The Vibrant Veggie
When and why did you first get interested in health and wellness?
I really started getting interested in health when my oldest daughter was born in 2001. I have always thought of myself as a healthy person, but when we brought a little baby into the world, I stepped up my game a little. Growing up in Saskatchewan with a huge garden to tend, I always knew the value of fresh fruits and vegetables. However, like most people, I was brought up with 1/3 of my plate being meat. I was told that if I didn’t get my meat I wouldn’t get the protein I needed to grow properly and if I didn’t drink my milk, I would have weak bones.
It wasn’t until December 2008 when I read the China Study that the link between animal products and disease became clear to me. I immediately became vegetarian, but it took until May 2016 for me to become fully plant-based. That means I eat only plants, or food derived from plants. Some of the things I eat are: legumes, vegetables, whole grains, fruits, mushrooms, nuts and seeds. Of course I eat some processed foods but I try to really minimize those.
People ask me if I feel deprived. Absolutely not! I feel it is the opposite. People eating the Standard American diet (SAD) are the ones missing out, as so much of their meal is animal products, they don’t have the opportunity to really experience all of the amazing plants out there! My diet and lifestyle is the thing I like most about myself. I love sharing it with other people, and I try to do it without seeming pushy or overbearing. I just want everyone to reap the numerous benefits of a plant-based diet!
My father died when I was 20 from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I was so young then and hadn’t developed a love for, or any knowledge about the power of foods. Watching my father slowly weaken and die following the standard medical practices of radiation and chemotherapy, while eating hospital food, left me thinking there must be less drastic alternatives available for living a healthy life. I don’t want to see anyone else in my family suffer the way my dad did. There are so many diseases we can control with our diet. It is just a matter of opening our eyes to the huge amount of scientific research out there. A great book to read on this very subject is “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger. He outlines the 15 main causes of death and how to avoid them all backed by hundreds of scientific studies.
What is the difference between being “plant-based” and vegan?
Vegans consume no animal products, nor will they use products derived from animals such as feather pillows, leather, or honey. (Did you know that a bee works its whole life to make ¼ of a teaspoon of honey and that 22,700 bees are required to fill a single jar of honey). Sigh. You can be a vegan who eats chips, pop, highly processed fat and sugar laden foods and very little vegetables and fruits. Those are the unhealthy vegans that do a disservice to the plant-based vegans who are promoting healthy eating.
Initially, I became plant-based with my main concern being health. That has really started to morph as I learn more and more about the plight of factory farmed animals. Those final moments of terror that are imbedded in those cuts of meat, along with the cholesterol and saturated fat… the cries of the mother cows that are ripped from their babies so that they can go back to the milking machines. (I will stop there but I could go on.)
We are all deeply impacted by the massive environmental impact caused by the agriculture industry. It has a far greater effect than the entire transportation industry combined. Learn more about this by watching “What the Health”, a documentary on the current state of our modernized world and what we can do about it.
I am still working to be completely vegan. I still have leather shoes and purses and even recycled leather floors (gasp!) I thought it was a good alternative when we built our house 8 years ago… I do my best now to watch what I am buying so that I make kind choices. I believe it is a process and we can’t get bogged down in the weeds.
Have your family members followed you down this path?
My family, especially my husband, has been very supportive as I have transitioned our family into plant-based eaters. Initially, when I first ditched all dairy, eggs and cheese, I would still have some of those items available for my family, should they choose to eat them.
I couldn’t morally continue to provide that however after taking the Plant-based Nutrition course offered online through E-Cornell University in the spring of 2016. I felt that I had just learned too much about how animal products cause so much inflammation in the body and lead to so many diseases. I know that my two teens don’t eat vegan all of the time, but they do when they are home! That is what I can control. I hope that my “pro plant-based” rants will have some effect on the decisions they will make in the future. They have watched some of the documentaries, like Forks Over Knives and What the Health, with my husband and I. They see the science behind this information, as well as the destruction that animal agriculture is having on the environment and the pain and suffering that 9 billion slaughtered animals experience on the planet yearly. My youngest daughter is very aware and affected by the vegan movement. She understands the health concerns of animal products and is also very in tune with the animal suffering. She even got a job at the Naked Café- a great vegan restaurant here in Kelowna. (proud moment)
Have you noticed any significant health changes?
Yes, I have! Before becoming plant-based, when I would get a cold, I would inevitably get terrible sinus congestion and often a sinus infection. I have been plant-based now for two and a half years and since that time have only had one cold where I had no sinus issues at all.
I also used to have stomach issues after eating certain foods. That has now completely gone – I can’t remember the last time I had a sore stomach.
Another added bonus of being plant-based is that those very common bumps on the back of my arms that I have had since I was a teen, called Keratosis Pilaris, completely disappeared when I stopped eating animal products!
Why did you create your website (which is great by the way)?
Well, thank you. I wanted to have a blog so that I could share plant-based information as well as posting fool-proof recipes our family has enjoyed. I hope to make my blog a place where newbies to plant-based eating can go to get more information on the subject and use it as a place to start, as opposed to feeling so overwhelmed with the idea of transitioning. I think it can be hard as a mom to try to make bellies happy and feel sure about the choices we are making. The older I get, the more I see the importance of staying healthy and being able to enjoy the things I love to do. I am hoping that by working on my blog, I can inspire others to see the numerous benefits of this lifestyle.
Do you have some people that are your guiding lights in this journey?
I absolutely do. I was initially inspired by Dr. T. Colin Campbell who wrote The China Study. He is a pioneer in the field. Having grown up on a dairy farm, he ironically has spent his life researching the effect of animal protein on the human body. I had the amazing opportunity to meet and speak with him, as well as Dr. Greger (www.nutritionfacts.org), while on the Holistic Holiday at Sea plant-based cruise last spring. That was the trip of a lifetime for me. Listening to top doctors in this field speak was truly inspiring.
There are so many inspiring people. Locally, Brenda Davis, who is a registered dietician, lectures around the world and has written many books. Becoming Vegan Express Edition is a great one for someone looking to switch to plant-based eating easily and properly. Also, Sheanne and Dan Moskaluk from Naramata, BC share inspiring stories of curing stage 4 kidney cancer and obesity on a plant-based diet.
You have some other exciting volunteer ventures on the go. Can you tell about them?
Fittingly, my volunteer ventures center around food! I am the coordinator for the Central Okanagan Community Farm Society here in Kelowna. We have two 1/3 acre farms on which we grow, using organic methods, vegetables that we donate to 12 social service agencies in the Okanagan Valley. It is so important that people who have trouble accessing food have a good supply of healthy, nourishing food that has been grown from the earth, is preservative free, and does not come out of a box!! We have many committed volunteers and run a summer garden education program with the Boys and Girls Club where they learn where their food comes from, how to grow and harvest it and some amazing ways to eat it and share with their community!
I also have also volunteered with Meals on Wheels for the past 5 years. Although I sometimes have issues with the animal foods I am delivering, I have had many conversations about healthy eating with my clients. I also realize the huge importance of socialization and communication with homebound clients. One of my clients, now friend, was so interested in the plant-based world that she has transitioned to plant-based eating. I now bring her meals from my kitchen, and she is learning to shop and make healthy meals on her own. I have seen her completely transform from smoking 34 cigarettes a day to quitting overnight, overcoming an eating disorder and reducing her anxiety on a plant-based diet. I realize it is not all due to the plant-based diet, but it is certainly a step in the right direction!
What brought you joy this week?
My sisters and brothers-in-law came in for a visit from Saskatchewan this week. We had such a great time talking old stories, laughing and sharing new stories of health and growth. We shared food and drink, and everyone enjoyed my completely plant-based cuisine! And most importantly, no one was low on protein.