Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Heart disease is also 100% preventable. It is a life-style disease and if you have it, it can be reversed through diet and lifestyle changes.
February is Heart Health Month which coincides with Hallmark’s favorite “holiday” … Valentine’s Day. Quite obviously planned that way, I am sure.
What you may not know however, is that February is also the anniversary of my mom’s passing … from a heart attack. Do you see the theme here?
She was 47 years old when she passed from a massive heart attack with very little warning. Two months prior, I had celebrated my 17th birthday and the joy of finally having a driver’s license.
My dad was turning 50 in early February as well and my mom worked endlessly planning a huge surprise birthday party for him.
She worked on every detail. She was so excited at who was coming and was busy buying all kinds of “over the hill” decorations.
It was also around this time, that I was making a more conscious (and vocal) effort to stop eating meat. Growing up I was never a huge fan of the stuff. There were a few things I would eat but I hated turkey and would always try and hide it under my mashed potatoes. 🙂
The party came and was a huge success. Two weeks later, she was gone.
For those that know me now, that photo may be a bit of a shocker.
I’ve always admired the “success stories” that I see online of those who have been transformed physically that I guess I never really saw my own transformation until I revisited these photos recently.
Yet, the transformation that I love the most, is how my mind set changed after my mom’s passing. Whether intentional or subconscious, I made the connection between eating certain things and heart health.
The older and more mature I became, I would learn to research, read and understand the connection fully and more importantly, implement it daily.
Now it is a way of life for me. I can’t recall anything else and there is no other way I would want to live. Do you know why?
Those two blonde cuties right there. Having turned 40 not too long ago, it hasn’t gone unnoticed in my own brain that I am just now 7 years younger than when my mom left this Earth and more importantly my family. In 7 years, the Peanut will be roughly 16 years old herself. I am certain that history will not repeat itself.
How am I so certain? Because I am in control. I know that cholesterol only resides in animal products. Think chicken is a better choice? It contains the same amount of cholesterol as red meat. Eggs? One egg has as much cholesterol as a Double Whopper. Think about that. One egg!? And don’t get me started on oil (any oil) – it has the potential to impair the flow of blood to your heart significantly not to mention it is highly caloric and contains no nutritional benefits.
Don’t worry, I am not going to turn this into a “don’t eat meat or oil post” … (but seriously, don’t) instead, I want you to stop and think about what you are putting in your mouth in connection with how you feel on a daily basis.
I didn’t jump right into kale salads mind you. I went through a junk-food vegan phase. Sure, Frito’s and Oreo’s are vegan but let’s be honest, that is not food, not really. It took time.
And like me, you may still envision yourself looking a certain way when in reality, you probably do not look like your 17 year old self anymore. While we are at it, how are you FEELING?
Do you get out of breath easily? Is it hard to get out of bed? Can you walk a mile easily? Do you get leg cramps? Acid Reflux? Sadly, heart disease does not often come with a warning. You don’t necessarily have to have high cholesterol or blood pressure either to have heart disease (my dad didn’t and he also suffered a heart attack).
There is a reason heart disease is called the silent killer. Sometimes the only warning that you get, is when you are having a full-blown heart attack and by then, it may be too late.
Don’t kid yourself. Everyone is getting older. Moderation is not “okay” anymore. As Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, the author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease has said, “If you eat unhealthy foods in moderation, then you’ll have a moderate heart attack.”
I miss my mom every day. I often say: If I knew then what I know now, she’d still be here. Yet I might not know what I know now, if she hadn’t had a heart attack. I might still look like my 17 year old self, but with gray hair and quite possibly a few pounds heavier.
People often think Vans and I are so “fit” because we bike and run. That is only a small piece of the puzzle. When I was 17, I was playing basketball, softball and soccer – all year round and sometimes two sports at one time! You wouldn’t know it though by that photo.
Thin doesn’t equate healthy. I want you to look inside. I want you to really look. What is most important to you right now?
Is it really worth jeopardizing your health, your life, your family to consume something that has the potential to stop the flow of blood to your heart? Forever?
Medication only masks the problem. It doesn’t fix it. Food, the right food (aka plant-based whole foods), can fix it. The right food, can reverse the damage that has already been done. The right food can allow you to see your children grow, walk them down the aisle and have grandchildren. The right food, can save your life.
Hi there! Hope you all have had a wonderful Christmas and are planning to have a safe and Happy New Years as well. My holidays were great. I have been enjoying some family time and some time off of work.
In that time, I finally did something that I have been meaning to do for a while. I made a YouTube cooking video. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know that I use my Instant Pot Pressure Cooker quite often. I love it and cannot imagine my life without it.
I love it so much that I have introduced it to everyone that I know. I showed Stonegate a year ago, and then she got one and she since fallen in love and has spread the word to all of her friends. Everyone in my family has purchased one. I have quite a few friends that recently purchased one (thanks to some awesome Black Friday sales) as well as a few attendees from my plant-based cooking demos! Stonegate and I even purchased one for Burning Girl for Christmas so that she could discover its magic! And if you are wondering, yes, Pigeon even has one now too! 🙂 The whole Wolf-Pack. 🙂
So in an effort to share some the simplicity of this appliance (because it can be quite intimidating at first), I shot this video. I basically show you another way to use the Instant-Pot that is not typically known by many. I remember when I showed this recipe to Stonegate and Burning Girl, they were blown away. 🙂
So now, I am going to share it with you. Keep in mind, this is my first official attempt at a video. There were some technical glitches that my perfectionist self notices, but hopefully you don’t mind. I shot this solo with a three camera set up in my kitchen. It was kind of fun!
If you like it, please give me a thumbs up and share with anyone who has an Instant Pot or may be interested in getting one. Feel free to comment too.
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! 🙂
Like I have said numerous times, Rouxbe’s program is pretty unique with their online approach and use of technology and even though I have been plant-based for over 20 years now, I am learning even more. Not only am I discoveringÂ tips on how to cook certain vegetables or grains, I am learning proper cutting techniques as well as storage and handling for certain foods to prevent spoilage and prolong the length of my produce, legumes and grains.
Currently I am only a quarter of the way through the program myself and my oldest (age 6), now declares that she likes brussel sprouts because of the method I learned through Rouxbe.
Also, if your name is not listed below as a winner and you are really interested in this course, Rouxbe has decided to knock 20% off their tuition prices for their October session! How cool is that!? Just use the codeÂ BACKTOSCHOOL upon registration (offer good until Sunday, September 7, 2014).
Congratulations Sarah! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will tell you what you need to do to register and claim your amazingly awesome plant-based prize! You are now on your way to improving your plant-based knowledge and I really hope this helps you educate those 8th graders and show them how eating a plant-based diet doesn’t have to be a big deal. Please stay in touch and keep me posted on your progress throughout the course!
Thank you again to all who entered. I truly feel honored to be able to offer such an amazing experience and I cannot thank Joe Girard and the whole Rouxbe team for allowing me to do this give-away.
If any of you have any questions regarding my progress or experience withÂ the program, please do not hesitate to contact me or just follow me here as I will continue to share my experiences with Rouxbe on my blog – just as long as you don’t mind some trail running posts thrown in every so often. 🙂 OR better yet, … follow me on Facebook! I am finally going to launch my Trailmomma page on Facebook because I know there is a large group of people in my inner circle who could care less about the amazing plant-based meals I had for dinner or the 20 mile trail adventure that I had on some random weekend. I will be posting my meals, Rouxbe experiences and trail running adventures on my Trailmomma Facebook page and leave the family random personal stuff for my regular one. The Trailmomma Facebook page should be live within a day or so.
In the meantime, congrats to Sarah and I encourage all of you who entered to look into Rouxbe. If the time and money situation is not quite right at the moment, keep it in your back pocket for future reference. If you are truly stuck on how to succeed at a plant-based diet, this course could help you. Of course you are always welcome to email me with any questions you might have as well: email@example.com or use my Contact page above.