their homes and share recipes. They truly are too cute.
I adore Jane because she is feisty. She’s a nurse and she also taught sex-ed to kids in schools for years. Her humor and energy is infectious.
Finally, they closed out the day with a Q&A session with all the speakers who were left. They Q&A lasted almost an HOUR!
It was really neat because a lot of people stood up and shared some of their stories and asked really good questions and the doctors all responded.
After the Q&A was Rip’s final speech on Hope. He also shared some information about an up and coming documentary that will rival the popularity and importance of Forks Over Knives. The audience was even given a sneak peak. It was really good and really exciting. I cannot wait for it to come out.
When they let us go, I had a wave of sadness sort of come over me. I missed my family but I didn’t want to leave. There is just something about this place that warms my heart. Besides being peaceful and gorgeous, just watching this family interact before all to see, was so touching. They are, special.
They just truly opened up their home to 250 random strangers. I mean really opened up their entire property to us, their time, their energy and their dreams and aspirations for what they would love to see in people’s health.
I gathered my things and went in search of Char Nolan, the woman who was the reason behind my volunteering and who is the voice behind a lot of the social media posts for both Engine 2 and Dr. Esselstyn.
I found Char and gave her a quick hug. I missed saying goodbye to some of the other people I had met, some of whom were originally Instagram “friends” which is crazy if you think about it.
I made the long 2.5 hour drive back to New Jersey all by myself with a lot on my mind. I rehashed the weekend over in my head. Tried to remember the pieces that stood out most. Overall, it was a wonderful dream come true kind of weekend for me.
I wish that in some capacity, I could do what they are doing or support them in some way because I love to share the plant-based way of living. A lot of times I wish that maybe I had gone into medicine but I don’t think that is the answer. My passion is definitely health, plant-based health and if I could find a way, I would devote myself 100% to working towards making this my life’s work.
In the meantime, I am content to work on my family’s health. Vans is 90% of the way there (some days) and the girls, well the girls are my struggle. The Peanut knows what is healthy but she is more or less afraid. I keep trying to find ways to make them try things that may be foreign to them or may look weird … I am working on those smaller battles before I try and win the war.
Until then, I hope you stick with me. I will try to be a bit more regular with my posts. I need to start developing some topics to write about. I do have some races ahead so that will be nice.
I am gearing up to start some road running again, something I haven’t done in quite a while. It will be good for me because road running definitely is a mental game that will make you tougher all around.
If you have any questions about Plant-Stock feel free to comment. I know I wrote a lengthy post but it truly was two days of amazing.
Ya, you could say I look a little bit excited in that photo! 🙂
I really debated whether or not to write this post. Normally my blog theme consists of trail running and the occasional story about being plant-based and of course being a mama. This will definitely fall into the plant-based category.
While many who know me know that I have been plant-based for over 20 years. I definitely can say that I followed the common trend of veganism though in regards to stopping meat initially, but I did not necessarily follow a healthy diet. I would say that I have been vegan for quite a while but have only been truly plant-based within the last few years. What is the difference? Well, Oreos are vegan. Potato chips are vegan. I was consuming some oily standard American fair while thinking I was being healthy.
However, the more I read and the more I investigated, I realized the difference and I made a change. What you may not know, is that I have very low hemoglobin and ferritin levels. Particularly in regards to my ferritin levels. What is Ferritin? Ferritin is an ubiquitous intracellular protein that stores iron and releases it in a controlled fashion (thanks internet). My levels are so low because I went for 21 years with undiagnosed Celiac disease. My body just did not absorb any iron and therefore ferritin.
To put it into perspective here are my levels over the last few years (it is all that I have in terms of history) and keep in mind that a Standard Range is 22-291 ng/mL
12/2005 : 3
6/2006 : 1
6/2013 : < 5
7/2013 (had a retest to confirm) : < 5
6/2014 : 13
I am surprised no one was freaking out in 2006 and clearly I avoided the doctor after that. But somehow, I managed to give birth to two beautiful kids and survive. Obviously, I have never had normal levels yet I continued to race and run ultras (stubborn much?).
The period between 2013 and 2014 where my levels bumped up to 13 is when my doctor insisted that I take an iron supplement. I took the supplement but I didn’t enjoy it.
In January of 2014 I started taking the eCornell Plant-Based Nutrition Course where I learned a great deal about supplements and why we do not need them and how in fact, they can do more harm than good. I graduated from that class in March and in mid-June, I stopped taking my iron pills.
I started cutting out oil (we don’t need it is pure fat and has minimal nutritional value and severely damages your arteries). I cut out oil pretty easily as I rarely cooked with it. I have always cooked using vegetable broth instead of oil, but I also stopped eating other foods that contained oil.
I also started training for the Mt. Tam 50k as well as the California International Marathon. Best of all, I purchased my beloved Instant Pot and I began the habit of making sure I had home-made vegetable broth on hand and a ton of beans made from scratch that I freeze in can size portions.
I started making my own hummus and dressings. I stopped buying a lot of store bought things preferring to make my own. Thanksgiving and Christmas were both plant-based oil free holidays in my house and the food was fantastic (thanks to Ann Crile Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn and Engine 2 recipes).
As we are approaching June, I decided it was time again to get my annual blood work done. I wasnâ€™t sure what to expect. I haven’t taken my iron pills in over a year and I’ve run more races harder and faster than I have before.
As it turns out, I was totally blown away. Not only did I lower my cholesterol to 136 (not that it was ever high it just dipped even lower), I also boosted my hemoglobin, doubled my iron AND my Ferritin is now registering at 25!! For once in my life, I have normal Ferritin levels!
I 100% wholly contribute these improvements to my dietary changes over the last year. While I have made many changes to my diet, what I am about to share is not meant to be anything more than what has worked for ME. Please do not take what I am sharing as medical or nutritional advice. It is just what worked for me.
So having my Instant Pot meant that I had ready-made access to beans every single day. I’ve broadened our variety from just the usual chickpea, kidney, black beans, pinto and lentils to navy beans, pinquinto beans, red lentils, green lentils, split peas, yellow split peas, cannellini. When I see a new bean I get so excited. Per the advice of the Esselstyn family, I have mountains of leafy greens almost daily (including for breakfast sometimes). I STOPPED having smoothies. I haven’t had a green smoothie in over a year. For me, having daily smoothies just proved to be a recipe for disaster. First of all, you can’t tell how many calories you are tossing into that blender and some smoothies could easily reach the 400 calorie mark. For me, smoothies increased my appetite. I need to CHEW my food. Not drink it. In my opinion, smoothies on a daily basis teach your stomach to stop doing its job. If you give it liquefied food, it will no longer be good at doing what it is supposed to do, breaking down food. I constantly found that I had tummy troubles from smoothies. I stopped the smoothies, my tummy improved and I lost weight. Go figure.
I make sure that I have oats in some form for breakfast (whether raw, cooked or made with kale yum try it so good) every day. I bring my own food for lunch at work and usually it will consist of greens, beans and quite often potatoes (or a salad) and dinner is much of the same. We started eating a ton more potatoes in my house due to their ease of travel and the ability to batch cook them and have them throughout the week. I have lost weight, not gained. Don’t be afraid of whole food plant-based carbs!
Really, those are all the major changes I have made. I have definitely been more conscious of what I am eating and why. Basically, I add no oil to my diet, I majorly increased the beans, lentils, greens and other veggies that we eat and I have oatmeal every single morning. I’ve stopped the junk food snacking.
Currently, I am working on my racing fuel as really, if I am being honest, during a race is probably the only time I succumb and have something I would never normally touch on a day to day basis and it isn’t even that much. In training I bring my own plant-based food and I consume that but for some reason, in the heat of a race, my body is calling for that crap. I am still working on that one so stay tuned.
But overall, the purpose of this post was to share that if you are considering a plant-based diet but you are afraid you won’t reach all the nutritional values that you need (especially if you are racing in some form) that you can! It is possible with planning, work and a little education. Variety in your diet is key. You can’t just eat the same thing day in and day out. Try new things. See what is in season at your local farmers market or grocery store and then google recipes for it (omitting any added oils of course).
The experts like Dr. Esselstyn, T. Colin CampbellÂ and the crew at Engine 2.com are right, you can thrive and succeed on a whole foods plant-based diet. I did not give up. People told me for years that I would have to eat meat to bring up my iron and ferritin levels or take an iron pill for life but I knew deep in my heart that was not the case and that a true whole food plant-based diet could help me. It did.
Of course, I am very proactive as well. I get my blood work done annually to make sure my levels are all in check. While I probably get very little sleep compared to most people (hello, I wake up at 4:30 am to run), I make sure to listen to my body and its cues. When I am tired and dragging, I bring the workout down a notch or I skip it and I stop and take a look at what is going on with myself and I make the necessary dietary changes (more kale, less spinach, more potatoes etc.).
Am I perfect? No, of course not. No one is. I just try my hardest to feed my body fuel, not necessarily food. Luckily for me, it is pretty darn tasty fuel at that and I enjoy following recipes and experimenting in the kitchen. It can be fun! Try it!